In this chapter we'll examine a special class of objects in Electric Image, Plugins. Plugins have their own menu and are listed here. We've already had some experience with a plug-in called Uber Shape, of course. There are even more plugins available from third parties that make anything from advanced particles to rubbery objects to ocean waves. Let's take a look at some of the plugins that are included with EI. The first plug-in I'll enable is the Particle System. Just select the plug-in and immediately its parameters appear. This particle plug-in has a lot of fields but it's really pretty simple. Basically these controls determine the number of particles and their speed and color. Just click OK and we'll preview what we have so far. The particles appear from a point in space, right now on the ground or really at the origin. Particles are simple points or lines that travel in a certain direction; up in this case, fall back down due to gravity and bounce on the ground. I have a ground object in my scene but you don't have to have one. The particles will bounce on their own in visible ground plane. Let's open the Particles Controls. To open any plug-in's parameters, hold down the Control and Option Keys and double click on the object or click on the Plugin Button in its Info Window. Maximum number of particles; this field is how many particles are generated for the length of your scene. If you want a lot of particles to be emitted and they suddenly run out half-way through, then you'll want to increase this value. New particles per second is the emission rate. You can also limit when and how long the particles are created with these time fields. Particle lifetime is how long any particle is visible on screen. The position fields are a little misleading. You can just move the entire particle system with the Main Translation or Position Tool. So what the plug-in's position values are used for is to offset the emission point from the object center. So you can spin the particle system around like a wild fire hose if you want. Next to position is direction. This is a 3D slope. Right now the particles are shooting straight up but if I change the X value to one and with the Y value also at one, then the particles will shoot out diagonally. Let's click OK and preview. Now they fall back down due to gravity. Let's look. In the Controls, gravity is minus 50. Let's set it to zero and preview. OK, let's see the controls again. Of course you have a false gravity which means you can have the particles be pulled in any direction. Just set a value in any or all the XYZ fields. I'll set the gravity back to minus 50 in the Y. Above gravity is deviation angle and velocity, which control how wide the emission angle is and how fast the particles shoot out. Ground level here is the distance from the point emitter, whose position values relative to the ground are up here. Don't forget; if you have a lower value than the Y position, then the particles will fall down further. And the two bounce fields. Bounce factor is how bouncy or how far up the particles bounce off of its virtual floor. And bounce friction controls how they skid on the floor. And color for the particles is set by these energy values. Particles are at full maturity at the end of their life so that's energy one; half-way here in zero, which is the birth of their emission. When these colors occur is the function of the particle's lifetime. Let's change a few parameters. Let's change the max particles to 10,000, the particles per second to 300, deviation angle to 10, bounce factor to 0.7 and the friction to two and set the X direction value back to zero. Let's preview. A very nice fountain or shower of particles. The other settings for particles that you should know are not found in the plug-in itself. Motion Blur for particles is very important. Without it, all you have is a lot of dots. So open the Plugins Info Window and then the Shading Tab. Set the Blur Mode to be Point and Line. Then in the Render Settings, set the Motion Blur to be Point Line also. Let's render a snapshot. Now we have lines which looks like sparks of varying lengths. So remember, use the Points and Lines settings for the Particles Motion Blur.
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