One of the things I love about using After Effects is that just when you thought you mastered it, it still shows more than you can imagine. As a user of the product for several years, I’ve picked up tips and tricks from various AE gurus in the business while also making discoveries myself. I’ve also had a chance to play with the numerous plugins that are available that make the post production process run much smoother. What still surprises me about After Effects, is what you can do with the filters that are native to the program. One in particular is the Radio Waves filter. At first glance, you wouldn’t think it does more than generate concentric shapes. With further experimentation and combining other plugins, Radio Waves can create elements on its own without the need to purchase additional plugins. Thanks to After Effects guru Chad Perkins, I’ve seen that Radio Waves is most known for mograph users of After Effects. Below, I summarize a few examples things you can create with Radio Waves.
Courtesy of a tutorial from How to Cheat with After Effects, Chad Perkins shows us how to make light ribbons with Radio Waves. This was achieved by first adding an expression to the Producer Point then adjusting the frequency of the waves to about 500. He kept the lifespan down to about three to four seconds and changed the settings in the Stroke Parameter. With the addition of the Glow Filter and a background with the Ramp Filter, he was able to come up with a cool light ribbon element. In most cases, folks would turn to Trapcode plugins, Particular, or Form to create this effect. But with some experimentation, you can create this cool background element/overlay and use it on projects.
I learned this effect from the Making it Great series on the Motionworks site. This is achieved by creating a square composition and applying Radio Waves to a solid the same size as the composition. By manipulating the settings to create a pulsating circle over one second, you can precompose this solid and have it follow the animation of the Grid Filter. I set up the Grid filter to follow stops at multiple points on the world map. When it stops, I place an instance of the Radio Waves precomposition to indicate a marked location. With these two effects working together, you are able to create tracker animation for a weather video, or a heads up display.
Figuring out how to create this effect was a combination of studying After Effects templates and a bit of trial and error. This is an effect I would turn to Particular for, but knowing I can create it with Radio Waves makes for a great alternative. Especially when I need it 2D. This is achieved by animating a solid that is 100 x 100 in a streak-like manner. I would create two instances of Radio Waves on 1080p solids in a 1440 x 1020 composition. Then, I would create an expression on their producer points that would follow the animated solid from earlier. By manipulating Radio Waves with non-additive masks and the color parameter, I would get a nice particle streak. Add an adjustment layer with the Glow filter in that composition, and I would complete the base of streak. In a 1080p composition, I would duplicate instances of the streak elements sequence until I got this look from this video below.
If that explanation seemed a bit much to take in, I’ve provided the project for CS5.5 and CS6, as well as render of four glow streaks for those of you who don’t have After Effects here.
Overall, Radio Waves possesses more capability than meets the eye. These are just three examples, but I believe with further experimentation it can do great things. AETuts has some great tutorials which push the limits of Radio Waves.
I’m the NLE Ninja with Audio Micro asking you to stay creative.