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In this course,, visual effects guru Mark Christiansen covers the relevant new features of After Effects CS5.5, including the new Warp Stabilizer, 3D Stereoscopic workflow, and Lens Effects tools. The course also covers light falloff enhancements and workflow improvements in this release.
Camera lens blur is a completely new feature in After Effects that is available both via the After Effects camera, simply by enabling depth of field, and using a new affect found on the Blur menu. No other blur operation compares this one, which recruits the unique look of a defocused camera lens. Here we have an actual defocused image. This came from a real camera and it contains what's called bokeh. This is a Japanese term for the way the lens renders out of focus points of light. Now obviously its most visible around the small highlights such as headlights, stoplights, streetlights and it creates what are sometimes called circles of confusion, but it actually occurs in all of the out of focus areas of the image and since this entire image is out of focus it's occurring everywhere.
You can see the rounded octagonal shapes around the highlights. Those actually are derived from the shape of the cameras own iris, so the blades of the iris, they were eight of them with a slight roundness, and that's reflected in those highlights. Now though professional cinematographers by and large avoided creating these types of artifacts until just a few decades ago, they are often considered beautiful, hence the Japanese term for them, and they can completely transform an ordinary image of a New York street scene like this one.
We can compare the effect with Gaussian blur as seen here and this blur is set to about the same amount, but obviously the overall effect is completely different. Gaussian blur and other types of blur you might find in an application like After Effects or Photoshop calculate interactions between pixels themselves, but they don't take into account the effect of a lens simply because such a thing doesn't exist on a computer. Here's the same image with the Camera Lens Blur effect applied to approximately the same amount. You can clearly see the circles of confusion in this and you might even notice that they have the little octagonal shapes of the ones from the earlier image.
New camera lens blur effects in After Effects open a whole new world of aesthetic possibilities for anyone who wants to re-create a realistic camera lens. That includes the aesthetic qualities we are seeing here as well as some things we haven't even touched on yet like shallow depth of field and rack focus effects. These can make ordinary scenes take on compelling abstract characteristics and help tell a story.
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