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Lesson 4. Building Star-like Elements > Creating the second element: light rays

Creating the second element: light rays

The next element will serve as a rotating star. To do this, you'll apply and animate a transition effect to create the star image. Transition effects are typically used to phase out one layer and phase in another, but in this case you'll use the effect in a non-traditional way that creates the animation you want in very little time.

Building the composition

Your first task is to create a new composition in the Starshapes04_work project. This time, you'll learn another method of starting this process.

Click the New Composition icon () at the bottom of the Project window to create a new composition. Or, choose Composition > New Composition.

Type Light Rays Comp to name the composition.

In Preset, select NTSC D1 Square Pix, 720 x 540. The following settings are automatically entered:

  • Height at 540

  • Width at 720

  • Pixel Aspect Ratio at Square Pixels

  • Frame Rate at 29.97

(Optional) In Resolution, select Half or lower, as needed for your system.

For Duration, type 400 to specify four seconds, and then click OK.

Adding a solid

You'll be creating the light rays by applying an effect, so you need a layer to start the process. You'll do this by creating a black solid layer. You'll set the background to white so that you can see the results later, after you apply the effect.

Choose Composition > Background Color. Then specify white in the color picker and click OK to close the Background Color dialog box.

Move the current-time marker to 0:00, and choose Layer > New > Solid. Or, press Ctrl + Y (Windows) or Command + Y (Mac OS).

In the Solid Settings dialog box, set the following options. When you finish, click OK.

  • In Name, type Light Rays Solid.

  • Click Make Comp Size to automatically set the dimensions to the same size as the composition. Or, in Width, type 720 and in Height, type 540.

  • In Color, select black, and then click OK.

The Composition window appears with the black solid filling the composition frame.

Applying the Iris Wipe effect and setting keyframes

Next, you'll create the star image by applying a transition effect to the new solid layer. You'll also use the Effect Controls window to set keyframes, because it is more convenient in this case.

Select the Light Rays Solid layer (if it is not still selected).

Choose Effect > Transition > Iris Wipe.

In the Effect Controls window, change the following Iris Wipe settings:

  • For Iris Points, scrub or type 18 to create a nine-pointed star shape.

  • For Outer Radius, scrub or type 13.

  • Select the Use Inner Radius option.

  • For Feather, scrub or type 12 to give the star shape a soft edge.

Make sure that the following are at the default settings, as indicated:

  • Iris Center at 360, 270, which is the center of the Composition window.

  • Inner Radius at 0.

  • Rotation at 0°.

Move the current-time marker to 0:00 and click the following stopwatches in the Effect Controls window to set keyframes:

  • Outer Radius.

  • Inner Radius.

  • Rotation.


Up to this point, you won't see any change in the Composition window.

Move the current-time marker to 3:00 and change the following Iris Wipe settings to set new keyframes:

  • For Outer Radius, scrub or type 640.

  • For Inner Radius, scrub or type 30. The nine-ray star now appears in the Composition window.

Press End to move the current-time marker to 3:29, and change the following settings in the Effect Controls window:

  • For Outer Radius, scrub or type 0. The star disappears again.

  • For Inner Radius, scrub or type 0 so that the star maintains its shape as it shrinks in size.

  • For Rotation, scrub or type 180° so that the shape rotates by a half turn over the length of the composition.

The Outer Radius of the Iris Wipe determines the length of the star rays, from center to tip. The Inner Radius determines where the rays join together at the base. When the Outer Radius and the Inner Radius are equal, the star becomes an equilateral shape—as close to a sphere as it can be. When either radius is set at zero, the star disappears because the rays have no width.

The U shortcut (which stands for Uber) expands the selected layer outline to show all properties with keyframes or expressions. To try this, select the Light Rays Solid layer, and then press U. All the animated Iris Wipe effect properties and keyframes now appear in the Timeline window.

Preview the animation and save the project.

For more information and sample images showing the Iris Wipe effect in action, see After Effects online Help and the Effects documentation (PDF files) available both on the After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book CD and on the Adobe Web site in the in-depth section under After Effects product information.

Render the Light Rays element

The element is complete and ready for rendering. This is a simpler composition than the Starburst Comp, so rendering will take considerably less time.

Close the Composition, Timeline, and Effect Controls windows for Light Rays Comp.

In the Project window, select Light Rays Comp and then choose Composition > Make Movie. The Render Queue opens with Light Rays Comp as the second item in the queue.

Next to Output To, click the words Light Rays comp.mov to open the Output Movie To dialog box.

In File Name, type LightRays.mov and specify the _mov folder inside the AE_CIB job folder. Click Save to return to the Render Queue..

Click the underlined words Current Settings to open the Render Settings dialog box.

Use the following Render Settings, and then click OK to close the Render Settings dialog box:

  • For Quality, select Best.

  • For Resolution, select Full.

  • For Time Span, select Length of Comp.

In the Output Module pop-up menu, select Custom to open the Output Module Settings dialog box, and set the following options:

  • For Format, select QuickTime Movie.

  • For Post-Render Action, select Import.

  • Click Format Options.

In the Compression Settings dialog box, select Animation and Millions of Colors+, and then click OK.

In the Output Module Settings dialog box, review the settings: Channels is now set to RGB + Alpha, indicating that this item will be rendered with an alpha channel. Depth is set as Millions of Colors+, and Color is set as Premultiplied (Matted). When you are ready to continue, click OK.

Save the project one more time, and then click Render.

When the rendering process is complete, close the Render Queue and double-click LightRays.mov in the Project window to view the rendered movie.

If you wish to make any changes, reopen Light Rays Comp and make those adjustments. Remember to save your changes and then render the composition again, using the same render settings.

You have now completed Lesson 4! You have two more elements ready for use in your final piece.

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