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Mercury Portal Effect

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Michael Doucet
Mercury Portal Effect
on May 10, 2011 at 5:57:41 pm

I have a music video im doing for my final and there is a part where the guy screams at a wall and its supposed to open a portal. I want this to look like a mercury wall with pond ripples while its just being constantly agitated. Ive looked everywhere online and i cant really find any help from tutorials, its mostly small clips of what peopel have done but dont explain how. Im new to after effects CS5 and learning the ropes still so any help would be appreciated.


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Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Re: Mercury Portal Effect
on May 10, 2011 at 8:25:20 pm

Free Form can do 3d displacement and it comes standard with AE in CS5.
What I would suggest is that you create a 2d layer that is basically a shot of the wall you need distorted and apply Free Form to it. You need to position that layer in 3d space using the controls in the plugin (the layer remains 2d). Once you have that in place you can apply a displacement map to the layer. For a pond ripple for example you need a series of blurred grey (50%) circles that grow from the center and fade towards the edges of the frame. You can create those using a shape layer. Make the comp the same size as the wall layer. Once you are done animating, bring that comp in the main comp and turn visibility off. You can select this precomp as a displacement map from within Free Form.
Here's a tutorial that can help you understand how Free Form works:
http://library.creativecow.net/jelescu_tudor/3D-from-2D-image_AE/1

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Michael Doucet
Re: Mercury Portal Effect
on May 10, 2011 at 9:18:50 pm

Thank for your idea on how to do it. Im using a 5 second clip of creepy looking twins like from the shining looking at the "portal" so i wouldnt be able to use a still image. I started just messing around with it earlier and made a really nice looking mercury look with a picture of water and mr mercury and just desaturated the water, im liking how it looks with out the ripples. Ive put it where i want in the clip but now my problem is i cant keep it confined inside of a mask? When i mask the girls and the square in which its supposed to be it bleeds out. Im trying to get the edges to be crisp and tight but cant figure it out? Any ideas on that. Thank you in advance.


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Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Re: Mercury Portal Effect
on May 10, 2011 at 10:22:30 pm

What I suggested can be used in a clip- you will have to track motion, roto and composite of course.
Regarding the last question- post a screen grab / still, it's hard to understand without seeing the image.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Walter Soyka
Re: Mercury Portal Effect
on May 10, 2011 at 10:26:02 pm

[Michael Doucet] "Im using a 5 second clip... so i wouldnt be able to use a still image."

AE doesn't care if a layer's source is a still image or a movie. They are interchangeable.

[Michael Doucet] "I started just messing around with it earlier and made a really nice looking mercury look with a picture of water and mr mercury and just desaturated the water, im liking how it looks with out the ripples. Ive put it where i want in the clip but now my problem is i cant keep it confined inside of a mask?"

Precompose [link] that masked layer, moving the the attributes into the new composition.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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Robert Jakobson
Re: Mercury Portal Effect
on May 14, 2011 at 7:40:03 am

Aaron Stern has a couple of very useful tutorials here - specifically one called the "Pusher" effect, which could probably do well as it basically is very similar to effects like the Stargate SG1 portal, or the "Push" ripple effect.

What your looking for isn't that difficult to do - but that's probably the quickest tutorial to learn it well.


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