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Particle Playground is useless for almost everything it was supposed to be able to do. Too complex. You can use almost any of the CC Particle systems to do what you want but I'm not at my AE machine to help you wade through it.
You'd need to create a radial gradient and map it to some persistent properties (velocity, color) to create that "tunnel" feel. But I agree with David - it's like getting wisdom teeth pulled. Tedious, painful and it never seems to end. I recommend you download the demos of Trapcode Particular and Form - this sort of stuff is extremely easy to do in these plugins. The CC particle stuff is not included in the trial, but you can download a demo of the commercioal HD version of the plugins directly from Cycore.
Thanks both for your replies.
I am going to download some of the Trapcode effects as I think these might swing it as to whether I buy this or go with the Final Cut Studio suite. (Apple Motion looks very appealing... )
I did find a great tutorial on the Trapcode site which seems to make it look like I can achieve this effect in seconds here http://www.trapcode.com/in_action/particular_custom.html