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How Trapcode LUX Rocks (your lighting setup)!!!

Creating a complex lighting setup that can be controlled using one parameter By Kevin McAuliffe

Lighting in After Effects has become almost an essential part of any composition, and with the ability to now add volumetric lighting to our lights using Trapcode's LUX, we can essentially create almost completely realistic lighting setups. For this article I will take a look at how to create a complex lighting setup that can be controlled using one parameter.

To begin with, I'll need to create a lighting "grid," much like you would see in a studio. First, I'm going to create the "floor" so that our lights will shine at something. I'm going to do that by simply creating a new solid in After Effects, promoting it to 3D, and positioning it accordingly. I'm going to make the solid white, and I'm also going to make it three times bigger than my composition, so I will have a lot of room to play with.

Now, I'm going to create five spot lights, all of different colors, and I'm going to place three of them toward the back of my composition, and one on either side. Don't worry about LUX right now, let's just worry about getting the lights into a position we are happy with. Let's add a new light (LAYER>NEW>LIGHT), and make sure it's a spotlight. As you can see from the image below, the light has been positioned right in front of us, pointing away.

Let's reposition this light so that it is higher up, and pointing down toward our "floor." This can be done by changing our "3D View" at the bottom of our "Composition" window, and then moving our light and its point of interest into a position we are happy with.

Image 3

I'm pretty happy with how my single light looks. I've adjusted the "Cone Angle" of the light to make it a more defined spot on the floor. Now, I'm going to duplicate my light twice, and move those lights into position so I have three lights in a row, pointing at the floor.

Now, using the same technique, we're going to add our final two lights, one on each side of our composition. It will probably be easiest to do this step in the "Top" view.

As you can see, the two lights actually sit outside our composition window, so to fix that I'm just going to select all my lights, and adjust their "Z position" to slide them back a little, so they are all in the frame.

Finally (for the purposes of this article), we are going to make each light a different color. That can be done by simply selecting each light, and then navigating your way to LAYER>LIGHT SETTINGS.

Now we are ready to add LUX. To do that, create a new solid layer (LAYER>NEW>SOLID), and then apply LUX to it (EFFECTS>TRAPCODE>LUX) . Once you apply the effect, the result is shown immediately, and it looks awesome!

Now, I'm going to apply a keyframe for each light's point of interest. I'm doing this because I want to have quick access to that parameter for the next step of our tutorial.

Once you have applied the keyframe to each light, press the "U" key to isolate the point of interest parameter. You can now remove the keyframes, as we don't need them anymore. Now, let's create a new "Null Object" (LAYER>NEW>NULL OBJECT), and then promote it to 3D by checking the "3D Layer" box in your timeline. Now that we are able to manipulate the null object in 3D space, we are going to move it to the same co-ordinates as our light's point of interest, which is <360,549.9,804.3>. Now, we are going to add an expression to each light so that the point of interest of each light will be attached to the position of the null object. To do that, hold the "Option" key on the Mac ("Alt" key on Windows), and click on the "Set Keyframe" stopwatch beside "Point of Interest".

Immediately you will notice that the point of interest parameters have changed to red, and some new tools have opened up below them. What we want to do is to take the pick whip (the circular icon below the "Y" value), and drag it up to the null object's position wordmark. Once you do that, you will notice that the information that was inserted into your timeline has changed.

Basically, what the expression is telling you is that the point of interest of the light is now directly affected by the null object's position. We're going to do the same for each light. You can use the pick whip method, or simply copy the expression from the timeline, and "Option" + click your other light's parameters, and then paste it into the expression window in the timeline. Both will work the same, but the latter will speed up your workflow. Your timeline should now look like this.

You can now hide all of your light's parameters by selecting them and pressing the "U" key again. You might be thinking "Cool, but how is this creating a lighting rig?" Well, select your null object, press the "P" key to open up the position parameter, and then drag the "X" value left and right and watch what your lights do. They all move together, following the null object. You can now pretty much move the null object anywhere in 3D space, and all the lights will move together, creating a really awesome looking lighting setup that requires very little work to manipulate.

With a little bit of work, Trapcode's LUX and After Effects lights and 3D space can create an awesome looking lighting setup, and a little creativity can give you a lighting rig that you can use over and over again!
For more information on Trapcode's LUX, you can download the demo at www.redgiantsoftware.com .

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com

Related Keywords:lighting, after effects, visual effects, motion graphics, plugins

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