Create a Breathtakingly Awesome Rain Scene - Day 1

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In this massive 2 part tutorial inspired by the work of Pierre Michel, Alex Verlan shows us how to create the dramatic slow motion rain drops falling scene entirely within After Effects.

Trapcode Particular (download the trial version here)

Trapcode 3D Form (download the trial version here)

Trapcode Shine (download the trial version here)

Trapcode Horizon (download the trial version here)

Twitch (download the trial version here)

T_Distorto from Foundry Tinderbox 1 collection (download the trial version here)

In this tutorial I will show you how to create a dramatic scene with slowmotion rain drops falling from the sky. We'll construct 3D looking drop element inside After Effects with Trapcode Form plugin. Also we will create rotation scene inside the rain drops mass without using 3D. In part 1 we will focus on creating the first scene.

Step 1

I will be using After Effect CS4 for this tutorial. Don't worry, everything I am creating can be done in the other CS, or even earlier versions. So let's get started with After Effect by creating new composition for our drop element. I create composition by clicking Composition->New Composition. Make it 300*300 square pixels 3 seconds long, name it as 'drop'.

Step 2

Create new solid clicking by Layer->New->Solid. Color doesn't matter. Make it comp size (300*300).

Step 3

With solid layer selected, apply Trapcode Form plugin. Effect->Trapcode->Form.

Step 4

The cool feature of Form is sphere base form. Expand-down menu 'Base Form' and select 'Sphere - Layered'.

Step 5

Change plugin settings as shown in the images below. For particle color I used this one: #4B666F. Don't forget to change transfer mode to 'Screen'.

Then you should get results similar to my:

Step 6

Now let's make some color corrections. Apply Curves to the solid with Form by clicking Effect->Color Correction->Curves. Make adjustments on RGB, Red and Blue channel, as in the image below:

Step 7

Create new Adjustment layer above solid with Form. Layer->New->Adjustment layer.

Step 8

Apply to adjustment layer Curves ( Effect->Color correction->Curves) and make adjustments.

Step 9

Apply to adjustment layer Tint ( Effect->Color correction->Tint). Set amount to 80%.

Step 10

Apply to adjustment layer levels ( Effect->Color correction->Levels). Change input black value to 26. So now our perfect looped water drop is ready.

Step 11

Next, download from Skyscrapers and also Sky photo from

Step 12

Now open up Photoshop. Open our photo with Skyscrapers (File->Open).

Step 13

Make double click on background layer, this make it simple layer from background layer.

Step 14

Grab Quick Selection Tool(press W). Change brush size to 20px. Holding Left mouse button, select sky 'sectors' around skyscrapers. You can change brush size to smaller if you select smaller areas.

Step 15

Press Refine edges button. Set settings like in the image below.

Step 16

Select Layer->New->Layer via Cut

Step 17

Delete top layer (with the crop sky). Select this layer and delete it.

Step 18

Now with Burn tool and Dodge tool Make the side areas darker and central areas brighter. Something like in the image below.

Step 19

Now we ready to go to the After Effects. Save image as Skyscraper.psd file (File->Save as).

Step 20

Now, when all the elements are ready, let's create new composition in After Effect. Click on Composition->New composition. Name it as 'Scene-1', use preset 'HDVHDTV 720 25', set 15 seconds long.

Step 21

Keep all stuff organize. Create some folders for yours compositions, images, footage etc. You can create folders by clicking on file icon at the bottom of the project window.

Step 22

Select Images folder, after that select File->Import->File. Browse your Skyscraper.psd and Sky.jpg" ( files, press Open. For Skyscraper.psd file choose import as footage.

Step 23

Select Skyscraper.psd in the project window and place it in the timeline.

Step 24

Switch on 3D switch to Skyscraper.psd layer.

Step 25

With layer selected press 'P' to reveal position 'Skyscrapers.psd' options.

Step 26

Click on the position stopwatch to create keyframe. Set this values for X,Y,Z: at 0sec - 640,460,-800; at 10sec - 640,460,-50; at 14:16sec - 640,460,11. Select first keyframe and with keyframe selected press F9 button. This make it 'Easy-Easy' keyframe type and skyscrapers will start move slowly at the beginning. Check out animation with RAM preview (press numpad 0).

Step 27

Let's improve a little our skyscrapers look. First, apply Simple choker effect (Effect->Matte->Simple choker).Set Choke Matte to 0.9px.

Step 28

Apply Tint (Effect->Color Correction->Tint). Set amount to 80%.

Step 29

Apply Levels (Effect->Color Correction->Levels). Change values of RGB, Red, Green channels as shown below.

Step 30

Apply Brightness & Contrast (Effect->Color Correction->Brightness & Contrast). Click on Brightness and Contrast stopwatches, set following amounts for this parameters: at 0sec - Contrast = 5; at 2:04 - Brightness = -30; at 4:21 - Brightness = 0, Contrast = 17.

Step 31

Apply Glow (Effect->Stylize->Glow). Set parameters as shown below. Sounds like poetry :)

Step 32

Select our Sky.jpg" photo in the project window and drag it to the timeline below Skyscrapers layer. Turn on 3D switch for this layer.

Step 33

Make adjustments as shown below. First press 'P' after that hold down shift button press "S", this reveal Position and Scale property options. Change Scale to 198, adjust position.

Step 34

Take Pick Whip from Sky layer and parent it to Skyscraper layer. Check your animation with RAM preview (press numpad 0).

Step 35

Press 'End' button, Current Time Indicator automatically moves to the end of composition. After that grab Pen tool and draw mask shape on the Sky layer as shown below. Change your mask settings.

Step 36

Apply Levels to Sky layer (Effect->Color Correction->Levels). Change Blue channel settings.

Step 37

Create new solid (Layer->New->Solid). Name it 'FlashClouds'. Make it comp size. I used color: #56565C. Place it above Sky layer. Change Blending mode to 'Add' and turn on 3D swith for this layer.

Step 38

Go to the end of composition by pressing 'End' button. Take Pick Whip and parent 'FlashClouds' layer to the 'Sky' layer. Press 'S' and scale it down to 50 %.

Step 39

With Ellipse Tool or Pen tool draw some mask shapes on FlashClouds layer as shown below.

Step 40

With FlashClouds layer selected press 'M' twice, this reveal all masks properties. Holding down 'Alt' click on the Mask Opacity stopwatch and write some expressions with random() command. This make mask opacity changes between numbers that we want. You can use my values, or write your own.

Step 41

Press 'T', click on the opacity stopwatch. You can use your own keyframes, depend on your soundtrack and sound fx. Check your animation with RAM preview.

Step 42

Now apply 'Roughen Edges' effect to the FlashClouds layer (Effect->Stylize->Roughen Edges). Set settings as shown below.

Step 43

Apply 'Fast Blur' effect to the FlashClouds layer (Effect->Blur & Sharpen->Fast Blur). Set amount to 20,00.

Step 44

Create new solid (Layer->New->Solid). Name it 'Shine1', color - white.

Step 45

Turn on 3D switch for this layer. Press 'End', go to the end of composition, take pick whip and parent 'Shine1' layer to the Sky layer. After that, take Pen Tool and draw two mask shapes on this layer. Adjust settings as shown below.

Step 46

Now apply 'Roughen Edges' (Effect->Stylize->Roughen Edges).

Step 47

Apply 'Shine' effect (Effect->Trapcode->Shine). Adjust settings.

Step 48

Duplicate 'Shine1' layer by clicking Edit->Duplicate. And rename it: 'Shine2'.

Step 49

For 'Shine2' layer change settings as shown below. Also change parent from 'Sky' layer to 'Shine1' layer (with pick whip). Check your animation with RAM preview(hit 0 numpad).

Step 50

Now put 'drop' composition from the project window to the timeline. Switch off layer visibility (turn off eyeball).

Step 51

Create new solid (Layer->New->Solid). Color doesn't matter. Make it comp size, name it as - 'Fill fast rain'. Place it below Skyscraper layer.

Step 52

Apply Particular (Effect->Trapcode->Particular).

Step 53

Go to the 'Options' of the Particular and in pop-up window change prerun value to 100%.

Step 54

Make Particular adjustments as shown below.

Step 55

You can noticed that particles need more time for fill all space. If you want fix it you must make your composition time longer, and start you work area from 3-4 seconds.

Step 56

Duplicate 'Fast fill rain' layer (Edit->Duplicate). Rename it by hiting 'Enter' button - 'Fast fill rain2'. Place it above Skyscraper.psd layer.

Step 57

Change adjustments of Particular in this layer as shown below.

Step 58

Duplicate 'Fast fill rain2' layer (Edit->Duplicate). Rename it by hiting 'Enter' button - 'Fast fill rain3'.

Step 59

Change settings of Particular as shown below.

Step 60

Solo 'Fast fill rain layer'. Now let's adjust emitter position. Set Current Time Indicator on 5sec, click on emitter position stopwatch. I'm set following: at 5sec - X=565,Y=15; at 10sec - X=615, Y= -75.

Step 61

Solo 'Fast fill rain layer2'. With Current Time Indicator staying on 5sec, click on emitter position stopwatch. I'm set following: at 5sec - X=588,Y=88; at 10sec - X=626, Y=150.

Step 62

Now move your Current Time Indicator to 9:23sec in the timeline. Holding down 'Ctrl' button select our three rain layers. After that hit 'T' button and click on the 'Opacity' stopwatch. This will make keyframe. Move Current Time Indicator to 10 sec and set opacity value to 0% for three layers. After that temporary switch off rain layers visibility by clicking on the layers eyeballs.

Step 63

Let's create our slow motion rain drops layers. Create new solid (Layer->New->Solid). Name it 'Rain slow BG', make it comp size. Place it below 'Fill fast rain2' layer.

Step 64

Apply Trapcode Particular to this layer (Effect->Trapcode->Particular). Repeat Step 53 for Particular, change 'Prerun' value to 100% in the 'Options' of Particular.

Step 65

Make adjustments of Particular for this layer as shown below.

Step 66

Apply 'Fast Blur' after 'Particular' for this layer (Effect->Blur & Sharpen->Fast Blur). Set amount to 3.0.

Step 67

Now we create layer with middle-size particles. Duplicate 'Rain slow BG' (Edit->Duplicate) and rename it to 'Pain slow MID'.

Step 68

I think this slow particles will appear from 10 sec (or you can change time, of course, depend on your music track). So, move your Current Time Indicator to 10 sec. Now we can construct our scene. Switch off 'Fast Blur' effect of this layer for a moment (click on 'fx' near plugin name).

Step 69

Make adjustments of 'Particular' as shown below.

Step 70

Move your Current Time Indicator to 9:24sec and click on the stopwatch 'Wind Z' value. After that move Time Indicator to 10:00sec and change 'Wind Z' value to -200. You can also adjust size of the particles on your taste.

Step 71

Now switch on 'Fast Blur' effect and change 'Blurriness' amount to 1,5.

Step 72

Apply 'Glow' effect to this layer. Change settings as shown below, this will soft our drops a little bit. Place 'Glow' above 'Fast Blur' effect.

Step 73

Duplicate 'Rain slow MID' layer (Edit->Duplicate).

Step 74

I planing big drop falling down and covers camera lens at 14:18sec. So move Curent Time Indicator to 14:18sec at the timeline. Drag marker (click, hold and drag left mouse button, from the drag icon to this place).

Step 75

Select in the Effect panel 'Fast Blur' and delete (with layer selected hit 'Del' button). Temporary switch off 'Glow' effect.

Step 76

Following settings of 'Particular' work pretty well.

Step 77

Switch on 'Glow' effect and make adjustments. You must receive this thru the drop view like on the image below.

At 14:16 sec

Step 78

Move your Current Time Indicator to 9:23sec. Hold down 'Ctrl' button select 'Fill fast rain2' and all "slow rain layers". After that hit 'T' button to reveal 'Opacity' options.

Step 79

Unselect 'Fill fast rain2' layer (click on the layer with hold down 'Ctrl' button). Click on the 'Opacity' stopwatch 'Rain slow BIG' layer, set 0%. Move Time Indicator to 10:00sec, set 'Opacity' to 100%.

Step 80

Now we adjust 'Physics Time Factor' of 'Particular' and make cool transition effect between fast and slow rain layers. Move you Current Time Indicator to 9:00sec. Select 'Fill fast rain' layer. Go to the 'Particular' Physics settings (Particular->Physics submenu). Click on the stopwatch and set following settings: at 9:17sec amount = '1.0'; at 9:23 amount = '-1.0'; at 10:00 amount = '1.0'. Select last two keyframes and hit 'F9' button.

Step 81

Move your Time Indicator to 9:17sec. Select 'Physics Time Factor' keyframes and simply copy to others "fast rain layers" (select layers and choose Edit->Paste).

Step 82

So now make some finishes scene touches by adding Depth Of Field and few masks. First, let's make vignette. Create new solid (Layer->New->Solid). Name it - 'vignette', comp size, color 'black'. Place layer above 'Skyscraper'.

Step 83

So now make some finishes scene touches by adding Depth Of Field and few masks. First, let's make vignette. Create new solid (Layer->New->Solid). Name it - 'vignette', comp size, color 'black'. Place layer above 'Skyscraper'.

Step 84

Move your Current Time Indicator to the end of Composition (hit 'End'). Create new solid (Layer->New->Solid). Name it 'Skyscraper mask', comp size, color 'black'. Place it above 'Skyscraper' layer. After that switch on 3D box for this layer and parent it to 'Skyscraper' layer (with pick whip tool).

Step 85

Solo this layer and 'Skyscraper' layer. Hit 'S' and scale 'Skyscraper mask' layer up to 105%. After that shut off temporary visibility of 'Skyscraper mask'layer (click on the eyeball).

Step 86

With 'Skyscraper mask' layer selected grab the 'Pen Tool' and draw two mask shapes. Set setting as shown below.

Step 87

Now we create our Depth of Field map. Create new composition (Composition->New Composition). Name it 'DOF', use preset 'HDVHDTV 720 25', set 15 seconds long.

Step 88

Create two solids (Layer->New->Solid make twice): first - comp size, color white; second - comp size, color black.

Step 89

Select 'black solid' and grab 'Ellipse Tool'. Draw mask shape and set settings as shown below.

Step 90

Close 'DOF' composition. Go to the 'Scene-1' composition and place your 'DOF' composition to the timeline. Switch off visibility of composition (click once on the eyeball).

Step 91

Create Adjustment layer (Layer->New->Adjustment Layer). Name it 'Lens Blur', comp size. Place it below 'Shine' layers.

Step 92

Apply 'Lens Blur' (Effect->Blur & Sharpen->Lens Blur). Adjust settings.

Step 93

Download Defocus particles and import to your project (File->Import->File). Place it below 'Lens Blur' layer and change blending mode to 'Screen'.

Step 94

Now create another one Adjustment layer (Layer->New->Adjustment layer). Name it 'Global Flash'.

Step 95

I use Andrew Kramer's Twitch (Effect->Videocopilot->Twitch) for some flash, color, blur randomness. Just make some keyframes for 'Amount' where do you need it. If you don't have 'Twitch' you can use 'Exposure', 'Fast Blur' to make some similar effect. Now 'Scene-1' is complete!

Stay tuned for part 2 where we will build Scene-2