December 8, 2014

Winter Wonderland: How to Create Realistic Snowfall in After Effects

Snow in After Effects
Winter is upon us, No Film Schoolers, which means there's no better time of year to use Mother Nature's majestic snowfall as a backdrop for a film.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature is kind of a bitch when it comes to giving filmmakers the weather they want when they want it, which means that if you're insistent on having snowfall in your films, you need to find a way to fake it. Of course, you can always go the practical effects route and have a few grips rain fake snow down upon your actors - instant mashed potatoes work well if you're on a tight budget. Or you can do it all in post with some nifty VFX work. Grueling as that may sound, it's actually fairly easy to accomplish. Here's PremiumBeat's Kevin Gater to show you how.

As Gater mentions in the video, in order to pull off this effect with these exact results you're going to need a Red Giant plugin called Trapcode Particular, which is one of the more advanced and trusted particle generator plugins for After Effects. Unfortunately, the full version of Particular comes in at $400 - less for students and people who are upgrading - which means that unless you're content just playing around with the trial version for a little while, you're going to be out a bit of cash. With that said, Particular is capable of producing some spectacular and naturalistic particle effects (as can be seen in the above tutorial), so it's definitely a worthwhile investment for some people.

Luckily, you don't necessarily need Trapcode Particular to make realistic snow inside of After Effects, although it certainly helps. Using the program's built-in particle effects - "CC Particle World" to be more specific - you can create some varied snowfall effects. Here's a tutorial from Ryan Talbot that shows you how to create snow using After Effects' built in tools:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYpzGdrmcnY

So there you have it, a few different ways to create snow inside of After Effects. Do you guys have any preferred methods or tips for creating snow, whether it's digitally or practically? Let us know in the comments!     

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4 Comments

I used particular last year for my little Christmas short "A shock before Christmas":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zggWPjo2Iww
(I hope you like it :-) )

It works great. There are snow presets to start with that can be tweaked easily.

Creating depth in a image with multiple plains (forground, middle ground(s), backgroud) can be challenging, but it is essential to create depth and decreased visibilty behind different plains.
With a (closed) flat background, like in the first tutorial, it's a lot easier: just put a layer of snow on top of it.

Maybe I should make a video showing a breakdown of my snow FX shots?

December 8, 2014 at 12:38PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9119

To create those layers you need masks, just like the intro of the first tuturial shows. In the Rotterdam skyline I made 5 or 6 layers using maskes.

December 8, 2014 at 12:44PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9119

As an interesting bit of timing, Red Giant started a big sale where supposedly everything they sell is 40% off using the code BIGSALE40 anytime in the next 24 hours. I have no tie to them whatsoever beyond receiving their email this morning. I hope this helps someone out!

December 9, 2014 at 11:59AM, Edited December 9, 11:59AM

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I don't know whether to thank you or curse you for sharing this info, Richard. I just spent a few hundred dollars on myself that I had no intention of spending! Lol well I guess i'll be paying extra on my credit card payments for a few months but I am excited to tinker with my new toys. Got Particular, Pluraleyes, Effects Suite, and Color Suite. 40% off was just too hard to pass up for what will up the production value and most of all help tell better stories for quite some time. :)

December 10, 2014 at 3:48PM

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