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The Cloudlet is useful for creating smoke trails, puffy clouds and other organic looking shadowed effects. This is active when Particle Type is Cloudlet. Choosing Cloudlet enables the Shadowlet Settings subgroup, which is great for making modifications. This is a new section that gives soft self-shadowing to the active Particle Type.
In the Particle group, just choose Particle Type> Cloudlet. Doing so enables the Shadowlet Settings group.
A Cloudlet with a shadow applied. Choose Cloudlet, use its settings, and enable the Shadowlet Settings group for more options.
Let's go through the process of creating a Smokelet using the Cloudlet Particle Type.
Start with a new comp (Ctrl/Cmd-N). Make the comp 640*480 at 30 fps and 5 seconds long. Add a Solid layer that is comp sized and apply Particular 2.0.
We'll start with one of the presets that uses the Cloudlet. Make sure that your Time Marker is on the first frame of the Timeline. Select the 't2_Smoke' preset. You will initially see a blank frame. Now go to Time 2:00 (2.0 seconds) and you'll see animated smoke.
If you twirl down Particle> Particle Type, you will see that Cloudlet is active. All the settings for the Smokelet are in the Smokelet Settings. If you twirl down Shading> Shadowlet Settings, you will see that Color is a deep black-red. Color Strength is at 70%, which makes the color more gray-ish. Let's try changing the shadow color to a green shade. Click on Color, and set the number to #004400. Then click OK. You will see a green tone to the shadow.
The setting Color Strength controls how strong the RGB is to be weighted in against the particle color when computing the shadow. The setting Opacity controls how strong the shadow is. Let's set Color Strength to 60 and Opacity to 100. This makes the green shade a little darker and more subtle. By default, the Cloudlet shadow is placed as if the light source was in the upper left-hand side and slightly behind. However, the shadow position can be controlled specifically if a light named 'Shadow' is present in the composition. So let's do this. Create a new composition light (Layer>New>Light). Set Name to 'Shadow' and Light Type to Point. If you go to the Options Panel of Particular (click Options in the Effect palette), you will see that the Shadowlet's Light Name is already set by default to 'Shadow'. This will make our composition work.
The shadowing is most apparent if the light source is slightly behind the lit object. In the Timeline, select the 'Shadow' light layer and type P for Position. Set the Z Position to 100. Then grab the Point Light with the and move it in the XY plane to see how that affects the smoke's appearance. A Parallel Light may also be used as shadow light.