Looking for advice and pointers creating a very specific particle animation


first of all, thanks for looking at this thread. Im new to particle systems (never really worked with one before to be honest, so I basically have very little experience with the blender particle system), however, I need to create a very specific and elaboarte particle animation for a project of mine.

First of all, let me explain how its supposed to look like (visualization below):

“We have a pool full of thousands of particles (lets say cubes), in which the particles move like a sea, as in, having waves and stuff. Then, the particles slowly flow together forming sort of a pillar reaching outside the pool, towards the edge of the pool, moving in sort of an arc. At the end, the particles flow together into a humanoid shape, until the entire pool is empty.”

Thats the gist of it. Ive actually visualized it in a crude way in this imgur album, this should clear things up, be sure to look at it: http://imgur.com/a/sfuss

Alright, I hope that gives an idea of what I want to achieve.

Now, Im not expecting you guys to give me a full run-through of how to do this (even though I wouldnt complain if you did, haha), but I would like to ask you for pointers.

Such as:

What features of the particle system would be responsible for making each step/effect of this particle animation happen?

Can you link me to tutorials that cover topics that will help me in creating this animation?

Do you know of any other projects here on Blenderartist that deal with similar issues? Can you link me to them?

One last thing: The animation also needs to be able to be exported as an OBJ sequence, for which I plan on using the particle instance modifier. Is that even possible with a particle animation of such complexity?

Any help, tips and pointers with this would be greatly appreciated! I look forward to your responses and thanks for reading!

You should look into keyed particles systems, as well as fluid control objects.

Thanks for posting! Alright, I will look into both, I already guessed keyed particle systems would factor into it!

However, I have a question regarding fluid control: Could you explain how it would factor into this animation? I mean despite having alot of particles, this should NOT be a fluid, just that the particles when in the pool should kind of move in a wave like pattern BUT they dont need to be moving physically accurate, just something remotely wave like will do just fine.

Sorry I can’t answer your original question, but a fluid control can create something like this:

I know it’s not what you’re looking for, but that’s what he meant.

Fluids probably aren’t the right approach. Did you ever make any headway, I do know of a way to achieve the effect relatively painlessly, if you’re still looking for a method let me know.

Please do tell! I havent started working on the actual effect just yet. Im still weighing my options when it comes to this effect, seeing how there are some (probably inferior) ways I could do this outside of Blender. I would love to know how you would approach it!

Here’s my basic setup:

  1. A single particle system from a plane, the effect of gravty and emit from normals is 0, so really not much will happens to it. It’s a bunch of cubes waiting for forces to act.

  2. A wave shaped mesh, with a force field strength set to -2 to begin with. These force field strengths are keyframed (by right clicking on them) and those keyframes determine which force field mesh will be affecting the cubes. When the force field is no longer needed it is keyframed to 0.

  3. A cone mesh, force field, keyframed.

  4. An armature/man mesh another force field keyframes with negative strength.

  5. The main particle system, Plane particle system, has a couple keyframes on it’s settings. Once the cubes jump over to the man, the damping is increased to slow them and keep them more contained to preserve the shape.

All the force field object’s begin with ff-, like ff-cone, they are all hidden, they must be on the same layer as the particle system to affect them (layer 1) unhide them to see how they move and move them differently.

The drag and damping on the main system has a big effect, on the force fields the strength, noise, and falloff all have a big effect to. You just need to experiment.

Cube-system-12 on Dropbox
Looks like this:

Oh, wow! I didnt expect you to give me a whole rundown and an example file. Thank you so very very much, this has helped alot already!

Ive played around with your setup and did some tweaks myself, instead of using a tube object AND a man object as a forcefield, I now have a setup were both are 1 object. Then I use shape keys to transition between the two and get a very smooth and directed animation for the particles.

However, there are two major things still wrong with it, especially the latter I have no real idea how to approach:

First of all, the individual particles should rotate randomely and continously (however, each particle should rotate independenly of eachother, so they should all rotate in different directions). I suppose this is a simple setting Im missing?

And heres the big one: When the particles form the man, each particle should flow to its final position and stop there, basically locking into place, instead of continuing to move. At the end of the animation, there should be a static man made out of static, not moving cubes. Ideally, the cubes should first flow to the front of the character and slowly build him from front to back. This final part of the animation should have a somewhat calculated look to it.

I was thinking maybe one way to do this is to direct the cube particles toward the vertices of a mesh, basically in the end making each cube represent a vertice in the mesh of the man.

Any idea how this final part of the animation could be achieved? And again, many thanks. Also, your little man character is adorable.

As for the rotations I’m having trouble visualizing what you are saying, can u make diagram. As for the particles becoming fixed I would have to experiment. Is the man rigged and moving?

Well as for the rotation, each particle cube should basically just rotate randomely, kinda like in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cOliVwVsZg

However, the rotation of the particles shouldnt be synchronized, so each cube should rotate in a slightly different way.

As for the man, no, he doesnt need to be rigged and moving, he should just be static. It would be ideal if the cubes are distributed throughout the body in a non-random way, which is why it would be ideal if we could direct the cubes to the vertices of the character, to get a very systematic look to it.

I will experiment around with combining our blender particle system with a particle system of another program for the final part of the animation (because the “forming the man” part of the animation is very easy in it, however, the rest isnt), then the blender system could be responsible for the start of the animation and the other particle system could be responsible for the floating cubes forming the man. I have to see if that looks good, though.

Alright so Ive experimented around with combining the Blender particle system and the Element 3D particle system so each can fullfill the task they seem to be best at and the results seem rather promising, Im sure with alot of carefull attention to detail and carefull tweaking I can use it to create a good looking effect.

However, I also tweaked alot of the Blender system and I currently have two issues that Im working at. This is what I currently have:

As you will see, the particle system nolonger forms a man, but instead follows a rigged shape that defines in what way the particles should flow to their destination. The forming of the man will then be overtaken by the Element 3D particle system. The Blender system is by no means finished and Ive done some experimenting to really make it flow in the style that I want.

However, Im currently facing two issues:

First of all, when the particles flow together at the start, you will notice theres a bump where they flow together. Heres what I mean:

That looks horrid and has to go, but Im not sure how to fix it. I assume that maybe its caused because the particles do a somewhat sharp turn there and some of the velocity carries over or something? Anyways, it should all look super smooth, no bumps, any way to fix this?

And secondly, I just cannot get the particles to rotate in random directions. Any idea how to make that happen? I feel like it should be very simple but Ive played around with the “rotation” settings, but no results.

Any thoughts on this? And again, thanks for helping me and thanks for reading.

You should be able to get the particles to rotate by increasing the Angular velocity in the Rotation panel and selecting Dynamic. You might be able to get rid of the bump by increasing the diameter of the base section (bottom edge loop) of your cone slightly.

Thanks for the response. Alright, Ive tried around to get rid of the bump and it seems to be possible with some tweaking, like you suggested.

As for the rotating particles, Ive tried what you suggested and while it does work, Im still not happy with it. Ive tried several of the “angular velocity” modes and they all give me choppy, erratic results, not the smooth “one-direction” rotating Im looking for. However, I did manage to achieve the result Im looking for by brute-forcing it, as in, I used a particle instancer on a cube (which I need to do anyways) and than rigged the source cube to a bone and made the source cube rotate, which gives me the rotation for all the particles that I wanted. Not elegant, I assume, but it seems to work.

Im currently looking at a different issue: Alot of the particles overlap, which doesnt look particularly good. Is there way to set a minimum distance that the particles keep between each other at all times? Im not asking for an accurate colliding simulation, just a simple minimum distance so the particles dont overlap. Or do I need a plugin for that?

Anyways, thanks again for everyone that has helped me out on this so far, without you guys I wouldnt be able to make such fast progress on this!