Particle Playground: Fire

Particle Playground: Fire

Posted on 02. Nov, 2007 by in After Effects

Join me and George in this interesting experiment. Learn how to generate particles from motion. No keyframes, no expressions. This one is hot!

People! I’m on fire! George is on fire! And this tutorial is on fire! This tutorial is rather an experiment. I’ll show you how to generate Tea Cups With Lids Amber Rings Wholesale Tea Trays Toddler Sleeping Bags particles from live action footage without using any keyframes or expressions.

The final fire look is just one of the possibilities. The idea of this is to show you how to generate particles that inherit motion and velocity from live footage. In the end you may use this tutorial to create a smoke trail of a falling plane, shining sparkles following someones moves, and basically anything you want. And most interesting of all… this is achieved using After Effects build in tools. No plugins required. Enjoy!

Particle Playground is very powerfull but it’s also very hard to master. It’s just not as user-friendly as 3rd-party plugins, like Trapcode’s Particular. If you’d like to know more about Particle Playground make sure to visit and Roland R. Kahlenberg’s tutorial.

Make sure to see the follow up tutorial: Particle Playground on Ice

Download: Tutorial project file (After Effects CS3)

Tags: ,

81 Responses to “Particle Playground: Fire”

  1. Pierce

    02. Nov, 2007

    Nothing can be said about this tutorial that hasn’t already been said about Adobe After Effects itself :)

  2. Scott Bishop

    02. Nov, 2007

    This is a real treat! Cheers

  3. DaMasteRZ

    02. Nov, 2007

    You got wonderful fingers!!! :D

  4. Onno

    03. Nov, 2007

    I really like it, thanks mate! :D

  5. Umair

    03. Nov, 2007

    Nice Buddy very very impact full Buddy!!! ;)

  6. Maciej

    03. Nov, 2007

    Thanks !! I like it ^^

  7. Robbert-Jan van der Does

    03. Nov, 2007

    Hey Jerzy,

    Very clever. Nice to see you back too!
    You’ve got what the Germans call “Fingerspitzengefühl”. And to be honest, I hope you will still have it after the fire is extuinguished.


  8. Orangesoda

    04. Nov, 2007

    Hey maltaannon, great job. I liked how you used time difference effect. I have never seen it done that way before. It beats the hell out of tracking. Where could I learn more about that effect?
    Keep them coming.
    Take care!

  9. Maltaannon

    04. Nov, 2007

    Oh if you want to know more about Time Difference effect just use my “Suggest a tutorial” form and send me some ideas. Besides… Time Difference is very easy on it’s own. Just try to play with it for a while. Cheers

  10. Kopiart

    05. Nov, 2007

    There are plenty of fields when this one can be used. Starting from teleportation for example and finishing with a dragonball efect :-)

  11. Way2Evil

    05. Nov, 2007

    Very smart. thnx

  12. SPOTS

    05. Nov, 2007

    Thanks for the great tutorial! Will you cover how to make it look more realistic by making the fire light reflect on the character, objects and room?

  13. Homer

    05. Nov, 2007

    Great job guy! I wanted to reproduce that effect next to the video game “Bioshock”

    Thx :)

  14. cbowyer

    05. Nov, 2007

    Great tutorial. Could you duplicate that ramp and turbulence comp and use it to create lighting for the video layer, so that the light emitted from the flames can be seen on the subject, the surrounding walls, etc?

  15. Maltaannon

    05. Nov, 2007

    Sure. Just try it out. If it doesn’t work than try something else. Maybe an adjustment layer and a glow effect that will spread around the fire, or whatever. Just play around it for a while and I’m sure you’ll figure out some cool ways to use it.

  16. Harvest

    06. Nov, 2007

    Uuuuhh! Excellent blend of effects! The result is awesome!.. Cheers from Portugal!

  17. JD

    07. Nov, 2007

    Clever work.

  18. Stefan

    07. Nov, 2007

    Nice i like it and i hope that you will make more tutorials =]

  19. rashid

    07. Nov, 2007

    Hi, This is Excellent Tutorial Thankx

  20. Ghislain, Québec, Canada

    07. Nov, 2007

    First of all; great job on this one, you made a awsome effect look like “easy”…
    I don’t have CS3 yet, so I would like to know if there a similar effect like the “playground particule” in CS2 ??? (I do have trapcode’s particular…is it something i can use?)
    Thank you and keep on the good work !

  21. Patrick

    07. Nov, 2007


    great tutorial with nice fire but I´ve got a problem:

    As soon as I select a layer in the layer exploder (I use a comp as source with 1 wiggleing layer in it that has a feathered mask on it) my afterFX starts rendering millions and millions of particles. Yea, I set the particles/sec to “0”. It does the same without feathering or also without wiggle.

    Any Idea?

    • Ei

      13. Aug, 2009

      its same for me…Ive tried different versions and system (like G5 Mac or Pc) and still same… Particle playground always tried to generate too much particles (over 720000). Something missing i think… When watching tutorial it generates nearly 3000-5000 particles what is the difference????

  22. Maltaannon

    08. Nov, 2007

    is the wiggleing comp a precomp? it should be. and besides that always try to set the layer exploder when you’re at the beginning of your timeline. it’s easier for AE to calculate the particles. if that doesnt help than you might contact me directly using skype.

    • Ei

      13. Aug, 2009

      Hi again,
      ive tried in different docs and everytime layer explode generates too much particles even in precomposed little static solid white circle…Are you using a controller for particle number reducing???Velocity only affect generating speed but i want to control particle number it is really trouble…

  23. Michael Hardie

    08. Nov, 2007

    Ghislain you’re bound to have it in CS2. Back in the day I used to mess with Particle Playground with 6.0 :D

    cheers for the tutorial!

  24. Jack

    09. Nov, 2007

    Had no idea you could do stuff like this in AE, been taking out ropes and things for sfx but nothing like this. Cheers bro, primo.. Couldn’t find how to put the expression on properly but still looks pretty cool, I’ll have to check out your earlier tuts to suss that I think.

    Cheers again bro… you’ve got me thinking.

  25. 17th Letter Films

    09. Nov, 2007

    Thanks a lot! This effects is so amazing and there are lots of possibilities!

  26. Patrick

    09. Nov, 2007

    Hi again,
    starting at the beginning helped a lot!
    an the wigglelayer has been a precomp, but I shot some footage today and will continue with that for now.

    thank you very much so far

  27. Kevin Nabity

    13. Nov, 2007

    Thanks for putting this tutorial up; I got a looooot out of it!

  28. Maik Fleischmann

    16. Nov, 2007

    You are one crazy mind! Amazing doesn’t touch you. If I learned a fraction of what you know, I would be happy. Thank you for your GREAT tutorials.


  29. Brett

    18. Nov, 2007

    Hey great tutorial. Got me a little lost at some points but I caught on quick. Thanks alot. I look forward to more.

  30. arpit

    25. Nov, 2007

    awsum tut man….keep uploading… lovin it…

  31. Leo

    25. Nov, 2007

    Got to be careful at gas stations…

    Great Tut, thanks a lot.
    Keep up the good work.

  32. Thea

    29. Nov, 2007

    I love AE and don’t get enough time with it – have CS3 now but am trying to use tutorials to save time learning – this was really a lesson on several different things – I just loved it!! Just been working on a project for a state fire marshal so it’s perfect. I will be checking out all your other tutorials – thanks for all your efforts.

  33. Crackfest

    01. Dec, 2007

    Great job on the tutorial! You make everything so simple. Keep up the good work!

  34. IllD

    03. Dec, 2007

    WOW, you created another Monster with that, this Technique gave me 10 new Ideas.

    Maltannon you are getting better and better…AE seems so easy to use while you work with it.

    People, donate for this side to keep it alive!!!
    (George needs food :))

  35. yenuiyins

    18. Dec, 2007

    Have got to really thank you for this! Is really helpful :D
    and you are Great man ^O^

  36. antory

    24. Dec, 2007

    very simple and useful! big thanx!

  37. ilan

    26. Dec, 2007

    i dont understand how did we get the “particles playground ”
    i dont have it in my effect

  38. cred

    09. Feb, 2008

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. One question: You mentioned that George doesn’t move, just his hands. Would it still work if, say, George was walking or jumping?

  39. Maltaannon

    10. Feb, 2008

    Yes, but then it would burn his whole body. It “burns” everything that has changed in the video clip across last few frames.

  40. Bob

    29. Feb, 2008

    Wow this tutorial is hot indeed ! Great Job
    I gonna play with this :D…
    Very very usefull, you can use it for almost everything!
    Keep up the good work ;)

  41. Faisal Amin

    07. Mar, 2008

    Thanks For A Wonderful Tutorial.You Are Great For After Effects.
    Thanks Mr.Maltaannon.

  42. Ilya

    06. Apr, 2008

    I can’t find “Particle playground” in my after effect, I use v.7.
    Where can I find it?.

    Beside it, a very useful tutorial, I was looking how to set my hands on fire, thanks.
    By the way, how do I do it with my whole body?, like Human Torch, or something like that?.

  43. Maltaannon

    06. Apr, 2008

    Well… I hate to be the one pointing this out to you, but are you using legal version of After Effects Pro?

  44. Ilya

    07. Apr, 2008

    Nop, too expensive, about $1000, I can’t afford it, sorry.

  45. Maltaannon

    08. Apr, 2008

    That’s probably why it’s missing.

  46. Henry Lankila

    20. Apr, 2008

    Awesome tutorial!!! I had a question regarding the particles comp. When I select my source file for the “Layer Exploder” the source layer gets offset to the right. Have you seen this before? If I turn off the effect, my original source looks good. Once I turn on the effect the particles appear, expand slightly and shift to the right. All the comps are the same size and I ran the tutorial several times. When I look at the final comp, the particles comp looks like they are different sizes. I checked the settings and everything is the same. I am using AE 6.5 Pro. Thanks for your time and this great tutorial.

  47. Maltaannon

    20. Apr, 2008

    Strange. My first thought was that the comp size differs accros the project, but since you’ve checked that it’s hard to say, or I’m simply missing something. Contact me through the Contact section on this site, and make sure to provide your real email. I’ll write you back, so you could send me the project file. I’ll take a look in my spare time (yeah… like I ever have time for myself)

  48. DawnTreader

    18. May, 2008

    Hello Maltaannon

    thanks for the Tute. the time difference has come in handy elsewhere.

    as for the shifting to the right problem experienced by the other poster. it is not actually shifting the original footage, it is shifting the effect.

    if you watch your own tutorial you will see that when you get to the part of where the “smoke” is shown on the subjects hands, it is slightly to the left of the placement of the original footages hands.

    i have been having the same trouble and wondering if it was the text i was using, but then i went back to watch the tute to see if i had done something wrong and noticed that your effect was doing the same thing as mine.

    it is easy enough to move the effect over and match it, but then you end up pushing over the edge of the comp for the effect and this becomes a problem if you are creating fire right accross the screen. if you figure out a solution that doesnt involve moving the effect precomp over please post it somewhere, preferably on Creative Cow.

    thanks for the amazing tutes, keep them coming. :)

  49. Maltaannon

    18. May, 2008

    Hm…. I realy need to take another look, because I still don’t see the problem. Everything works as it should as far as I’m concerned.

  50. Bowie Presto

    10. Jul, 2008

    You’re the the one & only « REAL ULTIMATE AVATAR »
    GOD BLESSED YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  51. JR

    20. Jul, 2008

    This is great, but is there a way to acheive a similar effect with trapcode and it’s built in fire presets? I’ve tried to use a layer as the emitter, both with it as a precomp and without, and I just can’t get it to produce anything. Any ideas?

  52. josh

    26. Jul, 2008

    very great lesson, it has introduce me to the time difference effect, I think I will like to experiment with it now. :) One thing I like to suggest that may enhance the effect is maybe to use that comp of the hands as a luma matte for adjustment layer in the final scene, to add brightness or glow to the skin behind the flames.

  53. Brandon

    31. Jul, 2008

    at the begining in step number 1 you overlap . im haing trouble figuring this out. is there a shortcut?

  54. Maltaannon

    31. Jul, 2008

    I’m not sure what you mean. Can you give me a specyfic time in the tutorial that you have a question about? That would help. Thanks.

  55. KID

    01. Aug, 2008

    Excellent ! thanks so much !

  56. pmcb

    08. Sep, 2008

    Hi, Mr Maltaannon, congratulitions for your works and tutes. You became my fan nº1. I work in 3D and finally I have inspiration to have great ideias to interact 3D with movies. I tried once work with AE but it was very difficult for me, but now becames easy to work whith it and I already see some results. Thank you very much.

    But I have 1 question. I can’t import files whith extension .mov, do you know what it can be?

    thanks, and keep going

    (from Portugal)

  57. Maltaannon

    08. Sep, 2008

    Thank you very much for kind words. Try reinstalling QuickTime.

  58. pmcb

    08. Sep, 2008

    Hummm. Ok, I don’t have QuickTime. I usually read this files with “VLC media player”

    thank you

  59. wob

    30. Sep, 2008

    What a tutorial! So many possibilites! Now I can light anything on fire. I look forward to more of your great tutorials.

  60. A.Jendrysik

    21. Oct, 2008

    Fine tut,

    greetings from de

  61. Artue

    22. Oct, 2008

    Hello! Nice guide.
    I was trying to do exactly the same, messed it up :/
    I’m kinda new with the program.
    Is it possible for you to add me on MSN, so i can seend you my movie, and you make it look like fire on my hands? :)
    My MSN is
    Kinda regards: Artue

  62. infared

    24. Oct, 2008

    Thanks and Big up Your Self!! This Tutorial is Very Cool!!!

  63. Bryant

    06. Nov, 2008

    Wow…this was phenomenal. Loved working it, Great job!

  64. Tinashe

    12. Nov, 2008

    i cant get it to work i dont know what im doing wrong, been at it for like 5 hours now .

    Im using a MAC , i so need to know what im doing wrong ,

  65. Maltaannon

    12. Nov, 2008

    Need more detail.

  66. nate

    19. Nov, 2008

    cant remember how i found your site, but i am glad i did. Your tutorials are great. Heres a snowboarder i put some flames on:

  67. Boldbulkhead

    12. Dec, 2008

    awsome, i hav’ent tryed it jet, but i have all the effects i need, ill try it today, maybe ill record it ‘n put it on y tube, whil mentoning your name, or this website, thnx 4 the lesson!

  68. tiw

    05. Feb, 2009

    This is a really good tutorial.
    Thanks for making it clear and step by step.
    I burned my cat with a laser pointer using this tutorial :)
    And linked back to you for the tutorial of course!

  69. Kai

    05. Mar, 2009

    Genius, Maltaannon, genius.
    I’m looking forward to using this in a lot of videos.

  70. ali

    06. Jul, 2009


  71. chrispinoy

    16. Jul, 2009

    hi men maltaannon ive watch yur tut about a6-8 months now and the first tut ive download is that yur watermark and it helps me a lot you have inserted yur site because really i dont find such website like yurs has a very nice teacher and explains well that i can easily follow…thanks and hopefully i can join yur site as one of yur join…thanks

  72. Ashik

    14. Sep, 2009

    You’re the man !!

  73. Maxim

    05. Jan, 2010

    How to do with Cs4?
    Nothing happens!

    Maxim T. Potvin

  74. Arma

    22. Mar, 2010

    Really useful!

    I put in my own little adjustments and it looks nice.

    Thanks a lot!

  75. Chris

    06. Oct, 2010

    Thanks a lot for this, very informative.

  76. Łukasz

    09. Oct, 2010

    Witaj, Maltaannon. Bardzo dobra robota, bardzo wiele się dowiedziałem dzięki temu tutkowi i ogólnie dzięki Tobie ;) Trzymaj poziom, bo jest bardzo dobry . Pozdrowionka ;)

  77. sajadmoradi

    18. Jan, 2011

    sorry! maltaannon I wanna say that you learn as well or no
    because I wannna study After effect too can you tell me
    this is my Email Address=
    you can also find me on facebook too, I am waiting for your answer. have nice day good bye!

  78. john

    24. Feb, 2011

    This was a great tutorial…very helpful

  79. Webdesign Kassel

    03. May, 2011

    Very good Video. the tutorial is nice.