Using After Effects to Make a Title Turn into Smoke and Disappear
by Tobias Lind

The illusion of making something go up in smoke tends to be popular all the time. Here I'll provide a quick tutorial on how to create this effect in Adobe After Effects.

Click on image above to see the effect

The result is pretty cool and quite realistic as you'll see for yourself. I also urge you to tweak and play with settings after you done with this tutorial to better grasp what's behind these plug-ins for After Effects. We do need a couple of non-standard plug-ins: FE Time Blend FX, CE Turbulent Displace and a good fast blurrer that's not AE 4.x own. (ICE'd Blur, CW Superblur the old 3.1 Fast Blur. But don't fret, you'll get good results without these as well.) You'll need the After Effects project file if you don't wish to create your own. Click here to save it to your hard drive. (Windows users, right click) Here we go:

1. Create new composition,
10 sec. long and name it TITLE. Import an Illustrator or a Photoshop file with your title (or image). (Otherwise, create a solid and use Path Text to make a title.)

2. Make a new composition, name it SMOKING and bring in your TITLE comp. (10 sec. as well)

3. Okay, let's bring the CE Turbulent Displace plug-in into action. To make this effect look rather realistic, the displacement should be little in the beginning and then over time get larger. (And if you don't have the Cult Effects Turbulent Displace plug-in, try any other distortion plug, like Mesh Warp or Displacement Map.)

Choose Displacement: Twist Smoother On frame 1: make a key for Size: 15 On frame 30: make a key for Amount to be 0 On frame 75: set the first key for Evolution: -38 On frame 250 make another key for Amount with the value -460, Size: 200 and Evolution: 275.

Now we need to smooth things out a bit. We want the effect of the title to start out nice and then slowly, slowly distort. So let's do some tweaking on the velocity.

Go to frame 30: Select the Amount key, choose Layer: Keyframe Velocity and put in the Outgoing Velocity boxes: 1/s and influence: 95%.

Go to frame 1: Then select the Size key, choose Layer: Keyframe Velocity and put 1.7 the Outgoing Velocity box and 100 in the influence box. On the Evolution key, choose Layer: Keyframe Assistant and Easy Easy out. Check the animation so that is goes from still to subtle to weird distortion.

4. Good time to save your project.

5. Next plug in: the Blur plug.

This plug needs to be a plug that doesn't change the framebuffer. So use old 3.1 fast blur or Composite Wizards Superblur or ICE'd Blur if you have them.

So choose your blurrer. On frame 1, make a key for the amount: 0 On frame 125, make another key with: 12 And on frame 1, fix the Velocity: 0.15/sec and 100% on the influence. Now the animation will get blurred... you'll figure it out.

Repeat step 4.

6. Now the dangerous part: Note: The FE Time Blend FX comes with a warning, because the plug messes with AE pretty good. I'm not a programmer so I can't spill any details, but be ready for some unpredicted images. The cure though is simple: move to frame 1, purge all images and/or switch resolution during testing.

The FE Time Blend FX. Choose it twice. And on the first change the Instance to Paste. Move this plug to the top of the list in the Effect Controls panel. The last one as it is at default. (And if you only have the AE 4.x Blur, put it after all the other plugs.

7. Now move to frame 1 and use the Edit: Purge: All
That's it, save, render and enjoy!

Hope you like this quick tutorial and please let me know if you have any ideas, comments and/or improvements.

Tobias Lind Motion FX Studios Sweden
[email protected]

Additional notes/ideas: These settings were made for a 320x240 composition. For NTSC and PAL D1 size compositions you should double the values in distortion, blurs etc. And try out different settings in the Velocity as well. (Most noticible in the blur.) Do separate passes on titles, but remember to render each pass in its own composition, since FE Time Blend FX rules in each composition. Try it out on blue/greenscreen elements. Should work pretty good there as well. Try and experiment with Time Displacement on finished rendered sequences. Use another distortion plug in to smear/morph your title if you want even more control on how it should distort.

If you'd like to contribute your tips and techniques with After Effects, and would like to see them appear on Digital Producer, email [email protected]