Red Giant Trapcode Suite has long been an industry standard package for creating motion graphics and visual effects in Adobe After Effects, but its latest incarnation – Trapcode Suite 14, takes things to the next level. Of the eleven products it includes, two – Trapcode Particular & Trapcode Form, see major updates (to v3.0), whilst a third – Trapcode Tao, sees a point upgrade (to v1.2), so we’ll concentrate on these.
Trapcode Particular 3
Particular is very much the go to third party particle generator for Adobe After Effects. Version 3 sees a raft of major new features.
Kicking things off is Open GL GPU acceleration. Red Giant say that depending upon your system this could result in a speed increase of 4X or more. Whilst we haven’t scientifically tested this claim, we can say that we saw a significant improvement on our Mac Pro, making this a godsend.
Coming in a close second is the new ‘Designer’ interface, which owes much to Red Giant’s excellent Magic Bullet Looks. Clicking the ‘Designer’ button opens the ‘Designer’ window. On the right hand side of this is the pop up ‘blocks’ tab. Each block contains a preset behaviour/style for emitters, particles, shading, physics and aux particles. When a block is selected it appears in the scrollable ‘effects chain’ tab below, from which it can then be selected and adjusted in the ‘Master System’ tab. Alternatively, you can select one of over 300 complete particle effects from the pop up ‘Presets’ tab on the left. These include effects for creating fire, space flight, fireworks, muzzle flashes, explosions, & smoke, and all are customisable.
As you select/tweak blocks/presets, the impressive results are previewed in Designer, in real time, thanks to the GPU acceleration. This level of immediacy is reminiscent of Apple Motion, making it easy for those who are new to or inexperienced with particles to create great results. In fact we’d go so far as to say that thanks to Designer, Particular 3 is to particles what Magic Bullet Looks is to grading. That said, Designer is optional and hardened pros can still use Particular the classic way, direct from the After Effects’ interface.
Up third is the ability to combine multiple particle systems in the same 3D space. The interaction of these can results in some awesome effects. Adding multiple particle systems in Designer is as easy as clicking the plus button and adding blocks/a preset for each additional system; and we’re delighted to report that when you do this, the results remain viewable in real time, thanks to the GPU acceleration.
Up forth is something that will delight the 3D crowd, namely the ability to use 3D models and animated OBJ sequences as particle emitters. You can choose from Particular’s library of 60, or you can load your own, and particles can be emitted from the vertices, edges, faces or volume of your chosen OBJ.
Fifth is the ability to use any image in your composition as a particle by assigning it to a 2D sprite or textured polygon. Particular 3 includes over 270 still and animated sprite images, which run the gamut from 2D shapes, to dust & debris, ‘light & magic’, organic matter, smoke & fire, water & snow, symbols, and 3D geometric shapes. There’s even a selection of ten festive baubles…for those needing particles for Jesus.
Sixth and finally, Particular 3’s updated aux system (which is great for creating effects like particle trails and traces, organic lines, and splashes) now allows you to add custom particles and has keyframable parameters, for more variation and control.
Trapcode Form 3
Many of the cool new features in Particular 3 are shared with Form 3.
The most notable of these is Designer. Of course, the blocks and presets on offer differ between the two as they are different programs, with the blocks in Form 3 affecting base form, particle, disperse & twist, spherical field, kaleidoscope & world transform.
Meanwhile the 71 presets include fractals, landscapes, geometry, bokeh, lines, shape grids and spin dots.
Form 3 also shares Particular 3’s ability to use 3D models & animated OBJ sequences, and 2D sprites.
Finally, the updated graphing system allows you to temporally animate controls including colour, size, opacity, and particle dispersion. Best of all though, these can now be audio reactively animated, which is something we hope to see implemented in all of Trapcode suite’s components in a future release.
Rounding off the updates, is a new depth-of-field tool that makes it simple to create camera-realistic blurs for Tao objects, based on their distance from the After Effects 3D camera.
Of course, that’s just part of the story, as Trapcode Suite 14 includes 8 other products – Trapcode Mir 2.1 for creating 3D Surfaces, Terrains and Wireframes; Trapcode Shine 2.0 for creating Ultra-fast 3D light ray effects for footage, motion graphics & text; Trapcode Lux 1.4 for creating 3D Volumetric point and spot lights; Trapcode 3D Stroke 2.6 for creating organic 3D Shapes and Lines from masks; Trapcode Starglow 1.7 for creating stylized glints and glows for motion graphics and text; Trapcode Soundkeys 1.4 for creating audio reactive motion graphics; Trapcode Horizon 1.1 for creating infinite 360 degree backgrounds; and Trapcode Echospace 1.1 for creating complex 3D shape animations. Together they make a compelling suite that is essential for After Effects based motion graphics and visual effects work. If you are doing either, we say get Trapcode 14, and if you are using an earlier version we highly recommend upgrading.
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