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pEmitter Node

The pEmitter node is the main source of particles (pImage Emitter is another) and will usually be the first node used in any new particle system. This node contains controls for setting the initial position, orientation, and motion of the particles, as well as controls for the visual style of each particle.

Like all other Particle nodes (with the exception of the pRender node), the pEmitter produces a particle set, not a visible image, and therefore cannot be displayed directly in a viewer. To view the output of a particle system, add a pRender node after the pEmitter

pEmitter Node Inputs

By default, the pEmitter node has no inputs at all. You can enable an image input by selecting Bitmap from the Style menu in the Style tab. Also, two region inputs, one for bitmap and one for mesh, appear on the node when you set the Region menu in the Region tab to either Bitmap or Mesh. The colors of these inputs change depending on the order in which they are enabled.

  • Style Bitmap Input: This image input accepts a 2D image to use as the particles’ image. Since this image duplicates into potentially thousands of particles, it is best to keep these images small and square—for instance, 256 x 256 pixels.
  • Region: The region inputs takes a 2D image or a 3D mesh depending on whether you set the Region menu to Bitmap or Mesh. The color of the input is determined by whichever is selected first in the menu. The 3D mesh or a selectable channel from the bitmap defines the area where the particles are emitted.

pEmitter Node Setup

The pEmitter node starts the branch of a particle system that always ends with a pRender node. The pEmitter can feed directly into a pRender node to feed other particle nodes.

pEmitter Node Inspector

The pEmitter inspector is divided into four main tabs and a common settings tab. The controls tab is the first tab displayed and it contains settings that affect the general setup of the particle cells emitted by the node. These settings do not directly affect the appearance of the cells or shape of the emitter region. They modify fundamental behaviors like quantity, duration, speed, and rotation of the particle cells.

pEmitter Node Controls

Randomize and Random Seed
The Random Seed slider is used to seed all the variance and random number generators used by the node when creating the particle system. Two pEmitter nodes with exactly the same settings for all controls and the same random seed will generate exactly the same particle system. Changing the random seed will cause variation between the nodes. Click the Randomize button to automatically set a randomly chosen value for the Random Seed.

This control is used to set the amount of new particles generated on each frame. A value of 1 would cause one new particle to be generated each frame. By frame 10, there would be a total of 10 particles in existence (unless Particle Lifespan was set to fewer than 10 frames).

Animate this parameter to specify the number of particles generated in total. For example, if only 25 particles in total are desired, animate the control to produce five particles on frame 0–4, then set a key on frame five to generate zero particles for the remainder of the project.

Number Variance
This modifies the amount of particles generated for each frame, as specified by the Number control. For example, if Number is set to 10.0 and Number Variance is set to 2.0, the emitter will produce anywhere from 9-11 particles per frame. If the value of Number Variance is more than twice as large as the value of Number, it is possible that no particles will be generated for a given frame.

This control determines how long a particle will exist before it disappears or ‘dies.’ The default value of this control is 100 frames, although this can be set to any value. The timing of many other particle controls is relative to the Lifespan of the particle. For example, the size of a particle can be set to increase over the last 80% of its life, using the Size Over Life graph in the Style tab of the pEmitter.

Lifespan Variance
Like Number Variance, the Lifespan Variance control allows the Lifespan of particles produced to be modified. If Particle Lifespan was set to 100 frames and the Lifespan Variance to 20 frames, particles generated by the emitter would have a lifespan of 90–110 frames.

This provides the ability to specify from where the color of each particle is derived. The default setting is Use Style Color, which will provide the color from each particle according to the settings in the Style tab of the pEmitter node.

The alternate setting is Use Color From Region, which overrides the color settings from the Style tab and uses the color of the underlying bitmap region.

The Use Color From Region option only makes sense when the pEmitter region is set to use a bitmap produced by another node in the composition. Particles generated in a region other than a bitmap region will be rendered as white when the Use Color From Region option is selected.

Position Variance
This control determines whether or not particles can be ‘born’ outside the boundaries of the pEmitter region. By default, the value is set to zero, which will restrict the creation area for new particles to the exact boundaries of the defined region. Increasing this control’s value above 0.0 will allow the particle to be born slightly outside the boundaries of that region. The higher the value, the ‘softer’ the region’s edge will become.

Temporal Distribution
In general, an effect is processed per frame, based on the comp frame rate. However, processing some particles only at the exact frame boundaries can cause pulsing. To make the behavior subtly more realistic, the particles can be birthed in subframe increments.

The default, At The Same Time setting renders on frame boundaries, where as the other two settings take advantage of sub frame rendering. Randomly Distributed randomizes birth times +/- around the frame number, eg birth 10 particles at random sub times 24.1 24.85, 24.21, 24.37 etc. one particle at a time. Evenly Distributed births particles at regular sub times, eg 10 particles, birth 1 at at time at 24.0, 24.1, 24.2, 24.3, 24.4, 24.5 … 24.8, 24.9.

These settings are influenced by the Sub Frame Accuracy setting in the pRender node. The Sub Frame Accuracy slider controls how many in-between frames are calculated between each frame. The higher the value the more accurate the particle calculation but the longer the render times.

The controls in the Velocity section determine the speed and direction of the particle cells as the are generated from the emitter region.

Velocity and Velocity Variance
These determine the initial speed or velocity of new particles. By default, the particle has no velocity and will not move from its point of origin unless acted upon by outside forces. A velocity setting of 10.0 would cause the particle to cross the entire width of the image in one step so a velocity of 1.0 would cause the particle to cross the width of the image over 10 frames.

Velocity Variance modifies the velocity of each particle at birth, in the same manner described in Lifespan Variance and Number Variance above.

Inherit Velocity passes the emitter region’s velocity on to the particles. This slider has a wide range that includes negative and positive values. A negative value causes the particles to move in the opposite direction, a value of 1 will cause the particles to move with a velocity that matches the emitter region’s velocity, and a value of 2 causes the particles to move ahead of the emitter region.

Angle and Angle Variance
This determines the angle at which particles with velocity applied will be heading at their birth.

Angle Z and Angle Z Variance
This is as above, except this control determines the angle of the particles along the Z space axis (toward or away from the camera).

Rotation controls are used to set the orientation of particle cells and animating that orientation over time .

Rotation Mode
This menu control provides two options to help determine the orientation of the particles emitted. When the particles are spherical, the effect of this control will be unnoticeable.

  • — Absolute Rotation: The particles will be oriented as specified by the Rotation controls, regardless of velocity and heading.
  • — Rotation Relative To Motion: The particles will be oriented in the same direction as the particle is moving. The Rotation controls can now be used to rotate the particle‘s orientation away from its heading.

Rotation XYZ and Rotation XYZ Variance
These controls allow for Rotation of the individual particles. This can be particularly useful when dealing with a bitmap particle type, as the incoming bitmap may not be oriented in the desired direction.

Rotation XYZ Variance can be used to randomly vary the rotation by a specified amount around the center of the Rotation XYZ value to avoid having every particle oriented in the exact same direction.

Spin controls are auto animated controls that change the orientation of particle cells over time.

Spin XYZ and Spin Variance
These provide a spin to be applied to each particle at birth. The particles will rotate ‚x‘ degrees each frame, as determined by the value of Spin XYZ.

The Spin XYZ variances will vary the amount of rotation applied to each frame in the manner described by Number Variance and Lifespan Variance documented above.

pEmitter Node Sets Tab

This tab contains settings that affect the physics of the particles emitted by the node. These settings do not directly affect the appearance of the particles. Instead, they modify behavior like velocity, spin, quantity, and lifespan.

Set 1-32
To assign the particles created by a pEmitter to a given set, simply select the checkbox of the set number you want to assign. A single pEmitter node can be assigned to one or multiple sets. Once they are assigned in the pEmitter, you can enable sets in other particle nodes so they only affect particles from specific pEmitters.

pEmitter Node Style Tab

The Style tab provides controls that affect the appearance of the particles. For detailed information about the style tab click here.

pEmitter Node Region Tab

The Region tab controls the shape, size, and location of the area that emits the particle cells. This is often called the Emitter. Only one emitter region can be set for a single pEmitter node. If the pRender is set to 2D, then the emitter region will produce particles along a flat plane in Z Space. 3D emitter regions possess depth and can produce particles inside a user-defined, three-dimensional region. For more detail on the Region tab click here.

pEmitter Node Conditions, Style, Region, and Settings Tabs

The Conditions, Style, Region, and Settings tabs are common to all Particle nodes, so their descriptions can be found HERE.


About the Author

Justin Robinson is a Certified DaVinci Resolve, Fusion & Fairlight instructor who is known for simplifying concepts and techniques for anyone looking to learn any aspect of the video post-production workflow. Justin is the founder of JayAreTV, a training and premade asset website offering affordable and accessible video post-production education. You can follow Justin on Twitter at @JayAreTV YouTube at JayAreTV or Facebook at MrJayAreTV

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