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This course was created and produced by Chris Meyer. We are honored to host his material in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
After Effects: Adding Lighting Effects in Post demonstrates how to use virtually any version of After Effects to easily add animated lighting effects to existing footage. Going beyond basic techniques, Chris Meyer shares his personal experience and uses many examples to teach the best way to select and fine-tune lighting clips to enhance a variety of underlying shots. He presents techniques for subtle enhancements that will help hold the viewer's attention while adding production value to virtually any shot. Chris also discusses how to create lighting clips from scratch, either with a camera or by using Fractal Noise.
Okay, with those guidelines in mind, let's start looking at some examples. For example, here's a woman in an office. The clip itself is technically very good. It's evenly lit, it's well framed, it's just not very exciting. If we're trying to make something like an opening title, this just isn't going to cut it. So instead let's add some lighting to it. One clip that might make a good lighting clip again is one of these soft edges clips. I'll play through it and you can see it just has nice, subtle, slow, out of focus movement moving across screen.
If Modes are not already visible in After Effects, press F4 to toggle the Modes panel and then choose blending mode for your lighting clip. Now, usually Overlay is the very first mode I go for. It's a handy, all purpose mode, it's a good starting point and you can play with other modes after this. You see there it's now added some highlights into the scene as well as some shadows to the scene. I'm going to press 0 on the numeric keypad to RAM preview. It does take a little while to calculate the preview. We're going to skip that time in the future and just jump straight to the playback.
Now, look up in these corners. You can see bright areas moving across the back wall. So you'll see some movement going up in this corner, shadows and lights. It's not distracting, but it just adds some animation to make the scene more interesting. The Overlay mode also just adds kind of a nice filmic over-exposure to this whole scene. Now, when I see clip that's predominantly white, another set of mode I'm sort of looking at are Multiply and the Burn modes.
Multiply darkens the composite based on the values of the clip on top. So in this case, you'll see the whole scene gets darker. I'll just go ahead and do a quick RAM preview. You'll see again that we have animated shadow and light going on in the back here. Multiply in itself is not a very exciting mode. It doesn't do any color shift. If you want something that has a little bit more zing to it, try something like Color Burn. Now you actually start to get some color shifts that look like Dodge and Burn techniques you might do in Photoshop. If the effect is too strong, press T to reveal Opacity and back off the Opacity of your lighting clip until you have a nice subtle blend.
That's one clip. Let's go look at another one. This is a case of clip that has a strong color cast to it and also has some really nice animated movement to it. As we know orange tends to be a warming color, so applying this to the clip on top will help warm it up. I'll select its mode. I'll choose Overlay as my first shot and you see it does add a strong colorcast to this scene. If Overlay is too strong for my taste, I'll back off little and use Soft Light, which is a more subtle version of that mode.
RAM preview and you'll see that I have got again some nice light play going on in the background. It does look like there's some interesting lighting going on in the scene, but it's not enough to make it look like there's another graphic pasted on top of her head. If it's too strong, T for Opacity, back it off a little bit and it just gives the amount of addition that you want. Let's RAM preview again and you see the effect is more subtle now. It's a nice enhancement to the scene. Now, this clip which we saw earlier is primarily black with some lighter highlights. Whenever you have a clip that's primarily black, the set of modes you want to look at are the ones that include Add and Screen. These basically add illumination to the scene.
Black is no addition, white is lot of addition, Screen is little softer, Add is a little bit of harsher, more blown out. We'll RAM preview this first at full strength and you can see the motion and lighting that it's adding to the scene. That's a bit too strong. It's blowing out her face right here in the middle. Let's pause, move our Time Marker back to the one of the worst areas, hit T to reveal Opacity and back it off until where it's just an enhancement now, rather than being something very noticeable and that damages the image. RAM preview again and now we have a more subtle effect that lightens her face rather than being something as very glaring.
Again, we could back off Opacity even more if we wanted to. Now, Add mode and Screen mode don't really shift the color of the image that much. If you want more of an effect, choose Color Dodge. This is the opposite of Color Burn. Color Dodge now will start to give us a little bit more of a color shift, little bit more of a blown out sort of look. Go to Full Strength, we'll go to an area where her face is really burned out by the lighting. We'll back off the Opacity to where now it's just an additive effect, it's not too strong.
RAM preview and now we'll see again that we just have something more subtle. Some lightness, then some color shadows going across her face. It's nothing too glaring or obvious. That's a lot better than the untreated shot, which just had even lighting throughout the entire clip. No excitement, no interest, nothing to keep the viewer engaged. Let's go look at another example. Now, here's some really stark footage of a person in prison. I'll just play it through so you can see it. One thing I notice besides the fact that again it's evenly lit so it can maybe use some excitement, it has a very strong vertical orientation. So I might want to choose a lighting clip that shares this vertical orientation.
First, let's look at a clip such as this one. Again, we looked at this earlier. This was the sheets of light that we saw earlier, very vertical orientation but nice and soft. A nice animation to it. I'll start with Overlay, it's my favorite mode to start out with, and see its effect on these bars. Now it's a bit strong, so I hit T for Opacity, back it off a little bit to where it's something a bit more subtle of the mix, right around there. Now we have the scene with a little bit more coloration and a little bit more play going on across the bars, little bit of light, little bit of shadow, rather than being perfectly stark and even for the entire pullback.
Overlay is a good starting point, but since this is a predominantly dark clip, I'll try something like Color Dodge. I'll increase its amount so you can see what it's doing. I'll RAM preview and now you can see where we get some nice animated light and shadows happening on these metal bars without really altering the clip. We're just enhancing the clip. Now, this is a pretty subtle application. Let's look at another inherently unexciting shot, a finger on a mouse. I play it through. There's not a lot going on in this shot, just some various subtle finger movements. You have a chance of losing the attention of your viewer. So let's go ahead and enhance it.
Here is one clip I might use. It's a relatively dark shot. It just has little sparkles and flashes of light. Just little bits of things to add interest. Now, since it's a predominantly dark shot, I'll go for the Add or Screen modes as my starting point. Add mode looks like that. The orange spots are pretty hot. Maybe I'll try something more subtle like Screen mode and if necessarily back off the Opacity so it's just a bit of a highlight. Let's RAM preview this and now we have a scene that just has some nice, subtle light play, something to keep the viewer's interest but does not distract from the overall point of the shot, the finger on the mouse.
Try another clip. Now, here's a clip that has a lot of sharpness in it which may seem to break one of our cardinal rules. On the other hand, the reason I chose this clip is it has a nice, strong diagonal orientation. Just like this scene is very diagonal, the way that the cord is coming into the scene, the way the fingers are going out of the scene. I have picked the lighting layer that also has a similar orientation. Again, it's a predominantly dark layer. So I'm going to pick something like an Add or Screen mode. Add adds very sharp lights. Now, you have got something that's very hi-tech, very spacey. Add's a bit strong. You can do something like Screen, which is less obvious. There is that previewed.
If necessary, you can back off the Opacity, shift the color, or even better maybe blur the scene a little bit, so it's not quite as obvious. Again in a later movie, I'll show you how to apply effects like Blurs to enhance footage like this. Now, like I said, this is pretty sharp and that's about as far as I might want to push it. Remember this clip I pointed out earlier where I said that this may be a bit too fast and may be a bit too sharp. Let's go ahead and try it out. I'm going to apply an Overlay mode, RAM preview, and you can see where it's just too interesting. There is too much going on. These lighting clips should be subtle.
In this case, this lighting clip is so interesting, it's overwhelming the subject of our original footage. You can go ahead and try backing off the Opacity, you can try blurring it out. But by the time you do that, you're just not adding much to the scene anymore. You're better off adding a softer clip such as this one that's just adding subtle lighting effects to your footage. If you like to see some more examples, the next movie contains four more scenarios to give you a better idea of how to best pick a lighting clip to enhance different types of underlying footage.
If you think you have got the basic concept down now, you can skip the next movie. The movie after that shows you how to make your own lighting clips using Turbulent or Fractal Noise, and then the last set of movies shows you how to enhance the lighting clip to better match the color and the arrangement of your underlying footage. So let's go!
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