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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.
- Adding fractal lighting effects Transforming images with lighting and color correction Using vignetting to set the scene Adjusting blur for a subtle change
Skill Level Intermediate
Now over time we have built a fairly large stock footage library of so called lighting clips that we can then quickly draw upon during the course of a job. If you have a camera and you are comfortable using tools like After Effects, you can also go out and shoot your own footage. Shoot it out of focus, slow it down in After Effects, colorize it, build your own library. And in fact, a lot of these clips are once that we've shot and released through Artbeats. They are called the Liquid Abstracts and Nature Abstracts. Finally, the great thing about a tool like After Effects is you can create some of your own lighting clips using some of these effects. Let me show you.
I am going to start with a blank composition. I'm going to add a Layer > New > Solid. Make sure it's the Comp Size. Click OK. I'll add Effect > Noise & Grain, either Fractal Noise or if you have After Effects CS4, Turbulent Noise. They are very similar. I'll use Fractal Noise. Now Fractal Noise creates these cloudy patterns. There is a few tricks to convert this into a suitable lighting layer. For one, I tend to lower the Complexity. Lower Complexity creates softer, more out of focus layers.
So as I go down, you can see we have something that's a bit more out of focus. The second thing is playing around the Transform. What we would like to do is turn off Uniform Scaling and then really scale it in one direction such as height or the width to go ahead and create streaks of lights rather than general overall clouds. Then finally, you need to animate the Evolution parameter and that's what will give you animated lights. The faster you animate Evolution, the faster your lights; the slower you animate it, the slower your light patterns are going to be. From there on, you can go ahead and play around with different Fractal Types, like the different Turbulent Types, different Noise Types to come up with different looks. But that's the basic trick. Lower Complexity, turn off Uniform Scaling, scale one dimension and then animate Evolution to create your lighting effect.
Now the last part of creating your own footage using Fractal Noise is creating your own seamless background loop using this effect. And by the way, you do need to use the Fractal Noise effect. You cannot use Noise & Grain > Turbulent Noise because it does not have this feature that I'm about to show you. Use Fractal Noise. To make Fractal Noise a seamless loop that you can render out and then treat as any piece of footage in any other program later on, you need to make its Evolution loop seamlessly. I'm going to go back to the very start of my composition. I'm going to start Evolution at a nice noble number like 0 degrees and then turn down the Evolution Options.
Inside here is this great trick called Cycle Evolution. It's what makes Fractal Noise loop seamlessly. I want to decide how many Cycles are in one full loop. Let's just say that I wanted to go 2 Cycles during the course of my seven second composition, so I'm going to say loop every two cycles, okay. Now I'm going to keyframe it and this is very important. So my first keyframe at 0 in time. For my second keyframe, I'll press N to go to the last frame of my composition. Then I'm going to press Page Down to go one more frame to seven seconds even. Now I'm going to say at that point in time, keyframe 2 Cycles of Evolution. That means at 2 Cycles, it will look exactly as it did at 0 Cycles because I have two cycles in my loop.
I also need seven seconds, one frame beyond the end of my comp, to look exactly the same as the first frame in my comp. A lot of people make the mistake of pressing End and putting their second keyframe there. The problem is that the last frame will look exactly like the first frame and you will end up with a hitch in the motion. This is the better approach. I am going to go ahead and RAM Preview. Renders relatively quickly and then when it starts playing back, you can see that this does indeed cycle endlessly when we get to the end.
And now you basically treat these things as your own footage that you can reuse in After Effects without having to render Fractal Noise again or hand off to an editor for them to lay end to end and use it as long as necessary in their own editing program. So that's how you can easily create your own lighting footage.
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