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Knoll Light Factory Pro 2.5

Solid upgrade for motion graphic artists By Stephen Schleicher

Ah the every famous CG Lens Flare.  Back in its heyday, 3D animation and motion graphics were full of the stock effect that became the staple of cheese.  Need to hype up a logo? Add a lens flare!  Does it take place in outer space?  Add a lens flare!  The effect became so over hyped it quickly became a joke, and if you used them, you were sure to get a lashing from your boss.

But then, users started realizing what a lens flare was an unwanted result of light striking the glass elements in the camera.  Whats more, animators and motion graphics artists realized that by toning it down a bit and actually use the lens flare to mimic the real world, they could (literally) create dazzling and brilliant work.

Red Giant Software has recently released an update to the popular Knoll Light Factory system for Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, Apple Motion, Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer, and Avid Xpress that runs circles around other lens flare plug-ins out there.

If you are going to spend money on a lens flare plug-in, you might as well go all out and get yourself the Light Factory Pro Edition, which not only includes a slew of new presets for fast, easy, and great looking shots, but also improved render and preview speeds thanks to tapping into your computer graphic card processing power, and, my personal favorite, automatic alpha generation with Knoll Unmult.

Still There
Light Factory is the base plug-in that contains all of the controls you need to create custom flares for your needs.  It doesnt look like much has changed to the controls, but there are so many options it is rather difficult to know for sure.

Because of the complexity of Light Factory, many beginners may want to first experiment with Light Factory EZ.  This plug-in uses the same animatable controls as Light Factory, but it doesnt have the custom controls.  Instead, you can select from a list of 70 presets, and refine to taste.

One feature I particularly like is the Light Factory Spectacular, which as it turns out is not an elaborately staged machine play popular during the Restoration period, but rather applying lens flares to a particle system in your application.  This is a great way to create stunning wizard battles and explosions.

Finally, Light Factory Elements takes the controls found in the base Light Factory plug-in that you can apply individually to a layer.

With other flare plug-ins, you have to place the flare on a separate layer, and then use a transfer mode to see the layers underneath.  This can lead to less than stellar results that dont sell the shot.  Built into Knoll Light Factory 2.5 is Knolls Unmult to generate an alpha channel for the layer based on the flare elements.  Even if you are rendering a flare only, the results will be nice and clean with the alpha channel.

Time Well Spent?
The first time I launched Knoll Light Factory in Adobe After Effects I ended up spending four hours playing with all of the controls and presets.  Four hours may seem like a long time, but it was a result of two factors; first Knoll Light Factory is very addictive, and second there is a serious lack of documentation.  As I toyed with presets, I found myself asking, ?Can I do this?  What about this? and ended up creating new compositions just to see if I could get a particular look with Light Factory.

My biggest complaint, though, has to be with the documentation.  While the 54 page manual does tell you what each control does, it doesnt really explain why or how it should be used.  There are several tutorials included in the manual as well, but these are more of a walk through on how a shot was achieved, rather than a step by step guide.  Also, most of the tutorials are based on content generated from a 3D application rather than combining footage and other elements in applications like After Effects and Final Cut Pro.

Because of this, users will probably wish to purchase the Knoll Light Factory Training DVD (also reviewed on this site).  After viewing the training I had a much better grasp on how to best use the plug-in.

Bottom Line
The flares and lighting effects created by Knoll Light Factory 2.5 are simply amazing.  They outshine the default lens flare filters found in many other applications.  With over 70 presets, and the improvements made to rendering and speed, Knoll Light Factory is an excellent tool to have in your collection.  The price seems a little high; $399 new or $129 if you are upgrading from a previous version, but considering everything you get, it is worth it.

I give Knoll Light Factory a solid 4 out of 5 Stars.

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Stephen Schleicher is a well known writer, visual effects artist and media guru! You can see more of Stephen at and
Related Keywords:knoll, lens flare, final cut pro, after effects, premiere, adobe, apple, red giant software, compositing, rendering

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