Trapcode Particular: Creating a Thunderstorm Scene

To create a thunderstorm scene using the Adobe After Effects suite, Adobe Photoshop and the Trapcode Particular plug-in for After Effects, you will need to follow the steps below.

Step 1: Set up Source Files

This tutorial focuses on setting up a thunderstorm scene using two still pictures only. For this exercise, you will need a still picture of the sky (overcast with heavy clouds) and a perspective image of a tall building. Take the picture of a building and import it into adobe Photoshop, and set a vanishing point style perspective on it. Paint away any other irrelevant parts of the image. Now, you will import this image to After Effects to play around with it and start animating.

Once imported to adobe after effects, you will notice that a composition is automatically created. You might need to rotate this and configure it according to your needs, but it is more or less a very good reconstruction. Use a camera to see the object in free space and decide on the scope of the movement that will give the impression of a 3D object being in place. You will now setup a neutral position for the building by creating a new solid object, and play with the rotation to align it to a neutral point.

Step 2: Import to Adobe After Effects

Create a new composition and drag and drop the previous compositions into it. You will choose a new camera, choose a suitable lens, and select the continuously rasterizing option for the building composition. Find a good angle to animate through the camera and setup a camera path that you would like to follow.

Import the sky image into the scene and add it to the composition. You will now select the horizon option for the Trapcode plug-in and apply it to the sky image to create a 360-degree sphere around the creation. Make sure that this is the last layer in the composition, and play around with the properties to get the sky alignment right according to your expectations. Then, apply color correction to get a natural stormy gray color to the sky.

Step 3: Add Rain and Lightning

Create a new flash and lightning layer, convert it into a 3D layer, and move it along the y-axis to give it a good height into the sky. Adjust the layer properties like feathering to blend it in with the sky and give it a subtle nature.

You will now setup another layer and convert it to 3D to use it as a particle emitter. You will tie it down to Trapcode Particular. Make sure that the particles do not acquire any velocity of their own and fall under gravity control. Adjust associated settings to decide emitter size and velocity to mimic rain as closely as possible. Try rendering the rain into the scene and see how it looks. Fine-tune the particle physics accordingly.

Use the preset lightning bolt filter and setup a brainstorm session to find likenesses that you want to use in your scene. Once you decide on a suitable candidate, tie it down with the lightning layer and setup it attributes to look more natural. You will now add the element to the composition, then scale and align it. Once done, you may render the final scene.