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Skill Level Intermediate
can make a huge appearance difference specifically if you're working in 3D. You can use them, of course, to light object, but you can also cast shadows and direct the viewer's attention to the subject of your movie. Let me share with you a few cool tricks that you can use when working with lights inside After Effects. where we have this After Effects workflow icons, and those workflow icons also have a text underneath and this text actually tells us exactly what they are doing. We are starting by input then compositing, then we are dealing with properties, effects, preview, and finally, we are exporting our work. This is a line of text that I've extruded and note that I'm using the Cinema 4D Engine in order to create extrusion, but it is quite difficult to see what's going on, so in order to help us, I'm going to go to the Layer menu and under New, I'm going to create a new light. I'm going to start with a point light, the intensity is set to 100%, but I do want to also cast shadows. I'm using 100% for the shadow darkness and 50 pixels for the shadow diffusion. I'm going to say okay, and after a moment or so, After Effect is going to calculate the result and now we can see both of the shadows and the light contribution to the scene. Now, if I'm going to switch from the active camera to, let's say, custom view one, we can also get a sense of how I've built this in, and you can see that After Effects takes a moment or two to render it. This is because we are using the final quality. My recommendation when you are working with light and you just want to art-direct the scene is to change the preview quality from off or adaptive resolution to fast draft. And this is going to down sample your scene, but it's also going to use your GPU, meaning that if I'm going to press C in order to activate the unified character here in this view, I can actually orbit around the scene and I can show you that this layer is just a simple text, which is condensed and extruded, so it will behave as some sort of a floor. All right, this is a good starting point, but I do want to art-direct the scene in terms of lighting a little bit further. I'm going to go back to the Layer menu and under New, I'm going to create yet another light. Note that that there is a keyboard shortcut, Command + Shift + Option + L here on the Mac, Control + Shift + Alt + L on the PC side. This time, I'm going to choose a parallel light. I'm not going to cast shadows here, but I will change the falloff. Every one of those lights can have a radius and a fall of distance, and this means what is the distance that this light is going to affect our objects. You can use the smooth one if you want to really control it, or you can use a more realistic way, which is the inverse square clamped. This means that the falloff distance is going to be calculated automatically and you only need to worry about the radius. Let's use it like this, and I'm going to say okay. This is going to create this light over here, and I'm going to return to the selection tool and show you that for parallel light, the most important thing is the point of interest. If I'm going to change it, I'm actually going to affect how this light is going to be presented here in the scene. I can point it down. Of course, I can return to the previous view, either by going to this pull-down menu and choosing active camera or, and here is a cool shortcut, you can actually press the Escape key and this is going to toggle you between the last two views. Now I can see it from the camera point of view and of course I can continue to finesse with it, something like this, I think is going to work quite nice here. All right, let's add additional one. Once again, Layer, New, Light. This time I'm going to go with a spotlight and I'm not going to choose any falloff, but I will change the color to something from the scene, so something like a bright orange, starting by sampling this color Okay, I'm going to say okay over here and you can see how this is going to work. For spotlight, we also have this point of interest, which is very helpful if you want to really control it. And once again, I'm going to press Escape in order to move or switch to a different point of view. This time custom view one, and then I can take this light and really cast the light towards the floor over here. And this is something which I think works great, but I want to pull it away by going very closely to this Z axis and then taking it all the way up, but note that when I'm doing it like so, I'm actually moving both the light and its point of interest. If you want to control them separately, I'm going to undo to the place that I was before, you can hold down the Command key here on the Mac, this will be the Control on Windows, and then you can just drag the light and the point of interest is going to stay put. So another cool tip when working with lights. All right, I'm going to press Escape to return back to this view. I think that it is a little bit too much, especially when it comes to the surface of those letters. We can see the color over here on top of those letters and it's actually going to cancel the shadows that we had before. If you want, you can control it by creating an adjustment light. All you need to do is just make this light an adjustment light, and now it's going to behave the same as an adjustment layer. When I get this, I'm going to take this layer, which is those letters over here, and I'm going to drag it above my light. Now, I'm not affecting it because adjustment lights can only affect layers underneath them. But I want to remind you that if you want to really get the precise result, you should switch to the off quality just momentarily to see how this looks, and it looks quite nice, but since lights are additive, we have a very hotspot over here. We can actually use lights in order to correct for this. And for that, I'm going to create yet another light. This one is going to be yet another point light. I'm going to return it to the white color and I'm going to say okay. Now, initially, we can see that it is clipping all the colors because it is adding each light to the mix. I'm going to switch back to the fast draft wall, so I can work with it in real time, and then I'm going to press T in order to isolate the light intensity. And now I can actually take this light and I can drag it to the negative values. This means that I can use it in order to suck light out of the scene. Now here it is. I can actually move it to the place that I want the light to affect, so maybe a little bit more closer to those letters. And I can continue to play with it until I'm reaching the desired point, so in my case, negative 56%. All right, I think that I'm happy from what I'm seeing over here. I might as well turn on this glow layer. This is an adjustment layer with the glow effect and I do need to warn you that if you are placing a 2D layer in between 3D layers, you're actually going to change their render order inside After Effects. So because we have 3D layers above this one and also 3D layers below this, we are dividing the render to two 3D worlds and we are losing the shadows that we have from the previous slides. The solution is to take this adjustment layer and just place it above everything, and now the render should look as you expect it. Now this glow is a little bit too intense so I'm going to press T in order to show the opacity this time and I'm just going to reduce it a touch, maybe to 36%. And now if we want to watch it in action, let's go to the beginning and just press space bar and because we are using a harder renderer, we can actually see the result in real time. Now this is, of course, not the final result. If you want to check how it would look in the end, then park your cursor somewhere, let's say over here, and remember to change it to adaptive resolution or to the off setting to get the final quality. These are some of the things that you can do with lights in After Effects to better art-direct a scene and control which layer gets its light and how much.