Superluminal ships Stardust 1.6 for After Effects
200718 Stardust16 S.jpg

Originally released on September 28, 2017. Scroll down to get news about the 1.5 update.

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

The 1.1 update offers a number of new functions, including the option to use 3D geometry as particle instances, HDR lighting, physically based materials, environmental occlusion and GPU acceleration.

A node-based particle authoring system from a single source for After Effects
Its node-based authoring workflow is designed to enable Stardust After Effects users to create complex particle effects without having to use more than a single layer.

Instead, artists can "add as many nodes and parameters as they need to a single instance at a level".

Particles can be emitted from splines, 3D geometry, grids, or text, then manipulated with forces and space deformers, or multiplied using the Stardust replica system, creating a variety of effects.

The plugin contains a number of presets that mimic everything from star trails and kaleidoscope effects to light blossoms in bokeh style and falling confetti.

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

New in version 1.1: Support for 3D geometry as particle instances
Although Stardust has been available as a beta series for almost a year, the plugin is nearing the official release of 1.0.

Superluminal describes 1.0 as "practically identical" with the current version 0.97 and "a few small bug fixes".

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

The option to use 3D primitives or models as particle instances is added, creating a variety of new effects. You can see the different options in the video above in the story.

The models can be assigned physically based materials, illuminated with HDRI-based lighting, and rendered with ambient occlusion, creating almost photo-realistic and stylized graphics.

The update also provides support for GPU acceleration. It is based on OpenGL and should therefore work with any manufacturer's hardware.

Updated February 12, 2018: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.1.3.

Despite the small change in version numbering, this is actually a fairly significant update that adds a new Deform node to add deformations to the 3D models instantiated in particle systems.

Options include bend, twist, and stretch deformers, displacement maps, and turbulence sounds.

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

There's also a new option to assign random textures to 3D particles, while giving the OBJ emitter a number of new options, including loop, flip, and delay.

Updated May 4, 2018: Superluminal released Stardust 1.1.4.

The version updates Stardust's 3D rendering engine, allowing 3D models assigned to particles to cast shadows and light and shadow to interact with image-based lighting in a scene.

There is also a new additive render mode for transparent materials, as well as a number of workflow improvements.

Updated on July 11, 2018: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.2.0, another major update to the plugin. The version includes a new physics toolset for creating dynamic simulations like the ones shown above.

Users can choose whether particles should collide with each other or with static geometry, and add four types of physical forces: direction, spherical, noise, and path.

Stardust automatically updates the physical simulation cache when changes are made to the setup.

Updated November 7, 2018: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.3.0.

The update adds a new Connect tool for creating particle chains and Model Path Deform, which can be used to bend 3D text along a path or create effects such as tunnels.

New rendering features include sub-surface scatter, planar reflection, and emissive materials. The handling of gloss and roughness has been reversed to simplify the import of PBR materials from other software.

The plugin is now also supplied with a free library of over 150 structured 3D models that can be used either as particle instances or as independent objects.

Updated April 6, 2019: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.4.0.

The new functions of the update include support for volumetric lighting as well as workflow helpers such as an OBJ importer and a shadow catcher material in order to integrate the rendered output into live material.

Updated August 16, 2019: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.5.0.

The update adds a new volumetric toolset that is based on the OpenVDB format and enables particle systems to be networked with volumes and the results can then be processed with Boolean operations, filters or noise.

Other changes include a new wireframe display mode for 3D geometry. and an Extrude Edges command to extrude 3D forms from the edges of masks and generate 3D text.

Updated July 16, 2020: Superluminal has released Stardust 1.6.0.

Building on the volumetric toolset added in Stardust 1.5, the update provides support for volumetric rendering, enabling rendering effects such as smoke and fire.

In addition to volumes created in Stardust, users can also import VDB files generated in other DCC applications and edit or render them in After Effects.

Pricing and availability
Stardust 1.6.0 is available for After Effects CC 2015.3+ on Windows and MacOS. It is available through the online marketplace aescripts + aeplugins and costs $ 249. The 1.6 update is free for existing users.

For more information on the new features in Stardust 1.6, visit the Superluminal blog

Buy Stardust from aescripts + aeplugins

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