Energy vfx question

I have been testing different energy effects and for some reason when I tint an energy asset red it won’t show up well. Once I set it to screen you can barely tell that anything is there. Is there a better way to make red energy effects look good?

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Hey! Could you post some screenshots from your shot? I’d love to see it so I can give better feedback.

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As @Rodolphe says, screenshots would help.

in general Screen mode is a mathematical transformation of two layers that results in a brightening of the combined image. Problem here comes down to “What’s the background?” If you’re compositing a red energy asset over a bright sky, well, even that sky will have a lot of red in it. If your background has a lot of yellow in it, in VFX yellow has a lot of red in it. If you’re comping over a bright background or something that already has a lot of red in it, then there’s not a lot of room for the energy to brighten the underlying pixels (this would also apply to an ADD blend mode).

Which blend modes to use or general tips on compositing have a lot of, “Well, it depends,” so you should always post a screen shot.

For sake of discussion, if you look at the sample composites playing in the banner on the front page of the Action VFX site, there a few shots with shockwaves and energy waves, some tinted red. All of them are comped over pretty dark backgrounds. They’re “white walls,” but indoor and in shadow and their brightness is probably around 50-60%. The actors in the shots are wearing black, and some of the walls are a very dark blue. Lots of room for the added red to show up. But, in one shot it’s red energy with a red door on part of the the BG and the energy waves are hard to see where they overlap the door.

If you look at the muzzle flash samples on the same banner, when the flashes are comped over a darker BG they pop out. When the actor’s gun barrel passes over the brightly lit windows you can’t see the flashes so well.

Finally, there’s a shot of Rodolphe looking out over the city as smoke rises… But they’ve used dark smoke over the bright sky, not white smoke. The dark smoke will read better against a bright sky.

So, it’s all about contrast.

I lie… one more finally… Because of the way our eyes work and the way colors play out across the electromagnetic spectrum, reds are actually the hardest color for our eyes to see. Reds will always “bleed” first in a video, but, if you put a pure red and a pure green right next to each other at the same luma value, the red will usually look “darker.”

Green happens to sit in the exact center of the visible specturm and both our eyes and our cameras are twice as sensitive to green as to red or blue. That’s why video uses GREEN screen! Physics!

Film used BLUE screen because the physical particles in the film solutions (film grain) were smallest in the blue range, hence “higher resolution.” Chemistry!

Sorry, got off topic there, but I hope you find the information as interesting as I do!


Thank you so much that explained a lot!


Glad to be of help. :+1:

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@triem23 Made some great points about blending modes and how the assets respond on different backgrounds. I encourage you to check out this tutorial to see how the energy effects were changed to a red color. The background is dark, but you may be able to find some tips in it that will help you improve the look you are going for.


There are more than a few ways to get that lit up the way you want…
but if I’m reading the original request correctly, you just want that red energy to have more brightness/power to it, correct?

If so, try the free plug from ProductionCrate
Production Crate GLOW
which goes through the process for you and really give more… how do I say? “Oomph!” to the piece.

Hope this helps.

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There’s also a tip from an ActionVFX explosion tutorial that seems somewhat apt - double up the footage layers - Comp the bottom copy at a lowered opacity in a normal blend mode and the second copy at a lowered opacity in add or screen. That should generate some nice vibrant results.

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Hello @pct9705 ,

I’m a Nuke compositor so my method might be a bit different than After Effects or other programs but maybe someone else can expand on this method for other software as it’s commonly used in the vfx industry.

I have a screenshot here of a very quick element I grabbed here from ActionVFX. On the left you can see the tracer merge plused over the plate with a simple glow. On the right, you can see the same tracer merge plused with the same settings but I’m doing something to the color space to give myself a much more saturated look. Before merge plusing, I’m changing the colorspace from linear to log, plusing in the element then switching back to a linear color workspace. What this does is it flattens out the entire plates colors… I add the element… and then I switch back to conserve my original color but it makes that element a whole lot richer in color. It also makes it so when you color correct the element the highlights, midtones and shadows are much more spread a part and easier to control. With this method you can create cinematic glow effects. You can do a similar method with changing color spaces of the element itself to others. This is a common technique used in the industry for things such as muzzle flashes. If it doesn’t help you with your project maybe it will help someone else perusing by this forum. Take care!


Thank you all so much!


Oomph! Love it!:joy: