In need of some extra credits to round out the spring quarter at RIT I took on an independent study which revolved around one question I had asked myself for a while—"What does the turbulence around a baseball look like as it's pitched?" Originally I planned on creating the entire piece in Cinema 4D, but after quickly realizing the outrageous render times that loomed over the final weeks of my college career I chose a different path.
Creating splines that represented the laces on a baseball, I slathered each spline with a generous helping of lights that I then animated in Cinema. Once that was all good and done I imported positional data from each individual light into After Effects, and set each individual light as a Particular emitter. After a bunch of fiddling with turbulence, particle life, and so on, I finally had my answer to the question.
A glimpse at the initial approach of using 3D particles and emitters in Cinema. Having not played around with C4D's particle systems very much I quickly realized I could cheat a little and use After Effects to do the heavy lifting.
Once I decided to shift towards using Particular as my particle system I swapped the Thinking Particle emitters with lights and connected them via align-to-spline tags. There's probably an easy way to connect a large number of lights to a single spline and space them evenly, but my inner lover of monotony quite enjoyed the process of attaching them one-by-one.
After attaching all 200+ lights I then animated the null object that contained the splines. This particular movement simulates how a changeup spins through the air.
Once I had the splines animating I then exported the positional data from each individual light into After Effects and set each light as a Particular emitter. Despite the enormous amounts of particles being rendered on my measly laptop, I was still able to save a ton of time while achieving a look I certainly would not have been able to get with my limited knowledge of Cinema's Thinking Particle systems. Here's to shortcuts! (clink).