How to add fireworks (and other special effects) to your videos

A friend of mine recently turned 50 — the, um, new 30. She celebrated the occasion by jumping out of a perfectly functional airplane. Good thing the event was caught on video, because (a) few of her friends would believe that under that mild-mannered exterior lurked a skydiving daredevil, and (b) the opening of her parachute cried out for something extra. Well, nothing says “Ta-da!” quite like fireworks. And I knew just how to make it happen: with CyberLink PowerDirector 9’s particle effects.

You might recall from my earlier post that particle effects let you punch up your videos with simulated sparks, snow, lightning, and other wild effects. To get started, I imported the skydiving video into PowerDirector. The video followed the action from start to landing in one continuous shot, so it needed no editing. It just needed fireworks!

I loaded the video onto PowerDirector’s timeline (where you arrange video clips in sequential order), and opened the Particle Room. The pre-built effect that comes with PowerDirector looks like a comet streaking across the screen, leaving stars in its wake. The stars look a lot like fireworks, so rather than try to find a ready-made fireworks display on DirectorZone.com (the CyberLink community web site where users share effects, titles, and transitions), I chose to modify the streaking comet particle effect.

I wanted to see how the effect would fit into my video while I adjusted it, so I needed to replace the effect’s Milky Way Galaxy-like background with a frame from my skydiving video. So I took a screenshot of the first frame of video using the handy snapshot button and quickly replaced the old background with the new.

Next, I tackled the effect’s orientation problem. The comet was streaking horizontally and fireworks, of course, typically burst and fall back to earth more or less vertically.

After I adjusted the life parameter so the sparks didn’t stay visible for too long, the starbursts looked more like the fireworks I wanted.

You might recall that particle emitters can follow paths — invisible lines or curves. The comet effect I was working with had three emitters, all of which followed a straight-line path that made them streak across the screen. I wanted those particles to stand still, like fireworks do after they burst in the air, so I deleted the path. Next, I repositioned each particle emitter to look like it was exploding up and to the left of my parachuting friend.

Three emitters didn’t seem like enough — I wanted an over-the-top effect — so I duplicated two emitters. So each source would look slightly different, I changed a bunch of parameters including size. Then I hit play to see the results.

Particle effects usually take a while for the computer to process before you can see them. But I was running PowerDirector on my laptop, which has a superfast second-gen Intel Core i7 processor. After the briefest of pauses, I saw that my particles weren’t fading out quickly, the way fireworks do.

To fix that, I adjusted the parameter called "life," lowering its value until the result looked more like fireworks. Then I pressed Play to make sure I liked the result. When I was satisfied, I deleted the background image that served as a reference, saved the particle effect, and overlaid the effect by dragging it to the video track below the track my video was on.

From there, all I had to do was decide how long I wanted my virtual fireworks extravaganza to last (not long), drag the edge of the effect to extend it to the desired length, and voila! Thar be pyrotechnics in that video!

All my skydiving video needed now was a soundtrack fit for an adrenaline junkie. Next time, we’ll explore how to clean up a video’s sound and add music.

[ This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of TechHive. ]
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