This article contains general tips that have to do with the interface of Creation Lens Flares.
An efficient setup can help your productivity. You may want to set up and save a workspace similar the one used in the video tutorials, in which the Effects Controls panel stretches from the top to the bottom of the screen. This will allow you to see as many slider controls as possible.
Unfortunately, After Effects automatically opens all the effects and slider controls whenever you paste a new lens flare element into your comp. Closing the title controls and all the effects will help keep things tidy. Also, If you open a slider control up, you'll see the actual physical slider which you can slide back and forth. These sliders are restrictive because they're limited in how far they can be set. You will have more control and save space if you leave the sliders closed and just click and drag on the number instead. Lastly, if you see Animation Presets under the slider controls, you can hide those too because they're useless in this template. Just click the small triangle icon at the top of the panel and uncheck Show Animation Presets. This will save a lot of space and keep it from looking cluttered.
In case you're not familiar with them - slider controls work by changing a parameter's value through the use of an expression. An expression is a bit of code written into the expression box of that parameter. But just because a parameter has an expression and a slider control which controls its value, that doesn't mean you can't edit the value directly. If you are more comfortable opening the effects and editing the values directly, that will work just as well as the slider controls.
You may notice that in the Effects Controls panel, among the slider controls for each lens flare element, are titles that separate the controls into categories. These titles are just normal slider controls, but they're in caps to set them apart. You can change their value but it won't do anything - they're merely there to organize the controls. So let's talk about these categories... There's always going to be at least three on each lens flare element. Up top you'll always see the Reflection Controls, which are the main controls for affecting the look of the element. Under those are the Layer Transform Controls, which affect the layer as a whole, just like the transform controls that can be opened on any layer in After Effects (scale, rotation, opacity, etc...). And at the bottom of the Effects Controls panel, you'll find all the effects used in that element. For the most part, the effects can be ignored, since all the most important properties can be changed using the slider controls above. But if you find that you can't do it with the sliders, you can open the effects up and edit to your heart's content.
Occasionally, you'll see notes in parenthesis on the slider controls that say "keep within frame" or "lossy". This has to do with the difference between the Expansion slider and the Scale slider. On certain elements, they may appear to do the same thing, but they do work differently. Expansion gets it's name from the mask property. You can expand a mask, but eventually you'll expand outside the borders of the layer, which will cut it off, hence this "keep within frame" note. Most elements made from a solid layer will have that limit on expansion. Scale, on the other hand will increase the size of the whole layer, so it will never get cut off, but you may notice some loss in resolution or in processing speed, which is why it says "lossy". If a lens flare element doesn't have "keep within frame" or "lossy" on it, then you won't need to worry about it.
It's important to understand the relationship of the Flatten and Anamorphic Streak slider controls, since they are often used together. Imagine you have a Reflection Solid element in the shape of a small circle reflection, and you want to convert it to an anamorphic streak. You could stretch it out with the Anamorphic Stretch slider until you're satisfied, but it might cause problems since you would basically be scaling the whole layer up about a thousand percent on the x-axis. If it's a vector shape, that's not a problem, but for a solid layer, that's a lot of computer power to process the transformation. It's best to expand it a bit first using the Expansion slider control, then flatten it, then stretch it, and your reflection won't cause any hiccups on your system.
On a final note, it's important to remember that when copying lens flare elements to your Base Comp, whether you're copying from the Elements comp or from a preset comp, be sure to pay attention to whether the element uses an alpha matte layer. The alpha matte layer will share the same name as the lens flare element and will be the layer right above the element. Always select the alpha matte layer first, then shift-select the bottom layer, then copy and paste. This will preserve their order which will help you avoid an error message.
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