Making an alien planet using Video Copilot Orb

An After Effects tutorial.

In this video, I show my preferred way of creating a texture for a new world. Rather than get stuck trying to force Fractal Noise to create randomness, I simply take a photo of a paving slab and once cropped show how to use masks and the colorama effect to quickly make a cool, natural looking surface. Then using Turbulent Displace, I create oceans which are pretty random but still under my control.

Once it’s applied to Video Copilot’s free Orb plugin, I then use the same texture to make a normal map and specular map. I cover illumination options too and then add clouds and an atmosphere.

In this video, I’m making a M-Class world, but the techniques I cover could be applied to any type of rocky planet. Along the way, I drop loads of useful shortcuts and tips for using After Effects. Hopefully you’ll be inspired by how easy it is to make a complex looking, realistic planet.

How I made the rivers can be found on my community post:


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Using AI to create a space scene in After Effects

Tutorial showing how to use Midjourney A.I.

AI (or A.I.) is the new “game changer” tool available for digital artists. There’s lots of possibilities to explore with its use and in this video I show how to get started with Midjourney. You need a Discord account first, which you can then use to sign up for an account with Midjourney and accept an invite to the Beta program.

Currently, you’re allowed to generate 25 images for free, then you have to subscribe to the service (at the time of recording I’m on #19). Once I had created a range of space images, I then started cutting them up using masks in After Effects to create a scene. Finally I arranged the images in 3D space so that I could get a sense of depth as I animated them.


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Andrew Kramer’s recipe for an Orb Atmosphere

An After Effects tutorial using Video Copilot Orb plugin.

Andrew Kramer’s awesome Orb plugin makes making planets really easily. The plugin allows you to take texture maps, bump maps and even illumination maps and create realistic planets. I’ve gone so far as to publish an entire series of tutorials creating all the planets in the solar system ( )

When Andrew launched the plugin, he also shared a tutorial to recreate Earth and during that tutorial he briefly talked through how to make an atmosphere. I could never remember the steps taken so eventually decided to rewatch his tutorial and note the settings and then save these settings as a preset. And seeing as I was doing that, I thought it’s only right to share it with you too.


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2 ways to make a Connected network of dots in After Effects

Two different ways to make interconnected dots and lines. In this video, I take a look I’ve seen a lot in videos and break down how to achieve a connected network or nexus of points / dots which vibrate slowly. A lot of people have asked how to do this sort of effect and the usual answer on forums is the Plexus plugin. While that’s obviously an option for some, if you don’t have the spare money there are a couple of other ways which yield similar results.

For the first approach I use Shapes on a single shape layer and the createPath expression to link them all together and while the expression is complex, once you have it it’s easy to add more and more dots. The second technique uses Video Copilot Element 3D and its distortion options to create the network of lines then a point cloud to create the dots.


Wiggle Expression

X = wiggle(effect("Frequency")("Slider"),thisComp.width*effect("X amplitude")("Slider")/100)[0];
Y = wiggle(effect("Frequency")("Slider"),thisComp.height*effect("Y amplitude")("Slider")/100)[1];

Shape 1’s expression – replace the LESS_THAN with the left chevron / angled bracket:

var points = [];
for (var i = 1; i < content("Shape 1").propertyIndex-1; i++) {
 points[i-1] = content("Ellipse "+i).transform.position;
createPath(points = points, inTangents = [], outTangents = [], isClosed = true)

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Recreating the Genesis Effect from Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan

An Adobe After Effects tutorial


In this video, I look at how to recreate the iconic Genesis Effect as simulated by some of the very first CGI in movies. Star Trek II : The Wrath of Khan (1982) used a Cray supercomputer to render the minute long sequence. The shot was reused in both Star Trek III : The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV : The Voyage Home, so you know it must have been good. In the sequence, a torpedo is fired into dead moon, which is quickly covered in fiery particles. Then the surface glow fades to see greenery and water appear on the surface before pulling back to reveal an M-class world with clouds.

It’s an awesome sequence and the hardest part turned out to be the camera move,which I had to give up on, still I think I capture the feeling of it. The tutorial only uses the included effects and one plug-in, the free Orb effect from Video Copilot. It’s a long tutorial and I have focussed more on the techniques involved rather than trying to match everything exactly.



Position X

x=thisComp.layer("Null 1").transform.position[0]-thisComp.width/2;

Position Y

y=thisComp.layer("Null 1").transform.position[1]-thisComp.height/2;

Position Z

z=thisComp.layer("Null 1").transform.position[2];

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How to install Plugins and Presets in After Effects

A quick guide showing how to add extras to the software. Most plugins these days come with an installer, but if you do have a plugin and you’re not sure how to manually install it, this video talks you through the very simple steps. It is likely you will need Administrator access to your computer and be able to see the drive Adobe After Effects is installed on, but provided you have that access, then you should be good to go. Installing Presets is a little different, but almost all the steps are the same.

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How to export an animated GIF from Adobe After Effects

An investigation into all the different ways to make animated image files.

Turns out there is more than one option to create a GIF from Adobe After Effects. In this video, I run an example H.264 MP4 video through all the different options I could find. And all the differences within those options.

After Effects does not natively create animated GIFs, but Adobe Media Encoder does, so I take a look at those settings. I also check out Adobe Photoshop’s options. And I compare the new Creative Cloud Express online service to Giphy. Finally, I do look at a way of making GIFs directly in After Effects, using AEJuice.

Hopefully by the end of this video, all your questions will be answered – except for why I use all caps for filenames!



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Easy Teleport / Beam out in After Effects

“Scotty, beam me up!”.

Coming up with a unique teleport / teleportation / vampire dusting look for your movie can be tricky, but CC Particle Systems II gives you lots of different looks, just by tweaking a few settings. When you combine this with Block Dissovle, you can get a really interesting, organic fade up, all done in Adobe After Effects.

To isolate your subject from the background, which can be done really simply by locking your camera on a tripod to film a background plate. Have your actor step into frame, then use masks or the rotobrush to cut them out. Once you have them on a separate layer, it’s easy to come up with different ways to fade them out. Included in the project download is the example from the title card and the two other examples, including the vampire dusting effect.

Creating a Gas Giant / Neptune in After Effects

Two simple techniques to create a cool looking planet. Part of my Makin’ Planets playlist. In this tutorial I look at two ways to create a gaseous surface for a Gas Giant planet. In the first example, I take stock footage of smoke from  Production Crate  , and position in it 3D space. Then I overlay Video Copilot’s Orb plugin to give Neptune its shape and shadows. And I go on to add a second Orb layer, this time with a “recipe” for an atmosphere.

In the second example, I use Fractal Noise to create a clouds texture for Orb, but then I use CC Radial Blur to create depth. The two techniques result in quite different looks, but I think both look cool.


Dust reveals invisible man in After Effects

You know the setting, an empty room. Then something prompts dust to fall from the ceiling. Most of it falls straight down, but a little bit lands on something… something you can’t see, but you can just make out the shape of a figure. And then… and then…. argh!

This is a fun technique to try, it’s seen often in movies with ghosts or invisible figures. I know I’ve seen it in Paranormal Activity 3 and I’m fairly certain it’s also in Hollow Man and the latest Invisible Man. We’re going to use Levels and Turbuluent Noise (or Fractal Noise) to highlight an animated figure. I used Mixamo to create and animate in the figure, but I could easily have filled someone instead. Then using CC Particle Systems II, we use the character’s alpha channel to generate the particles and have them float upwards. Finally, we time reverse the entire comp to have the dust fall down instead. All in in Adobe After Effects.