Lights in the Kitchen

Cool effects in Adobe After Effects are often the result of a recipie of some kind (a little of this effect here, a tad of a blending mode there, and you’ve got something really interesting). The best kinds are the ones you can just set up & go without much keyframing or other manual steps, and when you come up with something new, or learn a recipie from somewhere else, you can save your concoction as a Preset to be used again and again and again . . .

Here’s a simple way to add realistic light rays to a piece of footage. First, apply the effect CC Radial Fast Blur to your clip in your timeline (Effect>Blur & Sharpen>CC Radial Fast Blur), and in the Effect Controls set the Amount to 80.


Frame 1 above shows the original clip, and frame 2 shows the clip with CC Radial Fast Blur, amount set to 80. Next, to adjust the contrast (which will give you punchier light rays), apply Levels (Effect>Color Correction>Levels). Then adjust the Input Black & Input White on the Histogram (the left & right triangles below the Histogram graph) so that they line up with the left & right edges of the Histogram, respectively.

Your Histogram will look different based on the footage you are using.

Frame 3, above, is the shot with Levels applied and the Input Black & White adjusted. Finally, you’re going to composite this over the original, unaffected clip. Select the clip in your timeline and select Edit>Duplicate. On the lower version of the clip, remove the CC Radial Fast Blur and Levels. Then, on the upper version of the clip, select the Add Blend Mode by clicking on the Mode pulldown menu and selecting Add. If you don’t see the Mode pulldown menu in your timeline, you may need to right-mouse-click on any of the columns on the left side of the Timeline and select the Mode column to display it.

Then, with the upper layer selected, hit the T key on your keyboard to solo the Opacity property. Adjust the Opacity to around 60% and you should see something close to Frame 4, above. Depending on your footage, you might need to tweek the above setting a bit, but the resulting effect is usually very convincing.

So do you have some AE recipies that are killer? You want to show ’em off to your fellow AE users? Well, we’ll be at Siggraph 2006 in Boston and I’m looking for some Adobe customers to showcase their AE or Flash work on the main theater stage @ our exhibit. If you’re interested, drop me a line.

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