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After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting
Illustration by John Hersey

Using soft lighting effects


From:

After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Using soft lighting effects

I have Fractal Noise applied to my layer and initially it looks like I have a cross between cotton balls, clouds, and I don't know what. However, it is very customizable. It also does not animate to start with but we'll also add that later on. The first thing to look at is your Fractal Type. This selects different fractal patterns to give you basic starting points for your fractal explorations, including some different ways of treating the numbers that are generated underneath the hood. When I am creating a generic lighting effect, I have personally found Dynamic Twist to be a really good starting point.

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After Effects Apprentice 07: Parenting
1h 39m Intermediate May 25, 2011 Updated Nov 20, 2012

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Parenting is a way to group multiple layers within the same composition inside After Effects. In this course, Chris Meyer shows how to set up a parenting chain, discusses what makes a good parent, and demonstrates several techniques using parenting, such as creating a title animation with a minimal number of keyframes, building a geometric construct, and bringing an anthropomorphic robot arm to life. Sidebar topics include avoiding a scaling gotcha with parenting and creating abstract backgrounds using the Fractal Noise effect.

The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.

Topics include:
  • Preparing files
  • Making parenting connections
  • Arranging the frame and arm
  • Using null objects
  • Crafting anthropomorphic-style animations
  • Avoiding problems with non-uniform scaling
  • Animating Fractal Noise
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Using soft lighting effects

I have Fractal Noise applied to my layer and initially it looks like I have a cross between cotton balls, clouds, and I don't know what. However, it is very customizable. It also does not animate to start with but we'll also add that later on. The first thing to look at is your Fractal Type. This selects different fractal patterns to give you basic starting points for your fractal explorations, including some different ways of treating the numbers that are generated underneath the hood. When I am creating a generic lighting effect, I have personally found Dynamic Twist to be a really good starting point.

You can see it has more of an interesting sort of fire look to it than the clouds we started off with. Secondly, you have the Noise Type pop-up, and again this further defines how the fractal is being painted on your screen. Soft Linear is the default. It tends to have a nice contrast. Linear has a little bit less contrast. It doesn't look so good with other fractal types. It does look good with Dynamic Twist. There's Block, which we will be playing with later on for that background. But when I am trying to create some nice soft fading in and out shadows and bright spots, I happened to like Spline.

Again, it gives me this nice, soft, swirly pattern, which is a good starting point for creating smooth lighting effects. But feel free to change any of these to taste later on. Next, I want to turn this from clouds into curtains, something that's a little bit longer in dimension. So I'm going to twirl open the Transform section where I can scale the Fractal Pattern and I'm going to turn off Uniform Scaling. That way I can stretch this to be taller than it is wide. And this is how I start to get my curtains of light sort of effect, and just to give you a preview of what we're about to do I'm going to go ahead and scrub the Evolution and you can see how our curtains now move in and out, up and down.

Now right now this is far much too detail for a sort of lighting effect. It's closer to fire than shadows and highlights. To reduce the detail you have a couple different choices. You can reduce Complexity, which is basically how many layers of different noise patterns are being added on top of each other. 1 is just a single layer, 2 is two layers, and so on. For my lighting effect I'll tend to go between say 2 and 3. Another option is to go into the Sub Settings.

Sub determines how those additional layers of complexity are mixed into the final result. Sub Scaling is how large or small those iterations of noise are. A smaller Sub Scaling creates more detail because it's scaling down, making tighter or more complex those individual layers. A higher Sub Scaling reduces complexity, because the individual layers are not scaled down as much. They're more similar in size. Sub Influence controls how those individual letters are mixed together.

If you turn this down to zero, we basically only get one layer again. But if you start to bring up Sub Influence it determines how those additional layers of complexity are mixed in. I am going to go for something around here where I have my soft shadows and highlights. Not a lot of detail like a fire effect might have. Next, to make this animate I want keyframes with that Evolution parameter we're applying with. I'll scroll down little bit here, turn on Evolution, and I'll go to the end of my composition and to create a seamless loop I need to go one frame beyond the end of my comp, therefore I am at a point in time equivalent to the first frame of my composition, coming back around to the head again.

I'll have this rotate say 2 revolutions of Evolution. Press zero on the numeric keypad, RAM Preview, and see if I like that speed or not. If it's too slow I can create more revolutions inside my timeframe. If it's too fast I can have fewer revolutions or fewer degrees of change, but I like this. Okay, the next thing you might notice is, "Chris, it's not looping, why? You put that keyframe where you said I had to put it but it's not seamless." Well, to make a seamless loop in Fractal Noise there is one more thing you need to do.

You need to open up Evolution Options and turn on Cycle Evolution. This is what forces Fractal Noise to seamlessly loop and is not available in Turbulent Noise. It's bit of a cheat but you know, sometimes we like cheats. Since I'm evolving two full revolutions for the length of my composition, to create a more complex pattern I'm going to say don't repeat yourself until you've gone through two cycles of Evolution. Now RAM preview and once the buffer gets calculated, we should have a nice seamless loop.

We'll come around to the very end and come back up to the head completely seamlessly. So the nice thing is I could render this movie, import it back into After Effects or any other program, and loop it for as many times as I want, depending on what length of background that I need. The last thing you might play with is just, say, adjust these patterns or highlights and dark. Like I don't really like this pattern right in here. I'd like to try to get a different pattern if at all possible. To do that, I can go ahead and play with the Random Seed. Let's try some different values and see if I can create a pattern of lights and darks that I think might be more interesting.

Let's try that one. Yeah, I think I can live with that pattern. That's a pretty good background. You've a lot more parameters inside Fractal Noise, but this is your basic recipe for creating a nice background lighting effect.

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Q: This course was updated on 11/20/2012. What changed?
A: We added new movies on using the exercise files that come with this course, and added an additional set of exercise files designed for After Effects CS6.
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