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Adding lights in After Effects: Part 1 of 2

 Adding lights in After Effects: Part 1 of 2

After Effects offers powerful lighting options to help you illuminate layers or make a scene more vibrant by adding various lighting effects and shadows.  Using lights in After Effects CS6 is similar to using cameras as you can only add them to layers that have their 3-D switches enabled.

There are several kinds of lights and effects that we'll  cover in this article. An important thing to keep in mind when lighting your footage in After Effects is that lighting your layer is half of the battle; you also need to be aware of how the layer is being affected by the light.  Several factors such as the light angle,  reflections, shadows, diffusion and the type of light selected all play a crucial role in determining how well your scene gets lit.  You also have the ability to keyframe lights individually which helps with turning certain lights on and off in a composition over time.  We'll start by adding basic lights and then go into some of the more advanced settings at your disposal when working with lights in After Effects CS6.

To add a light to your scene , locate the Light option under the Layer>New option on the top After Effects menu.


This will open up a Light Settings dialog box prompting you to select your light settings.  After Effects offers a few options for lighting types:  Parallel, Spot, Point and Ambient. It also offers different lighting colors as well as effects for the angle, light intensity, etc.


For our project, we want to add a spot  light to focus more light on one part of our scene  We'll keep the intensity at 80% for now and click ok to accept the default light name of Light 1.  After clicking ok you will see a light layer in your layer panel as well as the light added to your compositions panel.  The light we added is directing illumination at the center of our image but we'll need to adjust it so that it covers a broader area of our scene.


You have the option of editing the light's angle by selecting the red, green and blue (X,Y,Z) axis properties in the composition panel or you can scroll down the Light's options in the layer panel.


We decided to adjust the intensity level to 130% which increases the light's illumination and increase the cone angle to 85 degrees to include more of the scene in the lit area. We'll also open up the Transform settings for the Light layer and adjust the Point of Interest to make sure the light is pointing at the correct part of the composition.


Lastly, we adjusted the light's position by a hair and pulled it back to give the impression that the spot light is coming from beneath the composition. Our final result is show below.


In our next lesson we'll take a look at some of the more advanced light settings and how they affect individual layers.







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