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Essential Controls Needed For Lightning Engine

Posted: Tue, 13th Jul 2010, 7:06pm

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The Duelist

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Hey all, The Duelist here. As you can probably tell from my tutorial, I am absolutely obsessed with lightning, and there are several things about convincing lightning that Visionlab makes EXTREMELY time consuming to achieve. Since FxHome has, until now, carried through on their mission to make their special effects engines as intuitive and easy to use as possible, I want to bring the following lightning attributes to light in the hope that they will be recognized as important.

A: Lightning FLICKERS. It does not just sit there waving back and forth. It's a series of zaps where the same bolt turns on and off several times.

B. The overall thickness of the bolt changes depending on the position of the stroke cycle. This usually occurs over several frames, and it often fades out this way rather than by brightness.

C. Lightning is BRIGHT. It illuminates the scene based on the shape of the lightning. I don't care how much you up the outer glow, it's going to look terrible unless you have 2+ effects layers, one with the inner core and associated color glow, and one with the ambient wide glow.

Since lightning is an intensely motion-based effect, and Visionlab makes accurate motion as difficult as possible, I am requesting a much needed update containing one or more of the following controls.

1. FlareActive: The muzzle flash engine has it, the particle engine has it, and the optics engine has it. I'm no programmer, but I'm guessing this is the easiest one to implement.

2. Proportional thickness: this control, possibly named "Intensity" would allow the user to increase or decrease the overall thickness of the bolt, keeping the start/end widths proportional. Doing this manually is annoying and time-consuming. The control needs to go from zero (no bolt at all) to some appropriately high figure.

3. Ambient Glow: Simply an additive glow setting that would, if turned on, allow one to brighten the background based on the shape and color of the lightning.

I realize I'm taking a bit of a hard line on this, and I do wish to say that the lightning engine is the best thing to happen to VisionLab, but achieving these simple attributes by using many additional filters or controls not really suited for the task simply isn't what an FxHome product is about. The three-strip process filter was (to my knowledge) an easy and quick update based on a good idea, and if anything, I hope that the FlareActive and Proportional fade will be quickly taken under consideration and be implemented, because these are what I consider the most important fixes to be made. Finally, before I get a heap of suggestions about how to achieve these effects without altering the program, I'm happy to list the various ways I've worked around these weaknesses. I've spent many hours with the lightning engine, and so I've had time to develop a lot of workarounds.

Thanks,
The Duelist.
Posted: Tue, 13th Jul 2010, 8:27pm

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Serpent

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And I think in general interpolated keyframes would be cool. "Simple" math really, it'd be an easy feature, relatively, I'd assume. If it already has this, then ignore this, I only use CompositeLab for rotoscoping and keying these days.
Posted: Wed, 14th Jul 2010, 9:08am

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JackPot

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Thanks for the feedback! Great comments, I especially agree with C. I've booked marked this for the future lightning engines we develop.

Cheers,

Jack
Posted: Wed, 14th Jul 2010, 1:44pm

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spydurhank

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Good post and ideas The Duelist.
Posted: Wed, 14th Jul 2010, 6:37pm

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The Duelist

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Thanks for giving this consideration. I'm not sure how difficult #3 will be to program, but stitching together multiple lensflares to provide the background illumination is a disaster. Can we count on a basic update soon, or are you reviewing the whole engine?
Posted: Wed, 14th Jul 2010, 6:46pm

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Axeman

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I wouldn't count on an update very soon, as they are hard at work on another project. I'd guess its more of an eventuality than a near-future thing.

Surely it would be easier to use another layer of the lighting, and adjust its size, settings, and color, and perhaps blend mode, rather than using a bunch of lens flares to create the bg interaction? I generally also alter the shape a bit, so the flicker on the bk is slightly different then the shape of the bolt itself, to make it a bit more dynamic. I realize you are already using multiple layers for the effect, but I don't fully understand where the lens flares come in, rather than another layer of the lightning engine.

While we are at it, being able to animate a 'bulge' traveling up and down the length of the bolt would also be sweet. This is probably related to your second point above. Good suggestions all round, btw.
Posted: Thu, 15th Jul 2010, 5:45am

Post 7 of 8

The Duelist

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Unfortunately just using another layer doesn't quite create the effect I need. It creates a much flatter look than I would like. By far the largest problem is keyframing the bolts to create an accurate flicker. Adjusting two obnoxious sliders governing width over the course of a decent-length clip is just absurd. Most times I just use a transparency gradient and fade it in and out. Way more ghetto, but quicker. It's gotten to the point where I've built up a library of stock keyframes that I just copy and paste to achieve the right effects. It's not impossible by any means, but it's rough having my favorite special effect being a pain in the ass to implement.
Posted: Thu, 22nd Jul 2010, 6:21pm

Post 8 of 8

The Duelist

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Just a FlareActive? Please?