How To Create A Light Streak Animation In After Effects (3 Part Tutorial)

Have you ever seen an amazing animation and thought to yourself, “wow, that looks awesome! I bet I can make something like that, no problem!” Only to find yourself pulling your hair out 5 minutes later, trying to figure out how to re-create what you saw?  We know the feeling.   

Today, we’re going to walk you step-by-step through our longest tutorial so far (1 hour and 15 minutes).  While this is also the most advanced After Effects tutorial we’ve released to date, it ensures that you build progressively towards your final goal of an amazing light streak animation. Following this tutorial while working on your own project inside of After Effects will ensure that you’re able to apply and understand what you learn throughout the video.  Along the way you will learn basic principles, helpful hints, and certainly some highly advanced features.   

Please note that this tutorial will use 3rd party plugins.  These Plugins are:

  1. Superluminal Stardust (from Superluminal)
  2. Optical Flares (from Video Copilot)

The effect we’re going for is an animated light streak.  Specifically, two colorful trails of light that fly around and end up colliding to reveal a logo.  Are you ready for the challenge?  Let’s dive into After Effects and learn how to create this stunning effect!

Part 1

In this first video, we explore how to create the basic motion our two light particles will follow.  Through this tutorial we explore a variety of techniques including (but not limited to) how to work in 3D space, how to smooth out your animation keyframes, and how to parent expressions to be manipulated by other layer elements.  Buckle up for this incredible 20 minute tutorial!

Part 2

In this second video, we get to start working with the fun and fancy elements of this effect.  We add the visual particles from Superluminal Stardust and manipulate them to give the look we want.  Additionally, we highlight the essential technique of duplicating an effect and making minor changes to it as a way to add complexity to your overall animation.  Finally, we explore how to add polish to your light leaks to make them stand out.  We accomplish that last step in this project by adding color and lens flares and stylizing them specifically to match what is happening in our scene.   

Part 3

In the third and final video of this series, we look at how to add our logo asset into the animation as well as how to animate it to look like it’s interacting with our light streak elements.  Some key parts of this tutorial are the use of nodes as well as how to create a basic shockwave effect.

We hope that you enjoyed this unique tutorial series.  If you have any questions, please ask them below in the comments section.  Also, be sure to check out all our other awesome After Effects tutorials!

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