How To Use Thinking Particles & Mograph Together

February 3, 2012

In this tutorial Simon will show how to work (or play-around) with Thinking Particles to build event-based particle systems. He also shows how to combine TP with mograph so you can create a particle system then add a more complexity to your animation with your favourite Mograph-effectors.


Tutorial Focus:  , ,
Software:  ,

  • Were techniques like this used to create one the idents for BT Vision?

    Really loving where i could take something like this


  • Nice. Cant wait to get home and try this stuff out. Simon is a mad man. In a good way of course!

  • nice thanks for sharing…

  • this men is the best.

  • Simply awesome!

  • Hey how does ur renders look so flawless and so real.??
    Well C4d n AE Duo produce a ridiculously huge file of video, i future use video editor to compress the video, but after doing tht, the video looks so lifeless in standard definition..!! πŸ™

    • What are your render settings, dude? I have some friends who have problems with this. I usually render out tiff sequences in 720p. The tifs run 1.4mb a piece. I import them as a sequence to After Effects. My After Effects export setting is using the Quicktime setting, with the H.264 codec at 95% quality (this is really important, as 100% is essentially uncompressed video) and AAC if I’m using sound. My latest minute long file was in the 100mb to 300mb range. Hope that helps. πŸ™‚

    • Simon rendered this with V-Ray too, so that’s why it might look a little different/better

    • try to keep your files uncompressed for as long as you can and then compress in a few different ways, and compare the results, sometimes you will have to add a curve or other adjustments in AE to compensate for colour/brightness shifts caused in the compression. / Simon

  • Very complex. But a great presentation. CanΒ΄t wait to the morphing tutorial.
    A big Thx to Simon!!

  • Is Chris sick this week?

  • This was worth watching just for the ctrl-tab tip!
    Seriously though this is a great tutorial.

  • Hi Simon, Awsome!!!! yet I had a problem….

    When I set the Shot Count in the pStorm if I put a “1” in frame [1] when I go over to frame [2] and I try to set another value, it won’t let me and will again put “1” in the Count field. I tried setting a “0” count in frame [2] and then go back to set the “1” in frame [1] and same thing happens… πŸ™

    I’m using r12 and I see in your tutorial that you are using r13. Is there something I’m not doing? or is it just a r12 bug?

    Anyway, awesome stuff you do..! thanx for sharing.

    • first of all thanks alot simon for your time & sharing !
      keep on the great work πŸ™‚

      i had the same issue .. maybe simon knows why,
      but i solved it by changing the values on the timeline itself with the keyframe bezier curves …

      hope it helps

      • i have no idea why this would happend, since a keyframe is locked to a value and i only animated it from frame to frame, so the curve should be irrelevant . make sure the emission type is shot and that you update your viewport by going back to frame 0 or you can set your project to start on frame -10 that way it will update the viewport for sure

    • When you set your value in Frame [2], DO NOT validate with enter.
      Set your value to 0 and ctrl+click your circle right away to set your keyframe.
      Hope this help

      • yep searched for this too and it works that way.
        searched almost a day to solve this πŸ™‚

        dont understand why confirming with enter resets it
        but now we know how to solve this problem

    • hey picard48,
      set your shot count to 1 on frame 0.
      then go to frame 2 and change shot count to 0 but make sure that the cursor is still beside the 0 and then hold command and click on the red keyframe dot beside shot.


      hope that helps

  • I’m glad you showed off some techniques and theory, rather than just a walkthrough of your project. It’s easier to apply these to other projects as needed. Good job, bud.

  • Why do you wearing a lifebuoy on the neck?

  • Wow this really is some next level stuff! Gone over my head for the time being until I can dedicate more time to going through this properly.

    Great end result though really excited to be able to create something even remotely similar! I tried to learn ‘Processing’ a few years back and failed miserably – have you much experience in Processing? By the looks of things mastering C4D and Thinking Particles/Mograph would make Processing near redundant?

  • Holy Brain scramble Batman! πŸ™‚ I am going to attempt to sift through my fried brain cells to use this stuff. Very nice Simon.

  • Excellent job, as always Simon… I actually have started to understand TP.
    I also had trouble keyframing the first particle shot (running R13) but put it on autokeyframe and had no problem. I would love to see a tutorial on what you do with sweep nurbs, TP and mograph. Thanks for sharing your knowledge… it is really appreciated!

  • Hey, anyone know the name of the track in the example movie?

  • Hi Simon,

    great stuff. any tips on how to learn tp and xpresso? how did you learn all that stuff? i know that there are some video training dvds about that topic.


    • hey dude, well it was a matter of giving it an effort and then try again after a few days. it takes some time, and I’m still struggling with it, but I’m starting to get my hang on TP at least. good luck buddy!

  • Very entertaining tutorial!

  • Hi Simon!
    great tut!! can you present us your vray studio and render setup πŸ˜‰

    • Its just the power of an HDRI and 2 area lights and a lot of tweaking, the problem is that i don’t have enought horse power on my 3years old laptop at home but ill be buying a iMac when apple pushes out an update. so stay tune ! : ) then ill be vraying it up : )

  • Great tutorial. This really gave me a good understanding of things i get hung up on. Simon I tried to replicate the growth of the particle system 1 you quickly went over but i cant get the particle groups to grow from the tip of the last ones. they just randomly grow as the previous particle group dies and not from the point of death of the last group. how do you control their position?

    • (Late to the commenting party) I also had this problem. I’m contemplating trying the set up for system 2, where there would be a Compare node that sets the birth to within .3 of when velocity = 0 of the previous particle group. (Hopefully that makes some sense!)

      But, of course this is not how it’s set up in the preview video, so I’m stumped as to how Simon got it working like that.

      I thought it might have something to do with “Size,” but no dice.

    • Aha, figured it out! It *is* a size paramater in the PStorm, but it wasn’t just “Size.” I changed the X and Y size attributes from 100 cm to 0, and now they spread out from the origin of the last dead particle position.

  • Hi this seems to be the best way to get a good answer from like minded people so here goes…
    (unrelated to the video)
    I am currently running the dell Inspiron 1525 (3 years old laptop) and desperate need of an upgrade because im using AE + C4D. What should I buy iMac 2.7ghz 4gb memory intel core i5 or the new Alienware X51 8gb memory intel core i7..????

    I guess what I really want to know is, is it true what the say about macs they just work better than pc’s???

    • It’s the software that matters, not the OS. What I will say though, is that Macs don’t seem to deteriorate over time like PCs do.

      • The problem with PCs is also their strength. There are so many and the competition is so fierce, that the vendors have to shave quality to cut prices and keep them low. The Mac guys don’t have that issue. They use good parts. The OS’s are both good, but in hardware, you get what you pay for. At least, that’s been my experience.

        • I see where I left myself open for attack there. So, in conclusion, get a great Mac, which will be great. Or get a quality PC, not some cheapie, which will also work and which won’t require you to get different software.

          • I use iMac 27in i7 2.93 quad 16GB.
            Very happy with performance. The 27in screen is a great canvas to work on.
            Can get a bit warm on long renders / summertime. Gonna get myself a PC based render farm so I can free up the iMac.

          • Thanks guys..
            I’m gonna get a quality PC with High Specs as i currently don’t get paid for my work, so need to save a bit of cash.

  • Hi Nick … I have two question to you .
    1-) How to earn money by this work?
    2-) How can I sell my works,pictures,videos etc.

    Please help me Please Please Please Please Please.

    I hope you can hear me.

  • You’re tutorial was excellent. All of the Greyscale Tuts have been great.

    But even better are the mistakes. I know you guys are great, far better than me. Mistakes don’t take points away. But what they do is add gobs more education for me. I make mistakes all the time and don’t know why. So when I see your mistakes I: a) don’t feel so alone, and, b) see how you track the mistakes down and fix them.

    So, Vive le mistakes! Make more! They are all tools for learning.


  • Got to get my hands on Vray. Could tell instantly it was rendered in Vray – such quality!

    Exciting looking tutorial too – looking forward to this even though Expresso is always a bit daunting!

  • Thanks so much, Simon. It’s a great tutorial! The only thing that I just can’t seem to find out is how I can apply multiple objects to one PShape. I tried to use a matrix object and a cloner but somehow the ‘dynamics’ don’t act normal anymore. Anyone got a clue? It’s taken me 2 days now to figure it out… thanks

  • Hey Simon, I tried the tutorial, but I have a problem.. The group 4 particles don’t emit at the right time and are not placed at the particles that hit the ground, plus, the group 3 particles dont even hit the floor :(. I made a video showing this problem, am I the only one that does this?

    • you have plugged in the deflector into the emitter position i would try using a get data node to get the position of the first particle system and just the event from the deflector .. I’m by no means an expert at tp I’m just sharing what i know : ) hope that works!


      • Benoit to get the group three particles to hit the floor try clicking on the pdeflector and screwing around with the deflector type option.
        i think its ‘box’ by default ….i changed it to ‘object’ and it seemed to fix it

  • These T.P. tutorials are so valuable – thanks so much man. So hard to find good T.P. & xpresso stuff – definitely appreciate you sharing your expertise.

  • Some great stuff in this tutorial. Thanks for expanding the C4D section of my brain, Simon!

  • we shouldn’t use sweep nurbs for an exponential growth? Ha! Challenge Accepted.
    Great tutorial Simon, Thanks.
    Also does anyone know why my sweeps don’t start at the origin (I’m sure the tracers are fine).
    Also what’s a better way to render trances, rather than sweeps?

    • hi Godmill – cool grassy-video!… can i ask… how do you get your traces so nice and rounded? – mine are all jagged-like. tried a bunch of stuff – can’t get the curves nice and round. any advice?

      • Interesting question. I don’t actually know, I think I left everything as default. But I just noticed in the tracer settings you can specify the spline type. I think it defaults to Linear, but you could choose Bezier or something and/or adjust the Intermidiate Points (like Natural or Adaptive), and if none of that works maybe try playing with the Anti-Aliasing settings in the renderer.
        Anyway here is my scene file incase that’s useful. (I wouldn’t recommend rendering anything past frame 190 πŸ˜‰

        • Yeah, my tracers also start growing randomly instead of going from the origin and I am looking into it. don’t know why exact. Currently I’m masking the poor quality of the tracers with an objects so they spawn from within the object itself. Nifty, I know

  • This is really good tutorial Simon. I am noways working with animations and mostly with object or creative 3d-animations. I am still starting level in motion graphics because I come from 3d-modeling background.

  • Really Comprehensive Tutorial, Thanks a lot for sharing !!!

    As I see a lot of question, so I hope this one more won’t be the 2Much one ..
    So I succed on the one You showed,
    and i was try to do another a ” Tree like ” more like the actual first of your vidΓ©o :

    > So One First ” PStorm ” emiting 1 Particule Going up ( Like in the exemple )

    > And a second With a ” PAge ” set to ” Die ” and a ” PGetData ” for the postion and ” PStrom ” emitting a bunch of them around 360Β° > Tree like.

    But the Second set of Particule won’t start at the ” very end ” of the First one but little after ….. ;(
    And so on …*

    Hope was not to confusing, not e Native english ..

    Thanks again man !

  • thanks Simon (and Nick!) – really excellent stuff..! very inspirational!

  • Hey Simon!

    Shouldn’t the Hair > Render tag do the trick, instead of using sweep-nurbs?

  • love the tut but since im an expresso noob,
    how do you put more of these emitters or systems side by side in one project without them effecting each other?

  • Great tutorial, i’ve done it once on a other computer. Now i’m trying the same thing on another one and i can’t keyframe my xpresso emitter shot… anyone got an idea what’s going on? When i click ctrl+left mouse on the small cube next to the parameter, it just goes back to the first value…

  • yo Simon – maybe off topic but curious about your thoughts overall on vray. I haven’t really ran into anyone that uses it professionally for animation and was curious about what you thought about it – especially with physical camera available with r13.

    The one things I am extremely curious about in particular is how gi works in vray. With vray – do you have to cache light cache files on one machine before sending to a farm?

    I’ve also found a couple of things that are troublesome with it in that color mapping isn’t written into multipass files – so can’t use multipass if you want to use color mapping. Nor can you use any physical camera attributes for depth of field. None of that information (ISO, shutter speed, f-stop) is recorded correctly to the multipass if i’m not mistaken. Only limited to using the global render settings for DOF and motion blur πŸ™

    Overall just curious on your thoughts on these limitations or if you’ve found a way around it – because your renders look amazing.


    • Hey Phibs

      Personally its hard for me to compare physical render with vray since i have stopped using AR all togather. We all use vRay at mvsm and it feels like its better for achiving realism and a physical look. Regarding the Gi theres a few ways or workflows that you can use. U can precalculate the Gi then send that along to the farm or u can brute force it and thats just a different method that dosnt give flickering but takes much longer ( in most cases ) or u can use one of the presets available with LC IR and they might do fine without recalculating the gipass its just a matter of trying whats working best for your projects.

      the colour mapping issue you mean tuned I’m not too familiar with but one thing to keep in mind when rendering multi pass is that when ever your rendering to the picture viewer and you have enabled the post effects under multi pass you need to check “adaption only” otherwise you will see that your render will come out to bright in the pictureviewr ( keep in mind though that this will make it darker than it should if you render to the viewport ) use this checkbox only when rendering multi passes or 32 float

      you can still get DOF in camera with the physical camera you just need to turn on DOF in the vraybridgesettings

      vray has many more options than AR and there for it doesn’t limit you in the same way… or thats just my experience one thing that i miss though with ar is how easy it is to export a million passes and object buffers ,.. I still use AR for that sometimes even when rending the main thing in Vray

      hope that helps / Simon

      • thanks a lot simon. good to hear this from someone using it professionally.

        I’d say then it’s not exactly worth the cost to upgrade… yet. We’re mainly a maya shop and don’t really have large jobs for cinema. Only til recently have we had to really test the waters with r13’s physical camera and it was a SERIOUS nightmare. Never seen anything so buggy in years – which is surprising from maxon. So this spurred on a lot of personal interest in vray recently to get higher quality renders. Cinema’s 13.051 update essentially fixed a LOT of our issues we had and the results are impressive, but always looking to see what else is out there. Since our maya team also uses vray – would be nice to design in vray too.

        That’s all I got. Thanks for the insight!

  • cool track/ what the name of the track?

  • Hey Simon,

    I was inspired by your tutorial to make this:

    Hope you like it!


  • Hi Simon, there’s any way to bake the particles path in order to get lower render times.

    Thank you.

  • Hi Simon,
    I have a little problem with getting my viewport updated after making changes in xpresso.
    It happened as soon as I put the emitter in xpresso with the global position and stuff and it will not update. I tried to make tabs to click on for view then for xpresso like yours but i couldnt figure it out. I dont know why it wont update

  • please create a tutorial for the second particle systeme !

  • Simon,

    What layout view is used or generally used?..
    im having trouble following with the standard layout.


  • Sorry to be a noob, but I am currently trying to get to grips with xpresso and thinking particles, and i would like to ask, what rendering options there is for something like this video. I have rendered using hair tags before but it just looked like hair,

    Your lines, that you created by tracing the particles in the tutorial, look metallic. just wondering how something like this is achieved. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    cheers Simon

  • Finally a tutorial that could really get me to understand the way xpresso and TP work.
    Thanks a lot man… really great work!!


  • Thank you very much for this tutorial! I made a test and uploaded to Youtube linking it to this video. If you would like to add a link to a portfolio or another page, please let me know! πŸ™‚

  • Hi,

    i have a question about using the thinking particles in combination with softbody dynamics:

    My aim was to create a simple rubber ball which is frown at a wall. Therefore i made an thinking particles emitter creating only one particle and gave him the geometry of a sphere with a cloner object.
    Then i gave the sphere and the wall a softbody and a collider tag as well as i made the wall a reflector for the particles.
    The result was quite well considering the collision but in its flight the ball seems to “tremble” around the particle.
    Thats what i want to avoid and i have just no clue how i can fix it.
    I played around with the settings in the softbody tag but it couldn`t be helped.

    thanks in advance for any advice

  • Hi,
    great thanks Simon and co. for all these astounding and helpful tuts, and excuse in advance my bad english,
    i’ve tried to make something similar to your system1 to reproduce , i wanna combine it with TP_follow_spline to get stg like climbing around a shape,
    i only use 2 pStorms, put 1 pFriction for group1 and 1 pFreeze for group2, insert preset follow_spline,
    but i get strange result, would please give me advice on how to get sim to the pics+putting it into follow_spline?

    thanks in advance,

  • Randall Tolliver March 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I tried taking the tutorial in a different direction.

  • man, it nice , i’m waiting for the vacation i shall try this also

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