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How To Create

You've all seen the popular effect in film and TV titles where the title text is outlined by lights rays that shoot out from the edges of the characters, so that the title looks as if it's illuminated from behind by a powerful light source. Sometimes the effect is animated, so the light source itself appears to be in motion. This effect is sometimes known as "God Rays", and I'll show you how create it in this quick After Effects tutorial.

Let's get started.

Step 1 - Create Your Text

We're going to work in a 720p format here, so start by creating a new composition (Command-N, or Composition > New Composition...) at 1280x720 pixels, 10 seconds long. Make the background black, and call it "God Rays" (or, if you prefer, something less blasphemous like "Light Rays"):

Next, grab the Horizontal Type Tool, place it in the center of the comp, and type in "Light Rays" (or whatever you like):

With the Type Tool, select the text, and in the Character palette, make the type white, and set it to a large heavy font, so that it fills most of the center of the comp - I'm using Myriad Pro here:

Step 2 - Duplicate the Text Layer

Select the text layer in the Timeline and duplicate it (Command -D or Edit > Duplicate):

Step 3 - Apply the Light Burst Effect

Select the bottom or rear-most layer and apply Light Burst to it: Effect > Generate > CC Light Burst 2.5. (We're applying Light Burst to the rear layer so that the front layer masks the light rays and enhances the rear-lighting effect.) Use the default settings for now, except check the Set Color box, click the color swatch next to Color, and set it to a light yellow:

Step 4 - Animate the Light Burst

Now we'll create the sweeping light effect. In the Timeline, set your Current Time Indicator (CTI) to zero seconds, and enable keyframing for Center, Intensity, and Ray Length in the Light Burst Effect Controls. Set Intensity and Ray Length to zero:

Click the crosshairs for the Center property and, in the Comp window, position the crosshair so it's on the right edge of your text:

Move your CTI to 5 seconds, and set Intensity and Ray Length to 100 and 200, respectively:

Move your CTI to 10 seconds, and set Intensity and Ray Length both back to zero. Click your Center crosshairs again, and position them on the left side of your text:

Step 5 - The Final Product

Preview this, and voila! There's your God Ray effect:

Try varying the Light Burst Center, changing or animating the Color, different Intensity and Ray Length settings - above all, experiment, and have fun!

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.


Sep 16, 2012
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