Final Product What You'll Be Creating
Learn how to set up a snow blizzard scene with this “logo to snow transition” using basics of Cinema 4D particle systems and a mix between After Effects Fractal Noise and Trapcode Particular.
Every few weeks, we revisit some of our reader's favorite posts from throughout the history of the site. This tutorial was first published in January 2010.
First I’ll make a rough breakdown of the preview so it would be easier to follow the tutorial. We have a logo and its transition into particles which is made purely in After Effects (using Trapcode Particular). Then there’s the 3D part which includes the snow and smoke flying all over made in Cinema 4D. The 3D part probably can also be done inside After Effects with similar results but in the end it lacks a lot of control you can get out of a 3D app.
Let’s start with 3d.
Open Cinema 4D and go to Edit>Project Settings. Now, in Attributes panel you can change project settings. I’ll change FPS to 25 and Maximum Time to 150 frames because I plan to have my animation between 5 and 6 seconds long.
Create a new Emitter (Objects>Particle>Emitter). Select it and in Attributes panel highlight Emitter and change X-Size to 270m. Then highlight Particle and change Birthrate Editor to 500 (particle count you’ll see in viewport) and Birthrate Renderer to 500 (particle count that’ll be rendered).
Change Stop Emission to 140F which means that emitter will emit particles until frame 140.
Play the animation and you’ll see that particles are flying completely straight. To give them turbulence, we’ll add Turbulence force under Objects>Particle>Turbulence. Select it and under Object change Strength to 300, Scale to 50% and Frequency to 18%.
Play the animation now and you’ll see them flying like crazy.
Strength basicly is the velocity of particles.
Scale is a threshold of how many particles around each other will be affected – lower the value and particles will move more randomly, move it up and they’ll become more coordinated.
Frequency means how frequently the particle streams will change their direction. If it’s set to 0, there’ll be no change.
Now, to have more control over particle direction, add Wind force (Objects>Particle>Emitter). Move it a little back in Z space for easier overview. Its position doesn’t matter, only the direction. No need to change any of its properties.
Press Ctrl+R (Render>Render View) to render the viewport. Nothing. That’s because we haven’t assigned any object to particles.
To do it, create a new Sphere object (Objects>Primitive>Sphere). Under Object properties change Radius to 0.5m. Also, move the object behind emitter.
Now, select Sphere in Objects Manager and drag it on Emitter so the arrow by pointer would point downwards and release.
Press Ctrl+R again and see that every particle is a small sphere.
Next, we’re going to create a camera. Do it by selecting Objects>Scene>Camera. The camera will be created basing on your view. While it’s selected change every value on Coordinates panel to 0 and hit Apply. This way it’ll be positioned right in center.
Select the Rotate Tool and rotate the camera by 90 degrees to the left.
In View panel menu select Cameras>Scene Cameras>Camera to change your view to camera’s.
Now you can control the position of the camera by moving around in viewport. Do so to position it as seen in screenshot. You can use the given values.
It’s obvious that there are not enough particles to make the snow as thick as in preview. That’s why we are going to duplicate our emitter 3 times.
Change back to perspective view by going to Cameras>Editor Camera (or clicking the white rectangle right to Camera in Objects Manager).
Select Emitter and duplicate it three times by holding Ctrl and dragging it down. Rename emitters to Front, Mid and Back.
Now position the emitters as in screenshot. The idea is to have them as 3 separate layers of snow thus making it thick enough and giving some depth. They’ll be rendered separately and composited together in After Effects. Also change Y-Size for Back emitter to 300m and Particle count to 800.
Next, the smoke part. We’ll make them by using PyroCluster shader which should already be inside your Cinema 4d. Duplicate Mid emitter and rename it to Smoke. Disable all the other particle layers by pressing on that green checkmarks. Select the Smoke layer. We won’t need so many particles so change their count to 100.
When you play through the animation you’ll notice how particles move. We need them to move a little less chaotic, that’s why we need Turbulence to affect it differently than other layers. Duplicate Turbulence layer. Rename the new layer to Smoke_Turbulence. Change its properties to Strength: 40, Scale: 250 and Frequency: 0.
Next we need to move the turbulence box right (220m on Z axis) so it would be inside our camera’s field of view thus making particles move more linear.
Also, since Smoke particles will be directly affected by shader, delete Sphere object from Smoke Child.
Now, we need to tell all the emitters which Force to use and which not. For this, there are Include attribute for every emitter. First, select Smoke layer and select this Include property. Exclude mode is already selected which means that every force that is dragged in the Modifiers box will not affect this emitter.
So we want this layer to be affected only by Wind and Smoke_Turbulence. Select Turbulence layer and drag it inside Modifiers box.
Play the animation and see how particles move.
In this case, Smoke_Turbulence can affect our other layers so no further changes are necessary there.
Last thing we need to do is assigning of materials. For snow, create a new material and double-click on it to reveal its properties. Disable both Color and Specular. Enable Luminance and Transparency. Select Transparency and set its Texture to Fresnel. Open its Gradient by double-clicking on gradient icon. Drag the mid-point handle to the right a bit to soften the edges of our material.
To apply PyroCluster shader we need to do two things. First, on the Materials panel go to File>Shader>PyroCluster and File>Shader>PyroCluster - Volume Tracer. Double-click on PyroCluster material and change Volume to 10 and Density to 0,2.
For Volume Tracer, no changes are necessary but it’s possible to change the resolution of smoke there.
The second thing you need to do is to add Environment object (Objects>Scene>Environment). Apply Volume Tracer material to it. It serves as PyroCluster renderer.
Now you can add the materials for corresponding layers. See the screenshot.
Switch the view to Camera.
Save. We’re ready to render.
Open Render Settings. Select Output and specify your settings. I set the size to 1280×720, Frame Rate to 25 and Frame Range to 10F – 150F.
Under Save select output path and Format (I set it Quick Time Movie, Animation with 25 Fps and Million of Colors+).
Tick the Alpha Channel box.
First, you’ll render out the Smoke layer. Make sure, it’s the only one enabled as you can see in screenshot.
Star Render by selecting Render>Render to Picture Viewer (or Shift+R)
At this point I did some test renders with snow and found that there’s something that I didn’t like so I moved moved Turbulence layer to X: -100m, Z: 220m and Camera to X: 150m, Y: 7m and Z: 245m. You don’t need to do this necessarily but I just wanted to remind that you should do your own changes if something doesn’t satisfy you.
For snow renders, we’ll have to enable Scene Motion Blur which you can enable under Effect…
Disable Smoke layer and enable Front. You’ll be rendering all three snow layers separately so after each render you’ll have to disable one and enable next one.
For Scene Motion Blur there are 2 properties that you’ll have to change for each render pass:
Samples – this means how many frames will be put in between our chosen length of motion blur (the more the better looking blur)
Strength – this is the length of motion blur
For Front layer these settings should be: Samples – 36 Times, Strength – 30%
For Mid layer: Samples – 25 Times, Strength – 25%,
For Back layer: Samples – 16 Times, Strength – 15%,
Render and you’re done with Cinema 4d.
Switch over to After Effects and import the animations you just rendered. Set all of them to Premultiplied – Matted With Color: Black.
Create a new composition (Main_Comp) with desired settings. Bring in all the elements and put them into the right order. Change Smoke layer’s opacity to 30%.
Also, we need a background so create a new solid and apply Ramp effect. Call it BG. I used these colors: #021A23 and #000D07
Bring in the logo and place it beneath Snow_Front and Snow_Mid layer. Precompose it (with "Leave all attributes in ‘Main_Comp’" enabled so that the new composition had the size of logo) and call the composition Main Logo.
Open Main Logo. Here you can add the texture for a logo. Bring in the picture you want to use for texture, position it on top of the logo and set Logo‘s TrkMat to Luma Matte.
Place a black solid in background so the logo wouldn’t be transparent.
Apply Levels on texture picture to bring up the contrast if neccesarry.
Switch back to Main_Comp. You can see that logo has lost its sharpness. That’s because we precomposed it and now its seen as raster rather than vector. To fix it, simply enable Collapse Transformations (the little sun icon).
Highlight Main_Logo and precompse it again as same as previous. Call it Texture Transition. Open it.
Here, create a new solid and apply Fractal Noise to it. Change its Contrast to 1180 and Brightness to -50. Under Transform uncheck Uniform Scaling. Change Scale Width to 600 and Scale Height to 300.
Add this expression to Offset Turbulence – [time*260,0] Now you’ll be seeing at very bad looking Fractal Noise because of the scale. To make it more sharp and get detail, change Complexity to 9.
Tick Perspective Offset and we’ll get a nice, growth-like movement.
Scrub through timeline and see how it works.
Now you should work on your own a bit. Goal is to find a state where left side of the screen is almost empty and over a period of time it roughly fills it.
To make it easier you can use Evolution and Sub Offset properties – move them around until satisfied.
See the screenshot for my settings.
Next, we need to mask out unnecessary parts because we’ll use this as a track matte. Make a white Solid and call it Mask_In. On top of it, make another Solid but black, call it Mask_Out.
The idea is to cut down everything we don’t need so that only growing part remain.
Also, to get a fade in, animate Brightness of Fractal Noise from -165 to -50 over 45 frames (01:20)
Change keyframe types as in screenshot.
Select Mask_In, Mask_Out and Fractal Noise layer’s and precompose them into Transition_Matte.
Now bring in the texture you want logo to turn into.
Put it under Transition_Matte and set its TrkMat to Luma.
You have a transition but it only goes one direction. We need it to dissolve too.
Select all layers and precompose them into Forward_Transition.
Bring in Transition_Matte on top. Right click on it and select Time>Time Reverse-Layer. Then go to its Rotation and change it to 180 degrees.
Change Forward_Transition TrkMat to Luma. Position Transition_Matte layer to get a nice dissolve.
Now, to get those particles emitting nicely, we need another matte – this time only middle part itself. In Project panel duplicate Texture_Transition comp and rename the copy to Emitter_Matte. Open it.
Replace Forward_Transition with Transition_Matte. Set its TrkMat to Luma.Select both layer’s and precompose them to Emitter_Transition. Again, bring in Transition_Matte comp and place it under. Set its TrkMat to Luma.
Okay, the hardest part is over. Switch to Main_Comp. Bring in Emitter_Matte comp. This will be an emitter map for Particular. Disable layer’s visibility and turn it into a 3d layer (Particular will warn you if you don’t).
Create a new Solid and call it Particles. Place it on top of Texture Transition. Apply Particular to it.
Under Emitter set Emitter Type to Layer. Then, under Layer Emitter change Layer to Emitter_Matte.
Now set Particles/sec to 10000 to see what’s happening without long loading times. Change their Size to 1.5.
Open Turbulence Field under Physics>Air. Change Affect Size to 10 and Affect Position to 1000. Now particles will start moving around randomly.
Add wind by setting Wind X to 300. You can see that particles are moving too randomly. Change Air Resistance to 20. It makes particles fly slower over time.
Set Complexity under Turbulence Field to 10.
Scroll up to Emitter and change Emitter Size Z to 200, Velocity Random to 100, Velocity Distribution and Motion to 0.
Then, under Particle, set Life to 2 seconds, Size Random to 50%. Draw Curves as you see in screenshot.
Another important thing you should change is Lightness – Size under Layer Emitter. It’ll give particles size depending on luminance of emitter pixels.
Also change Layer Sampling to Particle Birth Time.
Now particle size is a bit too big – lower it to 1.2.
Still, there’s a problem – particles start to move almost at once they’re generated. We want them to drift with the wind for a while.
Under Turbulence Field, change Fade-in Time to 1,3. This will tell both Affect Size and Position to wait a while before taking effect.
Lastly, change Particles/sec to 50000 and enable Motion Blur.
Now, the color correction.
Apply Hue/Saturation to Texture Transition. Tick Colorize and set Colorize Hue to 195 and Colorize Saturation to 20.
Create a new Adjustment Layer, put it on top and call it CC. Apply Curves and Noise, change their values as desired.