I have a tree illustration where I want the leaves to rustle around realistically from wind. The rustling should not be a general looping movement, but instead, spontaneously-looking gusts of wind that increase and decrease, like natural.
My approach was to puppet pin the tree leaves, and animate each pin manually. But before I do this, is there an easier way through a plugin? Does such a plugin exist where, once I set the puppet pins, the plugin sends a simulated "wave" that blows through the pins to distort them?
Thinking off the top of my head, I don't know of an existing script that would do that but that's not my forté. My thought would be to have the tree without leaves as a static layer and then add each leaf on its own layer. Put a wiggle expression like the one in PTAutoExpress on each layer and animate the amount of wiggle. You could link all of the amount sliders so you could quickly keyframe all of the leaves to be more or less chaotic. Depending on the number of leaves, it would be a big pain BUT it would give tons of control.
Simulating vorticity and constrained elasticity would require a plug-in like Newton. Otherwise of course you can fake it with all sorts of expressions, be that individual per pin wiggle() with animated amplitudes to more sophisticated stuff that creates the illusion of an actual ripple through the leaves. Entirely depends. Without a screenshot of your setup and more info on the specific requirements nobody can tell you more than that, anyway. As always, the devil's in the details.