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3D Particles vs. Post Production Particles

Category : Research · by Aug 1st, 2009

I’ve been very curious about the use of post production particles verses 3d-particles (particles created in 3d application).

We have had the privilege of having Daniel Tegeland from HaymakerFX as a guest lecturer at school. He’s an expert of After Effects and has done some really amazing things and taught us all a lot. He uses a plug-in called Particular from Trapcode which is a really powerful 3d-particle system (Z-depth and self-shadowing particles, as far as I know) within After Effects. So I got curies about other’s choice of particle systems.

I was watching The Making of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Trailer from Blur Studio and Brandon Riza talked about his work on it with Particle Flow, FumeFX and Thinking Particles in 3ds max. So I got in touch with him and asked him what his opinion on the matter was.

Here’s what I wrote:

Hi Brandon

I just watched the Making of the Warhammer trailer and then I watched the Knights of the Old Republic trailer and I realized that I love your work! You’re a real inspiration for me.

I’m currently studying CG in Sweden and right now I’m digging into Particle Flow and AfterBurn in 3ds max. Apart from complementing you on your amazing work I also would like to ask you a question regarding FX in CG. You are working a lot with FumeFX as I understand it. But how much work do you (or the rest of the FX department) do in compositing? My teacher pushes for that 3d-particles and things like FumeFX just takes to much time and that it is much better to use particles in the compositing software like Trapcode’s Particular for After Effects, because you get real-time preview of your particles and save a lot of time. So how much FX do you do in 2D and what kinds of effects are best suited for 2D rather then 3D? And when is 3D-particles the best way to go? In bot h the Warhammer and the Star Wars trailer I saw a lot of glowing sparks from fire flying around, was the glow effects and motion blur created in 3D-rendering or in compositing?

Thank you for reading, and I hope you find time to write me an answer to satisfy my hunger for FX-knowledge. In the meantime I will keep looking at your portfolio – so keep updating! :)

All the best!

Best Regards
Kristoffer Helander

And here is his reply:

Hello Kristoffer…

I never use 2D particles…mostly because of character/environment matting issues, and also because they look like 2d particles. ;)
If you have a character walking though a cloud of debris, he will occlude some of the debris, and some of the debris will occlude him.
In 2D, there’s no solid way of pulling a Z-buffer to cue depth to matte things with.
Everything is rendered out of max in multiple passes and composited in Fusion.
Your teacher could not be more wrong. ;)
In trying to do particles in post, you neglect a lot of realism and you’re forced to track for camera motion…you loose parallax…you loose depth and matting…etc.
If you have a locked off camera that doesn’t move and you don’t need mattes or occlusion and you don’t mind your particles looking like crap…then i guess they’re useful.
2D particles are for amateurs… ;)

Once all the passes are rendered for a specific shot, those are all processed by the compositing app, so all the glows and stuff…that’s all done there.
Most Character and environment passes are blurred in post with vector channels, but that doesn’t work very well for particles.
I usually blur all my particles in the render (with 3D moblur) and blur my fume passes with all their mattes in post with the same setting the characters and envs are blurred with.

Cheers, and thanks for the kind words.

Very nice of him to reply, he must be a very busy man. I found his views very interesting and I sure got a lot out of this. Now, this doesn’t mean that “post-particles” are useless, they sure have their uses but so does 3d-particles. It is really nice that you get a—almost— real-time preview (you usually need to make a RAM-Preview first) when working in post. It sure would be sweet if our 3d-softwares were to become just as efficient one day :)

I hope you found this as interesting as I did :!: