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Making a Car explode in After Effects?

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Justin McCollum
Making a Car explode in After Effects?
on Aug 18, 2009 at 6:18:40 pm

My brother and I are doing a mini-movie with Super heroes and super villains, and I would like to make a car explode in After Effects for the movie. I see it everywhere Youtube, but I don't know how the people do it.

How can I make a car or vehicle explode in after effects?

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Trevor Gent
Re: Making a Car explode in After Effects?
on Aug 18, 2009 at 9:08:15 pm

Sounds like great fun.

Unfortunately its just too involved to try to explain the whole process ( how I would go about it anyway ;) There is a lot to it and its covering a pretty broad spectrum of tips and tricks. If you had a more specific "bite-sized" question about creating the effect it wouldn't be so bad. But going through it from A to Z would take a long time so instead I'll try to point you in the right direction.

Poke around on the net and look for tutorials.

You might not find the definitive "car explosion tutorial" but if you know what you're after and take bits and pieces from a bunch of them you will be on the right track.

Look at the effect your trying to create and break it down into "how do we do this part" then look for a tutorial that has a similar trick in it.

Off the top of my head here's a few to get you started.

Andrew Kramer has a good one ("car hit" I think it's called) you'll need a few tips from that one. (Not just because it involves a vehicle of some kind but it shows you how to add particles/ create some damage and all that cool stuff)

If its shot with a hand held or the camera is moving then your going to need to track it etc.. again look for some tutorials on that. ( Google is your pal )

For fire effects you can either use a particle generator or get a hold of some stock footage and comp that in. "Detonation Films" has some cool free explosions for folks like us to use. Again look for tutorials.

Sorry I couldn't give you a winner here but hopefully you'll be off in the right direction. Again if you have a specific question like " Okay I've got the explosion happening, but now I need an old lady's hair to catch fire.. How do I do that?" then post here again and I'm sure someone will help you out.

Best of luck and have lots of fun!


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Michael Szalapski
Re: Making a Car explode in After Effects?
on Aug 19, 2009 at 12:58:38 am

I agree with Trev; it would take a very long time to explain the whole thing.
Your question is a little too broad as well. Are you wanting an electrical-type explosion like those featured in District 9? Are you wanting a fiery explosion such as in X-Men 2? Is it supposed to be the car's gasoline exploding or are you wanting a more realistic explosion where the car blows apart without so much fire? What's causing the explosion? What kind of camera shot were you hoping to achieve?

The simplest thing for almost every effect is to do it practically. Try to get your hands on a scale model to blow up. (If you have access to a camera that does over-cranking or "smooth slo-mo" than that's perfect.)

If you don't have the ability to fake it with a real explosion on a model here are a couple things off the top of my head:
It's easier if you don't move the camera or the car. Get pictures of the car from different angles.
Crumple the pieces as per Andrew Kramer's tutorial and make them fly away composited with whatever type of explosion you're using. You can use pieces of explosion (and added dust hits/debris/etc.) to hide problems.
Stock footage (like this) gets you the most realistic-looking explosions, however you can create them with ParticleIllusion (it has free emitters already built with tons of different types of explosions) or any After Effects particle plug-in. However, if you're creating one from scratch in Particular or something be prepared to either spend a lot of time on it or have it look horribly fake.
In all actuality doing this digitally at all is going to look really fake unless you spend a lot of time on it.

Don't forget: if your explosion is the Hollywood fiery kind, to create light on the ground and in any reflective surface nearby. Andrew Kramer has a tutorial on that as well.

Actually, you should probably look through all of Andrew's tutorials. You'll probably be inspired to add some things to your film just from reading through his stuff.

If you have any further/more specific questions, feel free to post them.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.

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Alan Parma
Re: Making a Car explode in After Effects?
on Aug 20, 2009 at 9:14:46 am

you can start playing with the shatter effect, after masking out the car. you also need to shoot a background plate so your car will disappear. of course, all the suggestions above will greatly improve your effect (composing explosions, particles, debris, etc.). you can also have multiple layers with different shatter settings (big debris, small debris, debris flying out, debris flying wherever, etc.)

there's a good shatter effect right here in creative cow.

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