Finally! Optical Flares is here and the behemoth of a lens flare plugin could not be more worth the months of hype! I decided to run through all the features, poke around and try out the plugin and give my exclusive opinion on how fantasmically AWESOME this thing is! Trust me, it has been well worth the wait.
January 25th has come and passed, and the release of the fabled Optical Flares has finally become a reality. This has been one of the most hotly anticipated plugins for a long time aside from Particular 2.0, and I am sure if you haven't already gone out and bought it or watched the introduction videos, you are wondering if it is really all that it is hyped up to be. The short, easiest answer I can give you is... OH YEAH.
This plugin at first glance is so much more than just a plugin within itself. It has a completely custom interface, beautifully designed at that, that makes the user experience a joy to work inside of and almost makes it feel like it is it's own program separate from After Effects itself. Like every product that Video Copilot comes out with, there is an enormous amount of TLC that goes into designing and shaping a product, especially one of this magnitude, and once you get yours hands dirty with this plugin you will know exactly what I am talking about.
First off, this thing is rich in features that will revolutionize the way you work with lens flares in projects. Gone are the days where you have complicated workarounds to link lens flares to 3d lights to move them around in 3d space or trickery to create anamorphic looking lens flares. We all know how annoying little workarounds like that can be, and that time adds up especially when you are working on a big project! Simple things like these are what we need in a lens flare generator! I swear its like they stalked the message boards and took every want and workaround and made it a feature. You can map your lens flares to the luminance of a layer, you can add textures to overlay onto your virtual lens so that whenever the flare moves over it you see that texture, there is their unique "dynamic triggering" system that makes flares sparkle or move when they get close to a certain area, and that is just the beginning!
Now the biggest pull about this plugin is the 3d capabilities, and we're not just talking you can move these around in 3d space and they have mass, but the interoperability with layers in After Effects; being able to utilize 3d layer occlusion where the flare moves behind an object while being obscured like in the real world; tracking to AE lights: using their colors, intensities, or being able to map an instance of Optical Flares to lights that start with a certain letter. Then there is the ability to track to lights from a 3d scene saved out of Cinema 4D, or 3ds Max using Max2AE or whatever other program you can use to transfer your 3d data into AE, you can actually map your OF flares to follow the lights set up in your external 3d app of choice with ease... its crazy the way they have really simplified the process and hassle of working with flares.
Next comes the interface... ohhh the beautiful interface. You might think my drooling over something as the GUI of a plugin is ridiculous, but I have to be able to enjoy myself inside of a program to actually want to continually use it, and this got an A+ in that department. When you first come into the Design Interface you notice it looks nothing like any other plugin on the market. There are tons of preview screens, one big one for previewing the flare (which you can toggle the background to show or not... awesome), and all the littler ones are for previewing your individual elements that update as you move your flare around in the preview window. Each of these objects can be controlled by the global parameters, as well as delved into deeper by just clicking on each element and modifying it separately from the rest. You can also add a wide range of core objects or modifications of those objects to further customize your flares and you can also save those for later as well as custom presets. The preset browser ain't too shabby either, with a ton of already made presets (and way more, if you get the Pro Presets Pack - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), you can apply, re-save, access and share presets across the preset network with people all around the world!
So now comes the big question... is this worth it? Are you kidding me? Do you actually have to ask that? Of course it is... this is probably one of my newest favorite plugins to work with, given the wide range of possibilities, ease of customization, and and the massive amount of extra little features that are built in. The uses for lens flares is almost infinite, you can integrate them into anything you create. If you are looking to add a bit more oomph to your projects, want to go a little nuts and boost After Effects' internal lighting system, or just simply want a really cool plugin to have fun and experiment with, get it. It's really a no-brainer, this is no doubt going to be one of the next big plugins to have for motion graphics and visual effects artists alike.
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