Particle Shadows AE vs 3D

After discovering an interesting way to cast shadows from Particles in After Effects I started thinking how it compares with a 3D program… One main concern was render speeds: 3D max took about 20 seconds per frame and After Effects took around 1 second but there may be other things to consider…

After Effects:
-Faster Rendering
-Depth of field renders faster
-Output quality previewing while editing (instead of 3d viewports)
-May still need a 3D program to create the sprites
-Shadows work best with round or soft type particle types
-Shadow trick requires extra setup
-Quickly Control Shadows look from soft to hard

3D Program:
– More accurate shadows
– No shadow layer setup (although AE shadows only take a couple min. to setup)
-Real 3D objects offer better reflections and self-shadows
-Access to more physics influence like deflectors etc.
-Good if you have other 3D Objects requirements for your scene
-With GI, complex scenes can get exponentially slower to render

Bottom line is there are good reasons to use both methods and depending on your project requirements or software limitations, you might be able to save some time or improve your results. Particle shadow tutorial coming soon.

5 years ago
Element 3D V2 Update 2.0.X
Element 3D V2 just came out this week and we’ve already been working with customers to make the plug-in better with this latest patch! Big Shout out to our development team for the fast turnaround! Check out Element 3D V2: Visit Online Store! Customers who have purchased V2: Login and download V2.0.2 Patch! PATCH DETAILS: Mac firePro GPU […]
Announcing Element 3D V2.2
Super busy but I wanted to share some exciting news, Element 3D V2.2 is almost ready! We’ve added some very cool new features for compositing, rendering, workflow and design!  Plus some improved C4D integration.  There are at least 5 impressive new features in this update! The poster graphic was also created entirely inside of Element 3D […]
Element 3D V2 Now Available! *Updated
Element 3D V2 is Now Available! We’ve been working on this plug-in for almost 2 years and we’re excited to release it! I’ve had to keep quiet for so long and now I can’t wait to show you what is possible! Top Features: Shadows and Improved Ambient Occlusion Dynamic Reflection Maps 3D Noise and Deform […]
One Week!
Element 3D V2 is almost here and we have been holding back on a few cool features!  Be sure to check back on Monday as we reveal several new features! Be sure to Follow us on Twitter for additional updates! Updates from twitter:  New for C4D Users: Element 3D V2 let’s you import most materials and textures […]

5 years ago
Andrew, thank you for these tutorials. I have been wondering if you could possibly make some tutorials on superpowers such as: fire control (mainly), freezing stuff and such. Thank you for reading. By the way people check this video specially 2:08.
5 years ago
hi . good job and tank you so much . I have a problem . I need particle please help me
5 years ago

Maybe you can make some tutorial like man onfire ^_^ like eminem music video in LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE :)
5 years ago
hey andrew...! its great work of you..>!
i am searching fr a suitable tutorial or a plugin for tube blink effect .. can you help me out..>!
5 years ago
Thank’s for everything that do for us !
5 years ago
this is the beast
5 years ago
CPU Rendering:
Preview Rendering:
Replicator (Video on bottom)

GPU Rendering:

Can this AE? No... After Effects is fast when it comes to little works eg. primitive Sphere. In comlex scenes AE unfavorable.
Adrian San (sorry for my eng..)
5 years ago
I like Partcular very much, and casting shadows is a great tool, but i see one important defect. Particles can cast shadows, but they can't receive shadows from the other objects. In your sample image (3d render) we can see, that every ball receiving different shadow from the ground which depends on their height above-ground. In AE sample, every ball have identical shadow. In your tutorial, balls which are near ground still haven't any shadows on themselves. Maybe there is a way to fake it somehow? ANother tut?;) Cheers.
5 years ago
haa it is Cinema 4d ??
5 years ago
Really nice tutorial.
I wanna ask you if this user ( is fake.

If you like 2D animation too, watch this.

Regards from Argentina!
Mohammed Gaily
5 years ago
Mr. Andrew the Programmers on Adobe Co>> Why OR how they missed to import or but the import script For the *.Obj Files to the program. The Great program AE Just really need and miss THIS Function ...
5 years ago
why you don't make some tutorials about the codes that are in alot of tutorials?
just like collect them in 1 video
please i need it so much
Bob K
5 years ago
Andrew, did you use the same type light array in both 3DS and in AE?
I notice there are plane-type lights visible in the 3D example, that appear to be VRAY lights (perhaps?).
Lighting alone could be responsible for most of the differences in the shadows ...????
5 years ago
lol Andrew, 1 "seconds" per frame?
5 years ago
Sir, you’re tutorials and effects are awesome. I would like to recommend you make a channel in irc. In server – . Please visit my channel #sa there. I need to discuss out some prolems. Please email me when you’ll be available in irc.
5 years ago
u r the best anrew ı am from ıraq and ı lıke 2 say thank u and u r the best
Devinder Sidhu
5 years ago
Hey Andrew, this is very amazing.ur best.thamks for shairing ur totutorils & i ll nees ur Guiadence in future.
ur so great.
5 years ago
5 years ago
Hey Andrew, cant wait for the tutorial!!
even tho i dont have AE yet. saving up for my own laptop so no need for laggy loading and desktop errors.And thanks for pointing that out because if its for a shool projects i'll use AE but for other perposes i'll use 3d max
5 years ago

I didn't mean Particular wasn't good enough. On the contrary, I love Particular. I was just sort of responding to a few posts above that flagged the shortcomings of the scene in question. They were right, and the blame is chiefly with Particular's physics (or lack thereof). However, AE is not a 3d program.

It would be interesting to see a tutorial on these dynamic shadows though. I can only guess what tricks you used; I actually sort of developed a technique (in my head - not tried yet) and would be interesting to compare.

BTW, loving the action essentials 2 bundle I bought off you last month.
5 years ago
Very interesting information.
5 years ago
Regardless of the haters, I for one see exactly what you're doing this for Andrew. Unfortunately too many people don't think outside what you show them and because of it all they can comment on are faults in their eyes.
For anyone complaining about reflections or pro/con 3d programs - actually read the article & the title of it before commenting! I love the shadow feature of particular 2, and I'm happy to see there is someone thinking about the capabilities/possibilities of its use when necessary to do so. Heaven forbid you mention a 3d program as a simple comparison example, people chill out!
5 years ago
In motion sprites are really sucks ©
5 years ago
@ Remix
You're a douchebag... you still don't get the point...
5 years ago
Adrew i can't waiting for your new ticnic
5 years ago

Everybody noticed that... that's what I mean by REAL reflections =D
5 years ago
thanks anrew you are the best :)

Bye from KOSOVA...
5 years ago
Notice how in the 3Ds Max render, the balls actually reflect the other balls. In After Effects, not so. Not sure if anyone noticed or pointed that out, but I'm just saying.
5 years ago

Well, dude I got it, but I HAVE NEVER STATED in my post anything about 3ds Max, I said 3d. That may vary allot! So, I'm not trying to say that Video Copilot isn't for After Effects, but I think that Andrew should not make this tutorial because it takes 30secs to make a plane, make a light and set the plane on to cast shadows (in Particular). And I'm sure that everybody that has a 3d program, doesn't matter if it's Blender, C4D, 3ds Max, can all make a plane and a reflective ball...
5 years ago
hey andrew id be sooo happy if you could make a tutorial maybe something dealing with special powers and all that such as this one
5 years ago
@Maciej, That's a fair point.

Although, I think some people are limiting their view based on this one example. It's not about the balls or physicis... it's about casting shadows of the things you already do in Particular.

In this example, the reflections are not perfect but Particular offers many options for particle types like smoke and clouds or other non-reflective sprites. I just don't want people to limit their scope of what might be possible.

Why is Particular so popular? Because it's fast, powerful and easy to use right inside AE. Everything you can do with particular hasn't changed but now you can cast shadows. Who wouldn't want that?
5 years ago
I think it all depends on what you're after. AE offers virtually no physics options so if you're after realistic stuff then AE will be no use, even if you can render 20 times faster (which, too, depends on your hardware). It's nice to see that you can create a cool illusion with AE but let's be honest - it's just so much easier to set up a scene like this in a 3d program, and the effect will always be incomparably better and more realistic. And then just hit the render button and go for a walk or something. As Guinness ads say, good things come to those who wait.
5 years ago
This isn't about the post, but, you're my hero!
5 years ago
Hey Andrew,
Those are really good points. But im not sure about which particles i like more and sure not if i see the time difference..

How did you make those particles in After Effects? I like them..
5 years ago
That is cool, and the difference in render times could really save me some time on crunch jobs that don't need total clarity on the images.
5 years ago
thanks andrew you are awesome

watch this :
5 years ago
i say from my hart love you andrew can i call you master ^^
5 years ago
I wish adobe team could create a plugin to use 3d renderers like Renderman or Mentalray inside After Effects like Nuke and fusion.
5 years ago
Haha, i pointed this out on the comments to the last test, that it would be better to go 3D, but like you said it depends on the situation.
5 years ago
hi mr andrew please make a tutorial for cinema 4d!
Mark Louie Almeda
5 years ago
I didn't know AE can go this far.
5 years ago
WOW, I'm totally for 3D but After effects is putting up an amazing fight.
5 years ago
Master Shifu ;)
5 years ago
okay now i see the difference. I couldent understand why you would make 3d balls + shaddows in after effects when everything is easier if you understand a 3d program, but 20-1 seconds is a lot. But for the refrections in the crome to work proberly, i would still prefere a 3d program?
5 years ago
Video CoPilot's main target is AFTER EFFECTS, not 3Ds MAX (Although integrating 3D is a cool thing).
The concept of this tutorial is not based on realism, but mainly on "faking" the effect in AE and saving precious rendering time.
In addition to that, most average viewers probably wouldn't even notice that the particles made in AE actually have no real reflectivity and shadows on themselves. (For example, you're making a 30s spot for TV about some new shiny ball toys or something and this simulation would take about 3-5 seconds. That's not long enough to do a close observation on what's missing, right? The viewer won't have a stillshot like we do here and he/she would be concentrated on the commercial, not missing reflections).
I hope this clears things out...
5 years ago
I beg to differ on this Andrew, all tho that AE may be useful for 3d particle rendering with shadows it is not better than a 3d program! With 3d you got REAL reflections and HDRI lighting when in AE you have to render the 3d particle and than cast it with particular. You don't have real reflections, you just have something that looks REALLY choppy, because every particle looks the same and acts the same (well, not exactly...). I'm really happy for the tutorials you bring us, but this one will be a total disaster... coz it takes just 1 click of a button to enable Particular 2 lights... along with the floor plane and one light!
5 years ago
I would probably use Mental Ray for GI and highly reflective materials. Why? Mental Ray produces significantly better results than scanline and takes less time, because Mental Ray is optimized to handle heavy raytracing with ease + producing photo-realistic material renders.
Your GI looks a bit "jerky", so I assume you're using a skylight with a scanline renderer? If you own MAX 2010/2011 you should definitely try to render the same thing with Mental Ray - it will be faster and more realistic. In fact - sky ligt won't let you choose sample count with mental ray, but the shadows, by default, will look very very smooth and nice.
Bottom line - MR owns when it comes to GI and heavy raytracing :)
(Sorry about the nerdy stuff, I've learned a few things over the time)
5 years ago
Dear Andrew, please concentrate at 1 tutorial and don't say that others are comming soon. What about the time freezing one? I can't wait. ;)
5 years ago

your tutorials are amazing.

I am deeply appreciated.

I wonder if you can show us about title's textures like sex and the city movie opening headline another time.

Shiny diamond textures something like that.
5 years ago
IMPRESSIVE! I didn't know this real "power" of this particular effect!!! Is a little bit more sharp in 3d version but.. really, only a LITTLE BIT!!!
5 years ago
WOw, and how did you do the shadows on the floor with after fx? i'm trying but it never works. :(
IT's great!
5 years ago
Are you going to post your 3D scene along with this tutorial Andrew? I'm curious to check out the 3D setup?
5 years ago
that was totally right nice work
5 years ago
Max Manus !! ah ha ha h ah !!! i luv ur video man !!! its damn awesome !!!
Naldo Delva
5 years ago
thats a very good point, i think doin it in after effects is much easier, the only down is that you wont have the reflective look as with 3d rendering, but if the client doesnt notice it, then no worries i always say
5 years ago
Wow! I think this deserves a blog show ;)
5 years ago
can’t wait for Particle shadow tutorial..
and Still looking forward to the time freeze tutorial;)
can you tell us when (time freeze tutorial) will be online..thanks AK
tosan nick oru
5 years ago
andrew i love d way u think. i await dis tutorial. 4rm 9ja
5 years ago
is much easier to make a multi-pass rendering in 3ds max and render the shadow map and the reflexion map apart of the other elements, isn't it? I think it will be faster and good results as well.

5 years ago
I don't really see any difference between 3D Max render and AE render ... Anyway i really can't wait for the new tutorial :D
5 years ago
The AE reflections looks terrible. =/
But, for someone without attention at this detail, thats fine.
5 years ago
The AE render is way more specular and has a faux-floor reflection that is pretty dark.

The 3d render has also reflects all the particles around it. Also the shadows are darker

Great experiment, nice to see you posting more....
5 years ago
just awesome! continue like this! :)
5 years ago
I must watch this!!
5 years ago
Awesome! Looking forward to tutorial!
5 years ago

He does use After Effects for a living...

I'm liking the experiment Kramer. :P

5 years ago

Very well thought out.

You really should consider doing AfterEffects as a living!
5 years ago
@Evan, Yes the reflection of other particles is not possible because the particles are using a single pre-rendered element. But reflections are specific to this example where I'm using "reflective-orb" but if you use a non-reflective object or things like smoke, the particles don't need to reflect.

@Arvin, Yes the depth-sorting is a bit of a problem with object sprites, usually you can find a random seed that minimizes the problem or carefully plan your camera movement. I think for particles to have 3d spacial awareness would slow things down dramatically which is probably not ideal.
5 years ago
One disadvantage to particular with these rigid body particles is that when there's a lot of them overlapping each other and the camera's spinning around, the particles have a tendency to clip each other (you can see it in your video clip)... Is there a way to tell particular to give particles a bounding box/sphere so they're not allowed to get too close to each other?
5 years ago
Wow .. awesome like always, can´t wait to see a tut :P

I listen to your tuts all day long.. I like your humor Andrew :D
Evan Langley
5 years ago
Interesting that in the Max render you can see the other balls reflected, but in the AE render you can't. That seems like the biggest problem with the AE render, at the moment. It looks great, though.

Still looking forward to the time freeze tutorial!
5 years ago
Is it like a running joke to ask what fonts you use every time you post something new?
5 years ago
interesting!! :)
5 years ago
Nice, your tutorials are always LEGIT Andrew Kramer
5 years ago
MAX MANUS wot camera did u use???
5 years ago
Looking forward to it, especially if I can combine this technique with green screen footage.

I'm also curious when Quick Matte will be released. Been looking forward to that ever since you brought it up last year.
Max Manus
5 years ago

BTW, I used Twitch in my new Music video!

it is a Justin Bieber ft. Ludacris - Baby parody

check it out Andrew!
5 years ago
I may discuss creating the particle sprite but this tutorial is more about casting shadows with particular. I think you could find many HDR lighting tutorials around the net that are really good.
5 years ago
Looks awesome... But one question... Will you be creating this tutorial in 3DS Max using Mental Ray or the AE one?

Would love to see both if possible.

Best Wishes,
Frank Knabben
5 years ago
Just wondering, what font did you use on the image?
5 years ago
Hi Andrew,
i'm waiting this tutorial :=)
Thank's for everything that do for us !
Bye from ROME :=)
5 years ago
Andrew, u rock :) Greetings from Bulgaria
5 years ago
Hmm, thats interesting, it all depends on the final goal though.. I would prefer 3DS Max, cause its gonna be easy to implement in after effects. But if you dont need anything more than just the balls, you can do it in AE too :)
adriel rosenfeldt
5 years ago
AWESOME! You're so pro with this stuff.
fahri hadj-mohamed
5 years ago
interesting :)
can't wait ^^
139. Translucent Glass
Create a cool title design using a 3D displacement map.
152. Sci-Fi Weapon FX
Create a variety of futuristic weapon FX
Blog Show
Blog Show: Typewriter Week!
Lots of exciting stuff planned for this week, I even created a mini-blog show to talk about how everything came together and what you can expect! Watch on youtube in HD!
Stock Footage