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Even with a camera flying through the scene, you can just use several layers of real fog/smoke footage distributed in 3D space.
One trick is to have the fog layers automatically orient toward the camera so that you're never seeing them edge-on.
See this page for a bunch of resources on creating and compositing fog. Pay special attention to the Mark Christiansen article linked to from there.
Personally, I've never found the creation of fog/smoke with a particle system to be worth the trouble. Using footage elements of fog/smoke as a starting point has always been more efficient for me.
Okay, if you're saying in your experience you've been able to create realistic fog from auto-orienting layers, I'll try it. the problem is that I do so much zooming and flying around, that it's going to be hard tweaking the layers to look real. I keep thinking there has to be a way someone has done this in true 3d, that would look a lot better.
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Be sure to follow the links that I provided and take the time to read and watcht he articles and tutorials. In the long run, it'll be more efficient than trial and error on your own.
There are a bunch of techniques for creating fog in After Effects. A Google search brings up a bunch of tutorials. Depending on your scene using 3D Fog from the 3D Channels>3D Fog effect and tying fog start and end depth to the distance between the camera and your subject would work quite well.
There's also Digieffects Atmosphere plug-in which does a great job.
I think CC particle world is the wrong approach. There's no way to control opacity in relationship to the distance from the camera. You could create a bunch of random clouds of fog shapes in a pre-comp, but it's probably not a viable solution.
Unfortunately, the 3d fog effect from 3d channels only works when you import a 3d file and cannot be used stand-alone in AE.
The Atomosphere plug in is more for fading backgrounds, and less for creating rolling fog, and it's also not free (or available on any torrent tracker).
I've also come to the conclusion that particle world is just not going to hold up, not because of the opacity control, but more because the particles just do not generate with a model consistent with real fog.
I'm going to try doing what Todd said and generate multiple layers and have them auto-orient when I rotate the camera.
I'm surprised there isn't a repository of free fog elements somewhere. I google and couldn't find anything, so I'll just use fractal noise for now.
Thanks for the resources, Todd. I'm going through it right now...going to use fractal noise, several layers, auto-orient them, and then composit them back in with their alpha instead of "add" or "screen" mode.
Depending on your scene it's fairly easy to generate a placeholder image that will give you the simulated fog effect that can work quite well when layered with 3D layers and linked with expressions. I bounce back and forth so much lately that I didn't think much or read much before I made the 3D fog suggestion.
Todd's suggestion will probably work quite well if you keep the layers oriented toward the camera and tie opacity to distance from the camera. I'd love to see how the project turns out.
Hmmm...after some experimenting, I've tried a lot of different things:
-compositing real "fog" smoke footage...hard to get atmospheric, swirling kind of fog
-using fractal noise layers...hard to work with all the 3d flying around i have in this composition
-cc particle world...looked terrible
so now i'm down to trapcode particular....going to give it a whirl with this since it is supposed to be a little better than cc particle world.
going to post a new thread to see if anyone has used particular for fog here, can't really find people using it for fog on google.
also, i really appreciate all the help and advice. my progress would be ten times slower without this forum.