Making a Twister in Cinema4D and After Effects

Ever since I started playing around with visual effects, there’s been two FX I’ve been trying to do.  A T-Rex and a Twister.

So far, I still can’t get near doing a convincing T-Rex, but over the years, I’ve tried various different twisters.  The school production this year is going to be Wizard of Oz, so it gave me the excuse to revisit it.  I’m sure in a year or two I’ll revisit this effect again and improve on it but for right now, I’m quite pleased with myself.

The Twister is created using Cinema4D’s Thinking Particles.  A standard emitter, but with a Move On Spline interaction which sticks the particles to a simple bezier spline.


Age Settings for Pyrocluster – The colour’s alpha settings fade the base and top out

The look of the particles is a pyrocluster torus.Age settings control the size and I used the alpha settings on the Color twirl down to fade the particles as the vortex was a little strong.

After a lot of fiddling to get the particles to rotate, I “cheated” and used keyframed rotation:

  • On the shape section, click the Use Auto Rotation checkbox.
  •  Keyframe the third rotation value.
  • The the C4D timeline window, set the keyframes to linear
  • Set to the function Track After to Continue.  This will keep increasing the rotation value at the same rate.
  • Finally, in the TP emitter, go down to the spin settings and add a nominal value to the spin.  Without this step, Auto Rotation didn’t work for me.

Spline Movement

The points on the spline can be animated by creating a Null Object for each point.  Add an Xpresso tag to the spline and open the editor.  The set up is easier to show than describe:

Xpresso settings
Point can be found by right-clicking on the Xpresso desktop, then New Node > Xpresso > General > Point

Finishing touches

When woking in Cinema4D,  I’m always really tempted to do the whole thing in the program, because in theory you can control every aspect of the environment.  But then I remember something I read recently by Andrew Kramer where he talked about getting something to look right is often better and quicker than getting something to be right.  I think Andrew was probably talking about particle simulation but his reasoning applies to environments as well.  I’ve include the C4D only environment in the video to hopefully demonstrate the limitations of one program and what can be achieved when using resources to do what they are best at.

Before I brought the twister into After Effects, I was quite pleased with my efforts, then an hour in AE and what I achieved was so much better.

Published by ShiveringCactus

Tutorials and videos, mainly After Effects, but with some 3D and puppetry stuff too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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

%d bloggers like this: