The Glittering Orb

Sunday, 3, March, 2002 at 10:46:22 PM

As important as it is to learn how to create realistic effects that can be composited over live-action footage, sometimes it's fun to just kick back and make a really wild, fantasy emitter. In this case, we'll be making a glowing and glittering orb effect which may not be handy for the next big-budget blockbuster your working on, but should provide a good overview of emitter creation.

We'll begin, simply enough, by clicking on the blank emitter in the library area, and clicking once again in the center of the stage. The second step in any emitter creation should be to name your creation, by clicking on the emitter's name in the Hierarchy Window, and clicking a second time to get activate the renaming function. We'll call the emitter Glittering Orb. The next step, is to set up the emitter's properties by right-clicking on the emitter name and choosing Properties.

One important thing to understand about Illusion is the difference between an emitter's main controls, and the Particle Types that make up an emitter. The main controls now displayed are the overall settings for any particle type contained in that emitter. Think of them as a main power switch on a house's fusebox. While all the light switches in a house might be on (the Particle type's settings), the lights won't shine unless the fuses (the main controls) are all set to 'on'. But rather than these fuses having on and off switches, the main control's are sliders with a range of 0-2000, with 100 as the default. Under each emitter, we can add as many particle types as needed. We'll begin by renaming the default type from "New Particle Type" to "The Orb".

Though many of the functions in the emitter properties are similar to those in Illusion's main program interface, the center of the Properties window adds some additional options that are very powerful, under the Properties and Particles tabs. For this tutorial, we'll skip over the settings in the Properties, and head straight into the Particles>Colors tab. We are now presented with a color picker that will determine the color of this particular particle type. Make sure to uncheck the Link Transparency to Color setting before selecting a series of blues and purples, starting with lighter blues on the left, and ending with darker colors. The left most color is the color each particle emitted will begin at, and as it lives out it's life, it will go through each color in the gradient, before reaching the color at the right, and dying.

Under the Transparency over the life of the particle gradient, we'll choose black to start, quickly moving into white, with a second white selected about 3/4's of the way through the gradient, and then a series of black/white/black/white/black. This pattern will allow our particles to fade up into life from being transparent, shine brightly for 3/4's of their life, before glittering away as they die. The preview window should now show the particles glitter before vanishing.

Fig 6

Next, click the plus beside The Orb particle type to display it's parameters. In the Life graph, raise the initial point to the third grey line. Set the Number of particles to the mid point, Size to maximum, and Velocity to the second grey line below mid. Now, in the

upper part of the particle tab, above the graphs, check the Intense option. In the preview window, the blue and purple particles should now become a white circle with a purple and pink shimmering glow. Clicking and dragging the mouse slowly around the preview window will give the effect of a white blob with a glittering purple tail.

Fig 7

Fig 8

The the main part of the effect is now completed, all that's left to do is add the glittering sparks floating around the orb. To do this, we need to duplicate the particle type by clicking on it's name in the Hierarchy window to highlight it, and clicking on the New Particle Type button. This will give us an exact duplicate of the The Orb particle type. Now, change the name from Copy of The Orb to Glittering Sparkles, and click the plus beside it.

Fig 10

We'll begin converting this to a sparkly emitter by increasing the Velocity, Number, and Motion Randomness to maximum. We'll also drop the Size attribute down from the maximum to mid. This will give us alot of small sparklers flying out from the orb, and cause them to run off in different directions at high speed.

The effect is coming along nicely, but it lacks chaos and randomness, due to each particle remaining on screen for the exact same amount of time and being the same size. At the moment, all the glitters die at the exact same distance from their starting point, creating a boring circular barrier around our globe. We'll break up the monotony by adjusting some of the Variation graphs. As it's name suggests, the higher the level on a Variation graph, the more each particle acts differently from the rest of the particles within that particle type. Most importantly for this example, we'll change the Life Variation, up from no variance to the third grey line. That should be just enough variety for some particles to break through the barrier. We'll also change the Size Variation to the fourth grey line.

Fig 14

Next, we'll make the effect more visually interesting by changing the Over Life settings. The Over Life allow you to affect changes in each particle during it's existance. For example, we'll have each sparkle particle grow larger mid way through their life, before flickering and getting smaller and smaller before vanishing entirely. We'll do this by adding several key points to the Size Over Life graph by clicking in the graph and dragging them into the right spot:

Fig 13

As the particle reaches the mid-point of it's life (0.5 on the graph), it begins to grow, until it becomes 160% of it's original size at 0.7, and fades down to 0% at the end of it's life.

And that's our first lesson! To further experiment with this emitter, you can try using different particle shapes and colour schemes. Try using the "GlitterStar" shape in place of the "basic blur" as the shape for the Glittering Sparkles particle type, and raise the Spin Variation setting to mid.