Deee-LUX: Show Me the Light
Peder Norrby has done it again. This time, Peder's company, Trapcode, offers LUX. The brilliant plugin author who brought us Shine now has a new plugin that creates a volumetric attribute for 3D lights. After Effects' 3D environment allows designers to introduce light sources into their compositions. LUX takes those lights to a whole new level, giving users the tools to truly consider light during the After Effects compositing process, rather than relying on heavy 3D tools. In lieu of a tutorial, this week I took a quick look at Trapcode's Lux plugin for After Effects.
There are several interesting plugins from Trapcode. The most popular to date is Shine. Sure 3D Stroke has been in several top projects as well, but usually in conjunction with Shine. Now Trapcode is introducing another 3D light based plugin: LUX.LUX doesn't require adding special parameters for each light in your scene. Instead, it acts similarly to, but not near the "same as" an After Effects Adjustment Layer, calculating an effect for a range of lights in the scene. LUX is applied to a solid (usually at least the size of your comp), and does not get checked for 3D. When lights intersect the solid layer with LUX applied to it, a volumetric effect is produced which does not detract from After Effects' lights' ability to illuminate other layers in the 3D scene. Although certain parameters of LUX create special new lights when activated (see: Reach Layers), you can choose to simply add LUX to existing After Effects (v.6) projects. Note: LUX is not supported by AE 5.x due to AE's limitations in previous builds.
There isn't a whole lot to LUX to learn, yet it does take a certain amount of finesse to get the look that you want. Although the result of LUX is glamorous, the effect parameters in LUX 1.0.0 are pretty basic. There is one set of parameters to control After Effects Point Lights, a similar set of controls to effect the look of AE Spot Lights, and a General tab to control the effect and range of lights effected.
The Point and Spot Light controls in LUX vary according to the type of light they affect. Both allow you to change the volumetric model of the light. Because this is keyframable, you can animate the effect off and on (hold keyframes). The "Natural" look is based on a fall-off formula of Distance squared and works quite well for most applications.
Spotlight controllers also include models for "Distant" and "Constant." Both are self-explanatory and include specific controls that allow for editing parameters of those light models.
Point light differs from Spot Light control by including controls for "Radius," "Radius & Source" and "Source." Artists familiar with Cinema 4D might equate point lights to Omni lights. After Effects' point lights appear as gradient spheres under LUX's guidance, casting light as either a pixie dot, a bright fuzzy ball or anything in between.
To control the distance and effect of LUX, "Reach" controls are included under the Spot Light controls. The Reach parameters allow for the effect to be hindered by a specific layer (like a floor or wall). The visible cone of light from a Point Light isn't linear, so the obscuring layer is defined by a series of operations instead. In LUX's General attributes, there is an attribute that allows LUX to control lights according to their name (Lux, Front, or Back). LUX limits the name you can assign to the light to three variations, and allows for only one variant per LUX effect, there are no boolean operators here.
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