3D Fractal in After Effects?

I’ve been experimenting with a technique that uses a series of AE expressions that allow me to create sort of a 3D fractal.

It took about a minute to render this at this resolution.
Watch Video

The basic gist:

1. Create a layer with a fractal noise and set the layer to SCREEN

2. Offset the multiple copies of that layer in Z space

3. Offset the evolution for each layer based on the Z position

In other words, make the first layer have an evolution of 0 degrees, the second 5, the third 10, the fourth 15…

By offsetting the fractal evolution slightly, you create instances that appear to be “connected” in Z space, thus allowing the illusion. One drawback is that you can only move around it about 120 degrees or so. Once you get to the side they either disappear or you can tell they are not connected. Certainly this effect is limited and takes a fair amount of time to render, but a fun project. Someone here suggested I do something challenging for a tutorial, perhaps I could get into this one.

Peder over at www.trapcode.com is working on a plugin for After Effects that allows you to create even more amazing 3d effects like this but with much more control, speed and fully 3 Dimensional. I was lucky enough to see a demo of it at NAB 2007. I’m looking forward to it.

EDIT: I made it in AE 7 Professional without any special plug-ins

June 19th, 2007 @ 10:09 am
Sweet.. works with AE 7?
June 19th, 2007 @ 10:18 am
i didnt make it, i've bad english maybe for this reason. Could you more simplify? If its possible.. Or send me PM with picture of Tutorial step of step :)))
Jacob Dyer
June 19th, 2007 @ 10:32 am
I like the idea, render times could get to be an issue though at 720P :S.
I would enjoy seeing tutorials on this sort of subject. More interesting effects this way.

Diego G.F
June 19th, 2007 @ 11:40 am
Woooowww...sweet. Good Job. Thx
June 19th, 2007 @ 11:42 am
I love your tutorials... Can you make a tutorial to this ? ( Step by Step ) please?

(sry for my bad english)
Haydn González
June 19th, 2007 @ 11:54 am
Dude, the effect is amazing, BUT, could you please record this tutorial and post it, just like the ones you had done before. English is not my first language and I understand better if I watch what you're doing ;) . I would really appreciate it.

June 19th, 2007 @ 12:18 pm
The super thing although, with the enleskim alone LOS so would be good that recorded and shows.

Fernando GV
June 19th, 2007 @ 1:15 pm
really great idea !!! I'm giving it a try!

I'm a big fan of your tutorials and I wanted to make a request if I may: could you post a tutorial where the camera goes through clouds and then reveals an aerial shot (like in Gladiator, when they show the city of Rome)? sounds easy, but it's really quite hard to get it right. Thanks,

June 19th, 2007 @ 1:42 pm
That looks nice, but I think i'm gonna have a hard time rendering that :P
I was wondering if you maybe could do another tutorial on trapcode particular. It is a great plugin but kind'a hard to get into.
June 19th, 2007 @ 1:56 pm
Awesome men, thanks for that tip. Your videos are great. good work.

June 19th, 2007 @ 2:10 pm
Looks pretty sweet Andrew. Is this what you were working on when I suggested the 3D plasma effect to you? Either way, advanced tutorials on stuff like this should go over very well. Love the blog and all the new stuff, keep it up!
June 19th, 2007 @ 2:31 pm
Whoa, that's pretty sick! I've been looking for an effect like this. It'll help a lot in my new trailer. Thanks man! Your tutorials are the best!
June 19th, 2007 @ 3:24 pm
Wow Andy that looks great, sort of a plasma membrane....
June 19th, 2007 @ 4:10 pm
Cool stuff, I've done some stuff like this with particular and animated using air turbulence but I've never tried it with fractal noise...nice ideea, very creative ;)
Dustin James
June 19th, 2007 @ 5:04 pm
how could you create a cloud look... like you're above the clouds then the camera goes through them?
June 19th, 2007 @ 6:17 pm
you know what ..!! you amazing ..swear god ..

I always see your tutorials

thanks man
June 19th, 2007 @ 7:24 pm
Nice little tut...now work on that 300 blood splatter I requested. lol
June 19th, 2007 @ 8:06 pm
that’s awesome!.. haven’t I seen that before somewhere?...well well, do NOT make a tutorial about that.. make a tutorial about something else!...ah i love something else... it's nice
Orc Master
June 19th, 2007 @ 8:16 pm
That looks just awesome -seemingly like everything you come up with :p. Anyways, I just wanted to ask how I could track in Z space so I could use this on top of live footage.

Love your tutorials. Keep them up! ;) Don't have many of those around here in Venezuela...
June 19th, 2007 @ 8:51 pm
Hey Andrew, thats pretty nice! i love to toy with these kinda things
as well in flash.

I know this isn't the right place, but would it be possible to share some techniques on artifact removal, video clean up

I got various loops on my hd that could use little mods, somehow i can't much info on it to do it properly with the tools that comes with AE CS3.

June 19th, 2007 @ 10:12 pm
Great job man!
the blog was Excelent idea!!
June 20th, 2007 @ 12:34 am
oh dude that looks cool.
but what about cutting it into pieces? making more layers from it. and then animate the singlepieces. that would look great in your video streams HD ^^

*greetz from Germany*
June 20th, 2007 @ 1:20 am
hi! andrew you are the man thanks for all the tutorials.. man! that's was a lot of help for us.. thanks thanks..
please make alittle video showing how the hell you can mak those mask so quickly! damm!!

grettins from the ass of the world Chile!!! in southamerica..

and off course excuse my "tarzan english"!
see ya!
June 20th, 2007 @ 7:22 am
cool effect, thanx adrew!

regards from mexico
June 20th, 2007 @ 8:25 am
hey man, who ever knew something so Complex would turn out so simple!

BTW you rock.

Gday from Australia!!!!
gray wolf
June 20th, 2007 @ 2:15 pm
ohh thats hot. And it will be very nice if you make some step by step tut.
I can already see a lot of ways to use it, but i just get how yet. My english is not completly perfect after all.
June 20th, 2007 @ 5:59 pm
Andrew, whats a good camera to shoot video with. Im looking to go prosumer. I just sold some old equipment and need to do some upgrading. my budget is around 1500. any ideas of whats good? i mostly work on personal projects like short films and special effects

June 20th, 2007 @ 6:27 pm
You can get a similar effect by rendering out an animated fractal noise to frames. Bring the frames back in as layers & turn them 90 degrees. Drop the frame comp into a new comp, collapse transformations & animate a camera flying through. I like that you can mess with the z scale to increase the perceived depth.

Your idea seems a lot more dynamic. I like that the noise animation can be adjusted on the fly.
June 20th, 2007 @ 6:42 pm
Great looking effect, would you be willing to post the after effect file to this project?

June 20th, 2007 @ 8:51 pm
that's great, it's very easy to make and it's a nice effect
thx adrew !!
June 22nd, 2007 @ 3:35 am
totally cool! Man when you dig in, you really dig in! 3D Fractal? Nice!

Later Bro.

June 23rd, 2007 @ 10:36 am
Nice... Very Nice got the principle down looks close.
Keep the expressions simple and linked is the trick.
Can't wait to see the tut to compare my work.
Love the entertaining wit that accompanies the Tuts...
June 24th, 2007 @ 1:36 am
Nice effect!
It kind of reminds me on the flash in "Pirates of the Caribbean". it's just animated differently, but it looks like the basic shape and colour.

Greetings from Germany

Take care
June 25th, 2007 @ 4:46 am
A real amazing effect!
Because English is not my first language (like many others complained here) I didn't get it, because my AfterEffects is not in English, the effects have other names and so its difficult to find the right Effect.
A small Tutorial would be great, just 7-8 min!
June 27th, 2007 @ 11:37 pm
Cool effect, maybe u can write which effects u use to create such fractal, i really interested in this one, thx
June 30th, 2007 @ 6:50 am
@Pavel: You only need the "fractal noise" which is a standart-effect from AdobeAfterEffects. And you need to "set the layer to SCREEN" (whatever that means)
June 30th, 2007 @ 10:34 am
I think not only the fractal noise, anyway it would be great to see the tutorial of this one
July 1st, 2007 @ 9:17 am
Well mayby it is not going to be what you ment
but you can always try
make new solid color #00b91a
make black solid on the top then use eliptical masc tool (or light it is up to you ;-) ) feather the masc by 400
On the wery top make white solid set it on SCREEN (f4 will reweal blending mode option ) go to Effect>Noise & Grain >Fractal noise and inEffect control set fractal type to "dynamic",noise type to"soft Linear" select "invert checkbox" ,contrast to hmm try 320 ,scale it up toooo 200 (lets say) ,complexity to 10.
Then go to Effect > Color correction>Hue/saturation check "colorize" check box and pull Hue to +65 Satyration to 80 and Lightness to -22 then take pen tool draw the fancy shaped masc on the layer with your fractal and feather it then you can play with the settings to make it look better (i have read your post 25 minutes ago so really what i wrote was basically first what came to my mind ;-))) and what i tested on my PC ) ......Well i hope it will be something more the less what you wanted if something is not ok i must have forgotten to write it .........

Best wishes from Poland to eweryone with passion to create.
ps Andrew blog was the 5+ (A+) idea..
July 1st, 2007 @ 9:50 am
uuuuh i forgot use "deep Tissue" fractal after that and scale it up again because i think it will reset your prewious scaling transformation
July 1st, 2007 @ 9:57 am
O ! you can also try fractal type "smeary" hihihi these thoughts just keep copmming.. :-)
July 2nd, 2007 @ 1:30 am
Thx Jackob! Work nice :)
July 2nd, 2007 @ 2:57 am
@xlbris, ill send you an example and explain it to you on msn

excellent job tho andrew, much better than my attempts
Strokes Lovers
July 2nd, 2007 @ 1:29 pm
I love your work ... Everyday I come here ... You're very talented Andrew ...
A French Fan
July 4th, 2007 @ 5:11 pm
I hope to make a tutorial for this, unfortuantly im having mic problems still, the speaker audio is being detected as mic in my camtasia, but its a very annoying problem!
July 5th, 2007 @ 5:58 am
Ok im back on my new pc, mic is working fine, just gotta install my after effects, curse vista its very annoying, it like died on me practically, could of been a virus tho.
July 7th, 2007 @ 8:25 am
andrew your tuts are really entertaining . i come to this site everyday checking up on new tutorials. i am looking forward to buy the designer sound effects .. hehehe . trust me my frens are gonna envy.. no need to worry those bastard wud have to get therr own. thanks for the wonderful work ... 'I'LL BE BAAACK"
July 14th, 2007 @ 10:56 am
i just couldnt make
would u pls make it a tutorial
i like the effect
July 17th, 2007 @ 9:02 am
Andrew, this thing is AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! exept i followed the "basic gist" and it didnt work, please make a video tutorial for this, Thx Jonny
The Hog
July 23rd, 2007 @ 1:19 pm
If you have a tutorial for this I would be very intested in getting the details on this one! Awesome work!
November 30th, 2008 @ 10:37 am
July 26th, 2009 @ 9:41 am
Can we have a video tutorial or an other explanation plz ?
November 29th, 2009 @ 6:01 am
Pleaaase project and tutorial!! *-*
October 20th, 2010 @ 11:19 am
Did that trapcode plugin ever come out?
February 21st, 2011 @ 8:02 am
will this ever be a tutorial?
Before Posting
We're trying to encourage more thoughtful commenting.  Please take a moment to write a meaningful response to this post.
* Name
* Email (will not be published)
* field is required