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Is there something like optical flares but free?

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Robert CarrollIs there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 22, 2012 at 7:04:33 pm

Hi, I got After Effects a few days ago (finally) I used Sony Vegas pro for the longest time and I saw all these after effects videos and I was like, That's looks awesome. I'm pretty happy with it so far but I found out you need to buy so many plug-ins and things to make your videos look really good. Im not one to pirate things or pay $100+ on "effects" so I was wondering if or how you can get the optical flare look without the actual plug-in or effect. I just need a flare of lens flare that is kinda animated, sorta pulsing. Doesn't have to look that "professional". Does anyone know where I can find a tutorial or free plug-in? I've searched with no luck, Im just posting b/c I wondering if I could get the same effect just under a different name. I'm new to After Effects but pretty familiar with video editing.


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Andrew SomersRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 22, 2012 at 7:38:56 pm

There is a built in lens flare under the GENERATE list of effects.


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Kevin CaminRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 23, 2012 at 11:52:20 am

Unfortunately a lot of amazing tools for After Effects are third party plug-ins. I think the mind set of "not going to pay $100+ for plug-ins" is a counter productive one. Especially in the case of lens flares. The default ones are not very good. Video Co-Pilot has a feature rich plug-in for around $130 and Red Giant has one for around $250 I think.

Welcome to After Effects. You can do most things without plug-ins and can make really amazing work without any plug-ins actually. But if you get into a situation where you need the program to do something extra, like 3d motion tracking, advanced particle work, or JJ Abrams-like lens flares, then you'll need to spend some money.

Good luck!

Best regards,

Kevin Camin


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Andrew SomersRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 23, 2012 at 9:43:10 pm

You can do *nearly everything* that the 3rd party plug ins do, right in After Effects, using the built in plug ins.

The 3rd party plug ins just "make workflows faster/more efficient".

Personally, I like to design/create my own effects using the "standards" (levels/exposure/curves/blur/displacement), and expressions and scripts I write for the function. Since I've been fortunate enough to work mainly on features, I'm afforded the time to do the R&D to get these custom looks. For Advertising and Television though, deadlines are so tight that a good set of plug-ins means the difference between making deadlines vs not sleeping.


But sometimes there simply is no time, so then I may use a 3rd party plug-in.

AE ships with a version of Mocha - for tracking you can do *almost* everything you'd be able to with a $$$$ tracker (see the Copilot tutorial on using Mocha to place objects in 3D space).

But there are a few cases where a 3rd party plug in really makes a difference in terms of final quality. I tend to think of the following plug-ins as "Hugely Helpful" and well worth the money - mainly for making AE's 3D space actually a useable feature:


For working in 3D:

Trapcode Particular - the best particle generator for AE, and it works in 3D space, with the AE 3D camera and lights. Related to this, Trapcode FORM (which I actually don't use) also allows for some really spectacular abstract 3D designs.

Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator Pro- for down and dirty 3D inside AE, this is pretty amazing. I still haven't upgraded to v 5 though as I am now using external 3D for the CGI stuff. But for $500, and the easy integration with AE, it really can't be beat.


Some "generally useful" ones that are often worth having:

Trapcode SHINE does the light ray ting batter then the built in CC Light Rays, and it renders very fast even in 32 bit mode. Trapcode LUX is a nice trick for volumetric lighting in AE 3D space.

RE:Vision effects have some very useful plug ins, especially Reel Smart Motion Blur - this is indispensable for working with CGI. RE: Fill and Twixtor are also very useful when you need them.

If you can afford them, the Sapphire lug ins can do wonders for your workflow speed - I don't have them but I have used them and they are super-fast and versatile to get a lot of those "looks" that some clients demand.

For compositing CGI, the Walker effects are quite useful - though he sold them to Digieffects, and they are included in the DELIRIUM collection.

Also, upgrading from the bundled Mocha to Mocha AE v 2.6 gets you more features and better integration at a pretty reasonable price.



But otherwise, for someone starting out with AE, I recommend learning how to use expressions and the built in plug ins *first* instead of relying on the off the shelf "cool thing" - your skils in AE will greatly improve as a result.


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Robert CarrollRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 24, 2012 at 1:22:28 am

Thanks for your help, I understand the part about making the professional looking stuff with simple tools. It can almost always be done, I do that a lot with Sony Vegas and Photoshop, and it looks really close to the professional one. Theres two things I think I should say though. One, Im not really doing this for buisiness just personal. I love computers, paticually graphic and design stuff. Two I'am really new to After Effects, it looks pretty complicated but so did Vegas when I first got it :). Anyways, I checked out the pre-installed lens flares but they don't really look "real". I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for making a flare like this:

[1:12] In the Video






The blue light in the background that is kinda pulsing/moving. The best I come up with looks sorta like that but really fake looking and it doesn't really have the same pulsing effect. I know stuff like this takes a long time, and I wanna try this myself, so I just need a hint or something on how to do this.

Thanks :)


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Walter SoykaRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 24, 2012 at 1:42:03 am

[Robert Carroll] "I'am really new to After Effects, it looks pretty complicated"

If you're new to After Effects, I'd recommend the following link, in which Adobe's Todd Kopriva pulls together some important introductory materials:
http://blogs.adobe.com/toddkopriva/2010/01/getting-started-with-after-eff.h...

I especially recommend the Video Copilot "Basic Training" series that Todd links to.

AE is both deep and broad, and it's very hard to jump right in and start creating a specific effect without taking a little time to learn the fundamentals.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Kevin CaminRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 24, 2012 at 2:52:25 am

@Andrew Somers: I dig your list of plug-ins.

@OP: Since you are doing this for "fun", I see where your perspective of not wanting to spend money on plug-ins comes from. I agree that you can learn a lot of how the program operates by building these things from scratch. And Walter is right. A fundamental understanding of the program is required first. I remember doing some advanced tutorials when I first started AE, and though I could follow along, I really didn't understand what I was doing. And I couldn't tweak what I built because I didn't have an understanding of what it was that I built. Learning the fundamentals first is a good idea. There are a lot of free tuts out there, or if you are looking for something comprehensive, Lynda.com is $25/month and has 8 hour basic courses for AE.

My perspective with plug-ins as a working professional is that I look at it from a financial/time perspective. If it takes me 5 hours to build a lens flare rig from scratch, versus purchasing a plug-in for $130, I need to look at it from an opportunity cost perspective. Is my time worth more than $26/hour ($130 divided by 5). Yes. Plus whatever I build won't be as feature rich as a product made by Red Giant or the Video Copilot guy. I'm in enough situations constantly where I need to figure out how to build things that 3rd party plug-ins can't address, so if there is something solid out there that looks beautiful and works beautiful, I'll add it to my tool kit if the Return On Investment is there.

Best regards,

Kevin Camin


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Robert CarrollRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 24, 2012 at 4:12:42 am

Thanks for the suggestions, the first thing I did after I got After Effects was look on YouTube for simple tutorials. I sorta realized then that this is THE Movie Maker, ones the pros use :D. I think I will just play around with as many effects as I can then maybe come back to this. Also, I really liked Andrew Somers plug-ins they are truly the coolest things I have seen to do with after effects. Since I'm doing this out of more of a hobby, I can't pay too much as someone like you doing this for commercial and business reasons. Something like trapcode I would really love to have but paying $400+ for something that really does "nothing" but make awesome visuals and stuff :D That's already on top of the costs of After Effects. At first I thought that paying $400+ was ridiculous but then after reading stuff here I realized that people actually do use this for movies and business. I think I will come back to this when I have a better understanding of After Effects... or when I win the lottery :P


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Michael SzalapskiRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 23, 2012 at 3:34:59 pm

There are many alternatives to Optical Flares and Knoll Light Factory using just AE's built-in effects. The plugins are better for many things (that's why they were created), but in many cases you can get a similar look with AE's built in stuff. It just takes more work.

Pulsing, etc. is easy by using keyframes and/or a wiggle expression.

As far as building a better looking flare goes, I tried a Google search for better lens flare after effects and got some good results:
A tutorial here on the COW [link]
And a tutorial on Creative Dojo that also links to a good Harry Frank tutorial on the same subject [link] I believe they use a 3rd-party plugin called Shine for some of it, but you can recreate Shine with some of the built-in effects too. CC Light Burst or CC Light Rays coupled with some color correction effects should do it.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Walter SoykaRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 23, 2012 at 3:43:48 pm

[Michael Szalapski] "The plugins are better for many things (that's why they were created), but in many cases you can get a similar look with AE's built in stuff. It just takes more work."

I agree.

Lens flares are largely just shapes with transparency, blending over the composite with an add or screen transfer mode. The positioning of these shapes can be based on rules which you can codify into a series of expressions, or perhaps handle in 3D with parenting and auto-orient.

And Michael's right (as usual) -- building it yourself won't be nearly as easy as using the plugin.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Anthony MarzilliRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jan 24, 2012 at 7:25:22 pm

Another possibility is looking on stock footage websites of flares. You may be able to buy a solid blue one like in that video.... even a still.... and just wiggle the opacity. So... possibly a $10 flare instead of a $130 plug-in.


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Sebastian VallinRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Jun 28, 2012 at 5:04:36 am

Yes! You can use the flare under the Generate menu, but it looks like crap. Since I can't afford Optical Flares, I made this: http://www.sendspace.com/file/nnpilv It's a free download, and it looks great. Plus, you can move it in 3D space.


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Noel PowellRe: Is there something like optical flares but free?
by on Oct 20, 2012 at 8:55:54 pm

There is an After Effects template (not a plugin) which is very user-friendly and can create really high-quality lens flare effects using expressions. It's called Creation Lens Flares from Creation Effects. Not free, but it's a lot cheaper than the plugins. You can see a demo video on their site: CreationEffects.com


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