Animating is a lot of fun. The chance to bring you creations to life is an immensely satisfying process and (if it goes well) the chance to show off your masterpiece like a proud new parent.

But… the downside is that it takes a great deal of time to get great results and hours of pain staking work, pushing key frames around to produce just mere seconds of footage can be a little deflating at times.
Fortunately, the modern animator has a range of tools at their disposal to make this process, not only faster but more accurate. Welcome to the world of simulation!
The example below (bowling pins explode) animated in the traditional sense would take a very long time. Imagine having to animate each piece of the exploding pins individually, horrifying.
This simulation was produced in 3Ds Max using its MassFX tool set and took about an hour to build (most of that was me modelling a nice looking bowling pin :(). Without MassFX this would have taken me many many hours.

Bowling pins explode from Colourbox on Vimeo.

But its not just 3D animation that benefits for simulations, 2D animation programs have a wide range of plugins and built in features to help with complex animations and motion simulations.
The example below was produced in after effects using the Newton 2 plug.

Gravity shapes from Colourbox on Vimeo.


So to get you started, I have put together a list of my favourite time saving tutorials, for both 2D and 3D

Newton 2 introduction – a great tutorial for after effects that simulated gravity and mass. Great for falling objects and other real world simulations.

Particle Dance – This is a great intro to Trapcode Particular for After Affects (a particle simulation plugin). It can be used to simulate anything from matrix style raining code to fire and smoke.

Mass FX gravity simulation – This tutorial covers all the basics of the 3D physics engine in 3ds max. Cool result.

Mass FX cloth simulation – Another fantastic tutorial showing off the 3Ds Max MassFX cloth simulator.