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Volumetric lighting effects, such as light rays and glows, are susceptible to two common problems: They can look too synthetic, and they are prone to banding when compressed for DVDs and the web. In Motion: Natural Light Effects, Chris Meyer shows how to make light look more realistic by adding dust or swirling smoke, creating natural imperfections that help with compression. He demonstrates how to do this using stock footage of this natural phenomenon or Motion's Particle Emitters.
Skill Level Intermediate
Now, whenever I'm trying to recreate natural phenomenon such as smoke or water particles, I prefer to use stock footage of the real thing. It's going to look more natural and more organic, more realistic. However, Apple's Motion does come with a pretty good Particle Generator in it with some pretty passable smoke. So, let's take a look at how you might use that instead of stock footage to create these natural fills for light rays and other effects. We are back in Motion. I'm going to turn off the groups that I was working with so that I can see what I'm doing with my Smoke layer. I'm going to open up the Library in Motion. I'm going to select Particle Emitters and they have a category called Smoke. As you click on the different ones down here in the Name section, you will them previewed up here in the window. I'll try Black Smoke, Rising Smoke. I think this Basic Smoke is a good starting point, so let's go ahead and grab that one and drag Basic Smoke into my Layers panel and it will be added to my project. I'll hit Play and now smoke will start being generated to my Composition window. Drag it down to make it rise up to the frame and let's start customizing this smoke to make it look like more what we want to.
I will select the Basic Smoke layer. My heads-up display will give me a few parameters such as how fast the smoke's being emitted, very, very fast smoke and drag it down further here, or very slow dense smoke and if my smoke is too dense, I'll just turn down to Birth Rates so fewer smoke particles are being created. Well, there is a nice cloud there. Now, in this case, I'm having it rise in a straight line. If I want it to shot out in all directions, I just need to widen out the Emission Range. Drag up to the middle and now you see smoke is being shot out in all directions. That might work better in case we had centered light rays coming out of the logo and you want your smoke going in all directions and this is about as far as we can push the heads-up display.
To customize this more, we really need to get into the Property Inspector. I'll turn this off for now so I can see what I'm doing, go back to the Inspector and now I have got all the parameters for this Particle Emitter and Smoke. There is a few different things we can play around with. We have already played around with the direction, or the Emission Range, and we have already played around with parameters like Speed which you can scrub directly here in the Inspector and you can see the effect over here on my canvas. Fast speed means you are just going to be disipated that much more quickly. Let's go for something a bit on the more drifting side, there we go.
Now, by default, this smoke is being generated from a line and going across my composition and that might work pretty well in the case of centered light rays coming out of a logo. But if I want it to come from a wider area, I might have it generated by a rectangle and now you see, my smoke fills up practically my entire screen. Looks like I'm going to need more smoke so I'll increase the Birth Rate to help fill it in. I'll change the arrangement from Tile Fill to Random Fill to make it much more random looking and then maybe go ahead and boost up the Size a little bit just to fill up my window.
Now, I have got a nice amorphous smoke. I'll increase the Birth Rate here, just get some more density going on and now I've got something fun happening. Now, with Particle Emitters in Apple's Motion, things start to build from time zero. If you need them to start building earlier, drag your time marker back to the start and then drag your group with your Smoke layer earlier in time until you see enough smoke build up on the screen. I'll drag it back a little bit more here. Now, I'm starting with a nice constant Smoke field. That will give me a little more what I'm looking for and again I can further modify the parameters by selecting my Smoke layer, go into the Emitter in the Inspector tab and further playing around these parameters such as maybe Speed Randomness, just to get little bit more animated motion going on the smoke, a little bit more Turbulence and some other tricks like how long the particles last on screen, a little bit denser looking smoke.
Right now, the smoke is just kind of wandering around the screen and not doing anything very purposeful but let's say that I do want Rising Smoke. I'm going to pull my Speed Randomness back down so that my speed actually means something. I'm going to reduce my Emission Range so that it's shooting in one particular direction like to the side or up and then I'll go ahead and rotate my Emission Direction so things are rising up my screen and now I have got Rising Smoke. Pretty cool and I have to admit, a lot more flexible and a lot more customizable than the stock footage.
So, there is some Basic Smoke. Let's go ahead and use in context. I'm going to stop playback for now. I'm going to go ahead and turn on my groups for my Text Rays and for my underlying text I'm going to select my Image Mask. I'm going to drag my Smoke layer into the Mask Source. Finally, I'll turn off the smoke itself, so that I don't see the smoke. I just see the effect inside the Light Rays, Preview and there is the Rising Smoke that I created sitting inside my Light Rays. I don't need to use just smoke. Let's get creative and go back to the library and see what else there are. There is lots of different particle emitters, which have some very interesting effects such as Abstract, and you go ahead and click through these to see what the results are and start to consider if any of these might make some interesting fills to go inside your libraries.
A couple of interesting ones down here are the Light Dots. Light Dots 02 is a very interesting field of blue. Light Dots 01 are all these different colored sparkly dots and before we think I'm going to go psychedelic on you, let me show you how you can customize this. I'll pause the playback, drag it into my project, put it up top so I can see what is going on, drag it to start, the beginning of my timeline. And rather than just having Dots file over the place, let's go ahead and apply a filter to this group such as our old friend Light Rays. Glow > Light Rays.
Now I've got streaks of those dots. I'll go ahead and maybe pull down the Glow amount. Play around with the center so that they are just shooting up the screen again, just like the light rays on my text. Go find my Image Mask, bring it forward in the Inspector, drag my new Light Rays group into the Mask Source, turn off the rays themselves and now those rays are creating kind of interesting animated effect. A little bit more like fire, little more like lava. Something a bit different than the standard smoke. So, that is how you can take advantage of the Particle Emitters that come with Motion to go ahead and create your natural phenomenon that you use to fill your light rays. Motion is quite a powerful program.
You can do a lot with it. You just need to combine the parts together to create the look that you want.