ProductionCrate has released a free light wrap plugin for Adobe After Effects! It is available to download now. Crate’s Light Wrap fixes one of the biggest obstacles any VFX artist faces, how to cleanly and easily composite in After Effects. We made it specifically for use alongside the VFX Assets available at FootageCrate, but it works perfectly for any compositor’s needs.
What is a light wrap?
Light-wraps are an effective and underutilized technique that improves the realism of a compositor VFX. These simulate the apparent diffusion of extremely bright lights around a foreground, helping to integrate the composited layer into the background. This visually blends the two different layers, creating a cohesive unified final image.
When should I use a light wrap?
Light wraps are commonly used against bright backgrounds, skies, fire video effects and any other intense sources of illumination. This can be added with the motivation of improving the realism of a scene, as a bright source of light (such as an explosion) will carry excessive luminant energy that leaks into adjacent pixels. This means that when a particular area of an explosion is being obscured by a foreground, its colors may still influence the pixel’s final output due to bloom, illumination and fog scattering.
An artist may also want to add a light-wrap for stylistic purposes to visually exaggerate the intensity of a source of light. For example, a dragon breath can be given a stronger light wrap to communicate its deadly heat; or the opening doorway of a UFO blinding the onlookers to reinforce their mysterious nature. Digitally, a pixel can only reach a maximum luminance of 1 (white), so to create a sense of limitless intensity, the implied brightness is reinforced by a light-wrap.
How to create a light wrap in After Effects
Crate’s Light Wrap generates light-wraps at blazing fast speeds. While most light-wrap After Effects tutorial videos require a dozen individual steps to complete, Crate’s Light Wrap generates these optical effects instantly.
Begin by installing the plugin to your Windows or Mac plugin directory:
Windows: Extract plugin to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Common\Plug-ins\7.0\MediaCore
Mac: Extract plugin to Applications/Adobe After Effects/Plug-in
Open Adobe After Effects, and in your composition, identify your background (the source of light) and the foreground (what the light-wrap will interact with).
The plugin then requires you to pre-compose these two layers, so that they can be correctly aligned. Once that’s done, apply Crate’s Light Wrap to your foreground layer.
- Background Layer – Use this to select the source of your light wrap.
- Background blur – Blur the background before the light-wrap is generated to help smooth out colors.
- Wrap Width – How far into the foreground the light-wrap extends
- Exposure – Controls how bright the light-wrap is
- Blend mode – Choose between several different ways for the light-wrap to transfer onto the image
- Tint/Color – Increase the saturation of the light wrap
- Luminance Bias – Use this to control how much influence the foreground’s luminance has on the intensity of the light wrap
- Bias Exposure – Adjust the luminance bias matte’s brightness
- Bias Gamma – Adjust the luminance bias matte’s contrast
- Auto Detect Gamma – Allow the plugin to guess the best color management settings for your project
- View – Change how the light-wrap is output to the layer.
- Premult background – Before the light wrap is processed, premultiply the background so that anything directly behind the foreground does not contribute to the glow.
The great way to build a free light wrap in After Effects is to duplicate the foreground layer and apply the light wrap with the “View” set to “Wrap Solo”. By setting the blending mode to “Add” or “Screen”, you will have a separate light wrap layer that is available for even more artistic control. For example, you can add a Curves layer to enhance a specific color, or control exactly where the light wrap is applied with a feathered mask.
Light-wraps in After Effects work best when working in a 32-bit project with an sRGB linear workspace. This provides the most accurate color behaviours, which is especially important in the context of light-wraps. By utilizing a linear workflow, bright highlights in your backgrounds (whether from a sunset, or a bright energy blast) will create the correct intensities and falloffs in your foreground. We recommend using this for professional use.
This free light-wrap plugin in After Effects is ideal for compositing green screen footage. When shooting inside a green screen studio, the lighting conditions are unlikely to match the complex lighting arrangements of the intended background. Using a lightwrap helps to carry your foreground elements coloring closer to what is expected to be seen if the actor was really in the artificial scene.
Light-wraps can also work inversely, adding CG elements to real-world footage. Most 3D rendering software are unable to produce the phenomena that are responsible for a light-wrap, and so in the compositing stage, a light wrap is often required to seamlessly integrate the 3D model into the scene. This makes ProductionCrate’s free light-wrap plugin a powerful and attractive addition to users of Blender, Cinema4D and Houdini.
Crate’s Light Wrap Requirements
- AE CS6 and newer
- MacOS 11.3 or newer
- Windows 7 or newer
- GPU required (integrated GPU such as Intel Iris supported)
- Apple Silicon native. Older mac’s (~2013) with Nvidia cards may not work
This plugin cannot be re-shared, distributed or provided anywhere else without our expressed permission. Contact Support@ProductionCrate.com for any questions. Articles, blogs and videos promoting this free plug-in are encouraged. You are free to use any of our media elements in your promotions, reviews or edits.
Interested in more free plugins? Check out our free Godrays plugin here.