Scaling Up for HD

Wednesday 1 March 2006 at 12:13 PM

Whether you like it or not, high definition is here to stay. Sure we all love the crisp, clear picture on our new HDTVs, but we're also stuck rendering enormous project files because of this great leap into the future of entertainment. If you're a particleIllusion user, HD offers another challenge. How do you get emitters that were created to fit the old world to fit into this new one?

Biggie-Size your Emitters
Most emitters, and especially those marked as background emitters (see the July, August or October 2004 libraries), were created back in the olden days when 640x480 was a standard project resolution. If you create a project at 1920x1080 and place one of those emitters as a background, you'll notice a lot of empty space on your stage.

We need to scale up an emitter meant for a width of 640 to 1920, which is a little more difficult than it may seem, since there's no tool in particleIllusion that will scale up everything on the stage. So first off, we'll need to do a tiny bit of math to work things out. 1920 divided by 640 equals 3. So we need to scale everything up 3 times, or 300%, to get them to fit the width of our new stage size.

Select the Zoom graph of your emitter, right-click and choose Scale from the menu. With Scale Values (y) chosen from the two options, type 300 into the Scale Factor % box, and hit OK. Now your graph will be tripled in value, so if it was set to 100%, it'll go up to 300.

Why do this rather than just drag the first emitter point up to 300? Well some emitters have animation on their Zoom graphs, and you would have to move every point manually. Scale ensures that all the points on the graph move the right amount.

If the emitter you were scaling up was a Point emitter, your work is done. If it was anything else, move on to the next paragraph.

Area, Circle and Ellipse Emitters
So you've grabbed one of those background emitters, dumped it onto the stage, increased the Zoom graph to 300%, and have been rewarded with a giant jumbled mess of particles. What's going on?

Many of the background emitters are Area emitters, and when just scaling the Zoom, we haven't taken into account the Height and Width graphs. In an Area emitter, particles are only born within the area defined by the little grey box you see on screen. So since we've scaled the Zoom up, we also have to scale the Width and Height graphs up in the same manner, by right-clicking and choosing Scale, and going up to 300%.

Similarly with Circle and Ellipse emitters, you'll have to scale up the Radius, or Radius X/Y graphs to get results that are visually similar to what you see in a 640x480 project.

If the emitter is one that had Emit at Points checked in its Properites ( Like the Dot Grid emitters from the August 2004 libraries ), your work is done. If it didn't have Emit at Points checked (like Retro Squares in the July 2004 library), more work needs to be done.

Because the number of particles created by an area emitter depend on its size (the bigger the area, the more particles you get), tripling the width and height have given you lots and lots of new particles, and has changed the emitter's original look (9 times as many if my rudimentary math is correct) . If there were any empty spaces in the area emitter before, they're probably jammed up with overlapping particles now.

How can we fix this? Select the Number graph, right-click it and choose Scale again. This time, rather than scaling up we'll be scaling down. Since 100 divided by 9 is roughly 11.11, that's what we'll scale our Number graph down to. Type 11 into the Scale Factor % box and hit OK. The results should look like the original emitter.

Rendering It All
And so your project is finished, and it's time to render. Great, except for one problem- particleIllusion's rendering is limited to the size of your desktop. So if your screen resolution is set to 1280x960, that's as large as you can render to. What do you do?

From the Start menu, find your particleIllusion menu group, and find the pIllusionRender icon. That will open up a tiny program that will load your saved IP3 projects, and can render up to 8192x8192, if you really wanted to go that big.

Changing to Suit Other Sizes
While everything above covers the 1920x1080 size, there is another HD standard size, 720p (1280x720). The basics of scaling up to 720p are the same, but rather than a 300% scale, you only have to go up 200%, and when scaling down the Number of particles in an area emitter, use 25% rather than 11%.