Dissolve Into Crows 3D VFX – Part 1

In this tutorial we will be using Adobe After Effects in conjunction with 3D Studio Max and Particle Flow (pFlow) to create an awesome VFX of a person dissolving into a murder of crows. This is an advanced tutorial so if you are just starting out, I recommend starting with my beginner or intermediate tutorials.

Since this tutorial is rather long, I have broken it up into 2 parts. In the first part we will look at spawning and rendering a murder of crows in 3dsMax using Particle Flow (pFlow).

Filming your Footage

The very first thing you will need to do to create this effect is to film your base footage. I recommend putting your camera on a tripod to avoid having to motion track it later. For my video I took a shot of Celina from Fables In Fashion at a pier out in Melbourne, spinning around. I also took a second clip of the empty pier as my clean plate. Since your actor will dissolve, you will need at least a couple of seconds of footage without them in the scene.

Preparing Your Footage

Now import your footage into Adobe After Effects and create a new composition with the clean plate footage (the one without your actor) in it. Add the footage of your actor on top and rotoscope out your actor (including their shadow) for the duration of the effect. Then pre-compose the rotoscoped layer. In my scenario I ended up with a 'Celina Roto Comp' layer on top of my clean plate.

Let's look at how we will set up our particle system in 3dsMax!


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5 Years Ago
December 11, 2014 @ 3:52 pm
Compelling tutorial. I have attempted to emulate the animated mask; however the silhouette remains solid white in the parent composition. There appears to be a key step that eludes the completion of the true render for the pFlow. Any postulation... best, Campbell
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Surfaced Studio@ Campbell
5 Years Ago
December 13, 2014 @ 9:27 am
I'm not sure what you mean. Are you having troubles animating the mask for the birth texture in After Effects?
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5 Years Ago
December 14, 2014 @ 4:50 pm
hi, i like you tutorials very much

i don't know how to work with 3dsmax

can u please tell me how to Do 3D integrations using C4D
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2 Months Ago
July 13, 2020 @ 8:31 am

I am doing this tutorial and it's amazing...however, my crows are not spreading outward from the birth texture....they all are remaining within the plane....Can you help me figure out what I'm doing wrong? Thanks so much!

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