Ab-Normal Particles

Here is a fun example that uses Normality on a pre-composed particle system emitting a custom texture. I used Trapcode Particular because the Depth of Field option blends the Normals unique coloring together, for a more liquid concoction.

Watch Sample Video (720p HD)
High Quality Pic
(see the real colors…)

You can download the blob-element as part of the project files for the latest Normality Tutorial.

One of the interesting benefits of using a normal pass element as a particle (instead a pre-rendered one with shading and reflections), is the viscous coupling generated by the depth of field. The other benefit is happening is the random movement of the highlights in the glob. Even the reflections have variable coverage, which adds to the feel of the scene.

Normality is a 3D re-lighting tool for After Effects which introduces some interesting opportunities when used with other techniques like particle systems. I’ve also had some fun tests using CC Mr. Mercury but they were a little bit flat looking so I used multiple copies with variable settings. Of course, experimentation is the key to discovery!

Stay curious my friends…

For more information on this free plug-in Normality:
Watch latest tutorial & read our Normals Guide

Using Custom Particles in AE:
Watch Medical Zoom Tutorial or the recent Particle Explosion Tutorial!

Guide to Normals

We recently published a new tutorial on Scene Relighting using a cool plug-in called Normality (FREE) and so I wanted to gather helpful information on the subject for people who are excited like me.

Like many of you, when I first saw Normality about 3 years ago , the gears in my head started turning with amazing possibilities. However back then, it was not a free plug-in until about 6 months ago when he decided to offer this great tool to the world! This got me excited and this was actually the subject of my presentation in LA as a way to help spread the word.

Normality uses special Normal maps to relate the 3D surface info to After Effects for adding lights and even reflections. Here are a few resources on exporting and generating Normal Maps but be sure to watch our tutorial first, to get acquainted.

Stefan, the developer also posted feature-rich tutorial a couple months ago.
Part 1 & Part 2 (High-Def Youtube)

Exporting Normal Map from 3D Software:
Cinema 4D & Modo plus a quick AE demo with normality. Good stuff!
Cinema 4D Materia
l (works with anti-aliasing)
Maya Normal Maps
3D Max Normal Maps with Script
(Our tutorial also includes export info for 3d Max)
New Blender Process ( TwentyFourBecks)

Normal Map Generating Software:
One of the cool things about Normality is you don’t need a 3D program to do some impressive relighting, you can actually use photographic textures!

Smart Normal Map (Free AE Plug-in CS4+)
CrazyBump
($99.00 PC, very intelligent processing!)
Normal Generator OS X (Free)
Nvidia Normal App Win (Free)
Nvidia App Photoshop (Free)
Shadermap ($20 PC)
Enhancing Normal Maps Tutorial @ CGtextures.com

More exciting concepts:

I noticed a few people confusing the idea of UV texture re-mapping and Normal Map re-lighting so I wanted to make sure people understand both concepts and possibly how they can be used together. In a 3D nut shell, UV Mapping allows texture replacing and Normal Maps allow 3D re-lighting.

Mylenium published a very detailed outline of UV map integration with a plug-in called RE:Map that allows After Effects to adjust texture positions.

Maltaannon demystified this concept and also created a very clever preset called “Youveelizer” ($29 CS4 Only) that also uses UV passes to adjust the bitmap textures of a 3D render in AE.

The Re:VisionFX plug-in Re:Map costs a bit more at $149.95 although it does work with earlier versions of After Effects.

Conclusion:
I would hope people appreciate how much work Stefan has put into Normality over the years and especially now as a free tool for the community. Also, if you know of some applications or tutorials for working with Normals or related stuff, please share them, I’ll update the list if I think it’s good!

NEW TUTORIAL: Scene Re-Lighting

In this tutorial we will use the free plug-in Normality to add 3D light effects in After Effects. Using a simple Normal-Pass, we will also create stunning reflection and refraction effects with amazing speed and control.

I can say that there are some fun stories and situations through-out the tutorial that are mostly unrelated. Sorry :)

Watch Tutorial

Download Free Plug-in: Normality CS3+

Background:
As the world of post-processing 3D render passes and depth of field in After Effects grows, the ability to perform relighting is now more powerful than ever. By using a simple normal map with the Normality, it is now possible to use After Effects Lights for fast, believable relighting and reflection/refraction effects.

Normal Maps: These special render passes are similar to standard bump maps but contain for acurate contour information. These passes can be created in nearly every 3D program as well as generated directly from a 2D texture, (as you will see in this tutorial) for relighting capabilities without the use of a 3D program!

Refraction fx in AE

One of the things I demonstrated in at the LA presentation was the use of normal maps in After Effects to simulate realistic refraction and reflections. The technique is very fast and very powerful using a free plug-in called Normality.

Stefan, the developer even worked in a few solutions based on some feedback I sent over. He really built a great tool, in fact there are so many possibilities that I have been working very hard developing this new tutorial to demonstrate several examples of what is possible.

SIDE NOTE: I Just finished the new build of QuickMatte for Windows and Mac so I’m going to try and get that out shortly.

NEW TUTORIAL: Particle Explosion

In this in-depth tutorial we will build several particle systems linked to a single control layer for precision animation with the standard Particle World system. We will also use the Pixel Polly filter to give our title a shattering blast.

Watch Tutorial

Video Sample in HD 720p

I’ve also linked CC Particle World to a 3D Null object using this code:

Download Script

Now when you need to find this expression, just search the blog for it!

Busy Week Ahead

A lot of things are happening this week and you don’t want to miss any of them. Obviously this is a huge teaser but I can tell you that we will finally be releasing our free compositing tool QuickMatte. This plug-in is for After Effects and should work with AE 7 and above. The functions may be a little complicated to explain so I want to include a tutorial to show you all of the handy features. This and more!

Presented Tuesday in LA

Getting a few things together for the meeting tonight at DMA LA. The plan is to talk about working with 3D renders in AE. Hope you guys can come out!

Meeting Info

UPDATE: Had a blast at the meeting, I’ll be posting some info about the presentation soon!

The World of Matte Painting

In the old days, artists would paint on a life-sized canvas or even a sheet of glass to incorporate new elements in a shot. Many special effects were not done in post production, but rather in-camera. Today digital matte painting and compositing allow a more detailed and controlled environment for developing unique worlds. Wiki-Pedia on Matte Painting.

Matte Paintings are an essential part of film-making and allow the audience to travel to a mysterious planet, or go back in time to an early period of human life. You often see matte paintings in disaster movies where clever artists have brought destruction to a popular city or other famous landmark.

Once a digital painting has been completed, compositors can add life to these still paintings such as chimney smoke, moving water, atmospheres and even birds flying in the sky. More advanced mixtures of matte paintings utilize 3d animation such as cars driving or even space ships from the future!

Check out this incredible reel by Hatch! Must Watch. This one too!

Camera movement is also possible with a process called 3d camera mapping. By projecting your scene on to custom-built 3D geometry, you can later add a realistic camera move. View Example.

The world of matte painting is vast and I encourage you to do some research on your own into this amazing side of Hollywood. You may not personally be a matte painting artist but if you understand the process, it just might help you become a better compositor. Maybe.

Resources:
MattePainting.org
Google Search

Lens Flare on 3D Lights?

After Effects lights can be moved around in 3D space but a lens flare effect can only move in 2D space on the X and Y axis. So how can you add a 2d lens flare to a 3D moving light?

The secret is using a simple expression on the “Flare Center” of the lens effect.

1. Alt Click on Flare Center stop watch to add expression

2. Type this in the expression box:

thisComp.layer(“Light 1“).toComp([0,0,0]);

NOTE: Just change “Light 1” to the name of your light.

This tip can be found in the bump map tutorial around 6:15 for those who would like to see it in action. View Tutorial

Dan Ebberts has an ever useful “3D Lens Flare” case study on his website that includes distance falloff. Check that out.

Here is an anamorphic lens flare project too.

Free Project: Golden Particles

Did you know that CC Particle World allows you to use an image (or texture) as a custom particle type? Just select the “Textured QuadPolygon” and a texture roll-out becomes available that allows you to choose a layer along with some other options.

Here is a fun project file that uses a custom particle type to create the image-based glowing lights.

Download Project CS3

Presenting at DMA LA, Aug-18

It’s official! On Tuesday August 18, I’ll be presenting at Digital Media Artists Los Angeles with some fun After Effects tips and I want you to be there! The meeting is FREE but please register on the event website to be eligible for special door prizes.

I think this is the first time doing a presentation in LA so I hope you guys can come out. The seating seems to be first-come first-serve so bring your own seat… er.. umm… just come early I guess.

DMALA Registration

DMALA Website

DMALA Twitter

Miniatures in Cinema

Here is an exciting look into the smaller side of Hollywood.

Thanks to Jim for the link. Direct Link.

Plug-in Developers?

Are you a genius programmer? Would you like to develop awesome After Effects Plug-ins? We are building a small team of developers and we want to talk to you.

Big Dreams

In order to realize our dreams we must find creative ways to accomplish them. Computer visual effects have given us great opportunities to create amazing cinema but we should not forget to combine the past with the present.

Perhaps then, you can afford to buy a fancy new car!

Dream Video Tease