9 Replies Latest reply on May 5, 2009 9:14 AM by Colin Brougham

    Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect

    Colin Brougham Level 6

      Hello, all. First time posting over here--I'm usually stomping around in the PPro forums. However, a certain effect/look I'm after is eluding me, so I thought I'd try over here. I should note that I'm not a total AE n00b--I know enough to achieve most basic things--but I'm far from advanced.

       

      Getting on with it--I'm trying to use lights in a current project, and it shouldn't be anything difficult. However, my greatest definciency with AE involves working in 3D space, and using lights and cameras effectively, so I'm currently stumped. What I'm trying to create is the effect of a series of brief titles moving forward on the Z-axis towards the camera, with a light illuminating the text. At a certain point, the text begins to move into an area that is not illuminated by the light, so shadow begins to creep in from the outer edges of the text toward the center until it's completely dark. Then the next title would move forward in the same manner, ad infinitum. The text can fade to 0% opacity in order to reveal the following text item, but only once it's almost completely dark. I've created a simple floor (solid turned to 3D, rotated, ramp effect) just to give a little depth, but the background is black/"infinite". I've tried as many combinations of lights as I can think of, but just when I get part of the effect right, another part starts to go awry--it's sort of like pushing a piece of rope.

       

      So far, I really haven't animated anything, beyond the text elements which are sliding on the Z-axis--the camera and lights are standing still. I was hoping to achieve this effect without animating either the camera or lights, but I'm starting to think that's not possible. I'd appreciate any advice or pointers that can be offered as I venture into this (for me) brave new world.

       

      Many thanks!

        • 1. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
          Adolfo Rozenfeld Adobe Employee

          You shouldn't have to animate cameras or lights.

          The question is, what isn't working for you?

          • 2. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
            Colin Brougham Level 6

            Well, I can get close, but not quite. For instance, I've tried using a Spot light, positioned above and slightly behind the camera, with the POI somewhere behind the text. The idea is that, as the text moves forward, it's first in the pool of light, but then moves past the cone of light. This works, somewhat, but I can't seem to get the positioning or angle of the light correct so that this happens in a timely fashion. The text is moving fairly slowly in about 4-5 seconds. If I try to narrow the cone angle, I have to move the light waaaaaay back, and then I run into the same issues.

             

            I've also tried moving the Spot close to the text, opening up the angle of the light quite wide. This actually seems to work better, but I end up with a bunch of flood on the floor. The light just becomes rather difficult to contain when the angle is wide.

             

            I've also tried Point lights, positioning them smack-dab in the middle of the text field, so the text moves past the light. This works even better, but results in a pretty big hot-spot right in the middle of the text elements.

             

            Parallel lights don't seem to work for this use. I guess I don't quite understand how they work...?

             

            If I try and balance the whole scene with ambient lights, I kill the effect. As I mentioned before, I'm sure there is an easy solution to all of this--I'm just too green in this field to figure it out.

             

            Can I give you any more information? Thanks for your interest.

            • 3. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
              TimeRemapper Level 4

              It sounds like you may want to investigate achieving your effect by combining 2 compositions.

              One in which your lighted text animations occur (without the floor to worry about), and then nest that composition inside of a comp that contains the floor (lighted however you see fit).

               

              Adjusting the cone angle and the distance of the light from the object on the spot is probably a good avenue to pursue concerning the text highlights.

              • 4. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
                Adolfo Rozenfeld Adobe Employee

                Colin: This thread is the definition of frustration for me. Because I really want to help, and yet nothing will be quite as good as sitting next to you

                 

                But let's concentrate on this bit:

                 

                I've also tried moving the Spot close to the text, opening up the angle of the light quite wide. This actually seems to work better, but I end up with a bunch of flood on the floor.

                 

                You know, the fun thing about 3D lights in a 3D environment (including AE) is that you can make use of regular notions of photography/film lighting... and then start cheating in a way that's not possible in the real world

                 

                If you select your floor layer, and reveal the material options section (hit AA to do that quickly), you'll see there are a number of options. "Diffuse" for example is the senstivity to directional lighting (ie, any kind of source but ambient lights). So, you see, you can lower the Diffuse level and you would be decreasing the flood on the floor (no pun), while keeping the same intensity on the text layer. The same would also be true for the three specular-related parameters (Specular, Shininess and Metal).

                 

                You can by now imagine I am going to point you to the Material Option properties page in After Effects Help, can't you?

                • 5. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
                  Adolfo Rozenfeld Adobe Employee

                  Even more: if you want the floor layer to directly ignore the lighting (and still be able to take shadows, etc) you can turn off the "Accept lights" parameter in Material Options. But that's way more drastic (and artficial looking) than decreasing the Diffuse value.

                  • 6. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
                    Colin Brougham Level 6

                    Steve and Adolfo--many thanks for your insights. They've definitely gotten me on the right track. And I'm glad I could frustrate--'tis my calling

                     

                    Pre-comping the "floor" was definitely the ticket. I could light that the way I wanted, and then throw lights on the text without extraneous spill. I'm sure this doesn't work in every situation, but here, it's perfectly fine.

                     

                    As with most things in AE, simplicity was the key. Instead of trying to use multiple lights, one thoughtfully-placed light did the trick. And Adolfo, you're right: I was thinking in terms of my usual role as a shooter, and not as a motion graphic artist--a title I will not be laying claim to any time soon!

                     

                    What I did was use a Spot light with a 180-degree cone angle placed directly between the camera and the text, with the position and POI on the same X- and Y-plane as the text. It's positioned on the Z-axis such that it illuminates the text as the text moves forward on its Z-axis, and then it darkens smoothly from the outer edges to the center (the ultimate effect I was going for) as the text moves through the light. Obviously, this is not something that works in the real world, hence my reality-based hang-up. So far, so good.

                     

                    The one small issue I'm seeing is that there is a pretty bright hot-spot right in the middle of the text elements as they move forward, and it looks a little amateurish. I'm guessing that this is a case for adjustment lights, but I'm not quite sure how to deploy those. Any thoughts on my setup so far, or how to fix the hot-spot? I've attached a JPG to show what I'm seeing.

                     

                    Thanks again for the help!

                    • 7. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
                      TimeRemapper Level 4

                      Hey Colin.

                      You're probably going to want to adjust the "Material Options" on your text layer to dimish the specular highlights you're getting.

                      • 8. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
                        Colin Brougham Level 6

                        Hey Steve,

                         

                        Yeah, I've played with those a bit. No matter what I do, it always seems to leave this one point that's several magnitudes brighter than the rest of the text. Or, if I do successfully knock it out, the rest of the text is too dim. Maybe the cone feather (presently 100%) is too much--but I'm after a smooth falloff to black, too. I'm wondering if the 100% white text I'm using isn't part of the problem. I'm going to try knocking it down to a light shade of gray, and see if that helps.

                         

                        Thank you for the reply.

                        • 9. Re: Using lights correctly to achieve a specific effect
                          Colin Brougham Level 6

                          Happy to report that after a bit more playing around, I found the solution. I positioned a Point light a short distance above the text on the Y-axis, and on the Z-axis it is positioned just behind where the text ends its forward move. No hot-spot, and the text remains more evenly illuminated until it smoothly dips into darkness. As suspected, it was something simple, and just required a nudge in the right direction. Thanks again for your insights--it's a small victory, but a victory, nonetheless.

                           

                          Until next time...