Strange Attractor User Guide

Strange Attractor User Guide

Build your own Strange Attractor Title Card/Background

There is quite a lot going on with this tool, so let’s dig in.

There are three sections of parameters: Wave Design, Particles and Text. The first thing to do is look at the individual Wave settings. There is a Default and 23 variations. You will use one of these as the “core” of your attractor design. By default, only one instance of the “wave” is shown and it can be worked with just as it is. The single instance wave will render the fastest, play without rendering the best (although it is recommended to set playback to Better Performance.) Most of the “Arrangements” will perform quite well, but the more instances of the original wave used, the more intensive rendering will be.

Note: this generator has no solid background. It is not meant to be placed over video, however, it is possible to place a Solid Color generator between Strange Attractor and video with the clip Opacity set just below 100%. This effect looks best with an all black background, however, as always, I leave those decisions to the end user.

There are 9 arrangements. After the singular, they are listed in the popup menu as two numbers separated by a dash. The first number is how many “arms” are used. The second number is how many instances are placed along that arm. There are up to three arms and up to 3 wave pattern instances for a total of 9 instances at once. There is no real predictable way to state how these will be displayed since they are all varying sizes and the distortion applied will change how they are applied in “space”… Already there is extreme variation of the variations. 24 Variations times 9 Arrangements already makes for 216 different attractor patterns, and that’s just “to start”.

The next parameter is where all the fun of finding your own treasure starts: Offsets. Displayed are X and Y, but if you dial down the disclosure triangle, you will also have Z. These values change the spatial displacement and orientation of the original wave form (default or variation choice) in what is essentially the “bulb” of space, warping and bending the waveforms into new patterns. Since this operation affects the original pattern only, any changes made affects all the other displayed patterns and the operation can get quite intensive making it difficult to change the values in the inspector using the sliders or even dragging on the numbers. It is recommended that you set the Arrangement to 1-1 (or 1-2) while making Offset changes to take the load of the processor somewhat.

Expanse changes the size of the area the wave patterns are spread across. Values can be from -100% to 100%. The actual distance is more or less meaningless, but it’s large. The minimum distance is 100 pixels. The default is 50% or halfway between minimum and maximum and serves as a “best choice” starting point.

Orient Scene allows you to turn the entire “scene” to assist in placing the Animated Text (which is going to be challenging to manage because of the “black holes” and/or crazy edit points [where “things” appear to emerge and is not always the same location!! — Almost everybody is familiar with the concept of a wormhole — well — this plugin has it!]

The Wave Fill Fade is a reverse Opacity control. As you move the slider to the right, more of the “thin” portions of the waveforms become transparent leaving a much harder edged line. Moving the slider to the left will show more of the thinner gradient and will begin to boost the Dark Color (if there is one). In this plugin, Black tends to be transparent. Darker shades (of “Dark Color”) will be more transparent than lighter shades.

Attractor Speed. By default, the attractor doesn’t move and there is no “on-drop” animation applied. This is your choice! Apply any amount (even very small amounts) of Animator Speed to start the attractor wave moving. Positive and Negative directional values are available, so experiment!

Dark Color can be used to “fill” the waveform pattern with a secondary color (or even be used as a dominant color using the Light Color option as a dark contrast – it’s a very interesting variation!). As mentioned, Black (rgb: 0,0,0) tends to be transparent).

Light Color defaults to a medium cyan. It just looks… celestial. For either Dark Color or Light Color, very bright or very light shades do not usually look all that great. It is recommended that the intensity of color be maintained within 50 to 75%. This is another “season to taste” situation and not all hues have the same apparent brightness at consistent settings.

The Angle/POV Change parameters allow you to set the initial orientation of the attractor and it’s automated animation. They are grouped according to X, Y, and Z. You do not need the POV Change parameters if you intend to perform specific keyframed animations. The POV Change parameters will automatically animate the corresponding angle according to the (start) Angle and apply an automatic change of the total number of degrees indicated over the life of the generator in the storyline. There are no timing markers used. The default length of the generator is 10 seconds. If you set a POV Change to 360º, then the attractor will animate 360º in the 10 second life of the generator or 36º per second. Very fast animations are not that attractive with this effect, but I’ll leave that for your experimentation.

Init. Wave Angle is short for the “initial waveform angle” for the “first” instance of the original waveform pattern. All of the waveforms are related to each other in their “connection” in the scene. If you use this parameter by itself, leaving it’s sister parameter: Waves End Angle at 0, then all of the instances in your arrangement will maintain the same angle turn provided by this parameter — at least in theory. In actuality, the operation changes the “fit” of the waveform shape in space and therefore alters the distortion acted upon the shape. There is no predictable result that can be described. Unlike Orient Scene, these two parameters only affect the waveform instances an nothing else in the scene.

Waves End Angle is similar to Init. Wave Angle in that if you leave Init. Wave Angle at 0º, this parameter will rotate all the instances to the same degree offset. When used with Init. Wave Angle, then all the instances will “fan out” evenly between the two degree settings.

Camera Zoom. This parameter is usually best left at its default setting. It can be used in modest measure to change the apparent size of the scene. Be careful with this because it will have side effects with the particles used. If the particle size gets too large, you can turn them off, but that in turn will introduce other side effects (explained below).

Show Particles. By default, this effect has a lot of particles flying around in the scene. It’s not just because it looks cool or nice, but they function to cover up a side effect. There is a seam that appears when the particles aren’t filling up the “distortion” space. Having them filling up the background keeps that seam from becoming too obvious. If you look closely at their animation, you can see a line in the scene where the particles come together and disappear. It’s actually a cool effect and works nicely, but they can be turned off if you don’t mind the seam. You can use Orient Scene to set the seam at any angle that works for you and you can change up the presentation of the attractor to also “cover” or disguise the seam. You attractor can be made to look quite natural, particularly using a 1-3 or 3-1 (or more arrangement).

Particle Color is a gradient used to define the look of the particles over their life. There is a fair amount of transparency so that they never get too bright and overtake the scene. Use this parameter to colorize your particles. Each particle “lives” for one half the length of the generator (or 5 seconds). They were built to exist in the entire space from the very beginning of this effect so that the apparent seam would not appear, then animate closed as they filled the space. On the other hand, depending on the attractor’s space, sometimes a wedge shaped gap will appear in the background and particles will only appear in a smaller portion of the “great circle”. Particles will not necessarily always fill all the background of this effect. (There is no other way to explain it.)

Speed (Particles) and Speed Rnd (Part.) are comfortably at their default. Season to taste. The Speed Rnd (Part.) is a random change from the Speed setting, meaning that on rare occasions, some particles will be generated with no speed — they will be stationary! If you reduce the Speed setting, then some particles may actually go backwards from their emitted direction.

Particle Max Size is set to a very small number making them look as much like “debris” as possible. If you increase their speed or their size, you will see much larger circles moving in the scene.

Emission controls (pun intended). Use these to set the particles speeding off in different directions. The Range variant spreads out the emission over a randomly conical angle. When Range is 0, particles are emitted in a straight line in the direction based on Longitude and Angle. Angle is the counter-clockwise angle around the vertical axis and Longitude is the angle from straight at you, then over the top and around the back as it rotates around the horizontal axis.

Radius is how “tightly” grouped the starting points of the particles are. The default of 100 is a percentage of a very large span. The minimum value of this parameter is not a point, but a small circle just large enough to not introduce more distortion problems into the scene.


Edit Title is off by default. This is a checkbox which will allow you to turn on the editable text for viewing and editing in the Viewer directly. You can also simply turn on the Edit Title text to use as a flat text overlay on the scene if you prefer not to use the Animated Text. When editing the actual text, use the Text Inspector (it should automatically be switched to as soon as you click on the text in the viewer.)

Animated Text is a copy of the actual Edit Title text that is placed in the distortion space scene of the attractors. Animated Text can also actually interact with the attractors in some circumstances. As described before, the space distortion in this effect creates a seam that actually changes with the “size” occupied by all the elements in the scene, which includes the animated text. When the text is keyframed to “push” beyond the bounds of the scene, it can actually “open” a gap at the seam… Use the parameters below to accomplish this effect.

Anim. Text Scale can be used to resize the animated text. The size of the text is also determined by the Edit Title text, so the two can be used in combination if desired.

Position is an X,Y, Z control for the location of the text within the scene. However, since the space is distorted, there is no real way to determine if these parameters are going to behave “as expected”. It will depend on if the text is in front of the center of the universe, or behind it, as well as other things like the Orient Space option, etc. This is definitely a “relative” positioning parameter.

Rotation is an X,Y, Z control that is also mostly a relative positioning parameter. Dealing with rotations in an already distorted space will just have to be something you watch on the screen, and play with the parameters. Sometimes these will behave exactly as expected and other times… expect to scratch your head.

Anchor Point offsets a point from the Animated Text (which will depend on Left, Center, Right justification) by the distances provided. When using Position or Rotation, the offsets will be referenced from this point. It is particularly useful with Rotation if you want the text to rotate around an offset point an not its “center point”. However, and again, the space is already distorted so the expected result may not even be close to what you get.

Color will colorize the Animated Text. It has nothing to do with the Edit Title text color.

Blend Mode is set to Add by default to make the text look as if it is “intertwined” with the Attractor. Other modes provided are Normal (opaque and always “over” the attractor), Color Dodge and Linear Dodge give a nice “reflective light glow” look of the attractor on the text; Subtract and Vivid Light give a nice cast shadow look on the text from the attractor.

The last parameters allow you to create a fade in/out for the text. Time is in frames. Offset is in Frames. It’s best to set the Offsets by positioning the playhead where you want the text to appear and fade out and drag the individual Offset parameter until the text appears or fades where wanted. From a clip in the timeline at any time other that the first frame, it’s very difficult to calculate the frame offsets in your head!