I've been battling the particle system for over a week now without any success. A little context to what my issue is:

I'm using an instantiated collection(!) with 4 meshes in it as particles, each of them with shapekey animations. The problem is that all of them play at the same time. I'd like each particle to start it's own animation when it's emitted, and not based on the timeline.

Example: Let's say I modeled a piece of popcorn and have base shapekey as just the corn seed, and another shapekey as the actual popcorn itself. Now when I make a popcorn machine, I want each emitted popcorn to start as a seed when it's "emitted", and turn into an actual popcorn after however many frames after it's born. With the default particle system, all popcorn would pop at the exact same time, meaning some would be emitted already popped, which makes no sense.

So I obviously looked everywhere I could, looked at all the (frankly small number of) topics on this matter, like here, here, here, here, and even found a video tutorial which covers the exact same issue, but is unfortunately for an older version for both blender and AN, some nodes from AN are absent in the latest version, and doesn't work at all with collections as instantiated particles.

So I'm pretty much at a point of giving up, but if anyone miraculously somehow knows some solution to this issue, please by all means let me know your genius, as it seems like nobody knows a definite solution to this. Thanks!

  • $\begingroup$ How is your popcorn made? Could you use Scalar displacement maps or even Vector displacement maps to get from the seed to the puff? Because particle age can influence those in a shader...... Maybe share a kernel in a blend file on Blend Exchange $\endgroup$
    – Robin Betts
    Feb 19, 2020 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reply! As I said, I'm using shapekeys to morph the mesh from one state to another, the popcorn bit was just an example haha, it's not actually what I'm doing. Uhm, the rest kinda gone over my head, not sure what scalar and vector displacements are, but you're saying that I can use them in the actual material nodes? I suppose that is what you mean by shader? So I don't even need animation nodes? Can you show how I can do that? $\endgroup$
    – Geri
    Feb 19, 2020 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not suggesting it's pretty/quick and easy ... I don't know if your morphs are a good candidate for displacement.. do you have access to Zbrush or the like? I believe the maps could be made in Blender.. harder work. Yes. In principle, I think you could change shapes in material nodes / the renderer. No shape keys, or AN. $\endgroup$
    – Robin Betts
    Feb 19, 2020 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea, it could work. Unfortunately I don't have Zbrush, though I could get it, but I never used it before. So theoretically I could turn my shapekey morphs to vector displacement maps, and animate that using particle info like when it's emitted? Would that be done with the particle info node? That's the only particle related node afaik. Oh boy, it's getting complicated quickly again. I understand the concept, but have no idea how to execute it. I've been using blender for only 5 months after all. $\endgroup$
    – Geri
    Feb 20, 2020 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ Yup, particle info. it would need trying out, which is why my comment isn't an answer.. but, give us an example set of keys, I'd be happy to struggle with it because I've been looking at something related myself. (Still hoping for a simpler answer for you). If this commentary becomes too extended, we may move it to a chat. $\endgroup$
    – Robin Betts
    Feb 20, 2020 at 10:53


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