Thursday, July 16th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

Superluminal ships Stardust 1.6 for After Effects

Originally posted on 28 September 2017. Scroll down for news of the 1.5 update.

Superluminal has announced Stardust 1.0, the official release of its promising modular 3D particle system for After Effects, and has released an ‘early adopters’ version of Stardust 1.1, the first major update.

The 1.1 update adds a range of new features, including the option to use 3D geometry as particle instances, HDR lighting, physically based materials, ambient occlusion and GPU acceleration.

An one-stop node-based particle authoring system for After Effects
Thanks to its node-based authoring workflow, Stardust is intended to enable After Effects users to create complex particle effects without the need to use more than a single layer.

Instead, artists can “add as many nodes and parameters as [they] need to a single instance on one layer”.

Particles can be emitted from splines, 3D geometry, grids or text, then manipulated using forces and space deformers or multiplied using Stardust’s Replica system, making it possible to create a wide range of effects.

The plugin comes with a range of presets mimicking anything from star trails and kaleidoscope effects to Bokeh-style light blooms and falling confetti.

Motion designer VinhSon Nguyen, founder of training site CreativeDojo, describes it as having the “potential to be [the] industry standard in AE for particles”.

New in version 1.1: support for 3D geometry as particle instances
Although Stardust has been available as a series of beta versions for almost a year now, the plugin is only just about to get its official 1.0 release.

Superluminal describes 1.0 as “practically identical” to the current 0.97 release, plus “a few small bugfixes”.

More significantly, Superluminal has also just released a commercial beta of Stardust 1.1, the first major update to the plugin since its launch.

It adds the option to use 3D primitives or models as particle instances, opening up a wide range of new effects. You can see the range of possibilities in the video at the top of the story.

Models may be assigned physically based materials, lit using HDRI-based lighting, and rendered with ambient occlusion, making it possible to create near-photorealistic as well as stylised graphics.

The update also introduces support for GPU acceleration. It’s OpenGL-based, so it should work with any manufacturer’s hardware.

Updated 12 February 2018: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.1.3.

Despite the small change in version numbering, it’s actually a fairly significant update, adding a new Deform Node for adding deformations to the 3D models instanced to particle systems.

Options include Bend, Twist and Stretch deformers, displacement maps, and turbulence noise.

There have also been a number of workflow changes, including the options to group and collapse sets of nodes in the graph and to toggle the visibility of individual nodes, reducing visual clutter.

There is also a new option to assign random textures to 3D particles, while the OBJ emitter gets a range of new options, including Loop, Flip and Delay.

Updated 4 May 2018: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.1.4.

The release updates Stardust’s 3D render engine, enabling 3D models assigned to particles to cast shadows, and for lights and shadows to interact with image-based lighting in a scene.

There is also a new additive render mode for transparent materials, plus a range of workflow improvements.

Updated 11 July 2018: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.2.0, another big update to the plugin. The release adds a new physics toolset for creating dynamics simulations like those shown above.

Users can choose to have particles to collide with one another, or with static geometry, and adds four physical force types: Directional, Spherical, Noise and Path.

Stardust automatically updates the physical simulation cache whenever a change is made to the set-up.

Updated 7 November 2018: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.3.0.

The update adds a new Connect tool for creating chains of particles, and Model Path Deform, which makes it possible to bend 3D text along a path or create effects like tunnels.

New rendering features include subsurface scattering, planar reflection, and emissive materials; and handling of gloss and roughness has been inverted to make it easier to import PBR materials from other software.

The plugin also now ships with a free library of over 150 textured 3D models, for use either as particle instances or as standalone objects.

Updated 6 April 2019: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.4.0.

New features in the update include support for volumetric lighting, and ‘workflow helpers’ like an OBJ importer and a shadow catcher material to help integrate rendered output with live footage.

Updated 16 August 2019: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.5.0.

The update adds a new volumetric toolset based around the OpenVDB format, making it possible to mesh particle systems to volumes, then manipulate the results with Boolean operations, filters or noise.

Other changes include a new wireframe display mode for 3D geometry; and an Extrude Edges command for extruding 3D forms from the edges of masks, and for generating 3D text.

Updated 16 July 2020: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.6.0.

Building on the volumetric toolset added in Stardust 1.5, the update adds support for volumetric rendering, making it possible render effects like smoke and fire.

As well as volumes created inside Stardust, users can also import VDB files generated in other DCC applications and manipulate or render them inside After Effects.

Pricing and availability
Stardust 1.6.0 is available for After Effects CC 2015.3+ running on Windows and macOS. It is available via online marketplace aescripts + aeplugins, and is priced at $249. The 1.6 update is free to existing users.

Read more about the new features in Stardust 1.6 on Superluminal’s blog

Buy Stardust from aescripts + aeplugins