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How to Add Noise and Grain to Lens Flares in After Effects and Fix Banding

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this lesson, you're going to learn about a pro-tip that will help your lens flares and gradations look fantastic when you export.

We're going to look at an example project. Right now, example my project is in 16 bits per channel color depth. Now, the default in After Effects is 8 bits per channel. Why does this matter? Banding.

Anytime that you have gradients, and in particular lens flares, you'll see some banding going on. That is because in 8 bit per channel color mode, the red, the blue, the green, and the alpha channel only have 256 values to work with.

8 bit channel8 bit channel8 bit channel

Now, if you Alt click on the channel button you can jump up to 16 bits per channel. Which will improve the banding slightly.

alt clickalt clickalt click

Alt click on the channel button again and you will jump to 32 bits per channel. This will improve the banding, but you can still see it. And once you compress your video you will see more banding. This is because the color compression is going to average the colors out and throw away some of the color information.

bandingbandingbanding

How to Add Noise 

So let's go back to 8 bits per channel and fix this banding situation. The way to fix this is with Noise (also known as Dithering). 

add noiseadd noiseadd noise

Now if I take this adjustment layer and I drop a noise effect on it, when I turn up the noise, at some point, the banding is going to go away.

noise adjustment layernoise adjustment layernoise adjustment layer

You can also stack this noise effect to improve the banding even further. So instead of just adding it to the adjustment layer, I'm going to copy this effect and add it to the 'optical flares' (called OF in the screenshot) layer just below.

add noise to of layeradd noise to of layeradd noise to of layer

Turn the noise down to maybe 1%

turn noise downturn noise downturn noise down

Copy the noise effect again and add it to the second optical flares layer just below.

second layersecond layersecond layer

Now we have two little tiny grains which are stacked on top of each other. From here you can adjust the amount of noise by 1% or 2% until the banding goes away. 

From here change the project from 8 bits per channel to 16 bits per channel and the banding will disappear even more. Even if you zoom right in.

change back to 16 bitchange back to 16 bitchange back to 16 bit

Now when this gets compressed, especially for the web, a lot of that noise along with much of the tiny details of the video, will get compressed out. This is absolutely fine if you want to upload the video to something like YouTube, for example.

no banding with contextno banding with contextno banding with context

How to Add Grain

Another way to do this is to add Grain to the project. So look for Add Grain in the Effects and Presets panel and add it to the adjustments layer.

add grainadd grainadd grain

In the Effects Controls panel change the viewing mode to Final Output (be aware that this may slow down the performance of your computer).

effects and controls paneleffects and controls paneleffects and controls panel

Turn down the intensity to 0.3 or 0.5 and you can see that this is also a very successful way of adding some texture and noise to the scene.

adjust the intensityadjust the intensityadjust the intensity

How to Pre-Render the Grain Effect

You can also pre-render the grain effect which may help with any performance issues that you might come across.

Create a new composition with the same size as your project (for example 1920 x 1080), 29.97 frames per second, 5 seconds long, and click OK.

new compnew compnew comp

Add a gray solid to this, and make sure that it has no hue, no saturation and that it's It's 50% gray.

grey solidgrey solidgrey solid

Add the grain effect to this and set it to final output. You can then adjust the noise effect to your liking here by adding more intensity etc.

add grain to the grey solidadd grain to the grey solidadd grain to the grey solid

Add it to the render que and render the video. For this example we are going to use the GoPro CineForm YUV10-bit preset. One of the Apple Pro as presets would also work.

add to render queadd to render queadd to render que

Once that is done, return to the project and import the new grain video into it. Click and drag it into the composition, making sure that it is on top of all the other layers.

add the grain videoadd the grain videoadd the grain video

Change the blending mode to either Overlay or Linear Light.

overlay or linear lightoverlay or linear lightoverlay or linear light

If you feel the grain effect is too aggressive you can turn down the opacity to make it look nicer and a little more subtle.

turn down opacityturn down opacityturn down opacity

To extend the time duration of the grain effect you can add Time Remapping. This is done by going to Layer > Time > Enable Time Remapping.

time remappingtime remappingtime remapping

Once you've enabled time remapping, I'm going to apply a very simple expression. I'm gonna alt click on the time remap and type loopOut("cycle").

loop expressionloop expressionloop expression

From there you can just extend the out point of this layer, and it's going to loop indefinitely when you hit the play preview button.

Congratulations

Congratulations! And that's how you can add noise and grain in Adobe After Effects. Now that you've learned the basics, check out some of the other tutorials we have on Adobe After Effects below.

add grainadd grainadd grain

I hope you've found this tutorial useful and I'll see you next time on Envato Tuts+!

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