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Light Factory2

By Carlyle Gordon

Light Factory has been around for quite some time now. I think the original name was, Puffin Designs Knoll Lens Flare Pro, after the master himself, Mr. John Knoll. John Knoll is a Visual Effects Supervisor at the premier name in visual effects, Industrial Light and Magic. Mr. Knoll has worked on Mission Impossible, Star Trek Generations, and Star Wars episodes one and two. You have probably seen this plug-in used in many more movies like those. Now you too can have the power of Red Giant's Light Factory!

 I'm going to be taking apart Light Factory to show you what it's all about and why I like it. I will also show you some examples of its use to give you a better idea of its power. Additionally I would like to show you some examples of real life lens flares. Well...enough talk...let the show begin!

What is Light Factory?

Light Factory is a lens flare generating plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects and Apple Final Cut Pro. Light Factory enables you to add lens flare generating functionality to your software. Even though Light Factory has 16bit support it is a PC/Mac only application, so if you are not running a Windows or Mac-based computer you are out of luck. Shake, Inferno, Irix and Linux users should take a look at the Sapphire plug-in by GenArts here: If you need to have photo realistic or just plain cool lens flares on your video, film, titles or graphics then you need Light Factory.

What is a lens flare?

A lens flare is a reflection of a very bright light source as seen in a camera's lens. The camera can be just about anything that captures images, moving or still. These are MiniDV, S-Video, Beta, Film, Digital Still1 camera like my Fuji s5000 or 35mm cameras of all shapes and sizes. In fact all you really need is a lens. You may see a lens flare through a telescope's lenses or even a magnifying glass. Lens flares typically look like a star pattern in your photos/videos. Imagine a picture or video of the sun, headlights or a flashlight. There are actually filters for camera lenses that enhance this effect.

Who needs Light Factory?

Light Factory is popular with professional and aspiring graphics designers, motion graphics artists, visual effects artists. Light Factory can be used in film, broadcast and Web productions. Get Light Factory to be able to simulate bright light sources in stills and motion pictures. For example:

  •  Simulate a bright spotlight behind your type.
  •  Sweeten an explosion effect
  •  Enhance your magic glowing ball effect
  •  Enhance the light Saber effect in you next big Star Wars movie
  •  Create your teleportation effect
  •  Achieve the artsy look of the flare minus the negatives of a real flare.
  •  Create mood by simulating a fabulous sunset in seconds

Note: You may preview the various lens flares here:

Who is Red Giant?

Red Giant is a great software company that I just found out about when looking for the legendary Light Factory that I have heard so much about for years. Please visit Red Giant's website( to learn more about their other products like Magic Bullet, another great product used for film and television.


If you don't care much about realism, then just pick a cool looking preset flare in seconds or build your own from scratch. The only thing missing here is maybe a visual preview of the flares for you to choose from. You have to familiarize yourself with the various flares to really be proficient.

If you do care about realism, them conduct a study or analysis of the lens and flare that you want to simulate. Use a basic flare preset in Light factory and add flare elements to your heart's content. Lens flares can be fairly complex but trust me, what ever you need is in here.

Well I'm sure you are all sick of all this boring talk about flares, so let's take a look at Light Factory2 in action!

Using Light Factory

Here is an example of how I use Light Factory. I want to add a lens flare to a film resolution motion graphics element to visually enhance it. I'm using Discreet Combustion 2.1.1. For film resolution work you are better off using Discreet Inferno, but Combustion does support proxies, which are a great help. Inferno unfortunately, but understandably does not run on any desktop (Mac/Windows) platforms.

Step 1
Here is a motion graphics plate I created. This could be your own creation or one of those fancy looping clips from Video Juice.

I created a new 10-bit composite with a resolution of 2048x1556 and 24 frames per second. I then imported the above graphic into my composite.

Step 2
Below I am creating a new solid to apply my flare too.(learn why in part 2 of this review) Notice that the color of the solid is set to black. This is what you want.

Click image for larger view


Step 3
Notice that the solid now appears above my original motion graphics plate, called AngelFX.

As is, you will not be able to see through the black solid...guess why?? Cause it's black2 of course! You're no Clark, buddy! No X-Ray vision (Sorry about that, I'm a Smallville spite of the fact that I missed the finale! Find out why we use black in part2.

Step 4
Now after I apply the "screen" transfer mode to the Solid layer, I'm ready for my flare!

Click image for larger view

Step 5
I simply select Light Factory from my operator (effects) list.


As you can see above there are a LOT of options listed here. I'll go through most of them in part 2, but for now I will pick sparkle

Below are the controls I have for the "Sparkle" flare. I can easily animate nearly all of these properties!


Step 6
Now I will add one more flare with Light FactoryEZ(same application). Notice that I can easily layer my flares!

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Related Keywords:Light Factory , John Knoll , Knoll Lens Flare Pro, After Effects plugins, Photoshop plugins, final cut pro plugins, combustion plugins

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