ParticleIllusion 3.0
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 1 (Jan 2005)

ParticleIllusion 3.0

Wondertouch recently updated its particle effects tool, ParticleIllusion, to Version 3.0. A powerful, stand-alone particle effects generator, it offers more than just standard particles; you also can create modern logo effects and motion graphics.

ParticleIllusion 3.0 includes 28 libraries containing more than 900 individual preset effects in the areas of nature, explosions, cartoons, smoke, space, logos, gunfire, and water. Additional emitter libraries (more than 1200 emitters total, in fact) can be downloaded from the company’s Web site. Before adding particles to your scene, you can view, modify, or create custom presets or preset libraries in the Library Manager window. If you like the glow of an effect and wish to apply it to another, simply drag and drop that glow attribute onto the other particle. It doesn’t get any simpler to create stunning effects in seconds, and you haven’t even started modifying on a particle level yet.

To edit in ParticleIllusion, simply select a particle attribute in the hierarchy window and adjust it on the graph below.

ParticleIllusion’s interface is straightforward and well laid out. A large Preview window runs real-time examples of a particle selected in the Library window. And the Hierarchy window is a common sight for anyone working with computers.

All particle editing is accomplished by selecting the attribute you wish to modify in the Hierarchy window, and then adjusting it in the Graph window at the bottom of the screen. Adjustments can be made in real time while your particle effect plays back in the Stage window, enabling you to see the modification instantly.

Editing in this manner is simple. It is easy to understand what I am af-fecting as I add points to the graph line and raise or lower the value. I prefer this method over using esoterically labeled spinners. For one, it is visually clear what I am changing. Second, because I am making adjustments directly on the timeline of the animation, I can place edit points precisely on the frame I desire without having to switch to another window or interface. Right-clicking on an edit point presents the option to change from straight lines to curves for smoother effects and the ability to ease in and out.

You also can edit Emitter Properties- such as color, shape, and orientation-by right-clicking in the Stage window and selecting Properties. Doing so opens the Emitter Properties dialogue, which in-cludes Hierarchy, Graph, and Preview windows. Closely resembling the main screen, this dialogue is where you’ll create most of your custom particles. Unfortunately, the Undo function does not work in this one area. Considering this is where you’ll do most of your work, some sort of Undo capability is expected, and desired.

ParticleIllusion provides Deflectors, Blockers, and Forces for adding to a project and for affecting particles. It lends to better integration of particles into projects.

The program uses Layers to better organize a project and to ease the integration of particles into background footage. Loading background images is a simple matter of right-clicking on a layer and selecting Background Image from the menu. You can load AVIs and such standard image formats as JPEG, PNG, PSD, SGI, TIF, and TGA. You can save out to these formats for rendering as well.

Rendering output is quick and simple. Rendering does support motion blur and alpha channel output, but I wish the Shockwave format was supported.

Another feature I would like to see is a camera. Although promoted as a 2D particle effects application, many of the particle effects appear to be 3D. And it would be nice to be able to move around and through the particles. In this world of 3D proliferation, it might make sense to enhance the program in future versions.

Version 3.0 includes interface and work flow enhancements. Unlike previous versions, where you had to have your time slider set to the keyframe you wanted to edit, 3.0 enables you to adjust emitter position and handles at any time, lending to a faster work flow and easier effects manipulation. It’s now easier to adjust layer positions and duplication in the Hierarchy window, as well as to move to keyframes and jump frames in the modified Playback toolbar. I could also display the background image in the Preview window. This proves especially useful with emitters that use the new “Get color from layer” function.

Although a few areas could be improv-ed upon, ParticleIllusion is a powerful tool worthy of consideration by anyone developing effects or motion graphics. Its 960 preset effects can get you up and running with professional-looking results much quicker than most other plug-in particle programs.

Doug King, a contributing editor based in Dallas, develops animated projects for his company, Day III Productions.

Price: $399
Minimum System Requirements: a 500MHz or faster Intel-compatible processor, 128MB of RAM, Windows 98/ME/NT 4/2000/XP, and OpenGL support