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Adding lights in After Effects: Part 2 of 2

Adding lights in After Effects: Part 2 of 2

In our last article we showed you how to setup a basic spot light in After Effects CS6. We'll build upon that knowledge in this article by exploring some of the other lighting options you can use in After Effects CS6 and their effect on a composition.

By scrolling down the Light layer options in your original composition layer  (not the Light layer) you'll see a plethora of options which can allow you to manipulate how the light effects your composition even more.


The Casts Shadows option determines whether the light you added casts shadows on the rest of your footage as well as any other layers you might have in your After Effects project.  To use this setting you must make sure that the shadows option is turned on for both the Light and the layer itself. Since our composition is just a single 3-D layer with a single light, we'll leave it turned off. When you begin adding other 3-D layers and lights, shadows can be used as a powerful tool to increase the realism of your scene. The Light transmission option is another unique setting that can come in handy when you begin mixing multiple 3-D layers and lights within one composition; it mixes blends in other layers located in your project for interesting effects.  Another important thing to keep in mind when working with 3-D layers, lights and cameras is that depending on your resolution settings, it may take longer to playback and render certain changes you make in your composition.  If you find this is an issue, try lowering the resolution quality of your layers to the Draft quality setting which will use less resources to render a scene at the expense of having your scene appear in lower quality (you can change this back before final output).  This can be done by clicking in the quality button located beside your layer .


Since we won't be using layers with shadow and light transmission effects  enabled in this project, we'll leave our resolution settings as they are. We'll now focus more on the last settings found in the layer: Ambient, Diffuse, Specular, Shininess and Metal. Ambient settings determine how strongly a layer reacts to a Light type of ambient.  Since we used a Spot light for this project, we won't need to use that option. The Diffuse and Specular settings should be used together to provide a central warm spot on your image. These two values combine to determine the final color pixel values of a composition and should be adjusted in small amounts.  We tweaked these a little to give the effect that the yellow circle in the middle starts off darker and then becomes a subtle degree brighter in the center. We did this by keyframing the effects over time.  (Don't forget that most light settings can also be keyframed like other layer settings)





The final two settings Shininess and Metal affect objects that tend to have those characteristics present.   Objects that are considered shiny in the real world generally have a small spot that sticks out when illuminated by a light. The Metal setting takes this further by deciding if the Specular light setting comes from the light itself or the layer's natural light setting.   We'll increase our Shininess property by a hair and reduce our Metal property to focus more of the light on the bottom of our composition as it brightens over time.  Our final result is shown below.









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