This article discusses a few of the issues that may come up when you're using the Creation Lens Flares template. It's always possible that a layer gets displaced or an expression gets turned off accidentally, so it's important to know how to recognize those problems so you can set things right again.
NOTE: Make a backup copy of the Creation Lens Flares project file before you use it. Since this isn't a plugin, it's not going to reset itself every time you open After Effects. Once you've changed things and then save it, it's forever changed, so always work on a copy of the original project.
Since lens flares in this template are made with normal layers with effects in them, they have to render just like with any other After Effects projec. So if you have many elements in your lens flare comp, and you're noticing that your preview is taking too long to update, the most important thing you can do is set your resolution to half or less. This won't change your final video - just the preview in your Composition window, and it will make a significant difference in speed. Of course, you can also hide elements while you're working to make things run faster, and then just keep them hidden until your ready to render.
Another important setting is Live Update. If your lens flare isn't updating in real time when you move your control layer, turn on Live Update in your timeline.
Lens flare elements are full of expressions, which are bits of code within various parameters. The expressions often reference slider controls or other layers. Probably the error message you're most like to get in this template is one that occurs when one of those links is broken. This error message begins with "Bad Argument, couldn't find...". It can happen when layers or slider controls get misplaced or deleted, and even if you undo the action that resulted in the error message, you will still have a problem because expressions get turned off automatically when the error occurs. You will have to individually turn those expressions back on. To locate expressions that have errors, select one ore more layers, right-click on them, and choose Reveal Expression Errors. You can tell when an expression had an error because a yellow exclamation point icon will show up next to the expression. To turn them back on, click the equal sign icon.
Here's a few tips to make sure you don't get that error message First, when you're copying an element with an alpha matte, like the Light Rays element, select the top layer first, which is the alpha matte layer, then shift-click the bottom layer, then copy and paste them into your comp. Selecting the top layer first will preserve their order and you won't get that error message. Also, when copying expressions from the expression library, you will have to copy both the slider controls and an expression over. Always copy over the slider controls first and paste them onto your layer... Then go back and copy the expression, found in the Opacity parameter, and paste that into your layer. Another important thing to watch out for - never have any slider control selected when you're pasting new slider controls into a layer, because the new slider controls will replace the old ones, which will cause errors.
If you're using a slider control, and all of a sudden you get an error message that says something along the lines of After Effects can not allocate buffer for 30000 pixels..., chances are a layer was scaled up more than After Effects could handle. If you need to make shapes much larger, get in the habit of using the expansion slider more. For solid layers, you can expand an element up to the size of the comp. You don't want to make it bigger than the comp or the shape will get cut off, hence the note next to the expansion slider, keep within frame. Once you've expanded it, you can use the scale slider control to make the whole layer bigger if you need really huge shapes.
Normally, if you have an element that you want more copies of, you can duplicate it as many times as you want. But if you want to make copies of one of the four elements that use alpha matte layers, it's not quite that simple. Each alpha matte layer has expressions that point to the element layer below it. If you duplicate both layers, you'll see that the layer titles change - the duplicate layers will have a 2 at the end of their titles. But the expressions in the duplicate alpha matte layer haven't changed - they still link to the original layer. We need the duplicate alpha matte layer to point to the duplicate element layer. The best way to do this is to rename the layers in a different comp before you duplicate or make copies of them. So if you're just copying them from the elements comp, rename them in the elements comp, then copy and paste them to the comp you're working in. Or if you want to duplicate the elements that are already in your comp, copy them over to a new comp first, then rename the layers in the new comp, which updates the expressions. Then you can copy and paste them back into your original comp.
If any slider control on an element appears to not be working, check for expression errors, by selecting one or more layers, right-clicking them, and choosing Reveal Expression Errors. If expressions are revealed with a yellow exclamation point icon next to them, that means there was an error. Turn the expressions back on by clicking the equal sign icon.
If you're adjusting the global controls in the Control Layer and it seems to affect every element except one, chances are it's not an error, but it's just that the local setting for that element is turned way down. By "local", I'm referring to the slider controls on the actual element. The global controls on the Control Layer work by multiplying or dividing the local values of a property. So if a local value is 0, the global control will affect it little, if at all. It works this way so that as you turn a global control down all the way to -100, all the elements will reach a value of 0 at the same time.
If you notice that a shape is cut off, you can try to turn down the expansion a bit, then use the scale slider to make the element bigger. Or, another option may be to increase the size of the layer itself. Go to the Layer menu, Solid Settings, lock the Aspect Ratio, and then increase the layer size a bit. This can often be an easy fix, but certain elements become displaced when you do this, and they'll no longer move in the way you expect them to. This makes the element pretty much useless, so you'll want to watch out for that and just play with the expansion slider and scale slider instead.
When you're clicking around in your composition window and dragging your control layer around, it can be easy to select the wrong layer and move it out of position. Maybe you don't notice until it's too late to use the Undo button. So if you notice that something seems out of place, open up the position parameter of the layer and reset it's position by typing in 960 for the x-coordinate and 540 for the y-coordinate. These are the coordinates for the center of the comp.
Lastly, a quick note about the Reflection Particles Array element... If you experience any weird functionality issues with this element, it may be an After Effects bug. Some of the issues may be that the reflections don't scatter automatically when you move the Control Layer, or the reflections may not show up at all unless another layer is turned off. You should be able to correct the problem by restarting After Effects.
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