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How to Create Heatwaves in Adobe After Effects CC

Learn how to create heatwaves in Adobe After Effects CC.
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Scenes and shots are all about telling stories. Sometimes we want to show the audience that a particular area is hot, like it’s in middle of summer. The footage we get however, for various reasons, usually doesn’t come to the edit room looking like this.

Today I am going to show you how to take a piece of footage and add some subtle heat waves to it to give the scene a feeling of a scorching hot day.

How to Create Heat Waves in Adobe After Effects CC (2017):

  1. Drag in the footage to your timeline that you wish to add the heat effect to.
  2. Go to Layer -> New -> Solid…
  3. Select OK on all the defaults. You can change the name of the solid to your preference and the color is unimportant.
  4. Go to the Effects & Presets panel and search for CC Particle System II. It’s under the Simulation folder of effects. Drag that onto the solid.
  5. Go to the Effect Controls panel of the solid with the particle system.
  6. Under CC Particle Systems II look for the Producer and find Position. Take that position (Right number) and bring that number up until the producer is near the bottom of the footage.
  7. Look for Radius X underneath Position and increase that number until you see particles across the entire piece of footage.
  8. Open up the Physics
  9. Change the Gravity to about -0.7 and the Velocity to about .7. (This can always be changed later depending on the intensity of the heatwave desired)
  10. Click on the dropdown next to Particle Type and change that to Faded Sphere.
  11. Go to the Birth Size and Increase that to about 10 and set the Death Size to about 1.05. (These can also be adjusted to fit a specific scene)
  12. Go to the Birth Color and the Death Color and set them both to Red. The Death Color should be slightly lighter than the Birth Color.
  13. On the timeline select the solid. Press CTRL + SHIFT + C to open up the Pre-Compose dialog.
  14. Name the precomposed composition whatever you like and then select the Move all attributes into the new composition radio button and click ok.
  15. Take the precomposition and drag it so that it is below the footage
  16. Go to the Effects & Presets panel and search for Displacement Map. Drag that onto the footage. (NOT the precomposed solid)
  17. Go to the Effect Controls panel of the footage.
  18. Under the Displacement Map effect, change the Use For Horizontal Displacement dropdown to red.
  19. Make sure that the Use for Vertical Displacement is not set to Red. Setting it to Green is a safe bet.
  20. Look for Edge Behavior and select the Wrap Pixels Around check box to activate it.
  21. Click on the first dropdown menu at Displacement Map and select the precomposed composition.

Playing back the footage you should now see subtle heat distortions going through the scene. If the effect is either too subtle or too harsh then reopen the precomposed footage and play around with the particle generator until you get the effect just right!

Other Premiere Pro Tutorials:

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