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The Particle Emitter node is the starting point of any particle animation, as it creates the particles; all the other nodes manipulate them. Each particle has a lifetime, in that it's born, it lives for a time, then it dies. So let's go get a particle emitter from the Particle pop-up. Particle Emitter node, hook it up to our viewer, which automatically switches to 3D, because the particles are a 3D event. A little more screen space here.
Type F to wake up the viewer, and we see this interesting pipe. We zoom out a little bit. Now, if we just take the default emitter as it comes out of the box, and play it, all we get is this long standing pole. Not very interesting; not very much fun. We'll back out a little bit more; there you go. But if we come down to the spread parameter here, and set it at something like .25, now we can see what's going on.
The ParticleEmitter property panel has a long list of adjustments that controls the look, and the rate, and the speed, and the lifetime of the particles. So let's go down this list, and take a look at some of them. First of all is the emission rate. By default, it's emitting 10 particles per frame. So I'm going to cut that down to 5, and you can see, we've depopulated our cloud. We have half as many particles. Next, the max lifetime. By default, it's only 10 frames, so if I cut that down to 5, that means each particle is only living for 5 frames, and you can see the particle cloud got a lot smaller.
Let's look at velocity. By default, it's 1, but if I change that to .1, now they're moving a lot slower. They still only have a max lifetime of 5 frames, and since they're moving so slowly, they don't get very far. So let's go back to the max lifetime, and set it for 50 frames. There we go. The next interesting adjustment is the size. By default, .1, but we can turn that up, making the particles larger, or turn it down, making them smaller.
But I'm going to undo back to .1. As we saw, the spread parameter caused them to fan out. The closer the spread gets to 0, the tighter the beam of particles becomes. The closer it gets to 1, the closer it becomes to 360 degrees. I'll put that back to .25. Particles can be given a color. So we can just pop up the color picker, get our chipset, and we can make them red, make them green, or cyan; whatever color you want. We'll close this.
Another extremely important controller is right here: the Start At control. Here is the issue. We'll stop this; go back to Frame 1. As you can see, the particles begin at Frame 1, and the particle cloud gets larger until we get to Frame 50, right here, and that's because that's our max lifetime. Between 50 and 100, the particle cloud is the same size. So the thing is growing from Frame 1.
Now, that might be fine if you're doing an explosion, but that's not what you want if you're going to do, like, rain, or snow, or smoke: you want it to be 100% engaged on Frame 1. So here's how we do that. You look at your max lifetime, in this case, 50 frames, and we want to start at 50 frames earlier. So we would enter here, start at -50, and now on Frame 1, the simulation has already run for 50 frames, and the particle cloud has achieved its full size, and now it's at the full size for the entire length of the clip.
Now, you can't make a very exciting particle animation using just colored points, so now we need to take a look at giving the particle shape, and how to use 3D geometry as emitters.
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