Flock of bats (sort of) - particle simulator with animated 3d model

SpaceEye Posts: 37 Just Starting Out


I (re)watched Batman begins and was impressed by the scene where Bruce is surrounded by a flock of bats in the cave. I decided to take the opportunity of the Batman day (yeah it's todzy!) to try to create my own flock of bats.

I watched a 5 years old test by alex (flock of birds) but no tutorial (Alex, please!). And someone (nemo mac alias) whispered me that particle simulator CAN work with 3d models! What about animated 3d models? Yes it works!

So here is my test. Far from perfect but the editing really slow down my computer so I ended up being lazy with the details.


  • Triem23
    Triem23 Posts: 20,280 Power User

    Looks rather good! 

    So, 3D model particles are more processor intensive than 2D pictures. Animated models are even more intensive, and, if you've swept the "Start Frame" animation keyframe or had particles spawn over several frames (so individual bats are at different points in the animation) REALLY starts to slow down. 

    I've found it's helpful to just set up the sim to use only one frame of the model while I'm setting up the sim, then set up the animated frames later, once I'm happy with the overall motion of the sim. Keeps things a little faster. 

    Don't forget the "Preview" box in the particle sim. This turns off all textures and reduces the sim to white dots, but that can give a speed boost when adjusting physics. 

    Again, nice work. The bats look really realistic and you've got them nicely flying around you. The giveaway (for me) is the background plate was shot with a much wider lens than yourself and the Hitfilm camera. 

    This tutorial (one of mine) will go into insane detail on setting up Hitfilm's camera to match a real camera. I'm pretty proud of this tutorial because it covers some things not other tutorials have. 

    Axel's flock of birds was Atomic Particles, not the particle sim. 

    Atomic can use a (2D) photo/video layer as the particle texture. It's not nearly as flexible as the particle sim (for example with an animated texture all particles are on the same frame). Axel would have taken the image of the woman's face, and altered it so only the shadow areas (birds) had pixel data while the rest of the layer is transparent. After that, it's just a keyframe of the Displacement and Fractal values to get the birds to move.

    Axel's old Hitfilm 2 tutorials are still the best breakdown on Atomic. 

    Nemo McAlias is my Facebook name. Glad to help. I knew Simon's tutorial would show you everything you needed to get going. :) 

  • spydurhank
    spydurhank Posts: 3,156 Expert

    Like it, very nice job. :)

    Last time I saw anyone use bats in a particle sim was in 2008 by a user on the old Fxhome forums during the Vision lab days. I wonder whatever happened to that kid and if he is doing okay?

  • SpaceEye
    SpaceEye Posts: 37 Just Starting Out

     Hi @Triem23, thanks again for pointing out Simon's tutorial on FB, it really made me discover a whole new world with the Particle simulator.

    The bats are spawning at different frames to make them look slightly different (I couldn't figure out the "start frame" keyframing trick...) and it massively slow down Hitfilm. To bad I didn't think about the "Preview" option, it really helps tuning the PS effect.

    I agree that the bottom plate is weird, since I had no time to shot a proper scene (thanks kids...) I used an HDRI with 360° Viewer and messed up the camera look. I dig into your tutorial (that's really a mine of information!) to make better next time.

    I always thought that Alex's demo was made with PS, not Atomic Particle, which makes me more amazed by its work. Until now, I was thinking that Atomic Particle was useful mostly to make exploding title/people/objects but your tutorials proved me wrong. More things to watch and learn :)

    Thanks again for your help!

    @spydurhank I swear it wasn't me in 2008 ;-) but if you got the link to the video, I would be interested to see this work.

  • spydurhank
    spydurhank Posts: 3,156 Expert

    oh I don't think the kid ever made a video. I don't remember his forum callsign but your video reminded me of him so I just wondered if he is okay :)  because some folks are still roaming around from those days.

    The particle sim was not as good as yours, 3D is always better than 2D and yours came out very well. :)