Motion 4 Essential Training
Illustration by Richard Downs

Creating basic particle systems


Motion 4 Essential Training

with Ian Robinson

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Video: Creating basic particle systems

Even a few years ago, before Motion was around, creating particle system used to be quite the task. But with Motion's real-time capabilities, now it's actually quite fun. And I have found the easiest way to define particles is by just diving in. So let's get started by selecting the bubble here in middle of the canvas and clicking Make Particles. Now in Motion 4, you can turn anything into a particle. To better see exactly what particles are and how they work, let's click the Play button. Let me stop playback here for a second and you will notice particles are created when you select an object and click Make Particles and then Motion takes that image and replicates it hundreds, sometimes thousands of times.
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  1. 6m 51s
    1. Welcome
      1m 0s
    2. Important definitions
      3m 5s
    3. What's new in Motion 4
      1m 51s
    4. Using the exercise files
  2. 45m 36s
    1. Launching Motion for the first time
      2m 19s
    2. Understanding the Motion interface
      4m 43s
    3. Understanding the Utility window
      5m 50s
    4. Understanding the toolbar
      1m 56s
    5. Navigating the Canvas
      4m 37s
    6. Working with layers and layer groups
      4m 52s
    7. Using the Project pane
      2m 42s
    8. Transforming objects
      3m 41s
    9. Controlling the Timeline
      4m 27s
    10. Using the HUD
      1m 27s
    11. Essential preferences
      2m 37s
    12. Customizing the keyboard
      4m 14s
    13. Getting smooth playback with RAM preview
      2m 11s
  3. 28m 51s
    1. Adding assets to Motion
      3m 12s
    2. Adding QuickTime movies to Motion
      3m 30s
    3. Adding still images to Motion
      3m 23s
    4. Adding image sequences
      3m 23s
    5. Adding layered Photoshop files
      2m 39s
    6. Adding Illustrator files
      2m 12s
    7. Using the Library
      3m 14s
    8. Understanding and using blend modes
      5m 39s
    9. Adding text
      1m 39s
  4. 13m 18s
    1. Creating and adjusting shapes
      7m 40s
    2. Creating simple masks
      2m 36s
    3. Creating masks with objects
      3m 2s
  5. 42m 23s
    1. Adding and adjusting behaviors
      5m 50s
    2. Adding parameter behaviors
      4m 2s
    3. Applying behaviors to layers and groups
      5m 15s
    4. Adding multiple behaviors
      7m 39s
    5. Exploring the power of the Link behavior
      5m 2s
    6. Trimming and sliding behaviors
      5m 18s
    7. Saving custom behaviors to animate stills
      4m 23s
    8. Using shape behaviors
      4m 54s
  6. 25m 3s
    1. Adding keyframes manually
      6m 10s
    2. Using the Record button
      6m 38s
    3. Manipulating keyframes with the Keyframe Editor
      6m 59s
    4. Combining keyframes and behaviors
      3m 33s
    5. Working with recording options
      1m 43s
  7. 26m 37s
    1. Adding and formatting text
      5m 35s
    2. Using text styles
      4m 32s
    3. Formatting text with the Adjust Glyph tool
      4m 8s
    4. Animating text with the Adjust Glyph tool
      4m 23s
    5. Creating text on a path
      3m 35s
    6. Using text behaviors
      4m 24s
  8. 22m 4s
    1. Stabilizing shaky footage
      4m 7s
    2. Match moving: Transform
      3m 56s
    3. Match moving: Four-corner pin
      4m 44s
    4. Retiming video in the Inspector
      5m 49s
    5. Using retiming behaviors
      3m 28s
  9. 11m 41s
    1. Applying and adjusting filters
      2m 46s
    2. Applying multiple filters
      8m 55s
  10. 8m 13s
    1. Pulling a luma key
      2m 42s
    2. Pulling a chroma key with Primatte RT
      5m 31s
  11. 11m 28s
    1. Applying and adjusting generators
      3m 25s
    2. Using the text generator
      4m 15s
    3. Generating a background
      3m 48s
  12. 19m 8s
    1. Creating basic particle systems
      10m 58s
    2. Using particle presets
      1m 51s
    3. Creating an advanced particle system
      6m 19s
  13. 13m 24s
    1. Replicating objects
      4m 52s
    2. Animating a replicator
      4m 53s
    3. Replicating a video file
      3m 39s
  14. 49m 46s
    1. Working in 3D space
      5m 11s
    2. Working with cameras
      8m 6s
    3. Viewing a 3D scene in different layouts
      2m 56s
    4. Creating depth with lights and shadows
      8m 22s
    5. Simulating depth of field
      3m 54s
    6. Using camera behaviors
      4m 7s
    7. Animating cameras with camera framing
      6m 8s
    8. Create interest with the Focus behavior
      1m 52s
    9. Using reflections and highlights
      5m 13s
    10. Creating particles in 3D
      3m 57s
  15. 20m 31s
    1. Using the Paint tool
      6m 1s
    2. Using advanced paint tools
      8m 9s
    3. Applying paint presets
      1m 51s
    4. Sequencing paint with the Stroke behavior
      4m 30s
  16. 9m 3s
    1. Adding and adjusting audio
      4m 37s
    2. Animating to music with the Audio Parameter behavior
      4m 26s
  17. 11m 52s
    1. Sharing files
      3m 36s
    2. Exporting files
      3m 15s
    3. Creating an export preset
      3m 0s
    4. Archiving your project
      2m 1s
  18. 15m 30s
    1. Round-tripping between Final Cut Pro and Motion
      4m 24s
    2. Sending your project to Compressor
      1m 59s
    3. Creating drop zones
      3m 0s
    4. Creating templates for Motion and Final Cut
      5m 2s
    5. Importing Motion projects into DVD Studio Pro
      1m 5s
  19. 22s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Motion 4 Essential Training
6h 21m Beginner Sep 11, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In Motion 4 Essential Training, Ian Robinson shows how to start building outstanding motion graphics and animations for video production. He demonstrates how to build custom text animations with the new Adjust Glyph tool and explores Motion’s amazing real-time 3D tools. Ian highlights working in the 3D space, creating depth with lights and shadows, and using reflections to add realism. He gives practical advice on how to integrate Motion into a professional video workflow, round-tripping with Final Cut Pro and sending a final project to Compressor. Exercise files accompany this course.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the toolbar and setting the essential preferences to get started
  • Adding .mov files, still images, and Photoshop and Illustrator assets to a project
  • Animating with behaviors and keyframes
  • Creating 3D animations with lighting accents, shadows, and reflections
  • Creating simple and complex particle systems
  • Creating real viewer interest with Focus Behavior and the 3D Camera Framing behavior
Ian Robinson

Creating basic particle systems

Even a few years ago, before Motion was around, creating particle system used to be quite the task. But with Motion's real-time capabilities, now it's actually quite fun. And I have found the easiest way to define particles is by just diving in. So let's get started by selecting the bubble here in middle of the canvas and clicking Make Particles. Now in Motion 4, you can turn anything into a particle. To better see exactly what particles are and how they work, let's click the Play button. Let me stop playback here for a second and you will notice particles are created when you select an object and click Make Particles and then Motion takes that image and replicates it hundreds, sometimes thousands of times.

And if we open up the HUD, you will notice we have a couple of different options here. We have a Birth Rate, a Life, a Scale and an Emission Range. So the Birth Rate just determines exactly how many particles are born at any given time. This is a Birth Rate of 15. So every second there will be 15 particles born. Life, this is how long the particles will live. So for example these bubbles are living for five seconds, and if I play back you notice when their life is over, they just pop.

That's why I like using bubbles as an example. You can adjust the overall scale of these particles just by clicking-and-dragging. And the Emission Range is the angle. So I like to think of particle systems as like a kind of bubble machine. You can control what tip goes on the bubble machine. How fast they come out. What angle they come out at. In advanced particle systems, you can actually have multiple images, and each one of those is called a Particle Cell.

So to better understand that, let's open up the Inspector. Click the I in the upper-right-hand corner of the HUD to open the Inspector and under the Emitter tab, we'll see a whole lot more options. So let's go ahead and close the HUD for now, and you will notice in the first menu we have a Shape option. So click on the pop-up menu and let's adjust this to a line. Now all these bubbles are coming out of a specific line, and to see that line, let's go to Select Transform tool, scroll down to the bottom of the pop-up menu, and choose the Adjust Item tool.

And then we'll see the line that these particles are actually being born out of. So let's extend that line further out both directions, just by clicking-and-dragging. And if you press Play again, now you will notice all the particles are just being born towards the bottom of the screen. So one of the common uses for particle systems is to actually recreate things like bubbles in a bathtub or sand in the wind. You can change all these different settings just by clicking-and-dragging, for example on the Emission Angle, so the angle at which the bubbles come out of the Emitter.

We can change the Range, which of course is the overall angle. And these are two settings that we did change in the HUD. Notice as I drag these, I'm making the same adjustments. Now one of the things I do like to adjust is the Render Order. By default, it puts the oldest particle on the top. I like to have the oldest last just so all the bubbles are sort of born on top of each other. There is an option for Interleave Particles. We are not going to get into that right now. That's a little advanced.

But if you notice now we have Cell Controls. So if we have the Emitter and then we have Cell Controls, let's press F5 to open the Project pane, so we can sort of see what's going on, and you notice we have an Emitter here and then underneath we have this thing called the Particle Cell. So when you have one individual object and click Make Particles, it turns that one object into a cell and then that cell replicates a bunch of times and it goes out through the Emitter.

And so like I said, advanced particle systems can have more than one cell. But for right now let's just kind of stick with this. Okay, so the Cell Controls, we can change not only the Birth Rate, but the Birth Rate Randomness. Let me expand this out a little bit so we can see this menu a little better. Here we go. So we have the Birth Rate Randomness and this will determine how many particles are born at any given second. So it could be 0. It could be 1. It could be up to 6.

Let me just resize the canvas here to better fit everything. So typically throughout the rest of these options we'll have the Initial Rate and then the Randomness. Life, Life Randomness. That way you can stimulate real world situations. Now instead of continuing on to explain all the rest of these different options, let's go ahead and use a little more real-world visual effects example. Just select your Emitter in the Layers tab and press the minus button. Turn on the Background_Video layer and let me resize my windows, so we can see this video a little bit better.

I'll move my Project pane over a bit. So go ahead and press Play and let's look at this video. I was at a national park near my house and I noticed these lightning bugs popping up out of the grass. So I thought it would be pretty cool if I just set my camera down and got some footage. Now I think this is pretty neat, but honestly I'd really love to layer in some more lightning bugs and make it a little more dreamy. So let's just stop playback and use particles to create more lightning bugs.

So let's go to the Library and see if we can find a particle we can use to create a lightning bug. In the Library you'll notice there is a folder called Content and in the Content folder, if we scroll down, you notice there is a folder for Particle Images, and you will notice this is where we have got the AquaBall that we used in the earlier demonstration. So you notice as I'm scrolling down here there are both QuickTime files and still images we could use as particles. And the one I'm looking for is Hives. If you notice it's a QuickTime and it kind of blinks on and off.

I think that would be perfect to use as a lightning bug. So to use the particle, just drag it out on to the canvas. I'll put it in the middle of the screen here and then click Make Particles to which actually make your particle system. Now I know this doesn't look like lightning bugs just quite yet. That's totally fine. Let's change some options. First of, the Emitter itself needs to be on a separate layer because I don't want to see all this black in the image. So select the Background_Video layer and make a new layer and make sure to click the Emitter and hold down Shift-and- click Hives, both the particle cell and the QuickTime file itself.

And let's add it up to this new layer. Now that the particles are in the new layer, let's open the HUD and change the blend mode to Add. Now you will notice none of the black in the images are popping through. We are almost there. Go to the Inspector and with the Emitter selected, let's change the overall Scale of all these little particles. Set it down to about 3%. Now let's look at changing the color and you notice it says Color Mode and there is a pop-up menu.

So let's click on that and we want to choose Pick From Color Range, because I like them to be kind of random and have the computer pick from a different range. If your window popped up like that, don't sweat it. Just kind of scroll down and bring it back into view. So you notice the second I chose that, all the particles on the canvas switched between red, blue, purple, etcetera, since lightning bugs tend to be a kind of yellow-green. Let's make one of these yellow, just Ctrl-click in the Color chip and we'll choose a nice kind of bright yellow, a little closer to the green, and the one on the right, let's Ctrl-click and choose one, a little green close to yellow. All right.

And if you look in our canvas, this is looking pretty good, but I do think I want to take the Scale down just to 2%. That's a little bit better. Okay. So let's press Playback and check out our animation and unfortunately it's really fast. There are all emitting out of the wrong place and they are not fading up. So if you notice there is this bar above the Color area and that will help us adjust the Fade settings. It works from left to right. So if we click on this chip in the upper-left corner, you will notice the Opacity pops up to 100%.

Well since I want this to fade in, let's change this down to 0, and you will notice our particles have gone away. To add another chip, just click in the bar and with that new chip selected drag the Opacity back up to 100. Now you notice some of the newer particles are fading in whereas the older particles are at 100%. Now let's adjust where they are born, because if we play back, you notice they are all being born right out of the center. So scroll back to the top of the Emitter controls, under Shape let's choose Line.

And again, let's go down and choose the Select Transform tool and bring the line down towards the bottom of the screen. And let's open HUD so we can get a visual reference as to the angle of the birth. Click the Play button and you notice they are all being born around 360 degrees. Well let's change the Emission Range to 180, and you notice they are all being born in the wrong direction. So click on the arrows and roll around to the left and now you notice they are all being born in the correct direction.

But they are still moving way, way, way too fast. So I'm just going to stop playback for a second here, move my playhead a little bit down the timeline so I can still see all of the particles. And let's adjust the Speed. Let's crank that down to around 26% and check that out. That's a little bit better but they are dying off a little short. So let's increase the Life up to around 7 and now we'll check it out.

That's looking pretty good but that's quite a lot of lightning bugs. So let's just stop really quick and crank the Birth Rate down to around 18. No, let's do 8 and press Play, and now we actually have a nice little field of lightning bugs. Now I could sit here all day and tweak the blend mode and add glows and do all different kinds of things, but I think you have a firm grasp as to the basics of what particles are and how to create them.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Motion 4 Essential Training .

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Q: In Motion 4, is it possible to create an intro with multiple pictures, where some pictures enter from the left side and some from the right side of the frame, with all fading as they approach the center of the canvas?
A: The effect described is a very specific move utilizing 3D space.  One effective method is to work in true 3D space, instead of trying to use a behavior, by keyframing the animation. Try these steps:
  1. Place a camera in the scene and switch the scene to 3D. 
  2. Rotate the first image to an angle that achieves the desired effect, and slide it on the X axis until it is out of the scene on the right of the stage. 
  3. Turn on Auto Keyframing and make sure a keyframe is recorded for the rotation and position. 
  4. Move the playhead down the Timeline and move the picture to it's ending point and adjust the rotation a little for the end. 
  5. To get the image to disappear, adjust the camera's far plane of view, making sure to soften it so it has a smooth transition into oblivion. 
    Then simply duplicate the picture and change the rotation and position keyframes to the exact opposite values for rotation and position. 
Q: When attempting to change views as the instructor demonstrates in the “Viewing a 3D scene in different layouts” video, I only see the text in the Perspective view. When the instructor uses the Top and Bottom screen split, and uses the Top view, my screen does not show the four horizontal lines that represent the four words used in the tutorial.
Are there settings that need to be changes in order to view all the objects as demonstrated in the tutorial?
A: It’s possible that when viewing the project from different?angles, the letters may be sliding way out of the view area.
Here’s how to fix it: Whenever you can't see your objects in the?scene, select at least one of them in the Layers panel and then press?F or Command+F to frame the selected objects in the scene.
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