What is the Particles effect? 
are, well, particles.  There are tons of uses for them, anything from pixie dust (like a certain flying fairy in that heavily copyrighted movie about a boy who never grows up, but loses his shadow) to smoke trails to water fountains to, well, lots of other things.

How is it used?
Setting up particles is extremely easy: create a null object, then add the Particles effect to it.  Of course there's various settings and controls waiting for you on the Particles block, but even those are easy.  For example, you decide how many particles-per-second you want, and how much weight they should have.

Using an object as an emitter:
There are times when you will want particles to be emitted from an object rather than an emitter null.  For example, you might want to animate a dog shaking water off himself.  To make an object emit particles, create a null object and add the Particle effect to it.  Then go to the Particles block and select Object Points as the emitter type.  Next, select the object you want in the Points Object pulldown list.  The object will now emit particles.

The reason we add the Particles effect to a Null instead of to the object itself is that it needs an emitter object.  Doing it this way will allow you to keep the setting of the particles system the same, while changing the object over time to different objects if the animation requires it.

can be affected with Forces, such as Wind and Jet.  To create them, select Force in the Item List and go to the Create block in Setup.  Select the type of Force you want to create, then press the button.  Or you could turn on Realtime Create Force instead, and click in the World View wherever you want the Forces to be.

Additional Information:  Particles block   Force block

Tutorials:  Particles (Beginner Level)     Particles & Forces (Intermediate Level)

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