Capturing a lightning storm using a video camera may be hard and rely on specific weather, but if you’re making a home movie and want to add a little storm in the background then Adobe After Effects has the perfect solution.
The “Lightning” effect is built into After Effects and allows you to manipulate, randomize and create multi-colored lightning. Whether you want to light up the night sky, or turn yourself into a powerful wizard, the lightning tool is fast and easy to master.
Open Adobe After Effects, right-click in the “Project Window” and choose “Create New Composition.” If you already have footage you want to apply lightning to, just select “Import” and that footage will become the new composition.
Drag and drop the video footage down into the “Comp” window. The footage will appear on the “Monitor” window in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
Use the timeline scrubber tool to scroll back and forth and find the starting point for your lightning. You can write down the time you want to start at or just go back later with the scrubber.
Right-click in the “Comp” window and select “New” followed by “Solid.” The color solid does not matter so just keep the default settings and press “OK.” Now a color solid should appear over the whole “Monitor” window.
Right-click on the “Solid” in the “Comp” window and select the “Rename” option. Name this “Lightning_1.” Renaming the object right away will help you organized when a project has multiple layers.
Use the “Effects and Presets” quick box to search for “Lightning.” Drag and drop the “Lightning Vertical” effect onto your “Lightning_1” object. Now the color solid will disappear, the video will reemerge and a thin blue lightning bolt will go from the top to bottom of the monitor window.
Choose the different attributes for the lightning. In the “Monitor” window itself, the lightning start and end points are defined by a circle with an x through it.
Drag this to different parts of the screen to choose where you want the lightning. Use the timeline scrubber to go to the starting point of the lightning so you can base it off of there.
In the “Effect Control” window, change the different attributes of the lightning. The “Lightning Type” is one of the most important functions because it changes the complete look of the effect.
The “Breaking” lightning is a great sky effect. If showcases a branched out lightning attack that is often seen on stormy nights in the horizon.
The “Strike” is a concentrated lightning and shoots down from the origin point. This is great for explosions or lightning strikes in home videos.
The “Bouncey” lightning is a great effect for Sci-Fi movies. It allows you to create a ball of lightning that someone could carry or emit from their hands.
Click on the expansion arrow in the “Comp” window to edit animation attributes for the lightning.
Activate the key frames for the “Position.” Make sure the scrubber location is at the start of where you want the lightning.
Set the origin point of the lightning to about an inch off the visible comp screen. Set the end point just slightly below that.
Move the timeline scrubber to the point that you want the lightning to hit the ground. Move the end point to the point that you want the lightning to strike at.
Change the “Opacity” to 65% or 75% so that it blends into the video better.
Adjust the lightning color in the “Effect Control” window. You can change both the core and outer glow of the lightning.
Use a “Motion Blur” effect to make the lightning seem more realistic. Adjust the amount of blur and use the “Render Preview” to see the differences each time.