Introduction: Adobe After Effects Proton Streams
So, you've been inspired to make your own Ghostbusters fan film. You've got everything shot and cut together. Now what? Well, you need special effects!
In this tutorial, you'll learn all the tips and tricks to get those special effects done right for your Ghostbusters themed film!
Step 1: Starting Your Beam
So using this tutorial, we're going to assume that you know the basics of After Effects (ie, making a new composition, etc.) so we can move along a bit faster.
Start a new composition, then add a new layer solid. Then, you're going to add your beam base. Use the effect under Effects > Generate > Beam
The effects default settings are going to make it look like a blaster/light saber from Star Wars, so we're going to modify it, just a bit.
First, you're going to change the "Length" to "100%." Then, fiddle a bit with the colors to what you're going for. In GB1 you want a light - medium orange inside color and a red - deep orange outside color.
Adjust the starting and ending points- for the beam to really work right, and make adding it to your footage easier, you NEED to make sure the "Starting point" is very close to the left edge, even if your character isn't firing from the left side of the screen. This step will make sense in a bit, but it is needed.
Depending on how close to the camera your actor is, and if they're shooting at an angle, play with the settings for starting and ending thickness until it fits what you're going for.
Step 2: Using the Standard Lightning Plug-in (Part 1)
Like the last step, we're going to again add a new layer solid. This time, you're going to change your transfer mode from "Normal" to "Screen." Under the effects menu again, you're going to locate the lightning plug-in. Not advanced lightning, although you can achieve desirable effects with it, so feel free to mess around with that on your own.
So, you've got Effects > Generate > Lightning. The good part about this is that the lightning is already blue, like we need for the beam. Line up the starting and ending points with those of the core beam.
You'll notice that it's a little plain and rigid looking right now. On to the next step!
Step 3: Using the Standard Lightning Plug-in (Part 2)
Okay, so now you've got the electricity. Here's what we'll be doing to it.
To start things off, drag the timeline slider away from the beginning. The bolt's dynamics for the first few frames are different from what it's going to look like further in, and for the rest of the video. Next, we're going to fiddle (yes fiddle. This isn't an exact science, it's really what you like the most, but I'll point you in the right direction) with the segments setting. I always ramp it all the way up to 25, but it's up to you, and also depends on how close your actor is to the camera. What the segment setting will do is add more bends and angles to the electricity.
Next up is the "Amplitude" setting. Again, its' dependent on what you need, but the lower you set it, the closer and more tight the bends are going to be. You are going to want it to be relatively tight, because we're going to add the beams "wiggle" later on to the whole thing. This step is to give it more of a "wrapping around the core" look. I set mine to 5.5.
Step 4: Using the Standard Lightning Plug-in (Part 3)
So we've covered Segments and Amplitude. Next step is Detail, Detail Amplitude, Branching and Re-Branching!
DETAIL: This is going to essentially adjust how bright the beam core is. Misleading setting name, right? The higher the number, the brighter the core. Simple as that. Set it to around 5 or 6. Lower than that if your actor is far away blah blah blah. If you're this far in, you get that point already.
DETAIL AMPLITUDE: This sets how many little wiggles are going to be in your electricity. Like before, the tighter the better.
BRANCHING: This title actually makes sense. It dictates how much the electricity will branch off. You don't want this TOO crazy, so I set it around .1.
REBRANCHING: Again, makes sense. Dictates how much the branches will re-branch. I set mine to .35.
Step 5: Using the Standard Lightning Plug-in (Part 4)
Set the BRANCH WIDTH and the WIDTH so that the arcs are all even. Fiddle around a bit with it until it looks right.
Change the STABILITY to 1 and the SPEED to 6. It's going to make the beams move a bit nicer. Fiddle and find your settings. They may differ.
Set the OUTSIDE COLOR to Black, and the INSIDE COLOR to a light blue.
Set the WIDTH VARIATION to 0 and the adjust the CORE WIDTH to your liking.
Step 6: Glow Settings!
On both layers add the following effects:
For the lightning-
THRESHOLD to 0, RADIUS to 18, INTENSITY to 2.
GLOW COLORS to A>B COLORS
Set the two colors to two separate shades of blue. Adjust the COLOR PHASE to something you like. I prefer a more royal blue, whilst some prefer more of a sky blue. Hence why you have the wheel, to adjust and find what you like the most.
For the core-
THRESHOLD to 0, RADIUS to 47, INTENSITY to 2.7
The other settings, just change the colors to a red and an orange. Adjust the wheel accordingly.
Feel free to fiddle around (I love using that term) with the glow levels so that the orange doesn't overpower the blue too much.
Step 7: Final Wiggle!! Yay!
Ok, NOW that you've done all that work, now we animate it. It's simple. Add a new adjustment layer, and then add the effect of Wave Warp.
EFFECTS > DISTORT > WAVE WARP
Remember when I said you need to make sure the left part of the beam was close to the edge? Now you'll find out why!! On your settings, you'll see an option called "PINNING." Pull the menu down and select "LEFT EDGE." See how the edge sits still, like it's being... FIRED FROM A NEUTRONA WAND!? Yeah... see? It was important. Especially when you're putting your beam over your footage. Much easier to line it up with the barrel.
Now the settings we're going to be using are SPEED, WAVE WIDTH, and WAVE HEIGHT. They're self explanatory.
Here's the deal with these settings. There is no real preset I can tell you. It all depends on way too many factors, from visual things to character development and plot line. If your character is new to the job, set the wave height higher and wave length shorter. If he knows what he's doing, wave height lover and the wave length longer. If you experiment with both, you'll understand what I mean. Also, like I said, distance from the camera is important as well. Speed should be at LEAST 4, faster the farther away you are.
Step 8: Additions and Notes
Beam is done, for the most part. All you need now is a lens flare and the sparks that fall from the end of the barrel. For the lens flare... well... use the lens flare effect. I'd suggest the 105 Prime style flare. It's the closest stock flare, but really there are a lot of Second Party Flare Plug-Ins that you could try and get better results. Remember to animate the brightness of the flare, starting with a bright flash at the moment of firing.
The sparks, you'll need to use one of the particle effects. To be completely honest, I never have ANY idea what I'm doing with that plug-in, and I just fiddle (ha, there it is again) with the settings until I get something I like, and then add the Stylize > Glow effect to a golden orange color we talked about in step 6.
After all is said and done, add one more Adjustment layer, add the effect TIME>CC FORCE MOTION BLUR. Shutter angle to 360, and the samples to anywhere between 4 and 8.
Step 9: My Final Thoughts
Here are some last minute things I think I need to throw in here to help you out. If you need the beam to wrap around a ghost, just make two short beams with both edges pinned, scale them down and overlay them on your ghost.
Also, in Ghostbusters, the proton stream actually travels from the ghost TO the gun, and not vice versa. When doing the effect, you can make the wave warp travel in the opposite direction, instead of having to reverse your entire clip if you feel like going that route.
When you're going to add this effect to an existing scene, add both the lens flare and the glowing sparks after you've put the beam on, and not into the beam originally. You'll end up getting the edges of the flare cut off, and the sparks won't follow the origin point correctly and just won't look right.
Enjoy, and remember! If you use this tutorial in a fan film, feel free to thank Jeff Schmidt in the credits!! ^_^ Have fun.
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