Recently I’ve been spending some time investigating how to create piano visualization videos with particles. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, these mesmerizing videos can be found in a few youtube channels. The most popular of these is probably Rousseau, with around 1,6 Million subscribers at the time of writing this – not easy for a piano only channel!
In this post, I will go through the general process and types of piano visualization software you will need to produce a video like this one, this one or even this one. There’s a lot of info to cover, so let’s get right to it!
How is the Video Made?
What Kind of Piano Can I Use?
In order to produce the effect as the one you see here or here, you will need a digital piano. In my youtube channel (which you should totally subscribe to, by the way) I use the Yamaha P45, for having the quality and features I was looking for, at the most affordable price, but there are options for every wallet.
What Software Tools are Necessary?
As you might have guessed, some of these steps require software that is not free.
For handling the MIDI capture and audio generation I’ve seen the use of Ableton Live highly recommended. There are, however, some alternatives worth a try, such as FL Studio and Cubase. The generation of the piano roll video is done using the most popular piano visualization software, Synthesia. The output video is then generated using Synthesia Video Creator, their video creation tool. The remaining steps are done in the MVP of this project, which is Adobe After Effects. You will also need Red Giant’s Trapcode Particular, a mind-blowing plugin (with a matching price).
Although there is no doubt the end result is beautiful to watch, even hypnotising in a way, all this adds to a considerable amount using the recommended setup of software.
Since a lot of you were asking about it in the comments, I made a tutorial on how to download and use Synthesia Video Creator 😉
Learning How to Create Piano Visualization Videos with Particles
After a somewhat slow first try (ok, several tries over a week), I managed to produce the following video from a generic Fur Elise MIDI file. I’m not completely satisfied with the result, but you can already see a lot of progress here. There are falling notes generated from the MIDI file, the background was keyed out, the color of the notes was edited, a fancy smoke border was added between the keys and the notes, there is glow when the notes touch the keys and we have the almighty particles (single, smoke and random flyers!).
For the border, I used Video Copilot’s free “Saber” plugin, and for the particles, I used Trapcode Particular. In order to use it, I recommend you read through Particular’s documentation since there are several configurable fields. The main idea is to make a small section at the bottom of the falling notes, that will act as the trigger for the particles to be generated.
Source File - Synthesia Video Generated from MIDI
Below is the video I created with Synthesia. I was able to change the background color to black using Synthesia itself. As it turns out there is a hidden customization tool that you can launch by pressing Shift while you click the icon.
Final After Effects Output
Below is the end result of this first try after changing the piano roll colors and adding the particles and glow.
Don't Give Up!
Slow and steady wins the race. This may seem like a whole new world for some, and it certainly was for me, but if you take the time to slowly learn how to do this you will be able to do things you never thought you would. After originally making this article, I kept working on these techniques. I started a whole youtube series where I try something different in each video and, after a few months, I was able to create this video, that mixes these effects into an actual video of me performing (augmented reality piano particles video? haha)
Thoughts and Future Plans
Riiight, spending a considerable amount of money on this kind of project is not for everyone for sure, especially if you are a piano beginner. However, remember you might not need the particles. Sure, they look great and it’s fun to look at them (they might even help with viewer retention if that’s important to you), but just the MIDI notes alone, with some glow effects when they hit the piano keys will already create a pretty cool effect.
Now that I’ve learned how to create piano visualization videos with particles, I feel it is not enough. It’s not enough to know how to do it, I need to put it to practice and perfect it. I’m also sure it’s going to be a lot more complicated when also dealing with the bottom section with the actual video of the performance. After you have everything set up it all comes down to taking the time to familiarize yourself with each of the tools and messing around with the countless possibilities of the Trapcode Particular plugin.
Meanwhile, the next step for me is to set up a proper recording environment for the overhead performance and tweaking the particles to my taste. Obviously, there are still a lot of after effects details I need to learn in order to get all of this going. I’ll be trying to figure out the best way to do it myself in the weeks to come 🙂 I’ll make sure to keep updating this article with my findings. If you’d like to check my most recent tweaks you can find them here
Need Help Creating Your Own Video?
Hopefully, at this point you have an idea of how it all works out, or at least how to get started! As you can imagine, it took a lot of effort to learn all these methods and do this tutorial post, so as much as I want to, it would be impossible to assist everyone individually on their doubts. In any case, if you have a quick question, feel free to leave a comment with it here and I will do my best to help. However, if what you’d really like is to skip all the hassle and have the project files for any of my videos, email me at email@example.com and I’ll see what I can do 🙂
What about the LED Light Strip Visualizer?
As you might have noticed we didn’t cover the reactive LED visualizer part! Yup, that’s a whole other project to add to this one. I’ll make a post about my ideas on it when I get around to it.
What to be notified when I post the piano LED visualizer tutorial? 👇