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How I Blew Up A Planet

March 19th, 2011 12:54 pm | by Ed |

Ok, I'm not actually an "Evil Galactic Overlord" who makes it a point to destroy the home planets of those who dare oppose me. What I'm talking about is a cool visual effect that I achieved using Blender, a video editor (in my case, Sony Vegas Pro 8), and my imagination.

This effect has a little bit of a history to it. It all started when I found a tutorial on called Create a Shattered Glass Title Animation by Andrew Price that showed how to take some simple text and make it shatter into hundreds of pieces and thousands of tiny shards. Then when this animation was complete it was reversed in a video editor and a reversed sound of glass breaking added.

The result was a very cool effect that you can see in this video:

Shattered Glass Text Intro from Andrew Price on Vimeo.

Before going further I should note that this will require the latest version of Blender which you can get free at He was using version 2.53 which was the current version at the time he made the tutorial. As of this writing Blender 2.56 Beta is current. The old version 2.49b just isn't going to cut it for this project.

Having seen that video I just had to learn how to do that effect so I took the time to watch the tutorial with Blender running, pausing it frequently to apply what he was showing to my project.

After about two hours of this and some tinkering with settings and materials to suit my own version of the project and another two hours or so to render a video file from it, I ended up with something that looked pretty cool, especially for a first time effort.

I used it in the beginning of this video:

A day or two later I was browsing Blender tutorials on youtube and ran across one called "Easy planet tutorial for blender" that made creating a planet really easy. I found a good planet texture image on the Blender Open Material Repository which is loaded with all sorts of free material textures that you can use in Blender.

With the texture applied I had a very good looking planet. I set my project to 900 frames long and set two keyframes. One at frame 1 and then at frame 900 I rotated the planet on the Z axis 360 degrees and set another keyframe.

Setting the background to show stars the animation that resulted was a planet in space.

Then I got to thinking, "What if I want to blow up the planet?". Not in reality of course but I'm always looking for cool visual effects that I can use in videos and I just couldn't pass up this idea.

It turned out to be really easy.

Referring to the shattered glass animation I added an explode modifier and a particle system to the planet object. I set it to start emitting particles at frame 901 and end at frame 905 with a lifetime of 500. I made sure that the particles themselves would not be seen and applied settings very similar to those that were used for the particle settings in the glass project. I also changed the end frame from 900 to 1100.

After a total of about ten or fifteen minutes work, starting with a copy of the planet animation project, and several hours to render the final animation I had an exploding planet. I took this into my video editor and added a bright red flash at the frame the explosion starts and also found a good explosion sound effect and it was ready.

I used it as a key part of the story in the third chapter of a Phat Trek episode that I've been making. (This looks particularly good in full screen mode)

I should also point out that is a wealth of tutorials, tips & tricks for doing some exceedingly cool stuff with Blender. I plan to be spending a lot of time on that site for the foreseeable future.

By the way, If you haven't seen Phat Trek, Here are links to the first two chapters in this story.

Chapter 1 'Vendetta'

Chapter 2 'Grudge'

I plan to be making at least one of these chapters per week. More if I have time and inspiration enough.

Technorati Tags: phat trek, blender, animation, tutorial, visual effect, planet, explode

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