It’s all fun and games until you see the cost…

I was recently asked to work on a high-profile project that was pretty cool and making me stretch to find solutions, but I found out the gig was scaled back due to budget issues and my services won’t be needed. It happens… I did do a decent amount of work on it though so I thought I would share what I came up with.

The Brief:

Make a woman explode into confetti of rose petals

Sounds easy right? The whole description is that the woman should erode/explode into rose petals as she is falling. The project was for a concert so during the concert the audience would see the woman on a large screen jump and fall in slow-motion and as she nears the ground she would explode into rose petal confetti. At that moment real red confetti would be release over the audience. The rose confetti on the screen would fall over a man in a pool of light on the ground looking up while the live lead singer of the band would be in a similar pool of light. The whole thing gives me goosebumps and I wish we could have done it.

This video shows some of the progression from a simple particle emitter to trying to pull off the eroding/exploding look. The final version is where I stopped when I found out the gig was not happening. The woman in these clips is stock footage of a woman on a trampoline against a blue sky. The key is not very good, but I was not going to burn time on keying temp footage. Also, I meant “Whoa” not “Whoh” –oops!

Exploding into Rose Petals from Scott Meador on Vimeo.

The tools:

  • Adobe After Effects CS5.5
  • Trapcode Particular
  • Trapcode Shine
  • Keylight (free version with AE)

The good:

  • Particular gave me some great motion. I could have tweaked on it more, but I was pretty happy with the falling petals
  • Particular has lots of options for controlling the emitter and particle
  • Particular also does some really nice shading – reacting to AE lights
  • The erosion effect was coming along and I believe I could have added more depth to it easily since I got the workflow/tech down

The bad:

  • The last version in the clip would have taken 4 days to render if I let it go as-is
  • Particle motion blur is very computationally expensive
  • Turn motion blur off and what would have been 42 hours turned into 13 (after about 4 seconds in I stopped the render and turned off motion blur). I added some blur and some levels tweaking to match the non-motion blur footage with the motion blur footage
  • Particle emission from layers is tough to tweak if you want to time it. If the gig was still going I would work on this the most. Long render times are not acceptable especially when they are not long with regular emitters.

Further work:

  • Work on layer emission to get it more efficient 
  • Try other particle engines, such as 3D apps like Blender, Cinema4D, or Maya, or Element 3D for AE
  • 3D particle engines would allow for curved rose petals too, which would be needed if the camera got close to them

BTW, I did not do any final color correction on any of these.

Another image from an early test. I really like the look – maybe I’ll use it in another project.