Knoll Light Factory 3.0 review, After Effects plug-in
An upgrade brings this plug-in up to date. Christopher Kenworthy welcomes the new features, but believes this is no revolution
▲ Add elements and sprites to build your flare. Hide or reveal elements, and make adjustments to every detail
PRICE: $199; Upgrade, $99. Other Editions: Academic Edition, $99; Effects Suite 11, $899
PLATFORM: Windows/Mac OS X
- Dedicated flare-editing interface
- Automated animation behaviours
- Realistic luminance and edge reaction
- Lens flares without banding
- Use After Effects’ 3D lights as source
DEVELOPER: Red Giant
The original Knoll Light Factory was a gift to users, giving desktop access to a Hollywood effect that’s never off our screens. Imitators never produced anything with the same fluid, realistic look, until GenArts released an advanced Lens Flare as part of its Sapphire plug-ins last year.
Knoll Light Factory has been updated, but rather than introducing anything new, this seems to be a release designed to catch up with the Sapphire plug-in.
Knoll is used to create realistic lens flares in CG environments, add extra atmosphere to live action, or generate plasma bolts and other science-fiction effects. It’s long been considered one of the VFX artist’s most essential tools.
Knoll’s previous interface looked like something designed for programmers (which it probably was), so the new, dedicated full-screen interface is welcome. You can select one of 104 presets, create a flare from scratch, or edit a preset to create your own.
Your work takes place over a black background or your Composition Image, and it’s easy to toggle between these options. The interface control panels aren’t visible until you hover your mouse over small arrows at either side of the screen. Given that space isn’t at a premium, it would be easier to have all the editing controls available at launch.
▲ Looping light behaviours can be offset and randomised, with Edge Reaction causing flares to brighten as they animate off screen
When building or editing flares, you have a wide range of elements and sprites to choose from, with elements being similar to real-world reflections, while the sprites are more stylised static lines, stars and shapes. Combining these – by dragging and dropping then adjusting intensities and offsets – makes different flares easy to achieve. There’s even the option to bring in custom bitmap images as sprites to make truly unique flares.
Each element or sprite has its own controls, for Brightness, Size and so on, and these are fiddly. It’s far too easy to click the slider accidentally when you’re trying to scroll over the numbers. Unless you’re running a fast machine, it’ll feel a bit sluggish when you make adjustments.
Knoll is integrated with After Effects lights, meaning you can add lights to your composition in 3D space, and Knoll will attach a flare to each light.
The colour and brightness of your lights can drive the colour and brightness of Knoll flares. Tick the Depth Scale box, and your flare changes size according to how far it is from the camera. This addition is long overdue, but has enormous potential for visual effects and motion graphics.
The most welcome feature is the automation of looping light behaviours, with Strobe, Pulse, Flicker and Blink. The parameters, such as Fade, Brightness, Minimum and Duration, are easily editable. By using randomisation, offsets and delays you can create a huge range of different effects. All parameters can be keyframed, making it easy to create intuitively.
Edge Reaction animates a flare to increase or decrease in brightness automatically as it approaches the edge of the screen, as with the Sapphire Lens Blur. Obscuration now works with the After Effects 3D space, making it easier to get flares to vanish when necessary.
With 32-bit colour depth to reduce banding effects, render times are much slower – but it’s worth the toll it takes on the processor as colour banding can make a strong lighting effect look cheap.
If you already own Sapphire plug-ins, there’s probably no need to get Knoll Light Factory. If you’re looking for a standalone flare-building filter, this will do everything you want for a reasonable price.
Advanced lens editor
Intuitive behaviour animation
With new editing features and behaviours, this release is as good as the best, but it’s far from revolutionary
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher Kenworthy is a writer and director based in Australia, and is the author of the best-selling Master Shots books. He has worked on countless visual effects shots and sequences
on Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 at 10:35 pm under Plug-ins, Reviews.
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Tags: After Effects, Flare, light, plug-in