Creation Lens Flares is an amazing new tool for creating the ever popular lens flare effect. This After Effects template allows you to make stunning, realistic lens flares entirely within Adobe After Effects with no plugins or other software used - just the tools that After Effects CS3 came with. With the template, you can create your own custom lens flares, or use any of the included 50 pre-made lens flares, which are all fully customizable as well, and then animate them or motion track them to go over your footage. You have so much control over every element of the flares, plus you are working with the unrivaled power of Adobe After Effects and every effect that it offers, which is what makes Creation Lens Flares the most flexible tool out there for creating high-quality lens flares, and it's all for a fraction of the price of the competition.
Creation Lens Flares comes with lots of features like an effects library, an expressions library, light leaks, lens textures, and video training, and we'll go over them in a moment, but if you're staring at the screen and you still don't have a clue what a lens flare is, let me illuminate you (pun very much intended). Lens flares are a phenomena caused by bright lights reflecting and refracting off the glass in a camera lens, causing a variety of shapes and colors that move in relation to the light source. They have grown increasingly popular as a design element and if you pay attention, you'll see them in just about every movie, music video, and tv commercial - whether they were captured in camera, or created in post-production. After Effects does come with 3 built-in lens flare effects, but they can't be customized and really, the only thing you can control is the position and brightness. Not to mention they look outdated and they have a horrible reputation among professionals.
When you open the Creation Lens Flares template, you'll see a Base Comp for building your own lens flare, with three layers - a Control Layer, and two lens flare elements to get you started. And right next to the Base Comp is the Elements Comp, with 18 total basic elements to choose from. Building your flare is as easy as selecting one or multiple elements from the Elements Comp, copying, and pasting into your Base Comp. If you click on the Control Layer and drag it around, you'll be able to position your lens flare and watch it update in real time. To control the look of your lens flare, you can select any element, and you'll see a bunch of slider controls in the Effects Controls panel. Through the use of hundreds of lines of expressions in each lens flare, these slider controls can control just about every property imaginable for each element. You can control its brightness, scale, softness, color, you can flatten or stretch it, you can set it to auto-orient toward the light source, you can rotate it manually, and you also have a lot of control over its position. You can change it's proximity to the light source, you can offset it by dragging it, or you can use the offset controls to change how the element moves on a particular axis. Those are just the controls that all elements have in common. Depending on the element, there might be dozens more controls which affect the look of the element.
You also have the ability to control multiple elements at once. Just select the Control Layer, and you'll see more slider controls in the Effects Controls panel. These are "global controls" and it's how you can adjust properties of the lens flare as a whole.
In the Project panel, there's a folder called Lens Flare Presets. In here you'll find 50 finished lens flare comps, divided into 3 categories: Anamorphic, Basic, and Flashy. You can customize these using the slider controls, or, if you just see something you like in a preset, and you want to use it in your own lens flare, all you have to do is select the element(s), copy and paste it into your Base Comp and it will carry all of its slider control settings with it.
Once you're done with your lens flare, you can animate the position of your Control Layer using keyframes, or if you're compositing the lens flare over footage, you can use After Effects' motion tracking controls so that your light source automatically tracks with the movement in your footage. Creation Lens Flares has an easy-to-use setup for motion tracking, which you can learn more about in the motion tracking article, or the motion tracking video tutorial.
It was previously mentioned that you can animate the position of a lens flare using keyframes on the Control Layer. In fact, you can animate any one of the slider controls on any element using keyframes, which gives you a lot of control over the look of your lens flare. But what if that's not enough? What if you want a truly dynamic lens flare that evolves automatically as you move your light source? That kind of automatic animation is called Evolution. Evolution is possible using the third comp, named Expression Library.
If you don't know about expressions, don't worry because all you have to do is cut and paste. Open the comp and take a look at the first evolution effect, Basic Time or Motion Evolution. This one has a very simple function, which is just a basic change in value as the layer gets closer or further from the center of the comp. Say for example, you have an element in your lens flare that you want to increase in size automatically as you move the lens flare away from the center of the comp. You could animate the scale of the element using keyframes on the Expansion slider control, but that's not real evolution. The size increase won't be automatic every time you move the lens flare. But when you copy the expression and it's slider controls from the Basic Time or Motion Evolution layer, and paste them into your lens flare element, you can easily get that effect. That's just the tip of the iceberg, because you can go so much further with evolution. You can put an evolution expression on any slider control or parameter that you want. And the different expressions in the library all do different things.
The 4th comp in the template is the Effects Library. This comp is a collection of effects that can dramatically change the look and behavior of lens flare elements. You can apply an effect with one simple cut-and-paste action. These effects have expressions and extra slider controls so that they work in coordination with the movement of the lens flare. There are over 20 effects in the library. They each get different results on different lens flare elements. And if you edit an element's shape using it's slider controls, the possibilities are endless.
There are a few more features worth noting. One is light leaks. Creation Lens Flares includes 8 light leaks which you can composite over your footage. The light leak is really a cool effect, which can be used for transitions or just to add interest to a shot. See the Lens Textures and Light Leaks video tutorial to see examples.
Also included is a collection of lens textures, which are just jpegs that can be composited over your footage in your lens flare comp. When used with an alpha matte, these can be set up so they only show up in the brightest areas of the lens flares, which adds another level of realism.
The Creation Lens Flares template also includes a way for you to get an automatic anamorphic streak on the lights in your footage without doing hardly any work at all. You just drop in your footage into the pre-comp that says Put Your Footage Here, and the Your Footage with Lens Flare comp will have a blue streak on only the brightest parts of the image. And again, there are slider controls to control color, intensity, threshold, and so on.
And finally, there are over 80 minutes of video tutorials that you can see at the Creation Lens Flares YouTube playlist. These tutorials go into depth about lens flare creation and what you can accomplish with this template.
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