Build an Abstract Animation Layer by Layer with Thinking Particles, Metaballs and Mograph

May 10, 2011

In this lesson, Simon explores how to combine Thinking Particles with the Mograph-module, metaball, and deformers to animated objects. This technique can be used to add different layers of animation on top of each other and give you a greater control over your animations/simulations.


Download the Project File

About Simon
Simon Homedal is a motion designer/3d artist at Man vs Machine before that he was a student at hyper island in Sweden. You can see his work on his site

Tutorial Focus:  , ,
Software:  ,

  • Awesome! Haven’t watched the whole tut, but I will 🙂

    Always wondered how to make those organic/slimy-ish effects.

    Great stuff!

  • Trevor Williams May 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Looks great! looking forward to building off of this! Amazing stuff.

  • Thx man! great tutorial!

  • that looks awesome! some amazing lighting.

  • Amazing! I always wanted a tutorial on this subject.
    I will try to incorporate this in new techniques, possibly :).

  • Awesome work, very nice, Just love to watch this Tutorial.
    Thank you very much 🙂

  • This is probably the best Thinking Particle tutorial I’ve seen, I mean…. without confusing the hell out of me. Most TP tutorials tend to make me feel dumb.

    Thanks Simon and Greyscale Gorilla.

  • i love simon tuts, pleace keep them coming, i am wating one for creating a moving body with particles!!

  • You are very good, but for me is too fast this tutorial. I need to improve my knowledge about expresso, I know. Is my limit.. and I know: this one is not so complicated . I repeat, FOR ME is a fast way to explain all steps 🙂 You are very cool, maybe I’m tired like you today and I don’t understand anything, ahah.

  • the project file doesnt work in 11.5?

  • love these tp tuts too
    id like to see how the background vebeen made.
    i know its AE but my tries are too amateurish

  • outstanding tutorial, thank you guys!

  • Are those in uterus’isch Particels TP as well? Or is that after effects post production?

    Any tutorial on this topic?

    Thanks for the tutorial

  • Very, very good! Learnt alot. Simon is a really talented guy.

  • Thanks everybody. Im glad you enjoyed the tutorial. As far as the lighting and dust-particles is quite simple really. its a fully reflective surface so it wont really generate shadows and such, only reflections and specular highlights. so it was quite simple setup and the dust is just particular in AE, the grading is mostly done with adjustment-layers with curves and some lensflares just outside the shot to bring in some more colours to the composite. thats it really. /S

    • May I ask what the material on the meta-ball (?) is made of? It looks like a displacement but that would need it to make the object editable and then it wouldn’t be animatible. Please help me out :). (I’m talking about the example video)

      Love the tutorial.

  • Like the way that there’s allot of MoGraph Tutorials coming out! 🙂 Nice work again Nick and Simon

  • Alexander Lufi May 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    how did he do the little particles?

    i am pretty certain that it was done in after effects, but how?
    a post process tutorial on this would be amazing! (:

    • Yeah is all AE(particular). You just export a AE file from cinema then is just a matter of birthing the particles and adding some turbulence movement. I try to put togather some sort of AE tutorial in the near future. Thanks !

      • Alexander Lufi May 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm

        thanks, Simon! Great tutorial, my friend! keep it up (:

      • Yes,
        I hope to watch another tutorial about how you use AE. It could be so interesting!
        I like those ‘fireflies’ effects (or maybe I have to write ‘lightning bugs’ ?) added to your render… If you have web links about this or give us a word, it would be so nice.
        Many thanks for this great tutorial !

      • Hi Simon, thanks for another informative tutorial as always. Question, I know this is off the C4D subject here in would you consider of creating a tut on creating such particles in After Effects?

        Thanks again Simon!

      • Simon an AE tutorial on the particle workflow would be great. I assumed it was Particular but I always wondered how this was done. for example macro or medical animations as well as some “space” or underwater scenes all have these ambient little “floaties” in them..

      • hey simon!

        Please do an tutorial for the post in AE of this render!

    • Hey Guys,

      Check out Andrew Kramer’s tutorials at, he has tons of tutorials that will get you started in AE. Also his teaching style is like Greyscale Gorillas, not boring.

      • Hi Ryan,

        Thanks for the info, I am aware of Andrew’s site and tutorials. Thought it might of been cool to see someone else’s way of creating such an effect.

        Thanks again!

  • Almost 15 min,real simple and nice.You should open a blog already dude..

  • Men, I will going to sleep too!! I mean, I had said already, your tutorials are very boring!! Try a more dynamic way. And about your coffe’s comments, $#*T!, be more creative, dont just copy Nick’s frases. Cheers!

    • Thanks, coffee is great you should try it sometimes!

    • Don’t be a dick, Bichinl. Simon is doing great tutorials to help the community. If you don’t like him, don’t watch.

      • Seriously, why waste your time commenting on something if you aren’t going to appreciate people taking the time to share what they do best? Both Simon and Nick are great at what they do and they both enjoy sharing what they know, if you don’t like what you see then simply don’t watch.

      • I second that!

      • Come on you guys, you can’t always get just roses in your comments, you need to be open to a constructive critique, cause if not, you’ll never know the issue you need to resolve and the stuff you need to improve. I mean, Nick, I have nothing bad to say about your tutorials and stuff’s, and come on Simon, you have potential and I know you can do it better, don be mad on me, cheers!

        • constructive critique, yes, i’m sure they would appreciate that allot. random troll, no. Just think you don’t have enough imagination to do something with Simon’s tutorials.

          so far for not feeding the troll.

          Still had a question not sure if this is the right post to ask it. I added a displacement map on a metaball with a few spheres inside it. im my own renderscreen it renders out in 15 sec or so.

          Moment i want to make the final render the preparing phases takes so long; at least 40 min before even rendering the first frame.

          i admit the displacement doe have allot of hight in it. But like i said the preview itself was quick.

          am i missing something obvious?

      • Could you make a tutorial on the lighting and texture used in the example video ?

    • Nick Please Answer, Do you think there’s a chance you might do a cinema 4d to real flow tutorial? Or can you atleast link us to some awesome tutorials weekly that is not yours but still might help us? Like top 5 Tuts of the week? (But wich all of them still has connection with C4D and AE)

      Ow and, Bichinl stop hating…once again good job Simon and Nick…

      Please answer tho

      • Sorry Mario, I have never used realflow. Sorry I can’t help.

      • Hey Mario, I’ve used realflow for some projects of mine but I’ve always used it with 3dsmax, I will try it this week with c4d and then post a vid on vimeo or something just let me know if you are looking to learn something specific.

        Nick & Simon you guys rule man keep up the awesome tutorials coming!

      • Joshua deLorimier May 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm

        there are a bunch of real flow and c4d tutorials online….if you know particles its enough to do some cool stuff….just search thats what I did.

    • my god, he drinks liquids too?

      this is one of the best sites for tutorials pro bono. hell, I have spent good money on stuff that isn’t half as good!

      congratulations guys, i know maxon must give you an incentive here and there but you are raising the bar on quality and accessibility.

    • bichinl, if you want to have fun, go to a fucking amusement park.
      Simon, keep up with the good work. Very systematic and concise. As always.

  • Great tutorial Simon! This kind of work is what makes me love motion design. Reminds me of BrightPhoton(Gkaster) style work. Really inspiring stuff going on.


  • Nice tutorial but you are Man vs Machine

  • cool! tnx alot Simon…

  • Great tut! You can tell he loves this stuff. I’ll be trying this out later today.

    Thanks Simon!!!

  • very interesting! i have one question: where can i find the palette where you selected the tp layer? thanks for the cool introduction to thinking particles.

    • sorry i should have mentioned that. if you are running r12 is under simulation -> thinking particles -> Thinking Particles settings . if you are running r11 is under the Objects menu -> Thinking Particles – > Thinking Particles Settings.

  • crazy! thats really cool, I have more respect for c4d now (i always think of it being less than max).

    please can we have higher rez screen capture next time, the blurriness does my eyes in.

    Joe, UK

  • Great tut, love your style Simon.

  • The funny thing is that I’ve maid nearly the same for the “frog-perspektive” thing 🙂 Not the dirty look but the same technique with the meta-balls… Your’s is looking very cool! Thanks for the tutorial

  • Just AWESOME ! Looking for this techniques for a long time, even on FXPHD or CMIVFX, but this tutorial is blowing my mind !
    I understand that it’s so interesting to ‘tweak’ into C4D and doing great stuffs. The essential point of Simon’s technique is this is less CPU hungry than other same techniques I use to learn last year (no lags into the viewport)…
    So many many many thanks to Simon and you, Nick. I still can’t wait to watch new tutorials about the same topic !

  • Awsome tutorial, thanks again Simon!

  • My brain just melted. A little like that Metaball 😀

  • Simon – you did Toyota IQ stuff? Were you working out of Taylor James?

  • are you using displacement for the surface of the objects? giving you this cloth like look

  • Hey Simon

    After the particles disperse what would be the best way for them to morph onto a spline? would I use a Spline Effector or PBlurp?


    • spline effector can work. or u can use a matrix and the inheritance effector and set it in morphmode. Ill show that in a upcoming tutorial. hope it works out for u

      • Sweet dude, thanks, also, where do you get these wicked sound bites? is there some sort of creative commons licensing for them?

        • nah. i just took a few weird bits i found in my itunes library and slowed them down and reversed with a simple timeremap.

          • This is my result, I used a Spline Effector to morph into my initials instead of the inheritance effector. I liked your final look so i tried to replicate it in after effects, I’ve only using C4D for 2 months, so I think it turned out well. Thanks again for your tips.


  • Hi simon! nice tut!
    but why you didn’t just applied a matrix object to a an emitter so you could control all the faorces without any expresso?

  • Great tut. Thanks very much for sharing your time and creativity. Yet another question about Particular: did you use a custom particle for the dust? If so, could you give any insight as to how you created it? They really are perfect for the effect. Whenever I try to make dust it always appears to be too “clean” Almost like using CC Particle World.
    Thanks again.

    • just used DOF in the camera and I added some dirt to the lens… kind of. Just searched the internet for something that i could create a matt out of. then used that matte to brigten up some areas to make it feel abit less “clean” but for the Particular is just the dof in the camera

  • João Guilherme May 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Hey Simon, i did all the steps in the tutorial but at render time, the particles and and metabal appear in the viewport, but in RenderView only appears the cage of the matrix. What can be the problem? Follow link to the images.
    I hope you can help me. Thanks.

  • Nice one Simon, i agree with you about the link between TP and Mograph.

    I did a test render last week that used the matrix TP on a tracer then output to realflow for the skinning. I’d tried to use metaballs, but they just don’t have enough control in C4d for my goals.

    No real time spent animating the camera as it was just a test(just dropped a vibrate tag on it).
    Next test will most likely involve TPBlurp, tracer and matrix.

  • where do u get these awesome sound effects?:/

  • Hi SImon. I like your tutorials. Nick with coffee, Mike with whiskey and you with headphones … now my question. Probably simple to answer. How did you get the “Group.1” thing in there and what exactly is its use?
    Thanks for your answer!

    And keep up the great work.

  • Hi Simon,

    Nice Tutorial, and nice combination, please check my video here that I made long time ago as a test to what you can call same effect.

  • All made ??the lesson, one when the time comes for the final render, rendered sphere alone, without the cloner and Metabal. Waiting for your help =) thanks in advance.
    Sorry for my bad English

  • Well done, thank you for sharing this stuff with us !

    Here is my little test with TP based on your tutorial.

  • happy happy for this new tuto!!! thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, jaja and… I say thanks?
    Do a lot more Simon…. I really want to know you but I’m in Costa Rica….

  • Here is my test. Been using C4D for less than 2 months, I love it.

  • I cant see how he made the group prior. the video is too blurry,

    • make sure to click the HD icon 🙂 and go fullscreen and im sure you wont have anyproblems. to create tp groups you just right click in the thinking settings settings. 🙂


  • Great tutorial, Thanks.

  • brilliant it’s the best tutorials in mograph I ever see thx Simon, u r really genius.

  • Ugh! I cant find the thinking particles manager .

  • Hey, great tut simon. I’m already trying to mix some of this stuff with another abstract animation that i have.
    But i have one question, maybe it’s silly, lol. How can I change the TP start time? I mean, how can i make the TPs start moving in the 20 frame?, for example.

    salutes and great tut!

    • I finally made it by reducing the turbulence to 0 until the frame i want them to start moving, excellent 😀 .

  • Hi Simon,

    Great tutorial – but I am dying to see how you took it from the metablobby gizmo thingy to the fantastic looking organic render featured under the article. Textures, renders and post – the whole shabang 🙂

    Maybe a sequel for another late night 🙂

  • hi there!

    i have one question…how did you create the “underwater environment”?


  • Hi, good tutorial, much appreciated.
    However. When I render, I don’t see anything. (in picture view), yet I do see my metaball in a rendered active view.
    When I add a cube to the scene, i only see the cube? I know its vague, but if you can… any ideas please? pretty scary stuff, never happened to me before. Even when I try this from scratch, I see absolutely nothing in my render.

    • friendofp:
      Im having the same problem…

      • When you make the meta-ball mesh editable it renders in the picture viewer, but this does not help when you are trying to render the animation. It seems to have something to do with the thinking particles not referring the position to the renderer.

  • Here is my version…tell me what you think

  • First of all, great Tutorial mate,
    but i wonder, is there a way to get my bubble together after a while?
    i didn’t get the trigger to handle the speed or the general animation.
    Is there a way to get them together in a sphere or something?

  • Hey, I was trying this out and everything worked fine up untill the point where I added the metaballs. This is only the second or third time using metaballs for me and I might have forgotten some important step, but I can’t find it, been trying for like 30 mins now.

    Right when I add the metaballs, the spheres dissapear. The only thing I did different is I added a gravity instead of wind, and animated the gravity (in sphere shape) to throw around the particles. I also have alot more particles. Any ideas?

  • I know this has been mentioned by others but the “underwater” environment with Trapcode Particular particles looks great.

    A tutorial or an indication where a similar tutorial can be found would be much appreciated.

  • Hello! I am looking to do something similar, but have one watery object pull apart into two objects. I need to to this ASAP. Any suggestions on tutorials? Any help would be EPIC!

  • Great technical tut Simon! I do have a question though.. how would we add falloff to the wind in xpresso?

  • Alright…
    too advanced for me 🙁

    But thanks anyway. It’s nice to see guest tutorials here on GSG

  • Great tutorial! But the TP will not render properly

  • My question is more about the particles that look like dust or bubbles….. I have been trying to figure out how to do this and don’t know if it’s done in AE or Cinema. If AE, what is the plugin. If cinema… HOW? 😉

    Thanks guys. I used your shatter tutorial for a intro I did for a fitness company and it made the video awesome.

  • Great tutorial, thanks! hope you do more like this.
    from spain.

  • Hey I cant seem to find where the group panel is located?
    If you could let me know that would be awesome!
    thanks for the tuts this helps more than you know.

    – C

  • grate job mate 🙂 rlly…i was looking for some explanation for looong time and i have it 😉 but got issue…my wind object dont affect notting 🙁 any ideas ?

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.