Stardust is a modular node based 3D particle system. It can be used to create particle effects, motion graphics animations, compositing effects and unique designs. It is fully integrated with After effects, you control every animation property right at the composition. It also includes many stunning effects like Replica , Black hole, a replicating particle effect, an effect that attracts particle as they age and more. You can have multiple emitters, particle types, forces, effects and more, all in one shared space 3D space, on a single After effects layer.
• Modular particle system for After Effects, multiple particle types, one 3D space.
• Create countless particle effects, such as fire, smoke, dust, snow.
• One click smart presets, that create impressive designs.
• Many emitter types, from a single point, through live text, masks and 3D models.
• Animatable 3D splines can emit particles.
• Create a reflection to the particle space with a single click.
• Easy to use ‘Over life’ and ‘Over path’ graphs with linear, bezier and freehand modes, for parameters such as speed, rotation, turbulence to get exactly what you want.
• Space deformers: Sphere, Box, 3d Models, Bend, Twist, Maps, Black Hole and more. You can pull, push, displace and color the particles in many ways.
• ‘Look at’ makes particles orient to face a goal.
• ‘Replica’, a unique effect that replicates the particles in different ways, such as offset, linear, grid, corners and more.
• ‘Black hole’, a deformer that attracts particles to a point in space as they age.
• Apply ‘Stardust’ to a solid layer from ‘Superluminal’ on the effect menu.
• To add a new node either click on the preset button on the main effect, or open the panel, click on a new node icon, and drag it.
You can now preview your animation.
Apply the Stardust effect, click ‘Register’ at the top of the effect, fill in the details, click confirm, and that’s it.
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Main UI elements
Stardust main effect – you can find it in the Effect menu under Superluminal \ Stardust. Here you set some global parameters.
Stardust Panel – you can either open it from the Window menu, or through the main effect. With the panel, you create, connect and delete nodes.
Controls – these are effect controls that are added when a new node is created in the panel. Here you set the node parameters.
A particle system consists of a minimum set of Emitter and Particle nodes connected together. Any force that is added could be either connected, and therefore affect only the connected branch, or free floating and this way it applies to all Particle systems in the space.
When you connect a force between the emitter and the particle it will affect the relevant properties upon birth of these particles. e.g. it will displace the birth position, rather then the over life.
Emitter node, generally speaking, is the producer of particles, and the Particle node, gives these particles their looks.
These properties are apply to several stages, some properties affect the particles upon birth, e.g. place of birth, speed and more,
and some properties affect the particles over life, like color, opacity and more, and then you can set in some cases properties over path, e.g. if you have a spline, you could apply a size over path to the particles along the resulting spline.
Then next phase for manipulating a particle properties, is through the other nodes, such as fields that can displace, color etc’ the particles.
This is your starting point, this is the effect that actually renders. You apply it from the effect menu under Superluminal / Stardust over a preferably Solid layer or adjustment layer that matches the comp size.
You can set here some global parameters, such as motion blur, shading clipping etc’.
Click to open the stardust panel, or open it form the Window menu.
Entire effect presets, where you can either add or replace to the current tree.
Time remap the entire effect.
Render only some of the particles for a quick preview. This is a percentage parameter, so you view your animations more quickly with heavy setups.
Add visual cues to some nodes, you can a Spline constructing line, an OBJ outline, a Field bounding box and more.
Apply a motion blur effect to the particles.
You can choose between a linear sample, which takes the first and last time samples, and interpolates them, or a sub-frame sample, which sample the exact time, gives more accurate results which is may be slower to compute.
Gain allows to tune the opacity of the particles, after the motion blur was applied.
Sets the quality of texture rendering. for most cases the default setting should look good, but if you get some artifacts, you could set a higher value for better quality, or lower it for fast moving objects to gain extra rendering speed.
You can set a max cache hint. That may speed up some features. It’s used just as a hint for rendering system, so it won’t apply if not necessary, if you have lots of ram you can set a higher value to this parameter.
The panel can be found under the Window menu, or opened through the main effect. With the panel, you create, connect, disconnect, select and delete nodes.
You create a node either by click and drag from the panel toolbar or you can add them trough the preset browser.
Each node has a matching effect in the ECW(effects control window) to adjust it’s properties.
Located at the bottom of the panel window, the status bar gives some useful info about the nodes.
Either click and drag an icon on the panel toolbar, or open the preset browser and load node(s).
Click on a node to select it, and the matching control in the ECW will be brought into view with a green light indicator.
To select multiple nodes, click on empty space on the panel, and start dragging. A thick white line will appear. Selected nodes will also get selected in the ECW. When selected, you can move the nodes around, or press Backspace, and delete them.
You can also double-click on a node, and its relevant branch will get selected.
Click a connector on a node(That is the circle that appear when the cursor is over the node) , and drag it to another node. To disconnect nodes, click anywhere along the connecting line.
To name nodes, change the name of the control in the ECW, the same way you change any AE effect name. the name will update in the panel.
Select a node(s) in the panel, and click ‘Backspace’, or select the controls in the ECW and delete.
Copy and Paste
Select the nodes in the ECW and do a normal copy/paste. you can also copy nodes from one Stardust layer to another.
View a layer’s Stardust setup on the panel
Right click anywhere on the panel to open a context menu, you can then choose another Stardust layer in the comp and view it on the panel.
You can nodes to your setup either from the panel, or from the preset browser.
The following nodes are available, and each node’s controls are outlined in detail after the node list:
Control the emitting properties, such as speed and direction.
Defines the particle properties such as color and size.
Emit particles from another particle system.
Basic physic like gravity, wind etc’.
Displace the particles with a smoothed random map.
Deform the particle space in may ways, such as spherical field, maps, black hole and more.
Replicates the particle systems. Copies the particles multiple times in different ways.
Gives extra control over the shading of the particles.
Moves a particle system in space.
As the name suggests, what this node does is emit particles.
Here you set the particle’s emitting properties such as speed, direction etc’
Many of the properties are shared between emitter types, such as the origin, speed etc’
The following emitter types are available:
The point in space where particles are emitted.
Particles are emitted from a 3D sphere.
Particles are emitted from a 3D box.
Particles are emitted from a 3D B-spline described by After effects lights.
Splines are created using After Effects lights, these lights can be filtered using the ’Starting with…’ parameter, and could be animated.
You can set all sort of behaviors related to splines, such as emitting types, properties of the particles along the spline. (Read – Layer properties).
When emitting from a spline You can control the particles over their life span, along the path of the spline, or a mix of the two. You can have particles emitted in different ways, evenly spaced along the path, or not, burst, continuous, or all at one. You can then trim, offset and attract the particles to the spline, using the ‘Move with emitter’ parameter.
Emit particles from OBJ vertices, faces, volume or surface.
When emitting from vertices of faces, you can emit all at once, and ‘paint’ the created outlines.
With the faces option set, you can set how many samples you get between each 2 face vertices.
More on the different types of Obj emitting in ‘Object properties’.
To emit particles from After effects text layer or a mask, set the input layer in the ‘Layer properties’ group.
You can set all sort of behaviors related to paths and texts, such as emitting types, properties along the path. (Read – Layer properties)
You can choose between a rectangular grid and a sphere. You could also set an offset for the grid, so there is a shift in position from one row to another.
Emit particles from After Effects light(s), filtered with the ‘Starting with…’ parameter.
You can inherit some properties form these light such as color.
Emit particles in a ring shape, oriented to the emitter movement.
Emit particles from After Effects layers. Some properties could be inherited from the layer such as color, size etc’
Emit particles from another particle system. You could also emit auxiliary particles from another auxiliary and so on.
In order to emit auxiliary particles, you will need a parent Particle system, and then to connect the Auxiliary Emitter to a particle node. To do so, click and drag to create a new Auxiliary and Particle nodes, connect them to each other, and then connect the Auxiliary to the parent Emitter. You can also load an Auxiliary system from the Preset browser.
Once you set your Auxiliary, its parent emitter is used as the source position, and some properties could be inherited, such as life, color, size etc’
You can set the speed of the particles upon birth, but you can also use the ‘Speed over life’ graph, so change their speed as they age.
You can choose from several emitting types, to send the particles on their ways.
Default emitting type for each emitter depends on it’s type.
Emits only on the first frame. Point, Sphere and Box, will emit the according to the ‘Particles per second’ parameter value in the first frame.
With Grid, Spline and Text it will paint their path with particles.
Emits the particles in a sequence, if possible, e.g. in a grid , it will fill the grid one by one.
Emits the particles in a random order.
Origin time sample
You can choose from sampling the origin property only on exact frame timestamps, or more then that.
Sets the initial direction of a particle.
Sends the particle randomly in some direction.
Directional / Bi Directional
Emit the particles in a specific direction set by the orientation properties and the direction span.
This lets you emit the particle away from the emitter, so if you have a sphere, it will push all particles away from the sphere.
For text / mask emitters, you can emit using the normal of the particle birth position along the path.
This group is used to set and adjust an AE layer input source. This applies to Text, Mask, Layer and Layer path. Choose the layer that is the basis for the Emitter, and then you set some relevant settings, such as emitting type for Text and masks, trim and more.
Choose a source layer, reference a layer for a mask it has, a layer emitter etc’.
For layer emitter, you can choose the texture sampling to be current time or birth time.
For layer emitter, inherit color size etc’
For text and mask, choose the frame to sample the base path. to keep continuity, paths have a master frame.
For Text and Mask emitters, choose whether you emit from the volume and can control its depth with the Z size of the emitter, or its edges, weighted(evenly spaced) or not.
With edge samples you can set the distance of the samples, with the Path Subdivide parameter.
Path trim end
Trim an end of the path, this applies to mask, text, and splines.
Trim the other end of the path, this applies to mask, text, and splines.
Offset the path.
Subdivides the path, the number is in pixels – the distance of samples along the path.
Move with emitter
Should particles move with the spline changes along life, or just emit and be free.
Set the properties of Grid emitters, it’s XYZ density, for a box, or its UV segments for a Sphere, you could also set a shift from one row of particles to another.
Set a 3D model properties, click on the ‘Obj file name’ field, to open a popup to choose an Obj file. Then you can emit particles from it in different ways.
Obj Emit type
Face outline – emit particles from the edges of the Obj face, subdivided by the ‘Line Subdivide’ parameter.
Vertices – just the actual vertices.
Volume – the model volume.
Face – one particle in the center of each face, combined with a particle render of faces, you can render a flat 3D model for graphic uses.
Surface – Emit from the surface of the Obj, you can choose whether to evenly generate particles, or in relation to the current Face size.
For splines, here you set the number of samples along the spline.
Set the number of particles per ring, in the Ring emitter.
This nodes sets the basic render properties of a particle, these properties may be altered later through other nodes.
Here you can set particle color, size, opacity and much more.
As mentioned in the Overview, you can change a particle properties when it start it life, over life, and with the other nodes along its way through the world.
You can choose from several particles types, from a basic feathered circle, flat rectangle, textured rectangle, cloud and more.
Some of these can rotate in 3D while other are from facing, you can also render faces, as in 3D model, that renders a flat render of the model.
Most particle types share some common properties, that includes Start properties and over life properties,
A circle particle, that always faces the camera, it could be feathered, colored and more.
It could also render these without perspective, hence kipping its size.
These are flat colored rectangles, they could be rotated in 3D, or face the camera,
They could be oriented toward a goal, such as a light.
You can pick the anchor point for these, to get the scaling from a desired center point.
Clouds are a bunch of Circles, that move together, you can set its unique properties under the Cloud properties group. As you can control of how many circles and choosing aspect ect’ you can get interesting effects using these.
These are textured particles, when choosing this you get to choose a source layer, and an optional second source layer for it’s back side.
You can control the source time sample and more, most of the Rectangle properties apply here as well, with the orientation etc’
With the combination of Obj emitter set to render its faces, you can actually render its face, the colors, size, opacity ect’ are chosen as with any other particle type.
Here you set some birth time properties of a particle, such as size and opacity.
Use texture ratio
With a texture particle, you can choose whether to keep the original aspect or not.
This control whether a particle ignores camera perspective affect on its size.
All particles have the same color.
Color over life
Particle color is gradually changing as it ages and picked from the gradient.
Random from gradient
Particle color is randomly chosen from the gradient.
Loop from grad
Particle color is gradually changing as it ages and picked from the gradient. but starts at a random value, and loop through the gradient.
Color over path
In cases where the emitter produces a path, such as a Mask emitter, you can paint the particle along its path gradient, that is located under Path properties.
Mix life and path
Using the mix graph in the path properties, you can mix between over life and over path colors, as the particle ages.
In some cases a particle can inherit it’s color from its emitter, such as a Light emitter, that has its own color.
Here you set some basic over life properties of a particle. like size and opacity.
This group is used to manipulate a 2D \ 3D rotating particle.
You can set a look-at, basic rotation, and rotation speed, and even rotation over life, a particle anchor, and to set if its 2D or 3D.
Set the particles to look at a goal.
the goal types are as follows:
Motion : Aligned to the emitter motion.
Light \ Null : You can look at AE Light or Null, name filtered by the ‘Starting with’ parameter.
Emitter: The particles look at the birth position.
Motion(particle): The particles aligned to its motion.
Normal: A particle aligned to its normal, if it has one, such as a particle that emits from a Mask.
Here you can set in percentage a particle origin, so it will scale from other point rather then its center.
Limit to 2D
For Textured and Rectangles particles, this limit them to 2D, only rotating in the Z camera axis.
When a particle start its way from a path like a Spline, some properties could be set along this line, such as size and color.
You can also offset these properties along the path. e.g. you can set an size over path, and shift it along the path.
A particle can have shadow(s), either a fixed one, if no light is present, or one that is projected using AE light, that is filtered by a chosen name.
You can tune the shadow size, blur, distance, opacity and color.
You can also choose from a preserve transparency shadow, that acts the same as layers in AE, that don’t write to empty pixels, or not, to get the desire effect.
Another option is to render a particle shadow only, so you could manipulate later with other nodes separately.
A cloud is made from several circles travelling in a group. You can set how many will the group hold, and what the max hor/ver place they will take.
Here you choose a source particle texture, it’s dark side(that is the back side) and the method used to time sample the source.
You can choose to use the texture Alpha / Lightness only, meaning, you can colorise the textured particles with the particle colour.
When connecting to particle nodes to one or more emitters, you may or may want them to have the same random seed, by default they do, but you can use this parameter, to shift the seed to basically duplicate that emitter with the same properties only overriding its seed.
Use this when you want to emit different kind of particles from the same source.
In cases you only want to emit some of the resulting particles, e.g. when using the previous parameter, you may want just a few to be larger, then you can shift the seed, and then pick only a small number to be big in size.
With this node, you manipulate particles properties such as their position colour size and more.
You can pull away the particles using a 3d sphere, box or an obj, or enclose them in one, you can then adjust affected particles properties such as colour and opacity. Other tools include space warps, such as bend and twist, Black hole, that attracts particles as they age to a point or points, displacement maps, can colour maps, and more.
Sphere / Box / Obj
With these deformers you can pull, push, enclose the particles , and affect other properties such as colour and size. The basic calculation, is projecting the particles out to the shape or in to the surface of the shape.
You can have multiple deformers, by having several nodes, you can also have multiple origins if you use nulls as origin sources, optionally filtered by name.
Grad / Radial grad
These deformer gradually affect the particle properties. This can be used for example, to create a fading reflection effect.
Bend / Strech / Twist / Spiral
As their name suggests, you can distort the particle space, in many ways.
You can set displacement maps and color maps, to alter particle properties. You can choose from built in maps, for ‘over length’ that you can them map in different ways, or use AE layer and map it to 2 axis or do a spherical projection.
With some of the deformers, you can have multiple origins at once, e.g. for a sphere, you can set the origin to be a Null or Light, and then for each of these Nulls you’ll have a deformer.
Other deformers, may use these multiple source in a different way, a black hole would attract each particle to one of the origins.
This is the global control for the Deformers, this will set the overall effect of it.
Here you set some basic properties of the fileds, such as it’s size, orientation and more.
This is he amount in percentage, that will fade from the effect to the previous state,
Give each particle a random amount value, of the effects.
For Sphere/box/Obj it will reverse the effect, e.g it will enclose all particles in a sphere field, projecting them from the outside of the sphere, on its face.
With Obj field, it will set whether the projection will be the nearest polygon surface or the furthest, as in some cases there could be more then one polygon. e.g. if you have a model that consist of 2 spheres, one inside the other, when projecting the particles on it’s surface you can either hit the inner sphere, or the outside, with this you can choose.
Here you set what will be affected, such as position, opacity and blur.
For Bend, twist, strech, you can choose whether its distorting on a certain axis, or rotated freely.
Deformer over life
You can set the effect over a particle life, so for a black hole, this will set it’s travel from the original position and into the black hole.
Here you apply some properties to the affected particles, like it’s new color, or rotating and scaling it’s position in accordance to the field origin.
With the maps group you control the basic properties of a displacement map. You can control many properties, and since its a modular effect, you can go and add more maps, to alter the particles position and looks.
This sets the basic map type, a graph is an ‘over length’ graph, that can be mapped to space on one axis, and then could be used to map a property. A graph could also be color that is used to paint the particles, it a gradient that can be mapped in space on one axis. The other option is layer which takes AE layer and project it on 2 axis.
This lets you easily match the parent emitter size for this displacement map. So,e.g. if you have a grid that you want to paint, you can set the size to the emitter, and it will use the same values as the emitter, or you can have a free setting of the XYZ taken form the field size.
For Layer displacement maps, this is the AE layer that will be used.
This is the graph that will be used with a graph displacement map for position, opacity, size and rotation.
Color Over length
This is the gradient that will be used to paint the particles, with a graph displacement to affect color.
This will choose the affected property, such as opacity, color etc’
You can set the axis that the projection will take place.
For position, it will set the affected axis, so for example you can project on the XY axis, to affect the XZ, or do a spherical projection and spherical displacement.
This node, let you create smooth noise and apply it in various ways to affect the particles properties, such as its position, color and size. You can choose from several types of turbulence types.
You can choose to apply the noise in several modes,
A 3D noise, that will affect all axis individually.
Spherical / Spherical 2
This will use the noise to displace in a spherical way from the turbulence origin.
Axis / One side axis
You apply the noise on one axis only, or just one axis and one direction.
When you set axis / one side axis, this will set the affected axis.
You can set whether the effect will apply to all particles that are affected by this node, or you can limit it to a feathered sphere.
Turbulence Affected Properties
By selecting ‘Noise’ you can choose to store the generated noise in the particle for use in other nodes.
Set here a random affect value for the particles, so not all will be displaced in the same amount.
For spherical and axis turbulence set the origin point to displace from.
Position / Scale / Opacity / Rotation offset
This will set the property affected, such as the maximum position offset.
Turbulence over life
You can set the turbulence to affect as the particle age. This is a zero to max graph.
Here you will set the noise properties, such as it’s scale, frequency and speed.
You can animate its evolution or offset it’s spatial position.
When a turbulence only applies to a sphere in space, here you will set its size and feather.
This node let you replicate the particles in countless ways. You can choose from different types of replicating, and affect the particle properties.
Here you set what method is used for replicating the particles.
With offset you replicate a particle by adjusting it’s properties based on the previous particle, so if you set an offset angle or scale, it will scale from one particle to another, resulting in exponential growth.
This will replicate the particles in a grid, defined in the grid properties.
With this you could replicate the particles in a sphere.
You can replicate the particles based on an offset, that is relative to the first particle being replicated, so when you set scale or angle, it will set in relative to it’s ‘index’ in the replicated list.
A unique effect that replicates the particles in straight lines, randomly cornered. You can select from deferent types of lines, such as the Default, straight lines and Diagonal.
Replicate the particles along a light path.
Replicate the particles along a spline described by AE lights.
Replicate the particles randomly in space.
Replicate the particles in a flow-like way, using turbulence noise.
Copies / Density
The number of copies that will be created by the offset values, this will be combined with the density property that multiplies this value, so you can set a number of copies, and up the density, to get the replicated result more dense. You can then animate the copies to get interesting effects.
Link age / copies
This parameter let you easily animate the number of copies as the particle ages.
Here you will set the origin of the effect, for some types you can use the particle itself as the origin, bypassing this value.
This group lets you set the offset between one particle to it’s copy, for ‘Offset’ type that would be from the last particle to current, and with ‘Linear’ and ‘Corners’ that would be a linear offset from the first particle, to current index. These transformation take in count the origin, which by default is the origin property.
With this group you have a secondary control over the copies. You can add or subtract the position and angle offset, affect the opacity, or the orientation of the copy.
This will set the opacity of the particle being replicated in the first place, so if you would want to manipulate just the replicated result, you can turn the original particle off, and work from there.
This lets you set the basic properties of a sphere replica. You can set it’s size, and number of segments.
With ‘Orient emitter’ you orient the replicated emitters to the origin of the Sphere.
The ‘Full Sphere’ parameter, replicates the entire sphere, regardless of the number of copies set.
Sets the basic properties of a grid replica, the ‘Full grid’ property fills the entire grid.
Along path properties
This group let you control the particle look based on its index in the replicated list.
So you can control the particle opacity, color, size etc’ based on a Stardust graph.
You can offset the affect of these graphs on the particles, using the ‘Offset’ parameter.
With the ‘Color mix Path / Life’ you can mix between the original particle color and the replicated result applied the color from the gradient.
Here you set basic properties of ‘Corners’ replica.
The maximum number of corners and random of this number in percentage.
With this group you will set some more advance properties to get extra control of the replicates, you can add randomness to the number of copies, and the copies themselves.
You can have a graph to control the number of copies, and trim them.
This will set a random number of copies per original particle.
This property let you trim the copies from the start of the list, so if you have 100 copies, and you trimmed 10 percent it will not render the first 10.
You can have a random applied to whether a certain copy will be rendered or not,
Set whether the replica is using the origin on emitter based, which is the defaul, taking the origin property as its anchor point, or the particle birth position.
Randomly scales the particle size of the replicates.
This property adds randomness to the rotation offset.
This property adds randomness to the position offset.
Randomly changes the opacity of the replicates.
Size over path
With linear offset, this will change the size of the particle world along the replicated path.
Trim over path
With conjunction of the trim parameter. You can set how much trim a particle replicated list will be as the particle ages.
Copies over life
Here you have a finer control over the link between a particle age and its number of copies.
This will re-distribute the copies in a linear way, so one the replicated shape is set. You can force it to be evenly distributed.
Do not rotate
You can choose for rectangles whether they should be oriented or not to the replicated path.
Add faces between the particles.
Here you will add some basic physic like forces, such as gravity, spin, and wind, you can also apply some of them as the particle ages. So if you added some spin, you can set the over life graph to affect the particle as it progress in life.
With this node you can move, rotate, scale, and affect particles opacity.
Add extra motion to the particles, with this node you can move the particles on a pre-defined motion, such as circular motion, follow a light path and more.
You can have some extra control of the lights in your particle space, by default, if you turn shading on, you’ll get shading, but if you want to filter light names and apply different light properties per node, you can connect a light node to that particle system and fine tune it.
You can Also set an environment layer to use with Rectangles and Textured particles, to use this, choose a reflected layer and set its opacity.
Create a new particle system from any point in the flowchart, to use it, connect the Clone node to existing node in a branch, this will enable you to create a new Particle system, by connecting nodes to it.
You could also time shift the Cloned branch and reseed the emitter.
Create a source to use with other nodes, you can create a source Layer, Obj import, Layer filter and more, once you set the source, you can modify the params, e.g with an Obj source, you can choose to use only some of the Obj properties, and you can choose the output param, e.g with a Layer source, you can choose whether it will be a source for an emitter, or a textured particle.