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Using Lights to Create Shadows for Animated Layers in After Effects
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Released Jan 28, 2013
Laura Hawk


Laura Hawk
In this series of After Effects tutorials, we will discuss the steps we take to set up this winter scene; complete with lights, shadows, lens flares and many more realistic effects.

We will start by building the layout for the simple sky and ground layers and then rather than just jumping right in and adding trees all over this ground, we build a series of precomposed layers with our trees. While this does take more time to set up initially, it makes for easy updates later in the project.

We then jump into adding our light and learning how to adjust the settings on our light, and on the layers affected by the light, to give us some insight into how we get the best possible shadows out of our setup. We talk about some really valuable expressions that we use to track a light to our camera and track the lensflare to our light, but these expressions can be used for lots of different After Effects projects and are great to implement in any projects you tackle with tricky 3D layer tracking.

We also delve into creating atmospheric distortion with a light. This distortion follows our camera and gives faraway objects that hazy look. This is a technique that could be used in infinite ways for more projects than just what we create in this course. We finish off by adding some lens effects that make our scene appear as if it were shot with a real camera.