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Combining Volumetric Lights and Grid Basics

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Combining Volumetric Lights and Grid Basics
A CreativeCOW Adobe After Effects Tutorial


Combining Volumetric Lights and Basic Grid

Aaron Slater Aaron Slater
Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

©2004 Aaron Slater and Creativecow.net. All rights are reserved.

Article Focus:
Aaron Slater created a music video in which his images would 'flash' within a basic grid to the beat of the music. Here's a tutorial demonstrating his technique combining volumetric light effects with the grid. This tutorial requires an intermediate knowledge of lighting, camera positioning & masking.


download movie project files: .zip Project files: .sit

This tutorial uses no extra plugins, with graphics made in photoshop 7.0.

Begin by adjusting your color palette, create a small white grid, a white triangle-like figure (you can make it a square, circle, … ) This will be your background. Later, we'll add some text to spice it up.

Let's proceed…

The composition should be 800 x 600, square pixels at 30 fps and about 4 seconds long. Import your white triangly-like figure ( you can also create this in AE but I like combining Photoshop with AE; I think it gives better results & more control ). Since I imported a relatively small figure in AE I had to increase the scale by +- 175 , 400 %. No problem, if this results in a jagged border, you can just use the glow effect.

Enable the 3D layer switch and start adding your first light. Look at my box for the settings.



Doesn't really look convincing, right? Add some more lights and scatter them apart. To get these results have a look at the picture below…


OK, so now we have what I call ‘a flashed up background’. This background can be recycled in a new project later. Top it off by adding the basic 3D effect [ Effects>Perspective>B3D ].

I set my values to the following: Swivel: 0x +171,0°; Tilt: 0x-4,0°

Add your grid to the composition. Increase the scale to your liking ( mine's about +- 140 , 630 %). Add a glow effect to the layer (default settings )

Add a camera [ shift, Ctrl, Alt ]; don't forget to enable the 3D layer switch for the grid layer. Experiment with the setting on your camera, if you get lost, use my settings. Remember you can always use the ‘Take Snapshot‘ feature to compare your new settings to the older ones.


Try moving your camera around. Go to Window> Workspace> 2-up/active+left or just select the two comp view & change the settings in one of your composition windows. If you're not blessed with a 21 inch monitor (like me), you might want to decrease the ‘magnification ratio popup’ in order to fit both the comps on your screen. When you're happy with the results, keyframe the position of your camera & voila, there you have it.

Add some footage to your composition, enable the 3D switch in order to let it interact with your camera. Here is where masking comes into play. It's important to note that masking can make one’s life a whole lot easier. You can crop your video, give it a feather, a new shape, combine two masks to create an even more perplexing shape.

In this case I cropped the black parts of my video and added a little mask feather (about 5 %) [ right click your footage; Mask> New Mask ] / [ Layer> Mask> New Mask ]

You might want to add some effects like: ‘Drop shadow’, ‘Fill’ or a motion blur ( ‘directional blur’ ).
Spice things up by adding some text to your composition. You can add some motion to the text or apply a ‘linear wipe’ to make a small animation. To make it more realistic add a ‘Drop Shadow’. If you don't have enough ram to run everything smoothly, click on Draft 3D.

You can quit here or you can make it go to another level… I won't go into detail on this because I believe you can go anywhere with this and my method & idea is just one of the dozens you might have. If you feel confused, just open up my AE file & take a peek inside.

Zoom in on the grid, apply some effects where needed & make everything more dynamic.

Let's start out by splitting the grid layer where you want to start the zoom animation [ Layer> Split Layer ]
I zoomed in to about 160, 720 %, keyframed it over 2 seconds, then I applied a Glow filter [ Stylize> Glow ]; Keyframed over the same period.
I did the same thing with my footage but this time I applied a ‘directional blur’, altered the scale & opacity. This way I gave it a ‘warp’ twist ( Star Trek-a like )

I gave my text a little animation by adding a keyframed ‘basic 3D’ effect to one & I keyframed the opacity + scale on the other. ( to a zoom effect )

Do a Ram preview and then make a little joy dance cause this tutorial is at its end.
All that remains to be said is…

I thank you for reading this tutorial & all the best to you!
Aaron Slater

Please discuss any questions in the After Effects forum at CreativeCOW.net.

Feel free to email me about any questions you might have …



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