Join Chad Perkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a fireball, part of After Effects CS5 Essential Training.
In this video, we're going to look at how to create a fireball coming out of the mouth of this dragon here. This effect is going to be created with a combination of two effects. One is Fractal Noise, which will create the inside texture of the fireball. The other one is the Roughen Edges effect, which will give the actual edge texture that we need, and both of these together will create this cool fireball. So, let's go over to Dragon fire START.
And I've gone ahead and created a layer for you. This is basically just like a blob layer. You can see I've just made a blob that animates like in the shape of our fire here. So, I'm going to go out to my Current Time Indicator to about one second and 11 frames in, so I get a good view of what the fireball is going to look like here. Go ahead and apply the Fractal Noise effect. Actually, apply it to the Fire layer, and the settings here are pretty much good. What I want to do is I want to take Contrast up a little bit more so we can kind of see the texture. And I want to open up Transform and maybe take down the Scale a little bit, so that it's little bit more concentrated what's happening here.
In other words, if we were have zoomed in too close, it's going to get a little bit soft and fuzzy, and that's just not very fireball-esque. So, as we zoom out by reducing the Scale, then what we're doing making everything tinier and finer. So, now as we scrub this, we can see that we have Fractal Noise. That still looks really terrible. So, what are missing are these edges here. Now we could also animate the Evolution value if we wanted to so that the fire in the fireball looks better, and that's actually what I did in the previous example that I showed you. But we're not going to take the time to do that now.
But if you wanted to animate Evolution, you could do that. Let's go ahead and apply the Roughen Edges effect to this layer. Roughen Edges shares a lot in common with Fractal Noise, actually. So, in this tutorial, there's a method to the madness. You'll notice that there is an Evolution property for example. But first of all, before we really get into this, let's change the Edge Type from Roughen to Roughen Color. That basically roughens up the edges a little bit, but put some of this Edge Color around the edge.
Let's go ahead and click on the color swatch for the Edge Color and change this to a full-on red. To do this, I'm just going to take this - because the default is like this orange color - I am just going to take the color picker in the hue bar, take this down to red. The color picker is really cool, because it tells you on the bottom what your previous color was, and it tells you on the top what your current color is. So, you kind of compare and contrast the color that had coming into the color picker versus the color that you are now choosing. I am going to go ahead and click OK. Now by default, the Roughen Edges effect creates a very thin, rough edge, which a lot of times is exactly what you are looking for.
In this case, we want a very defined, rough edge. We want to increase the Border. So, as you increase that, you could see the edge of the Border kind of encroaching upon the rest of the layer. So, I want to take this to a value of around 50 or so - looking pretty awesome. Let's go ahead and take Edge Sharpness to .5. Leave Fractal Influence at 1, and we're going to increase the Scale value to about 120. And as we saw in the last video, Complexity refers to the layers of noise making up these roughened edges.
Just like in Fractal Noise, if we take this down lower, it's going to have a more soft look. And right now it's looking a little soft. We want it to be a little bit tighter, a little bit more sharp. So, we're going to increase this Complexity value to 3. Now those edges become a little bit more sharp. Now again, there is an Evolution value. And we could see that here as we increase this. That just looks awesome. That just kind of brings this whole thing to life. Now another way to bring this to life is with the Offset Turbulence parameter. Offset Turbulence we saw in Fractal Noise.
We didn't really talk about it too much. Basically, what that does is allows you to take the layers of noise and move them. It's almost like the Position parameter for the noise. So, if I grab the X axis, the left value here and click and drag this to the left, we could see the noise on the edges moving to the left. If we grabbed the Y value and clicked and dragged it to the left, we could see the fire rising. So, if we had like a bonfire effect, you could see that the edges would be perfect for that.
Now one of things that's kind of distracting is that we have black-and-white fire with a red edge. It's looking really cheesy. It's almost like hard to work in that. Even knowing that we are going to colorize it, it's still just distracting to work. So, I'm going to go ahead and click this X to close out of that search, and I'm going to type in Colora short for Colorama, and we're going to apply this effect to our other effects. So, now we have a series of three effects going on at the same time.
We'll leave Colorama here for now. I want to open up the Output Cycle area in the Colorama effects, so we get this little color wheel here. Then we have all these series of Presets. Colorama is basically an effect to colorize layers. It is a very complex, powerful effect. So, we're not going to really get in detail in it at all here, but it does have this Use Preset palette function. And all of these presets are a series of preset colors we can use to colorize layers. So, I'm going to choose Fire from this dropdown.
Again, in the Colorama effect, open up Output Cycle and in the Use Preset palette dropdown, choose Fire. And now things are looking much more fiery. Now what I'm going to do actually, and this is something we haven't talked about yet, but the order in which you apply effects matters, or the order in which effects happen matters. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to click and drag on Colorama and drag it in between Fractal Noise and Roughen Edges until you see a horizontal black line there. Let that go, and you can see the difference that it made to our fireball here.
Again, this is before if we have Colorama processed after Roughened Edges, and this is if we drag it above, or in other words processed before Roughen Edges. So, what was happening before was that Colorama was colorizing these semitransparent edges created by Roughen Edges, and it was making them more harsh. So, it's taking them, and there's not really any semi-transparency with Colorama. So, everything was full red. So, what we're doing here now is we're just colorizing the Fractal Noise and then Roughen Edges is applying the color to the edges.
So, now we have a great-looking fireball and what we need to do now to bring it to life, which I'll let you do, is by animating the Evolution values of both Fractal Noise and Roughen Edges. All in all, though, a pretty sweet effect for how little work went into it.
- Understanding the After Effects workflow
- Precomposing footage
- Explaining the basics and beyond of animating
- Creating glows, patterns, textures, and more with effects
- Color correcting footage
- Working with text
- Manipulating video playback speed
- Masking objects and shape layers
- Removing backgrounds with keying
- Compositing multiple pieces of footage
- Integrating After Effects with the rest of the Creative Suite
Skill Level Beginner
Q: In the "Creating a fireball" movie in Chapter 6, the author showed how to make a fireball. Unfortunately, it all centered around a blob layer that he made without showing how to make a blob layer. How does one go about creating a blob layer like the one used in the video?
A: To create a blob layer, make a shape layer using the Pen tool. Animate the anchor points over time to make it move. These concepts are reviewed in depth in Chapter 4, "Learning to Animate."
Q: In the Chapter 5 video "Understanding precomposing," the exercise file provided does not seem to match up with the file the instructor uses. My file does not include a "Biker Body" layer. Is there an error in the exercise file?
A: Unfortunately, the exercise file originally distributed for this chapter was incorrect. A new file was issued in February 2011. If you downloaded the exercise files prior to then, you can download the corrected file on the Exercise Files tab of the course page.