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I am keen to have a tool that allows me to generate a particle animation and export it as a series of PNG files with alpha transparency.

This is possible to do so with GIMP/Photoshop by drawing every single frame of the animation. However I guess there may be some other tool that is more convenient (or even a function of Photoshop that I haven't learned yet) and that allows me to skip some drawing steps.

https://www.cg.tuwien.ac.at/research/vis/dynsys/frolic/picture007.JPG

Any suggestion?

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  • The question isn't quite clear to me. Do you want something that generates the intermediate images automatically? Or do you already have the animation and want to export the images? – PieBie Jun 29 '15 at 13:30
  • The first one, added as EDIT – mm24 Jun 29 '15 at 13:30
  • Ok. I don't readily know of a tool like that. My guess is that you could use Flash or another animation tool to generate the intermediate keyframes, and then export each frame? But I'm not too sure this would be convenient, if at all possible. – PieBie Jun 29 '15 at 13:42
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There are many rendered and real-time ways to create animations of particles. The easiest... maybe... is After Effects and the various plugins that create different kinds of particle animations.

But, given that you're going to be paying big money for the plugins that make the best particles within After Effects, and that the workflow is often painful without realtime, I'd strongly suggest the following:

Learn/try/master Unreal Engine 4. It has an amazing particle engine. Truly very good, easily the best in class. And comes with free, ready to use, basic examples, e.g.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WjwBPuL27I

AND can export individual frames with alpha information, with ease.

PLUS you can vastly overload your system's power and set it to do very complex render passes as frame by frame .png exports, meaning you don't need to use any other software.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXK2Xbd7D9w

Unreal Engine is, very truly, a work of art, and a tool beyond compare.

And the community and help you can get from it is second to none.


Far further down the tree, but perhaps a little easier to use (much less features, though, and vastly inferior rendering quality) is the Unity game engine. It's a little trickier to figure out good exporting of individual frames with Unity, though. And it's really not fun when trying to do more complex particle effects. But if your needs are simple, this will be sufficient.

And all the necessary, good features of Unity sit behind a paywall. No other word for it. They're a bit cynical in the way they treat their "customers".

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    And Unreal Engine is now free. That is really great. – Rafael Jun 29 '15 at 14:14
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Please. Don't draw them by hand, we apreciate you live for more than drawing moving particles. O.o

In a particle system you need to define what forces are moving the particles, gravity? an expanding force? an atractive one? Does the system have a decay time?

In my opinion the way to go here is a 3d program like Blender, but you will need to work on how the particles look and how the particles behave. But yes, it will generate transparent png if you need.

And as Confused mentioned, affter effects can also help you.

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