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Contrast

From: After Effects: Lighting Effects in Post

Video: Contrast

Another common thing you need to do is play around with the levels of your lighting clip. Here is our trumpet player again and here is something we want to use as a lighting source. It's primarily white with some gray levels. However, the white is not full white and the gray is certainly not full black. There is a couple of ways we can go with this. My first approach is to increase the contrast in this clip. So it goes from maximum black to maximum white giving me the maximum flexibility to blend into the clip. So I'll select this and apply Effect > Color Correction > Levels. This gives me a nice Histogram where I get to see the distribution of the white levels.

Contrast

Another common thing you need to do is play around with the levels of your lighting clip. Here is our trumpet player again and here is something we want to use as a lighting source. It's primarily white with some gray levels. However, the white is not full white and the gray is certainly not full black. There is a couple of ways we can go with this. My first approach is to increase the contrast in this clip. So it goes from maximum black to maximum white giving me the maximum flexibility to blend into the clip. So I'll select this and apply Effect > Color Correction > Levels. This gives me a nice Histogram where I get to see the distribution of the white levels.

I'll bring the Input White point down to tickle my highest white value and my Input Black up to tickle the lowest black value. And now I have full contrast. Now if I was to apply it with the mode such as Overlay mode, I'm going to get the maximum contrast from brightened areas to darkened areas for my lighting effect and you see how the light is playing across the trumpet. If I find that effect be too extreme, there is a couple of things I can do. I can alter the Transparency to change how much lighting is being applied to that underlying clip.

I can also play around with the Gamma of this Levels effect to change the distribution. More brights or more darks. Now one thing you might notice as I move through this clip, it does have a changing range of gray values. There is a chance that the black point that I set and the white point that I set might be moving over the life of the clip. Well, there is an alternative effect in After Effects. I'm going to delete Levels, and apply Effect > Color Correction > Auto Contrast. Not Auto Levels.

Levels normalizes the red, green and blue channels individually. It creates a color shift. Auto Contrast gives me the effect I want. This is going to maximize the contrast in underlying clip and now I'll go ahead and play around with Opacity. I can also still go back and apply Color Correction > Levels again. Work with just the Gamma control to change the overall balance of brightness or darkness. But know that Auto Contrast is always going to be giving me maximum contrast as an input.

Now the other thing you might want to do with Levels is brighten out a clip. For example, when we were working back with this office clip, I wanted to use this lighting layer to add some shadows to the scene. I want the white to be unaffected, the black areas just to be slightly darker. The problem is that the whites are not full white in this clip. So if I apply it in the Multiply mode, you see the whole composite is getting darker. Before and after. If I don't want that to happen, I need to clip out the whites in this lighting layer. So I'll look at just it. Apply Effect > Color Correction > Levels. Look at my Histogram and say okay, I need to crush out my whites so that a lot of my white areas are pure white, blown out. I'm just getting a little bit of dip down here in these darker areas.

Now when I apply it in Multiply mode, I'm going to get a more subtle lighting effect. Before, after. Now I'm just getting very a subtle shadowing by generally keeping the bright areas of the scene bright. Let's RAM Preview and now you see I just have some subtle shadows moving around on this back wall. Very subtle technique. If I need to increase the effect, I'll go ahead and bring up the Black Point still to really darken it down but frankly that's too much. I like something that's more subtle. Maybe play with the Gamma a little bit just to get the effect that I want.

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After Effects: Lighting Effects in Post

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Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
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