Laser effects

Some lasers for Chris’ video. He wanted beams with tangents circling them, however I couldn’t find a way to do that within the limits of After Effects’ base features. I’m sure there are particle plug ins that would allow for more complex effects, but I decided to stick to what I could manage in the default AE. I started off with the beam tool, using the start and end thicknesses to give a hint of perspective. I then used multiple instances of advanced lightning to create the orbiting streams. With the complexity and forking set to minimum and the core thickness increased it looks less like lightning and more like plasma. I used particles radiating out from the point of impact, and added recolored sparks from the action essentials pack. I then pre-composed the entire sequence and duplicated it; setting the foremost version to color dodge in the layer blend options, and blurring and colorizing the version underneath.

Matte painting

For my final effects shot the alien ship departs and we have the reveal of a much large mothership in the distance. In order to create the backdrop I started out by taking photos of the city from the top of the hill, making sure to leave plenty of space for the ships. Here is the photo I chose to start working with:

To begin I cropped it to the right aspect resolution by getting rid of the empty road. I used clouds from various other photos to build up a more interesting sky. The mothership was hand painted for the most part, but I used texture elements from things photographed around the studio to add detail.

With the matte painting completed I started working on the final shot. I masked out the building in the foreground as the ship flies behind it. I added atmospheric smoke and dust effects, as well as fires in the background. I also rendered out still images of two more ships and placed them in the distance to convey scale.

Ship approaching/departing

In this shot the alien spaceship approaches the square while charging up it’s weapon. In order to establish the ship’s position I had to mask out where it overlaps with the foreground. I also added a slight blur on Lauren and the foreground as the ship approaches to simulate depth of field. The laser charging effect is a combination of particle effects and the advanced lightning tool. I had to carefully reposition it throughout the shot to make sure it follows the movement of the ship. Camera shake was achieved the same way as in the previous shot; by panning and rotating the canvas rapidly by small increments.

The ship departing uses the same camera angle, but it this backplate Laruen is missing. Since there’s no overlap with the foreground or other visual effects to add this was a simple case of compositing the ship and adding camera shake.