Saturday, January 17, 2009

Add sparkles to pics with ParticleIllusion

Do you have static images of snow or other things that sparkle in real life? Do you wish you could make them sparkle?

Now you can do just that with two bits of software used in tandem, one a commercial suite available on a 30-day, full-featured trial and the second completely free.

Here's what I mean. This is a pic I downloaded from my favourite free stock photo site:
Pic without sparkles

Here's what I did to it using the two pieces of software (be patient, the effect may take time to kick in):

Sparkling snow!

Now for how to do this yourself...

First, get your material ready. Shoot, download or identify a pic to which you want to add sparkles. Please respect copyright and do not download copyrighted images!

Next, download and install ParticleIllusion from Wondertouch.

Start ParticleIllusion.

Right-click in the white area where it says "Layer 0" and select "Background Image". Then navigate to where your picture / photograph is and select it, then OK your way out. If you are told that the image doesn't match the stage size and if the stage should be resized, click "OK".
Select background image

The image will be seen on the "stage", the central part of your screen.

Image on stage
Now click the + sign you see against Group 4 on the right of your screen and select "Crazy Flash 2". Make sure "Crazy Flash 2" is highlighted in blue. For some mysterious reason, this is important. If it isn't highlighted in blue, randomly select any other effect and then click "Crazy Flash 2" again.

Click in your picture to add the sparkles. You can add them anywhere you want and as many times as you want but they get added in groups. You can't add a single sparkle in this mode. That takes tweaking of the effect, which would make this blog post much too long. This is what your picture should look like now:

Pic showing sparkles added

You may want to preview the effect. To do this, hit the "Rewind" button" at the top of your screen:Rewind button

Then hit the "Play" button to its immediate right. Use the Space Bar to stop the preview. If you don't like the effect, hit Ctrl+Z to undo the sparkle addition and click in the picture again if you want to add the sparkles to a different location.

Once you are satisfied with the animation, it's time to save the output.

ParticleIllusion cannot save directly to GIF and we'll need the second bit of software to do that. So set your project as below (hit Alt+P or go to View--> Project Settings) :

Project Settings

Set Stage Size to 640 x 480.

Set Frame rate to 25.

Leave everything else unchanged and OK your way out.

Go to Action--> Save Output

In the dialog box that opens, select AVI:

Select AVI

Don't forget to give your output file a name.

When asked for the number of frames to save, change the "End Frame" to 10. Otherwise the output will be too heavy to convert to GIF.Change End Frame to 10

When you are presented with a dialog box that asks which Codec to use, click the little arrow on the right of the default Codec and select "Microsoft Video 1". THIS IS IMPORTANT!

Selecting codec

OK your way out and your output will be saved as an AVI file.

Now it's time for the second part of the exercise, converting your AVI file to GIF so you can post it to your blog / website.

Close ParticleIllusion. Save the project if you want to work on it later.

Download and install Movie13 from JanSoft. After it installs it opens a dialog box that shows a check mark against "Start Movie13". Leave it checked and OK your way out. Movie 13 will start.

Go to Tools--> AVI to GIF converter:

AVI to GIF converter option

In the dialog box that opens, click the "Open AVI" button. Navigate to the AVI you just created, select it and OK your way Out. Then click the next button, "Convert". Don't worry if Movies 13 says the AVI can't be previewed. It'll work. Once converted, you'll see the GIF in the bottom part of the dialog window. Click "Save GIF" and save the file wherever you want:

Save GIF option

That's it! You can now upload the GIF to your favourite online repository and post it to your blog or website!