Today in class we were looking at lighting and light volumetric lighting. We were shown and explained to how volumetric lighting can be used to illuminate spaces, such as looking at the cone of a streetlight in foggy weather.

We’re to illuminate a piece of wording, from both the front and the back to highlight what volumetric lighting is. There’s a lot of steps to this and this post is kind of a “what I’ve done today” and a “this is how I’ve done it” for future reference since I’ll never remember all of this on my own. I just hope that looking back on this in the future I’ll be able to figure out what’s going on between this and my notes. Well, here goes;

To begin with we imported some files off the college’s x drive. We then made every layer 3D, added a new grey layer and rotated it on the x-axis which would act as the floor. This too would be a 3D layer and would also be checked as the composition size.

Another new layer was created, this time in 2D since it would be used as a background, in a black colour. In the image layer (the MagNorth layer) we checked Material Options > checked the box ‘Cast Shadows’.

With the logo layer still highlighted, I pressed ‘a,a‘ which brought up the ‘Material Options‘ and in here I made sure the ‘Accept Lights’ and ‘Accept Shadows’ boxes were checked. Next i created a light layer with a point light selected. The cast shadows box was ticked and I moved the light behind the MagNorth text along it’s Z-axis.

Next we added another light layer but this time as a spotlight and kept it in front of the text. The Cast Shadows option under ‘Light Options’ was turned off and a 15.0 pixel Shadow Diffusion was placed onto the backlight layer, again under ‘Light Options’.

A camera was added to the composition with a 28mm preset and the ‘depth of field’ checkbox ticked. Across the very top of After Effects is a quick access taskbar and one of the icons is a camera. Clicking this turns the mouse pointer into a camera icon and by clicking and dragging the icon around the screen, the camera layer pans around the added layers in real time allowing you to see where each level is set and in what layer order.

Another new solid layer was added but this time I gave it a bright white colour (again with the comp size box marked) and with the ellipse tool, (two icons over from the camera icon), I drew a circle in the centre of the logo. On the bottom task bar and with this new solid layer selected, I checked the 3D box and moved its position in the z-axis to behind the text, having some distance between the two. Double tapping the ‘A’ button brought up the Material Options menu again and in this I checked the box to ‘Accept Lights off’. This layer was then moved behind the MagNorth logo – shown below.

Next we added a new null and in the Effects & Presets section on the right of the screen I searched for ‘CC Radial Fast Blur’ and dragged this onto the light source layer. In the Radial Blur’s settings, the zoom was selected to ‘brightest’ and amount to 70.


We then Alt&Clicked on the Radial Blur Centre in the top left panel to open up the lightsource’s details and connected that to the null. This action itself opened up a command box on the lower control panel which we had to add the following code: .toComp([0,0,0,]);  (shown above)

Again in the Effects & Presets panel, we searched for ‘Colour Correction’ and dragged this underneath the Radial Fast Blur before altering the white colour bar to 50% its height/intensity. Whilst still in the same adjustment layer another Curve layer was dragged and dropped into the same area and in this we brought down the red and green colour bars to give the white light a blueish hue.


A new solid colour was added and on this layer we added the effect ‘Fractal Noise’. We changed the Fractal Type to Dynamic, altered the Evolution Circle to approx. 200 degrees and gave the contrast an alteration to 200 degrees also. The ellipse tool was used again and a new ellipse was created over the logo bringing in the cloudy like effect (seen below) over the top of the logo and in the shape of the ellipse I’d just drawn. On this layer and in the bottom toolbar > Masks > Mask 1 > Mask Feather > 100% This gave the ellipse and texture a softer edge.


When animated it would look like a smoke cloud which was going to be used as an extra effect.


Next on the top toolbar, Effect > Channel > Solid Composite. In Fractal Noise > Blending > None. In Evolution > Alt&Click on the clock to turn it blue and in the section that opens up for commands on the lower control panel type: time*175

Back to the Effects panel, we searched for ‘Curves’ again and applied this onto the solid layer. We altered the curves table (like the lined table a few pictures above) to change the colour of the cloud. We made this layer 3D like all the others and moved it along the z-axis in between the backlight and the logo.

In the final stages of the lesson, we selected the ‘Floor’ layer and changed it to ‘Screen’ in the mode selection drop down menu. On the MagNorth logo layer, ‘Bevel’ was searched in the effects & Presets panel and was applied to it. This bevelled the text slightly making it more easy going and appealing to the eye.

We duplicated the logo layer and moved this layer slightly behind the original to emphasis the cut-out effect then duplicated this layer, so I had three layers of the logo layer. On this layer I searched for ‘CC Ball Action’ again in the Effects & Presets panel and applied it to this layer.

Next we were to allow this to animate but since there’s so much data for the computer to process, it couldn’t do it in time before the end of the lesson. I did try but the pace it was processing was so slow that I’d still be there waiting for an hour after the lesson had ended. I also could see in the small section that had processed that something had gone wrong – only the smoke cloud was animating and the lights were doing nothing at all.

Something to be fixed next lesson as we’re told we will be revisiting this since there’s still things to do and some people have had quite a few issues getting it working.

I’m also aware that this entire post has been a bit of an instruction manual but I don’t know how else to write it, hell I don’t sully understand it myself. We’ve gone through so much so quick I feel like all I can say is “this is what I’ve done but I don’t know how I’ve done it”.



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