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Motion: Adding Lighting Effects in Post demonstrates how to use any version of Motion 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.
- Selecting the right footage for the right lighting effects Transforming images with lighting and color correction Using vignetting to set the scene Adjusting blur for a subtle change
Skill Level Intermediate
First, we're going to work with examples of inherently stark, not all that exciting footage, like this woman in an office. Technically, it's a very good shot. It's well lit, it's well framed. However, there is not a lot of action going on. Notice that the light on the back wall is staying pretty constant. Also notice that the light on her is staying pretty constant. So unless you want to be a very literal, you could start to lose the viewer's interest with this scene, because there is just not a lot of interest in it. Well, let's play with all that and some lighting layers. One candidate would be a layer like this. This one again is soft, out-of-focus, has some nice motion from highlights to dark areas. It has the ability to add some nice light to this.
Now playing with this technique is a great opportunity to use Motion's HUD, its Heads Up Display that makes it very quick to change parameters. For example, on this light layer, the first thing I want to try is Overlay mode. That's my first go-to blend mode whenever I want to try this lighting effect. You'll see it's brightened this overall frame, and as I preview, you'll see some patterns of lights and shadows gently playing against this back wall, also playing against her face. It's a subtle lighting layer, so the effects in her may be fairly subtle, but that's what we want. We want something subtle, not something that's going to detract too much.
If you find Overlay to maybe be too strong of an effect, pause for a minute, look at the original layer. Whenever I have a layer that's mostly white, I'm tempted to use things in the Multiply category. Multiply takes white areas and keeps them the same. It takes any darker areas and darkens the underlying image. So if you use Multiply mode, you'll see now we've added some shadows to this scene. As I hit Play, you'll now see some lighting and shadows play against the background here. It's subtlety playing against that back wall, and a little bit coming across her face, just adding a little bit motion to it.
In addition to using Multiply, I like to use other modes, such as Color Burn. Color Burn has a much more intense look and actually starts to change the color of the scene. If it's too strong, merely back off the opacity of the white layer, so it's not having quite a strong of an effect. Again, this is the original shot. This is the shot with some subtle lighting effects added, adding some more interest to the scene. Let's try some other layers. Now this layer has a really strong animation to it. Highlights, nice, strong, orange colors to it. Let's try it on top of our layer. I'll select it, I'll pick Overlay as my first go-to mode, and you'll see it's really added a lot of richness to this whole scene. Almost too much. Well, no problem.
Back off the Opacity of the lighting layer and now you have something which is adding much more subtle lights and shadows on the background and across her face, just a little bit of animation. Again before and after. That's a nice subtle effect. If you find Overlay mode to be too strong, you can choose something like Soft Light, which has a much gentler effect than Overlay. Again, back it off and blend it into taste, until where it's just a bit of animation and a bit of interest to the scene, instead of being it just a statically lit scene.
Another idea is maybe such as thing one, this black and white one we played with earlier. In contrast to a white scene where I use something like Multiply, when I have a black scene, I'll use something in the category of Add or Lighten or Screen. Let's start with Add mode and you'll see it adds quite a blown-out look to this footage. We'll back off the Opacity to blend down the effect or we might try another mode. Screen is a less severe version of Add and Color Dodge is like the brother of Color Burn. It adds some interesting coloration to the scene. I'll crank my Opacity back up again and now I've got some interesting highlights moving across the scene, as if there are some bright lights coming in through a window to help illuminate the scene to make it more interesting.
Now let's try another piece of footage. Here is a prison scene, which again is a very stark image, and we'll play it so we can see the animation. Grayscale, black background, no light interaction or light play going on in the scene. Let's try a few ideas. Now these bars are forming a strong vertical element. So I might pick some footage for my lighting layer that also has strong vertical elements, such as, this abstract background. It has strong vertical bands of light. I'll select it, and try out some different modes.
Again, I tend to start with Overlay mode. It does add a strong coloration to the scene, a strong animation to the scene. If it's too much, I'll just back off the Opacity of my lighting layer until I have a more subtle lighting effect playing across my scene. It's not too obvious, but it is adding some variation and some interest going on in the shadows. We can always crank it up and try a less severe mode such as Soft Light. On the other hand, this lighting layer is pretty dark so I can try a brightening mode such as Color Dodge. Crank up its intensity and again, you'll see I've got some subtle play of some color, some light areas and some darker areas as that footage animates over our prison scene. I'm going to pause here for a second.
Now a really strong background would be something like this. It does have the verticals I was talking about, but if anything, this is really pushing the edge of what I consider to be too sharp or too interesting that it might add too much lighting and therefore draw the viewer's attention away. But let's try it anyway. I'll select it, pick Overlay mode as a starting point, and you'll see that those moving bands of light perhaps are too strong and too distracting. It's vertical, it matches the layout of these bars, but frankly it's too much.
You can try a different mode like Soft Light to knock it down or pull back the Opacity to something where it's just more subtle like right around there. That's adding something to the scene, but it might be too much. Again, I might go to something softer and more out- of-focus, like this background scene. That's a more subtle, to me, more pleasing effect. Let's try another shot. Here's a shot of a person clicking on a mouse. The subject matter may be exactly what we need, but visually it's not very interesting and may not maintain a viewer's interest. So let's try a couple different lighting layers.
For example, this lighting layer is basically black, but has a few chasing highlights moving around the scene. We can use something like this to add little bits of chasing spectral lights going around our footage. I'll select the layer and again, try Overlay as my first mode. Overlay is very strong in this case. So I can either try it backing off to something like Soft Light, or instead treat it like a basically black layer and try something in the Add range, Screen mode or Color Dodge, which is now creating some interesting chasing lights.
100% is usually too strong, no problem. We'll just back off the Intensity until we just have a little bit of animation and a little bit of chasing light, just adding some interest to the scene. It makes a little more exciting than just a person clicking on a mouse. Let me turn that off for a second. Now this mouse's layout has a strong diagonal composition. The cord comes in from this angle. The fingers come down from this angle. I might consider a lighting layer that has this similar composition. For example of one extreme, you could consider a layer like this one. It too has a strong diagonal image.
These wispy lines have sort of a high- tech vibe to it. So let's select that. Primarily a black background, so again we'll try something in the Add, Screen, or Color Dodge family. Add mode adds a very high-tech sort of streaming light over my scene. Screen is less intense and Color Dodge does a much more intense sort of color shift to the whole image. Back off the Opacity, just so that there is something a little more subtle going on. Now this may be too sharp, but that's okay. You can always blur it and we'll discuss tricks like that in the last movie.
Earlier, I mentioned this particular layer and that I was concerned that it may just be too interesting to work as a lighting layer. Let's go ahead and select it and apply it in a mode such as Overlay, my usual first call. It is an interesting layer, but you have to admit, the viewer's attention is now dragged to what's happening in the lighting layer, not to what's happening in the action behind. The whole idea of this treatment is to enhance the footage, not to distract away from it. Unless, of course, you've got a really bad shot that you want to distract away from. Then this might be appropriate. But to my mind, this may be a little too sharp and too interesting to use for a lighting layer.
If you'd like to see some more examples, the next movie contains four more scenarios of how you can pick a lighting clip to best enhance different types of underlying shots. If you think you already have the basic concept down, you can skip the next movie and move on to the last set of movies that show you how to further enhance the lighting clip to match the layout, the color, and other factors of your underlying footage. So let's go.