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Common sense tells you that light from a single source, whether it's an incandescent bulb, LED light fixture, of the sun, doesn't travel on infinitely without losing its intensity, but until now that's how lights have behaved in the world of After Effects. In fact, real world light decays according very specific and consistent rules, which you can now emulate in the software or you can instead make up your own rules. In this slide, you see how a spotlight has looked in previous versions of After Effects.
This has been your only option and any decrease that you see in the intensity along the back wall there is due to the angle of the light rather than the distance from that light. You can see that because the pool of light that's glancing against the floor there is actually equal in intensity to the light up at the top. In fact if anything it looks brighter. One added option in After Effects CS5.5 is Linear Light. With this option you can determine both the size of the light which is the area in which the light is at full intensity, and this is known as the radius, as well as the distance from the edge of that radius to the point where there is no more light.
That's known as the Fall-off Distance. So here you see a light that is at full intensity near the top and decays nicely to zero before it ever hits the floor. The other new option in After Effects CS5.5 is Inverse Square Clamp Lighting. Another word for this type of lighting would be realistic lighting because this is how light behaves in the natural world. Again, you have a radius in which light is at full intensity and you see that near the top of this cone. But then the way the light falls off is according to the inverse square law in which light is one quarter the brightness over double the distance.
This gives you a very natural type of falloff that just previously has not been available in the application and it's great for a number of things. Let's take a look at the new lighting dialog in After Effects. I'll choose Layer > New Light and here we see the new Falloff menu. So in addition to None, which is the type of After Effects light you're used to, you have Smooth and Inverse Square Clamped. With the Smooth option, I can set both the Radius and the Falloff Distance whereas with Inverse Square Clamped, I can set only the Radius.
The falloff behaves according to the laws of the natural world. Any light can be set to have any type of falloff or none at all and you can mix and match these and freely change them after they're created, either here in this dialog or down in the timeline. So whether you're after realism or just control over the range of a given light, After Effects now offers straightforward control over light falloff. In the rest of the movies in this chapter, we will take a look at exactly how that works.
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