Saturday, May 12, 2018

Particle Principles - Types of particles & how to use them

In a previous post, I shared ideas, thoughts, and considerations for using particles in your performance - making an impact and knowing when to say when.   You can read that post here:

Got that covered, but the next question inevitably is HOW to use particles in a performance.  Fourth of July, New Years, Christmas, Danny DeVito Day....I can go to my local big box store and buy the 52 monster pack variety size of fireworks.  With a simple lighter (and sometimes a bit of running), I can draw those oohs and aahs and light up the sky.

Here in's just a little different.  Particles are scripts that are stuffed into a prim (usually transparent).  How to use them depends on the type of particle/particle system and the trigger to activate it.
  • Particle HUD Systems - packaged HUD and Emitter
  • Particle HUD Generator/Creator - create, change, and activate during your performance
  • Individual particle - activates when rezzed or attached
  • Individual particle - attached or rezzed, activates using a chat command
  • Full perm particle (that you purchase or make)

Particle HUD Systems - Packaged HUD and Emitter:

This is where I recommend all new dancers start when beginning to use particles.  Easy to use and comes with an assortment of particles.  So what is it?

Particle HUD Systems come with two pieces - the HUD and the emitter.  The HUD is the piece you see on your screen and generally has pictures of the particles you can activate.  To use the HUD, you generally click on the particle picture to activate it, then hit a stop button or the particle picture again to turn it off.

The emitter is what you rez out on your stage or wear.  This is where the particles will "poof" from.  Most Particle HUD systems come with copy emitters - meaning you can rez out more than one "poofing point".  ("Poofing point" really is the technical term in the Official Guide to Particle Sciences  and Transmogrify.)

Particle Transmitters in
Transparent View
Two Different Packaged Particle HUDs
Particles from HUD, 3 emitters

  • Easy to use
  • Variety of particles at your fingertips
  • Some Particle HUD systems have emitters that are copy/mod - which means you can even pack them with your set!
  • You are limited to the particles that are in the HUD.  What you see is what you get.
  • Generally, you must use the HUD to activate the particles during your performance.  Without the chat commands to activate the emitter, you can't add it to a Performance Director routine timeline.
  • There will always be particles in the HUD that you won't use.  Consider this before buying the "big" huds - how many of the particles will you actually use?
Don't forget to consider scripts!  How high is the script count?  Is it worth it for what you will be using?  Personally, I prefer the smaller particle HUDs - around 16 particles or so.  If particles are your passion - you may want to check out the bigger HUDs!  


Particle HUD Generator/Creator - Create, change, and activate during your performance:

This type of system is very similar to the particle HUD above, except that it offers more flexibility.  It still has the HUD and either comes with a separate emitter or allows you to rez one from the HUD.

The major difference is that rather than having "pre-packaged" particle buttons, you have options.  The shape, the color, the age (never ask a particle its age, it's uncouth).  Some allow you to even import your own textures.  Yes!  Particles of me!  On stage!  Yay!  or shoes...why isn't there a particle of shoes?  <adds that to my to do list>

Two Different Particle HUD Generators/Creators
  • Flexibility - more options.  You generate your own particles during the performance by using the HUD options
  • The ability to "morph" your particles on stage which can be a really cool effect
  • Some of these types of HUDs also let you export the particle script of what you created, "saving" it to use as an individual particle later.
  • Gives you the ability to create on the fly as you perform - which can be an amazing creative outlet.  Freestyle dancing - for particles!
  • Plan to invest a little time getting to learn your HUD.  The more comfortable you are, the more enjoyable it will be as you perform!
  • If you prefer having your performance packaged and ready to play without including a "live" element, this may not be the best option for you.

Individual particle - activates when rezzed or attached:

This is the most common type of particle available, and there is an incredible variety of options!  To activate the particle, you simply wear it.  To "turn off" the particle you detach it.  Very simple...but...

It can be a real challenge to add and remove particles during your performance, especially if you temporarily freeze while the particle is activated.  This is how I learned - during a specific part in the dance, add the particle from inventory.  At another part in the dance, take it off from the inventory window.  I was always a bit paranoid about missing my mark or adding the wrong thing...  Thankfully there are now more options to manage particles that you must wear to activate.

For these types of particles, you can use a tool that has the ability to add or remove items for you to wear.  One of the most frequently used is Spot On Costume Assistant.  By wearing this HUD and having the folders set up in your inventory, you can give a chat command to add or remove items - such as hats, pants, and particles!  Because you have a chat command, you can also add it to your HUD hotkey buttons or your Performance Director timeline.  If you'd prefer to have a button for adding and removing particles, you can also look at other HUDs that also use RLV functionality, such as the FASTer HUD graphical avatar attachment manager.  Spot On Costume Assistant can be used to add or remove items from you and/or your dancers if they also own the HUD.  The FASTer HUD would only control your attachments.  Explore!  Determine what solution works best for you!

  • Most common type of particle you will find from many different creators.
  • Extensive variety in colors, sizes, styles.
  • Sold individually, they are relatively inexpensive - anywhere from 5L at M2D to 200/300L for bigger/fancier particles available most everywhere.
  • If the particles are transfer, you can generally buy multiple copies and share them with your dancers for the performance - creating your own particle lending library.
  • Most particles should be worn on avatar center.  Generally you can find the center point in transparency mode and adjust where they will emit from - such as bringing them behind you instead of emitting from your center.
  • Must be worn to activate, removed to turn off.  Doesn't respond to chat commands, you must use another tool if you want more control in activating them.
  • Because the particles are worn, they emit from wherever the dancer is.  Most particles attach to avatar center - which remains the same even when the animations move, the feet or the hands.  If the dancer moves by a mover system, moving one waypoint to another, the particles will move too.
  • They are often no copy, and almost always no mod.  If you wanted to rez them, this would prevent you from restoring to last position or putting them in a rezzer to rez and derez during a performance.  
  • It may be possible to rez it manually during a performance and remove it manually.  This can be a challenge (and scary), especially if it is no copy.

Individual particle - attached or rezzed, activates using a chat command:

Hat with particle & after chat command (yeah, in the purple stuff)
Remember when I mentioned that particles are scripts stuffed into a prim?  When a creator is writing a script, they can choose what "triggers" the script will respond to.  For many particles, the trigger is when the particle prim is attached or detached.  For some, it can be when the prim is touched.  My favorite is when the script hears a particular word/phrase/command on a certain channel.

Example:  for this particle, if you type this in local chat:  /89 shazam

The particle does this:

When you type that again in local chat, it turns it off.

Other particles have on/off commands.  /89 on  and /89 off for example.

In the particle listing or the instruction notecard that came with the particle (yes you should read this), if the creator allows you to trigger with a chat command they will tell you the channel and what the command is.  Sometimes they will put this in the particle description.  If they don't mention it anywhere, it is probably not a chat activated particle.

Once you know the channel and the chat command, you can add it to a hotkey button or the performance timeline.  Wear the particle before your performance or rez it with your set.  If it's copy/mod, you can add it to your rezzer or you will need to rez it manually.  Use a tool or local chat to activate and deactivate the particle during the performance.

     type /89 on in local chat  (I like to press CTRL-Enter to shout it)
     Performance Director:  124.677|RS:89:on or @button1=RS:89:on

  • Easy to control activating and turning off.
  • If the particle is copy/mod you can add it to your set and rezzer.
  • There is a relatively low number of particles that respond to chat commands.
  • Because of this, variety is limited.

Full perm particle (that you purchase or make):

There are also full perm particles that you can purchase or make.  Two of my favorite creators of full perm particles are:

Particle FX

You can also create particles from your viewer, or use particle creation tools to simplify the process/navigate the particle options.  The Particle Laboratory is a great place to go to learn about particles.  They also have the Porgan for sale there (the Particle Organ for creating).  Other options include the Easy FX Particle Generator, the [Particle Studio HD] Particle Generator HUD, and many others on MarketPlace.  There is also an easy to use website that with a little bit of info, can generate a particle script for you:   Particles-LSL-Generator

  • More flexibility - you can choose size, color, texture, burst rate, etc.
  • Some of the particle creation tools have built in particles that you can change - such as fire, water, light bursts, smoke, etc.  Some also allow you to "import" a particle script and change the options - making your own custom particle.
  • Some particle creation tools allow you to export particle scripts with a chat command built in.
  • It can take time to develop a good particle that you are happy with.
  • Many particle scripts are "activate on attach".  You can modify these scripts to listen to a chat command, however. 

Personally, I like to support particle creators for two reasons.
  1. There are incredible particles that I can't even comprehend how to create.  Particle creators are true artists and for many, this is their focus.
  2. We all have limited time and must choose how we spend it.  While occasionally I will create my own particle, I prefer to focus my time on creating, dancing, and teaching.
If you love creating and modifying particles or need something custom, do it!  


Particles can add such an amazing dynamic to your dance when used well.  For me, it's always a continuing journey and every week I'm always amazed!

Enjoy the ride!