If you’ve worked with me you know I like to do as much in camera as possible. The computer has it’s uses, but digital effects will always lack the complexity and randomness of organic, live-action special effects. Think I’m a bit of a dinosaur? Check out the behind the scenes features on any J.J. Abrams or Guillermo del Toro film.

Needing to add light glints to a number of props in our short-film Avarice, the initial thought was to use Adobe AfterEffects and some manner of plugin, perhaps Red Giant Software’s Starglow (part of the Trapcode Suite). While this would have worked, it would have looked computer generated…AKA fake.

What was our solution?

We shot FX plates of light reflecting off of bits of mirror. To do this, we first set up a black backdrop. A person then crouched down behind a black curtain with a black sock on their hand. In that hand was a variety of mirrors we bought from a dollar store. Some were small compact mirrors, some were bits of smashed up glass.

A 1,000 watt light was off to the side shining perpendicular to the camera. When the person behind the curtain extended their mirror into the light and ‘wiggled it about,’ it created spectacular, organic light glints. We then took the plates into the computer and cleaned them up by crushing the blacks to make sure the curtains and sock disappeared entirely.

We were then able to take the clean FX plates and composite them into a shot by setting their composite mode to ‘ADD’ and motion tracking them to the object. Check out the video above for a visual demonstration.

Download some of our light glint plates to use in your own projects: click here, yo!

Happy compositing!

Questions: Was this helpful or do you still have questions about the technique? Did you use our light glints in a project of your own? If so, leave a link to it in the comments!

Dan Baker

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Dan works out his social anxieties by producing and directing films. He's a proud New Mexican, and prefers green over red.

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