Tip #1162: Particles Reflect Movement

… for Apple Motion

Tip #1162: Particles Reflect Movement

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Particle systems change over time, this means they highlight animation applied to them.

A stationary flame (left), and the flame moving through space.

Topic $TipTopic

Recently, for a webinar, I wanted to create a burning effect. What I discovered is that when you move a particle system using behaviors or keyframes, it amplifies that movement.

Let me illustrate using Library > Particle Emitters > Pyro > Fire Plume.

In the screen shot, the left image is the flame with no motion applied.

However, once I animate the flame using either keyframes or behaviors, notice how the flame trails out, emphasizing the direction of the move. (See the right image in the screen shot.)

This is because the different particles that make up this effect are released at different times. The older particles were released when the object was closer to the left side.

This means that particle systems provide very organic ways to indicate something is moving – sort of like following the position of a steam engine by watching its plume of smoke.

I’d “known” this intuitively about particles, but it hadn’t really sunk in until I saw the results of this movement in a real-live effect.


You can easily experiment with this yourself by putting a particle emitter into a project, then, as the playhead plays, simply drag the particle emitter around the screen and watch what happens.

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