Look! Up In The Sky! – Part Two

In a prior post I described how John and I came up with all the visual components necessary for us to create a meteor hurtling through the sky for our short film Blobageddon.  By visual components, I mean, we had someone pointing up into the sky saying “What’s that?”, and a photo of the afternoon sky with some trees in it.  The important piece for creating the effect was the photo of the sky.

Sky Shot

A blank slate

I volunteered to come up with the effect.  First, I went looking around the Internet for one of those clever After Effects tutorials by bored 14 year old boys with far too much time on their hands.  No luck.  The best I could find were some effects that made a cheesy disney type shooting star, and then a number of effects that required purchasing additional software.  Since I didn’t feel like plunking down several hundred dollars for a 2 second effect, I took the disney type shooting star effect and figured I’d see what I came up with there.

The shooting star effect was achieved using an effect called Particle World.  In this case it consisted of a blue ball that was animated across the screen while spraying out delightful sparks.  Not quite the effect I was looking for.

I took the effect and tweaked some of the settings.

First, I set the particle type to “Faded Sphere”, gave it a fire-orange birth color and a black death color, and tweaked the size settings as follows:

Particle Settings

Next, I tweaked the Birth Rate,  Longevity and Physics.

Particle Settings

BirthRate controlled how quickly stuff was generated, and Physics kept the effect up in the air.  However, Longevity was key.  If I made it too long, I ended up with a long orange trail that went to black.  What I needed was something that looked like a fireball that went to black.  Using the above settings and a glow effect, I got the following effect:

Half a Meteor

Half a Meteor

Not bad – but the meteor looked kind of cheesy – I wanted an impressive black smoke trail.  I thought about it and then added another particle effect layer.  This had all the same settings as the previous layer except the birth and death colors were black, and the longevity was pumped to 10 seconds.  I layered this smoke trail under the meteor and got the following effect:

The Whole Enchilada

The Whole Enchilada

I then animated the effects in conjunction.  One thing to note in the above photo is that the path through the trees was clear. If I’d had a number of trees, I would have had to carve another layer for the trees I wanted the meteor to pass behind and carefully mask them out (the technique is described in this post).  That would be a pain in the ass.  I like to avoid pain in the ass work whenever possible so I made sure I had a clear path.

The effect looked good – now all I needed was sound.  I asked Shmoolie for sounds of jet flybys figuring those would be appropriate.  He sent those, then also included the sound of a train going through a tunnel, which ended up being the sound effect I used.  At the tail end of the sound you can actually hear the whistle of the train, but when it’s pulled out of context, nobody has any idea what the sound really is so no worries there.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the final effect.  Every time I see someone’s eyes get wide with a “Where the @$%! did that come from?” expression on his or her face, I consider that to be a job well done!

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