Tutorial Three
A Lightning Spark
This tutorial creates and animates a lightning spark using Enhance:AM textures. In the tutorial the only texture used is AM_Linear which can be downloaded for free. Just follow the links to the respective demo sections, depending on your AM version, from Enhance:AM Home Page

In this tutorial we are using the AM_Linear, a simple linear gradient texture. More details about AM_Linear can be found at The AM_Linear Manual Web Page

Step One - The Basic Setup
Create a new project using the default set up and add a primitive plane. First, we need to add the AM_Linear plugin from the AM_Geometric series. What we are going to do is create a lighting spark running vertically down the plane. To do this, we want to first modify the AM_Linear gradient so the it fades away from the center on both sides. Go to the Function Parameters section and change the Wave Type to Triangle. As we only want a single spark go to the Axis Parameters section and make the Scale 50,50,50 for X,Y and Z. The panel texture should now look like the picture on the right.

Step Two - Creating The Simple Spark
The lighting spark color is going to start white and then fade to purple so set Color1 to 255,255,255 white. Then set Color2, Color3 and Color4 to 255,128,255 a light purple. Set the Blend1 to 0%, Blend 2 to 10%, Blend3 to 20% and Blend4 to 100%. This creates a simple blend white to purple. The reason for setting Color3 and Color4 to light purple is so that the color remains constant when we fade the transparency later in the tutorial. The majority of the texture will therefore be purple for now. The spark should now look like the one in the picture on the right.

Step Three - Making it Sparky
Obviously, a lightning spark is not straight so we want to add some noise to make it appear more sparky. This is done in the Noise Parameter section. Again, the parameters you set for the noise will depend on the effect you are trying to achieve. Try setting the Noise Magnitude to 30, the Noise Scale to 60 and the Noise Octaves. The best thing is to read the The AM_Linear Manual Web Page and modify the parameters with the interactive render on. Again, with the parameters above the spark should now look something like the picture on the right.

Step Four - Finishing Touches
Now we need to carve out a nice thin lightning spark. This can be done using an alpha map to control the object's transparency. To do this go to the Alpha Map section and set Alpha1 and Alpha2 to 0% with Alpha3 and Alpha4 set to 100%. Then go to the Affect Transparency section and set the Transparency to 100% and turn the Affect Transparency switch ON. What this means is the transparency is being controlled by the alpha map so that the white part of the spark is totally opaque and so is the transition white to purple. When the texture function reaches 10% (Blend1) the transparency is increased until its totally clear at 20% (Blend2). Above this the plane is completely transparent. This creates the thin spark as shown in the picture on the right.

Step Five - Animating It
A nice animation effect can be created very simply. As the Enhance:AM noise function is 3D you can animate it by moving the texture axis through 3D space. Although, this cannot be looped it does create great animations. What we want to do is move the texture perpendicular to the plane which means moving it in the Z axis. In order to animate the spark create an action for the plane object. Navigate down through the action until you reach the AM_Linear texture. Here create a linear morph from 0 at frame 00:00:00 to 50 at your desired end frame for the Texture Center's Z value (this is found in the Axis Parameters section). Drag and drop this action onto the plane object in the choreography. Basically, the distance you move the texture determines how mobile the noise will be. The final animation should look something like the animation on the right.

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