In Depth: Fireworks

fireworks in depth


Happy Independence Day! This article was originally published in July 2015 but has been updated with a few new items and tutorials. Enjoy!


Fireworks can be created by using a particle generator and taking some time to get the physics right. There are some plug-ins available that are specifically for creating fireworks too. That said, they don’t always look natural. One of the toughest things about creating fireworks is getting them to look realistic. They need glow, smoke, the proper physics, depth of field, etc.. And, adding some sound effects can really help your fireworks come to life!

Some nice examples


TRON GFX Fireworks

From the comments:

We used the Adobe design tools, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, etc. We also used Cinema 4D, a 3D package aimed more towards the motion graphics industry, with its insane MoGraph plugin suite… We used it heavily, and also rendered a bunch of key graphics out of C4D V-Ray for proper DOF and motion blur, dlew was in control. We also used Maya for some pipeline enhancements, and Houdini for the DNA and as a host for Nimoy’s openFrameworks applications, which were ported over to Houdini by “The King,” effects animator Andy King. It was definitely the way forward, getting our stuff deep into the visual effects pipeline.

That’s how we did the fireworks during the light cycle sequence. We first wrote an openFrameworks app with Nimoy, creating the design and behaviors of the fireworks, as well as the shape and all the other attributes. We then perfected the app with feedback from Joe; I’d create slider presets of the key design settings that we then ported to Houdini, which ran them exactly the same once the app was ported over. Being able to re-create the designs exactly, we rendered them out of Houdini through the DD pipeline and off to comp it went. Pretty solid design process for sure…

Fireworks filmed with a drone

These are not digitally created fireworks but it’s pretty fantastic. This video may help you create natural-looking fireworks with your software too.


New Creative Video and Photo Ideas Using Fireworks

This tutorial from PremiumBeat explains how to create unique effects, backgrounds, smoky atmospheres and more by recording real fireworks in a variety of ways.


Fireworks with After Effects

Since a good number of our readers are After Effects users, I’ll start here. There are lots of tutorials out there to create fireworks without the use of 3rd party plug-ins. Here are a few.

First, if you don’t have AE, get it here:

After Effects: Basic Fireworks

Robert explains the basic concept in AE using CC Particle Systems II.

Firework Particles Text Animation in After Effects – No Plugins

Avnish Parker shows you how to create many different types of fireworks directly in After Effects without the use of any third party plug-ins.


After Effects Video Tutorial: Fireworks

This one comes from Premium Beat and is very stylized. It uses expressions and shapes.


Plug-ins for After Effects and other hosts

Boris Continuum Particle Emitter 3D

Michele Terpstra did a webinar for Boris FX back in 2012. She didn’t write the tutorial, and it is a bit complex with a lot of manipulation of the settings, but the final fireworks looked really nice and believable. (The fireworks part starts at 18:00) Boris Continuum Complete has a powerful, flexible and OpenGL-accelerated particle generator called BCC Particle Emitter 3D. It can generate particles by auto-animating shape arrays in 3D space, auto-animating image arrays that reposition images in 3D, full After Effects camera and light system integration.  Although this webinar was made with BCC 8, the core of Contiuum is still basically the same and they’ve even made some nice new updates. So the techniques Michele explains are still relevant.


NewParticle Illusion for Premiere Pro: Overview by Surfaced Studio

Speaking of updates to Continuum, this tutorial by YouTuber Surfaced Studio breaks down how Adobe Premiere Pro editors can now apply high-end particles like fireworks, explosions, and more directly inside their project timelines, thanks to the new Particle Illusion motion graphics generator inside Continuum 2019 and the Particles Unit.


Boris TV, Episode 173 – A Fireworks Spectacular

Here’s another tutorial from Boris FX. This time, Paul Ezzy teaches you how to quickly create a fireworks display in Adobe After Effects to add to your hometown skyline. Simply swap out the image after you download the complimentary project files – template and presets included! You’ll create 4 different displays with BCC Particle Emitter 3D − from basic to explosive − that rival the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. Plus, learn how BCC Cartooner and BCC Pencil Sketch give you the freedom of using custom shapes.

Download the Project File

Free Fireworks Presets for Boris Continuum

The Fourth of July is next week and we’re celebrating by giving you 10+ new fireworks presets to spread some digital cheer. The fireworks, based on Continuum’s popular Particle Emitter 3D, are available to all users of Continuum 11.0.3.

Download the presets

If there aren’t any fireworks displays near you, make your own! Shoot footage of your hometown, add your new fireworks presets and some sound effects, and then make your epic display dance to your favorite song using Continuum’s built-in Beat Reactor.

Paul Ezzy also has 8 fireworks presets for older versions of BCC. Just drag & drop over your favorite footage.
Download Fireworks Presets – Compatible with BCC 9 (and BCC 8) in Adobe, Avid, and Vegas Pro.

Effect Controls Panel

BCC Particle Emitter 3D

Learn more

Digieffects Phenomena

Phenomena FireWorks simulate a large-scale fireworks display with a three-stage particle emitter system that includes: Launch, Explosion, and Sparkler.

Effect Controls Panel

Digieffects Phenomena FireWorks

Learn More

Trapcode Particular

In this tutorial, Ignace Aleya of Tolerated Cinematics walks you through the procedure of designing your own firework display with Trapcode Particular.

Effect Controls Panel

Trapcode Particular Fireworks

Create FIREWORKS with Trapcode Particular

Josh from SonduckFilm explains the process in Particular.

Learn more


Fireworks for C4D Xpresso.

Shoot ’em off, ooh and ahh!

Noah Witchell posted this nice tutorial about the building of a control board and Xpresso rig for a fireworks burst effect.

He offers the C4D file of the fireworks rig, free for your use.

Click here to see Noah’s original post.

Noah Witchell is a motion graphics designer and photographer based out of Omaha, Nebraska.  “I know that everyone says that being a generalist is suicide in today’s workforce, but I like dabbling in everything: shooting, editing, sound, scoring, etc. The whole process is fun to me, and I just feel lucky to be able to scrape together a living doing it.”

How to make fireworks with Cinema 4D, Tracer and Particles

There’s no narration on this tutorial but it still is pretty clear on the process.

Greyscalegorilla Transform Fireworks Preset

This was animated using no keyframes in Transform. See more examples here.

Learn more Greyscalegorilla Transform for CINEMA 4D

FireWORKS with X-Particles

“This full tutorial from Mike shows you how to create several fireworks systems, starting with the classic Fountain, followed by a Catherine Wheel and finally a Sky Rocket. The techniques shown can be used to create any number of variations and effects, the possibilities are boundless.”


Learn more

Maya Fireworks

How to model Fireworks in Maya 2017

Apparently, this is Mike Hermes’ last video?! But he shows you how to make a blast of light!

Posted by Kim Sternisha