Join EJ Hassenfratz for an in-depth discussion in this video Plexus-style atom arrays, part of Motion Graphics Weekly.
- [EJ] Welcome to Motion Graphics Weekly, where you up your MoGraph knowledge one week at a time. I'm EJ Hassenfratz, let's get our learn on. If you're an After Effects user, you've probably heard of the plugin called Plexus. Plexus generates particles that you can connect with lines that produce really interesting visual effects. In this video, I'm going to show you how you can create this type of plexus effect using an object called the Atom Array. So the first thing I want to do is demonstrate exactly what the Atom Array does.
So let me just go and create a New Project, and I'm going to get a Sphere, and what I want to do is, just make note of the subdivisions or the polygon edges of this sphere. So I'm going to go to Display, and go to Gouraud Shading (Lines), so I can now see all of my geometry's lines. So let's go ahead and grab an Atom Array. You can find it in this menu here, and you can see by the icon, you get a little hint at what this does, and for the generators to work, this is a generator object, you can tell that it's color coded green, all the generator objects are green, we need to have our objects be a child of that generator object or Atom Array for it to apply its effects, its generative effects, on to that piece of geometery.
So you can see that by doing that, we now have our sphere turned into a bunch of cylinders and spheres. Now what happened was, again, look at where our edges are and polygon edges are and all these lines, it basically applies cylinders along the geometry's edges or the objects edges and places spheres along where those edges meet. So what I want to do is make this look more organic and random, and right now, this is way too uniform.
The polygon flows too uniform, too linear, so what I want to do is change the type of sphere we have here, and the Type is just Standard, so it has Standard subdivisions, what I'm going to do is just change it to something more interesting, say Icosahedron, and you can see that that's going to give us these nice triangular subdivisions here, and we can up the Segments if we want to to create something really cool. We can also go into our Atom Array and adjust the Cylinder Radius, so you can bring that down.
We can also adjust the Sphere Radius as well. So we have something that looks rather scientific or something you'd see in a science book. So the next thing I want to do is, take what we have here, and randomly remove polygons to make the polygon makeup of our object a lot more random and have our polygon sizes be a lot more organic looking. So what I'm going to do is utilize what's called a Polygon Reduction Deformer, so I can randomly remove polygons to create a more abstract looking sphere, so let's go ahead and do that.
We can find our Deformers in our Deformer menu and their all color coded purple, and what I'm going to do is grab the Polygon Reduction Deformer, and Deformer's act on objects when their the children of those objects, so I'm just going to place this Polygon Reduction Deformer underneath as a child of our sphere, and you're going to notice that a whole bunch of our polygons went away. You can see that dense mesh just got reduced quite a bit, and if I turn off my Atom Array, you can see what's happening, that all of our polygons are distributed unevenly which is what I'm going for, I want this to look more abstract, and I can control this, how many polygons we remove, by upping the Polygon Reduction Reduction Strength, and you can see, that we can get some pretty cool results, especially if you animate this, you can get some pretty cool animations going on, but if I get this all the way down to zero, you can see we're back with our original subdivision, but as I bring up the Strength, you can see, all of our polygons, kind of poppin' off randomly, and if I put this Atom Array back on, we have a much more interesting looking and randomly generated polygon makeup of our sphere.
So let's go ahead and up our Segments, and this is going to still maintain our Polygon Reduction, we're just going to give it more polygons to reduce, we have a little bit more polygon here, random polygons, on our geometry, and the next thing I want to do is actually add some displacement to this, and distort this sphere a little bit, and what I'm going to do to do that is use a Displacer Deformer. Again, in our Deformer menu, you can find the Displacer right here, and again, we're just going to make this a child of this sphere and apply it below our Polygon Reduction.
So we want the Polygon Reduction to do its thing first, and then our Displacer. So to be able to get some nice displacement, we need to load up a Noise Shader, in our Shading menu on our Displacer. So I'm just going to go grab some Noise, and maybe make some Turbulent noise, and make this a little bit bigger, so we'll just increase the size or the scale of our noise and you can see a little bit of displacement going on. What we can do is go into our object and adjust the Height of that displacement, and you're really going to get a nice sense of this displacement happening, and we can get some really cool, abstract, art lookin' stuff going on.
So what we can do is, actually bring back our original sphere geometry because when you place this under an Atom Array, it gets rid of that original sphere geometry, and applies all of those cylinders and those spheres. So what we can do is make a duplicate of this sphere, and how I'm going to do that is by going to our Generator menu here, and just grab an Instance, and what that's going to do is make a copy of that sphere and place it in an instant, and it's always going to reference that original sphere.
So if I change any parameter on that sphere, it's also going to update that Sphere Instance, and now we have our original geometry, and polygons of our original sphere, that we can than texture differently and edit separately. So the first thing I want to do is remove our Phong Tag, and what Phong Tag does is basically tries to smooth out the areas between our polygons. We have all this weird gradations going on, and what we're going to do is just remove this all together, and we're just going to have sharp edges, sharp shading edges, and it almost looks like some low poly composition, and I think this is lookin' really nice.
So, what we can do now is, let's just start texturing this. So let's go ahead and create a new texture by double-clicking in our Material Manager, and I'll just apply a Texture to our Sphere Instance or our base mesh here of our sphere, and let's make this have a little bit of Luminance, just a little bit though, and have this look a little yellow, get a little tan color there, and maybe up our Specular Strength, and let's grab a Light, just grab an Area Light, and position this in our top corner here, just so we have a light source so we can see, some nice shading, looking good, and let's just add a soft Shadow to that as well.
So we got some nice shading, nice lighting, some shadows happening, and now we can start to apply some textures to our Atom Array. So this will be our Main Sphere texture, I'll double-click again, and what I'm going to do is just apply a flat Luminant Texture to my Atom Array. So I'm going to turn on Luminance, and let's just get a darker tan or dark gray color, and then I'll apply that to my Atom Array, and you can kind of see what's going on, maybe make this pop a little bit more, something like that, it's lookin' good.
So what we can do now, is you can tell that by placing a texture on the Atom Array, it's of course going to place the same kind of texture on our cylinders and our spheres, but if you wanted to apply different textures to the sphere and a different texture to the cylinder parts of our Atom Array, what we have to do is, just create a copy of our Atom Array, and what I'm going to do, is just delete this sphere, and just use a copy of this instance. So again, we're just having all these instances that are always referencing back to our original sphere.
So again, if we change anything in here, it'll update both of these instances, and now what we can do is, we can have this Atom Array be the Cylinder Array, and we can just bring down the Radius of this sphere to match the Cylinder Radius, and that will just make a straight line, you can see right there, now we just have those lines of those Cylinders, and I'm just going to make this pretty skinny, so maybe point to, so we have this really nice outline, so we have these outlined edges, and on our sphere Atom Array, I'll just rename this Sphere, I'll just have the Cylinder Radius down to .01, that's as low as it can go, and turn this back on, and we can adjust that Sphere Size if we want to, and up the subdivisions to try to smooth out that geometry a little bit, and now we can place a different texture on those sphere bits of our Atom Array.
So maybe a blueish-gray, something like that, and we'll place that on our Sphere Array. So now we have a different texture for our spheres that make up our Atom Array, as well as a different texture for all of the cylinder bits of our Atom Array, and let's actually just make this white, I think I'll like that a little bit better, cool. So, now what we can do is actually have this animate, and how we can animate this is by going into Displacer, going into our Noise, and Noises have their own Animation option, so all we have to do is change the Animation Speed to anything but zero, and let's just have a slow animation applied to our noise.
So it's going to be slowly undulating, so you can see that kind of slowly pushing and pulling the polygons here, and this creates for a really nice background effect to your motion graphics if you want to have this as a nice background piece, and let's actually just create a background in our scene as well. So we'll just create a Background object, and let's just apply this white texture to the background, see how that looks.
Not too bad. Let's actually give more Luminance to our polygons here. It's lookin' a little bit better, and I think I want to maybe even remove the shadows on our light, so it just has more flat colors, less shadings, looks like more of a 2D kind of composition, and if we want to get really crazy, like my original composition I showed off the top, I really cranked up the Displacer Strength pretty high. Right now, on this Type, this Type of displacement, it's actually going to be this Censored Intensity, meaning that we're going to have some negative values, so polygons are going to get displaced inward as well as outward.
If we just use a normal Intensity, all of those polygons are just going to be pushed outward, so just keep that in mind, but I'm just going to use the regular Intensity here, and we can have even more jagged pieces added to this bit by either bringing down the Reduction Strength or by upping our Sphere Segments, and we can also just bring down the Scale of our Noise too, to have a lot more pointy edges, and this looks really, really cool now.
So by using the Atom Array, a Polygon Reducer, and a Displacer Deformer, we created a really cool, Plexus like, animation effect inside of Cinema 4D. Don't want to wait until next week to learn something new? No problem! Here are other ways to feed your creative brain and to keep you busy in the meantime. You can check our my other courses in the library, visit my website eyedesyn.com for more tutorials, subscribe to my YouTube channel to be alerted when I post a new video, join my Facebook page for daily MoGraph inspiration, and keep up to date on all my latest MoGraph creations on Instagram.
Thanks for watching, and I'll see you here again next week.
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