Developing elements for these compositions and saving them separately for future compositions is a good idea. This will provide you with a library of elements that you can put together in various ways.
The first element we need to create for this project is 3 dimensional smoke. This smoke element can be used in various ways to create depth in your motion graphics sequences. We will then create a searchlight beam and then the title.
CREATING THE SMOKE
Open Photoshop and create a new document that is the same size as you DV frame ( 655x480 in Vegas). Make sure that your background and foreground colors are set to the default positions of Black and White. Using the Paint Bucket tool, fill the entire new document with Black.
In the FILTERS list Select FILTERS>RENDER>CLOUDS
You should now have a nice smoky, cloudy picture. Select FILTERS>BLUR>GAUSSIAN BLUR and set the pixels to 2.7 pixels. Double click on this layer in the layer properties and name it Smoke 1
In the LAYER menu, select LAYER>CREATE NEW LAYER. Agree to make this the same size etc. as the first by clicking OK when the dialog box appears.
In the tools palette, where the foreground and background colors are selected, use the switch arrow device (just to the upper right of the foreground/background selector) to make the foreground white and the background black. Now select the PAINT BUCKET tool and fill the layer with white.
In the FILTERS list Select FILTERS>RENDER> DIFFERENCE CLOUDS
You should now have a nice smoky, cloudy picture similar to the first layer, but slightly different. Select FILTERS>BLUR>GAUSSIAN BLUR and set the pixels to 6.1 pixels. Double click on this layer in the layer properties and name it Smoke 2
Save your file as a Photoshop Document titled: SMOKE ELEMENT
Note: you may need to export each layer as a separate image file and import them separately.
We will use these layers to create an animated smoke texture Vegas that can be used as a background in the x-files design or keyed over other elements to add atmosphere in other projects.
ANIMATING THE SMOKE IN VEGAS
Although a dedicated compositing application like After Effects is best used for creating motion graphics, Vegas offers multiple layers of compositing with filters and motion controls. Some very nice results can be achieved within the confines of Vegas without the need for expensive external packages and plug-ins.
Open a new project in the NLE with the appropriate DV frame size. In Vegas you will need to create a total of 4 video tracks by Right Clicking to the left of the timeline and selecting ADD VIDEO TRACK. Do this a few more times to give yourself four overlay tracks. (Video 5 should be your top track. Four overlay tracks and Video A / B)
Use the explorer to locate your separate image files and drag and drop them into your project as in Step 3 below, Smoke 2 should occupy a track ABOVE Smoke 1, but with an empty track above for the titles. Line your clips up on the timeline.
You should now have your elements listed in your project bin. Drag and drop Smoke 1 into Video Track 3. Drag and Drop Smoke 2 into Video Track 4. Make sure that the clips are lined up to match perfectly on the timeline.
Using the Level Slider to the left of each track on the timeline, set the levels for Smoke 1 to 39% and Smoke 2 to 21%.
Right Click on the Selected Clip (Smoke 2) and Select Pan/Crop Insert a keyframe at the beginning and end of the clip. Leave the default settings for the first keyframe, but in the last keyframe enter the following info:
Size: 601 x 440 Center: 301, 241
Right Click on the Selected Clip (Smoke 1) and Select Pan/Crop Insert a keyframe at the beginning and end of the clip. Leave the default settings for the first keyframe, but in the last keyframe enter the following info:
Size: 530x388 Center 327.5 x 240
Note: These settings are based on 5 second clips, for faster, more dramatic smoke effects, increase the amount of motion and zooming that takes place on each layer. For longer clips, more dramatic motion settings at the first and last keyframes will provide enough change to create a slowly shifting effect.
We have now created a faster moving zoom into the smoke with a more centralized position. Overlaying these two clips at their respective transparency setting should provide a nice moving smoke / fog effect.
You can now export this finished piece as a movie. I would suggest exporting it completely uncompressed. The resulting movie can be used as a complete element in future projects. Before exporting: SAVE YOUR PROJECT!!! Save it as Project X. You can continue to work on this project with the raw files in place, but importing the SMOKE .avi that you exported is possible as well. Feel free to experiment with different transparency settings and clip lengths, motion paths, etc. The various compositing modes in your NLE will provide interesting effects. You can place objects between the two smoke layers if you like to create depth, or use the entire movie you exported as an overlay. Using this technique within a project gives you much more control than using the saved .AVI as an element, but its often faster to import a completed element.
CREATING AND ANIMATING THE SEARCHLIGHT
Many effects and compositing packages have movable light filters and special effects. Vegas contains a light rays filter which can provide a variety of lighting effects, but we will create a graphic element that serves as a searchlight or light sweep and animate it in Vegas for a nice effective light effect.
A very nice sweeping light effect can be created completely with the media generator, the results are somewhat smoother and more natural than using the Photoshop method.
I highly recommend that Vegas users take advantage of the method described in that tutorial. Simply use the Insert Generated Media to create a 3-color gradient in the Media Generator with the center color as white and the two outside colors as transparent. This will provide you with a nice beam effect that can be keyframed using the Pan/Crop controls to move from right to left. This generated clip should be placed below the smoke effects.
Open a new Photoshop document with the appropriate DV frame size of 655x480 for Vegas.
Click and hold on the PAINT BUCKET tool. The other fill options should appear.
Select the GRADIENT too. This allows you to fill an area with a specified range of colors. IF the background and foreground colors are set to the default black and white, you should have several grey scale gradients pictured as options. Select the switch arrow device (just to the upper right of the foreground/background selector) to make the foreground white and the background black, and select the gradient called a Reflection Gradient from the gradient options. This will create an equal gradient on each side of a central line defined by the foreground color.
With the gradient tool selected, Move to just right and above the center of your frame. Click and Hold while you drag down and to the left making a line about an inch long.
When you release the mouse button, you should have a nice angled white beam of light tapering into black on either side. If you arent happy with your gradient, you can just click and drag again without undoing it! It will just create the new gradient in place of the old.
Once you have what you consider a nice looking angular searchlight gradient, select FILTERS>BLUR>GAUSSIAN BLUR and set the pixels to 9.9 pixels.
Save this as a Photoshop Document SEARCHLIGHT.
Import the SEARCHLIGHT file. When prompted, you can select Merged Layers from the import dialog. Drag and Drop this file from your bin into the timeline on Video Track 2.
Select Searchlight in Video Track 2 by RIGHT CLICKING on it. This should bring up the various clip options. Select VIDEO OPTIONS> MOTION to bring up the motion settings dialog. You will now see the clip running back and forth along a preset path. Between the two preview windows are a PAUSE button and a PLAY button. Press the PAUSE button to stop the clip. A motion control timeline, or keyframe controller is also pictured. Click once at the very beginning of the timeline. This will set the clip properties for the first keyframe. First select CENTER from the list of buttons on the right of the motion controller dialog box, and then set the ZOOM level to 100%. Now select the position to 80, 0 in the info boxes. Click again at the very end of the keyframe timeline. Again select CENTER. Set the ZOOM level to 100% and the position to -80,0.
Click once in the FILL COLOR selector and set all of the RGB values to 0. This will provide a black screen while the searchlight is not visible. You should now have a searchlight beam sweeping from right to left. Press ENTER to accept these settings and return to the editing screen.
You may want to adjust the opacity of the searchlight layer to achieve more authentic effects.
Save Your Project before attempting to preview!!!!
While holding down the ALT key, drag your mouse across the timeline for a preview.
CREATING THE TITLES
You can create a similar title effect with a free font downloaded from
Or any other font you choose. There are many free fonts on the web.
Or you can simply use the Text generator from the Media Generator and keyframe the opacity to fade in.
This Tutorial illustrates a few cool effects that can be achieved using Vegas.
Please experiment with the settings to really get the feel for what they do.
The original SMOKE ELEMENT .avi can also be imported into Vegas as an element and overlaid on a video track. Adjusting opacity with the rubber bands is one way to overlay and composite elements. Try using the various overlay modes in the Transparency settings dialog brought up by Right Clicking a clip. Using Luminance, difference, lighten, darken, and other overlay keys and other methods may provide different results. The smoke effect can be used to simulate clouds, when keyed over a blue background or to add depth and subtle atmosphere. Try using different colors in Photoshop to create dust clouds and other effects.
Quick FX for Vegas users:
1.) Set the Smoke layers compositing modes to Darken and watch the sweeping light
2.) Insert the light blue background on your bottom video track from the Media Generator. Set various combinations of Screen, Lighten, and Hard Light overlay modes on the different smoke tracks and soar through the clouds!
Thanks and let me know if this was of use-
Thanks to Dan Beech of Horizons Companies for teaching me about this technique
Feel free to discuss this technique in the Vegas forum at Creativecow.net.