Originally posted on 18 June 2020. Scroll down for news of the Particle Illusion 2022 update.
The standalone edition, which can be used with any compositing application, including After Effects, Fusion and Nuke, lacks Mocha planar tracking, but is otherwise a pretty fully featured product.
In addition, Boris FX has made the commercial edition – previously only available as part of Continuum or its Particles unit – available as a dedicated $295 Continuum premium filter.
Generate 2D particle systems and render them with motion blur at resolutions up to 8K
One of the first After Effects particle plugins for motion graphics or VFX work, Particle Illusion was later bought by GenArts, itself then acquired by Boris FX in 2016.
In 2018, Boris FX announced that it was ‘rebooting’ the product under the leadership of orignal developer Alan Lorence, with the new GPU-accelerated version being released as part of Continuum 2019.
The new standalone edition makes that toolset available free to users of any compositing application.
It includes most of the key features of the paid version, supporting unlimited particles and particle emitters, the layer system, forces and deflectors, and integrated particle motion blur.
The software is capable of rendering particles at resolutions up to 8K.
So what can’t you do in the free edition?
Unlike the commercial version, it isn’t possible to import a background video layer into the standalone edition of Particle Illusion in order to develop and composite a particle system in context.
Instead, users will need to render particles in a format like ProRes 4444 with an alpha channel, in order to combine them with the source footage in their compositing software.
In addition, the standalone edition lacks the integrated tracking capabilities provided in the commercial version by Boris FX’s Mocha planar tracking technology.
However, Boris FX hints that both limitations may be removed in future: Mocha integration is not “yet” supported, while the lack of integrated compositing “may change in future as we develop Particle Illusion”.
Other than that, the free version lacks integrated particle glow, and doesn’t come with active product support, but it looks to be a pretty powerful application in its own right.
Updated 2 February 2021: Boris FX has released Particle Illusion 2021, a new version of the free standalone edition of the software.
As in the commercial edition, which was updated last year, the main change is the option to emit particles in 3D as well as 2D. Existing 2D particle systems can be converted to 3D with a single click.
Other changes include the option to connect particles with lines to create motion graphics effects, and turbulence controls for particle motion.
Updated 4 August 2021: Boris FX has released Particle Illusion 2021.5.
The update extends the 3D capabilities of the free edition, adding new 3D particle emitter shapes, forces and deflectors, and support for 3D cameras and views.
The software also gets a new Node View, making it possible to view both the node tree for a particle effect and the parameter values for each node, shown at the start of the video above.
Updated 1 February 2022: Boris FX has released Particle Illusion 2022.
The update adds a new fluid dynamics toolset, making it possible to create organic-looking particle motion, and the option to save entire scenes to Particle Illusion’s emitter libraries, not just single emitters.
The plugin also now natively supports Apple’s M1 processors, improving performance on current Macs.
Pricing and system requirements
Particle Illusion 2022 is available free for Windows 8+ and macOS 10.14+.
The commercial edition is available as a $295 Continuum premium filter for After Effects, DaVinci Resolve and Fusion, Media Composer, Nuke, Premiere Pro and Vegas Pro.
It is also available as part of Continuum itself, which costs from $695 to $1,995 according to the host applications; or via the $399 Continuum Particles Unit.
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