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Adding smooth falloff

From: After Effects CS5.5 New Features

Video: Adding smooth falloff

Smooth falloff lighting lets you precisely determine the size, otherwise known as the radius, and range, the falloff distance, of a given light. The light decreases between those two values in a linear fashion, which might not purely realistic, does offer you the maximum flexibility and control. So to look at that, I've set up a little 3D scene here. It consists of a target floor. There is a cloud of particles that I made out of some text in 3D, and there's this kind of nebula around that, and they're all going to pick up a 3D light.

Adding smooth falloff

Smooth falloff lighting lets you precisely determine the size, otherwise known as the radius, and range, the falloff distance, of a given light. The light decreases between those two values in a linear fashion, which might not purely realistic, does offer you the maximum flexibility and control. So to look at that, I've set up a little 3D scene here. It consists of a target floor. There is a cloud of particles that I made out of some text in 3D, and there's this kind of nebula around that, and they're all going to pick up a 3D light.

So let's create one now. I'll choose Layer > New > Light and I'll leave it as the default After Effects light and choose this amber color that's in here now. So this is how a light has looked in previous versions of After Effects. If I go to 2 Views, I can reposition it so that it's at the center of the target. And you can see that the decrease in value is slight and it's just based on the angle.

That's all that's happening. There's no real falloff. We can change that right in the timeline. Under Light Options, I can set Falloff to Smooth, and that enables these other two options, Radius and Falloff Distance. Now by default, they are at 500. So what that's doing is creating this kind of soft globe. The light's positioned here in midair, you see the soft globe around it, and you see the center area on the target where the lights have full intensity and then you see it decaying in a kind of linear progression away to nothing.

To really show you what's going on, if I set Radius down to 0 and then boost the Falloff Distance again, I just get the soft decay from that center point. So the Radius control is like setting the size of the light and you can see that clearly if I go the other way around. I'll set the Falloff Distance to 0 and raise the Radius and now you can really easily see this kind of ball of light. And now again, if I increase the Falloff Distance, you'll just see the soft decay away from that.

Now notice that each of these has a little stopwatch, so you could actually animate this. So you could precisely create an animation that just consists of the Radius and Falloff Distance, or you can combine it with other animation. You can also of course create different lights with different types of falloff on them. And an easy way to do that is just to create maybe some different colored lights. Let's do that now. I'll change the Radius to something pretty small and take the Falloff Distance back to 0 and just duplicate this light.

Twirling down these options, actually I am going to use the uber key, which is UU, and let me create a little more room for myself down here. Change the color of this one to be, say, green and increase the Radius a bit like that. Let's make one more. Just duplicating again, UU. This one can be purple, and increase it again so it gets to the outside of the target.

Now that's pretty cool. If I boost this project to 32-bits per channel, we'll even get the effect of overbrights there in the center since each of these lights has an Intensity of 100%. So in fact, putting them together they now have a center Intensity of 300%. If I select them all and again uber key them, I can select the Falloff Distance for each of them. I'll Command+click on each one, so now I have them all selected and all at once I can just adjust them all.

So you can really easily see the effect of changing that Falloff Distance and how a bunch of different lights might blend together. Now you're not restricted to just blending together smooth lights. You could mix these with lights with no falloff or lights with inverse square clamped falloff. But smooth falloff gives you all kinds of control over the exact start and end range of a light.

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After Effects CS5.5 New Features

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Mark Christiansen
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