Join Ian Robinson for an in-depth discussion in this video Making adjustments to a particle system, part of Motion 5 Essential Training.
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Creating a particle system is just the first step. It's really the adjustment of the particle system that'll give you that nice fine-tuned animation. So if you look at our project here, we have a particle emitter--that's this icon right here--and then underneath we have what's called a particle cell. Now, an emitter can have multiple particle cells within the emitter itself, but I'm just going to start with this one particle for now. As we make adjustments to the emitter, it will change how these particles appear in the scene, quite drastically.
So typically, once I create an initial particle system, the first thing I adjust is its shape. So you can emit particles from points, lines, rectangles, circles. Burst is kind of cool. It creates--here, let me drag back to the beginning here, so you can see--it's got three arms that kind of pop out of it. If you want to actually see what an emitter looks like, you need to use the Adjust Item tool. So click and hold on your Transform tool, go to Adjust Item, and this will actually show you the emitter that you are adjusting as we go ahead and kind of click through the different things.
Now, if you had your own custom Bezier curve that you wanted to use, you could use Geometry, or you could actually emit particles from an image. Now, for this example, I want to just choose a line. Since I'd already have the Adjust Item tool selected, I can just click on the different end points and drag them visually right here in my Canvas. Now, I wanted to have this line move kind of straight through the center of the scene. Let me move it down, so it's kind of going straight through the center of our circles.
And if you really need fine-tuning for where these points are, under the Emitter options, notice once we switch to Line, there is a place where you can actually type in the Start Point and End Point, X, Y values for the emitter. Now, I'm not going to jump into 3D emitters just yet. We'll get to that in the 3D chapter. What we do want to pay attention to is the Emission Angle and the Emission Range. Now, in the Inspector you can choose to make the adjustments to this just by clicking and dragging or use the HUD.
If you press F7, the HUD, you'll get a graphic interface that allows you to kind of create the direction visually. So as I click through here, I'm looking at this, and let's preview the animation. Okay, that's definitely a little bit more like what I was thinking about. Let me stop playback here for a second. Like I said in the previous video, the way I'm recording this, I may start and stop the animation, but I really encourage you to continue leaving the particles playing back as you're making the adjustments, because you will be able to tweak your animation that much faster.
Now, instead of adjusting the Birth Rate down, I'm actually going to adjust the Life down here a little bit because I don't want the particles to live too long as they go shooting off the screen. One of the things you can also adjust, we've seen Birth Rate and Life, but you can also adjust the randomness, so it's not a constant emission of particles. Now, just so we can see this more clearly, I am going to crank up the Birth Rate here just a little bit, and let's look at the Speed option.
If we bring the Speed down, now notice we're getting that sort of tight cluster of emissions. This is definitely what I was looking for, both visually and in terms of the motion. I don't like how consistent this is, so I will adjust the Speed Randomness. That's going to break things up a little bit and give me slow particles and faster particles. I kind of like how this is working, but I would like to sort of tweak it just a little more, but we'll get to that in a little bit. Let's look at some of the other options.
There's Speed, Speed Randomness. Angle is kind of fun. You can actually adjust the angle of the particles. Now, since these are so small, you're not going to notice that too much. But if I adjusted the Spin, it would make each individual particle spin. And you get it, with the Randomness you can make adjustments accordingly. Now, Color Mode and Opacity, this is going to function just like adjusting the gradients in a gradient shape. So let's choose a Color Mode for Over Life.
This is kind of cool because it'll allow you to adjust how the particles change colors over its life. So notice once I change that, if we open up the Color Over Life option, here is that familiar Gradient Adjustment tool. So let's say I want these to be born a vibrant yellow, and as it dies off, I want it to die off to a more purply color. Let me go back and just adjust this yellow a little bit more so it's not so dark. There we go! If we check our playback here, you can actually see what's going on.
Now, this is sort of working, but sometimes it makes sense to actually start with a preset. Let's actually delete this. I'm just going to select both the particle emitter and its particle cell and the source particle itself and press Delete. What I want to do is go to the Library and use one of the presets. So let's go to Particle Emitters, and in here under Sparkles, the one that we want to use is down here: Weightless Spark.
See how these are flowing out kind of slowly, and I'm getting this really neat sort of flow to the particles? I want to use that for this line. Let's choose Weightless Spark and just drag it right up into our Group right here, above our background layer. I'm immediately seeing something in the scene because my playhead is here at the end. If we move back to the beginning, notice you wouldn't see anything. So down here at the end I want to change the emitter itself. I'm pretty sure we already know how to do that, because I showed you this just a few minutes ago.
In the Inspector, under the Emitter, change the Shape to Line. Once it's changed to Line, you guessed it, we have to go choose the Adjust Item tool. Bring that right back here across the Line, and I'll click on the other point and bring it back over to the right. Okay, so it's starting to look a little bit better. We can definitely change the Emission Angle as well as the Range, just so it kind of emits from a larger range and I get things spaced out a little bit more.
By all means, you can go through and continue to make adjustments. But this is pretty darn close to what I was looking for. One last thing I'm going to tell you about adjusting particle systems: definitely use the presets in the Library, because you'll want to look at what they've actually done to build those particle systems. Because if you notice when we select the particle cell here, there are actually three behaviors applied. So I'm just going to hide my File Browser and Library for now just by pressing Command+1 twice, and check it out.
You can see there's a Random Motion behavior, Gravity applied, and even Scale Over Life. These have a great effect on creating this more flowing particle build. Once again, I encourage you to go to the Library and start with the presets. When you get comfortable adjusting the presets then go back and start creating your own particle systems.
- Getting started with Motion and setting essential preferences
- Working with layers, groups, and blend modes
- Animating and adjusting behaviors
- Building custom presets to create a slideshow
- Keyframing animation
- Animating type along a path
- Creating credit rolls
- Understanding generators
- Adding reflections
- Controlling and animating cameras
- Creating depth of field in a composition
- Adjusting audio
- Exporting, sharing, and archiving a project