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Neon Light: Understanding the Neon Light Engine, Part 1

Posted: Sun, 4th Jun 2006, 3:04pm

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Hey Everyone. Recently it seems beginners have a lot of questions about neon light engine, and while they could read the manual, I figured I’d create a visual tutorial for them to look at if they have any questions.

This tutorial is the first in a series of two tutorials on the neon light engine, and will be focusing on the actual shape, and its controls. Glow controls and settings will be explained in the next tutorial.

When you first create a new neon light effect, you are given the choice of two shapes: 4-Point or Freehand

4-Point: Creates a 4 pointed neon light effect. Good for lightswords and lasers
Freehand: Lets you place multiple points to create an abstract or abnormal neon light shape. Good for magic weapons, etc.

NOTE: Before you begin, turn the neon glow off in the timeline. This will make the glow around your shape disappear, but you can turn it back on at any time. It’s easier to work without it on.

First we will look at the 4-Point effect. Here is a basic 4-Point shape after placing our 4 points on the canvas:

IMPORTANT!! You MUST remember to place your points in this order: hilt, hilt, tip, tip otherwise your curvature options will turn out funny.

Now we will look at the toolbox for the 4-point option. The toolbox may look a little daunting, but do not worry, we will cover everything.

First of all, let’s look at the four icons at the top of the toolbox:

Cursor: The cursor is used to make general selections and move your effect.
Pencil: The pencil is used when placing your four points on the canvas.
Rotator: The rotator is used for (what else?) rotating your shape on the canvas.
Scaler: And finally the scaler tool is used to adjust the size of your object.

Directly below the four icons is a control that you will most likely not use. It looks somewhat like a coordinate device. This tells you the exact placement of your shape on the canvas.

Now, on to the controls which you will most likely use when you are placing a 4-point neon light effect.

Hilt Curve: [I]The hilt curve slider adjusts the amount of curve the shape has at the hilt end of the effect like shown:

Tip Curve: ]The tip curve does exactly the same as the hilt curve, except rounds the tip instead of the hilt as shown:

Feather: The feather tool is very useful for lasers and lightswords. It feathers the edges of the glow (discussed in part two) and the core, blending them for a more realistic appearance. Without the glow turned on, the feather will look like this:

Invert Shape: This feature comes in handy quite often actually. By inverting your shape, instead of masking the neon light over your footage, the neon light will act as a mask, and everything else except your shape will be shown. This is very good for masking when you would like a glow spill from your saber:

Opaque/Transparent Shape: This control adjusts whether your shape is opaque or transparent.
Transparency Slider: Finally, this slider adjusts the overall transparency of your shape.

Well, that does it for the 4-point controls, now on to the freehand. Once again, make sure the Neon Glow button is turned off and shows red instead of green.

A basic freehand allows you to place almost as many points as you’d ever want. This comes in handy for masking objects with glow around them etc. Here is a basic freehand shape:

Now, on to the toolbox. Luckily the freehand toolbox is a lot less intimidating than the 4-point toolbox:

As you can see, the toolbox has two tabs at the top. Draw and Animate. We will go into each of these separately.


Reduce Points: As you may notice, the reduce points control has both a button and a slider:

The function of the reduce points control is to minimize the number of points your freehand object has. To do this, slide the slider point up. The further up you go, the less points your final shape will have. Then click the button, and voila, your shape has been reduced to fewer points.

Reduced Points Control Before

Reduced Points Control After

Smooth Points: [I]The smooth points control rounds the edges of your figure, making it less blocky:


After you have closed your freehand shape, and made the adjustments you want, click on the animate tab and you will see this set of controls:

The tabs at the top are just the same as the tabs in the 4-point controls, so I won’t go into that. Here are the others:

Feather: [I]The feather control is also just like the 4-point control, and feathers the core into the glow. Without the glow on, it will look like this:

Invert Shape: The invert shape is also like the 4-point, and inverts your shape for masking:

Opaque/Transparent Shape: This controls whether your shape is opaque or transparent.
Transparency Slider: And last of all, this slider controls the overall transparency of your shape.

Well, I hope that this was of use to some of you.