Newton converts After Effects layers in to rigid bodies, and then allows users to add gravity, magnetism and joints to simulate gravity (or the lack thereof). It gives the user control over the density, type, friction, bounciness, velocity etc of the body, as well as global control over the amount – and direction – of gravity. Once simulated, Newton converts the animation in to standard After Effects keyframes.
We’ve used this plugin in a variety of films and for a variety of purposes, from pouring water to falling bricks. The occasion where it proved itself particularly useful, was in a film for TechFutures, where we had to animate a variety of different types of balls, all needing bounce and interact authentically.
Setting the scene
Each ball was made on a single layer using After Effects shape layers, and was surrounded by a mask (because Newton requires a mask to define the shape of the object). A ‘ground’ object, also with a mask, was then created along the bottom of the composition to tell Newton where the balls needed to bounce. In order to stop the balls bouncing off screen, we put a very subtle concave curve on the ground mask.
Once all the balls were prepared, we could begin the simulation.
- Change the ‘ground’ layer from ‘dynamic’ to ‘static’ in the layer type box – the rest of the layers can stay as they are
- Tweak the density, friction and bounciness to suit each type of ball
- Press ‘solve’ to view the simulation – and then ‘apply’ when you’re ready to apply those keyframes to the layers in the After Effects comp
We flirted with the idea of getting Newton for a long time, and this was the project that finally made us put our hands in our pockets. Getting each different type of ball to bounce realistically on the ground, and then interact with the other balls as it settled in to a final position could have been both time consuming and frustrating, but Newton provides a phenomenally quick and effective way of achieving realistic and subtle animation.
It doesn’t really have any downsides – if you’re looking for a way of simulating the effect of gravity on different objects, there is no better way to do it in After Effects than the Newton plugin.