Nick's Motion Corner:
Knoll Light Factory 3 in Review

September 17, 2012 12:39 am

Tags: Adobe, After Effects, Knoll Light Factory, motion Graphics, Plug-ins, Red Giant Software, VFX

"VFX Supervisor John Knoll is the pioneer in developing artificial lens flares and light effects. The same code that John released for the After Effects versions of Knoll Light Factory back in the 1990's has been used inside Industrial Light & Magic for over a decade."
- The Story of Knoll Light Factory

This week, I'm here to let you know about an exciting new release from Red Giant Software. What I'm talking about is the fully updated and fresh new look of Knoll Light Factory 3, the powerful plug-in that adds flare to your work in a big way. Even if you hadn't heard of Knoll Light Factory, you certainly have seen its use time and time again in film, thanks to John Knoll's incredible VFX work at ILM. Now he brings even more to his signature tool.

Lens Designer interface

Knoll Light Factory 3 is an incredible all-around update from version 2.7, but it's the Lens Designer interface that grabs immediate attention. The redesigned interface is fantastic and organized very well.

In this review, I'm using Knoll Light Factory 3 as a plug-in to After Effects. After applying Knoll Light Factory 3 to your comp, the Lens Designer interface opens up when you click the 'options' link under the effect. Then, you can simply select one out of 104 included presets to use directly, or tweak to your liking. You can also build your own unique flares from scratch.

Lens Designer interface with "Presets" and "Elements" side panels opened

But, more than simply having access to this powerful effects tool, it is just great fun to use and design flares. Just drag-n-drop elements into the Lens Flare Editor and see them appear in the Preview window in real-time. Further, for each element that you add to your flare, you have a unique set of controls right along with it. And, as you create your flares, you also have the option to name, save, and organize them as you wish for later use.



Knoll Light Factory 3 ships with 104 exciting presets that you can use to add quick effect, or tweak to your own needs. In addition to the newly added presets, the ones from the 2.7 version have been rebuilt for this version. So, any old favorites are still here...just better. Here are just some of the included presets by group:



Animating flares is swift business in Knoll Light Factory 3, with behaviors such as Flicker and Strobe that are easy to set up and control. Just imagine some of the cool things you can bring into your projects, like camera flashes, unique wipes, cool sparkling effects, and even tremendous light shows.


Another killer new feature of Knoll Light Factory 3 is its integration with After Effects' 3D camera and lights. Now you can quickly and easily sync flares to animated AE light sources and even share color values, etc. It's also easy to apply flares to specific lights, or groups of lights, by name-matching.



Sure, you have everything you need to create realistic to completely whacked out flare effects, but you also have control over realism in how flares behave, such as with the new Obscuration and Edge Reaction settings. With Obscuration, you have the ability to obscure flares behind 3D objects, other layers, or even by way of luminance values in a background.


The new Edge Reaction allows you to adjust how a flare comes into or leaves the edge of a comp. Basically, as a flare reaches the edge of your comp, you can have it brighten or fade. This can further be tweaked with the use of edge feather, which can allow you to adjust these settings visually as the flare nears the edge. Very cool.

End Notes

The fact alone that you can have available to you the same incredible flare technology that John Knoll created at ILM for stunning effect in movies, is just plain awesome. You can make the ordinary look extraordinary in your motion graphics or film work. And, you have incredible control of every aspect, from creation to animation.

But, that's not all! Knoll Light Factory 3 is now priced at $199, which is half the price of Knoll Light Factory 2.7. And, if you own any previous version of Knoll Light Factory for video, then it's only a $99 upgrade.

I wish to thank Red Giant Software and Kevin Bourke, specifically, for the opportunity to review Knoll Light Factory 3. Red Giant Software is committed to providing the best support for its customers, through free video tutorials and quick tips at Red Giant TV, and a wonderful community sharing presets at Red Giant People. Red Giant Software really stands by their products, as evidenced by their Red Pledge Guarantee.

Knoll Light Factory 3 can be used in the following host applications: Adobe After Effects (CS4 - CS6), Premiere Pro (CS5 - CS6), Apple Motion 4, and Apple Final Cut Pro 7

System Requirements can be found here.

Give Knoll Light Factory 3 a try for yourself by downloading a free trial version here.

Quick Links:

Note: The fine folks at Red Giant are so excited about Knoll Light Factory 3 that not only do they provide some great getting started video tutorials on their site, but they also created a short film demonstrating its use. Be sure to check out what can be achieved with Red Giant's Knoll Light Factory 3 in the excellent short film“Order Up,” directed by Seth Worley, and executive produced by Red Giant’s own Aharon Rabinowitz. Aharon and Seth co-wrote the film, which was created to demonstrate how you can use Knoll Light Factory 3.

Order Up - A Short Film that Really Delivers.

From the team that brought you the Webby Award winning film, Plot Device

The Plot: A pizza is delivered to a creepy, abandoned location. Then it gets weird.

Made with Knoll Light Factory 3, just one of the awesome plugins in Red Giant Effect Suite 12.


  • Directed by Seth Worley
  • Executive Producer - Aharon Rabinowitz
  • Produced By Neil Hoppe
  • Starring Micah Lanier
  • Written by Aharon Rabinowitz, Seth Worley
  • Art Direction - Micah Lanier, Paul Conrad
  • Visual Effects and Design - Harry Frank, Seth Worley
  • 3D Modeling and Animation - Rob Redman
  • Audio/Grip - Matt Hail
  • Assistant Camera/Grip - Cameron Childs
  • Visual Effects Consultant - Mary Poplin, Imagineer Systems
  • Special Thanks - Imagineer Systems, Maxon, Nick Campbell
  • Music by Smartsound
  • "In The Buff" performed by John Perry f/ The Distribution (download the song at
  • Created with Knoll Light Factory 3 - Part of Red Giant Effect Suite 12.

Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's CG Industry News. With a keen interest in motion graphics, Nick's weekly Motion Corner column highlights the tools and techniques in this vast area, as well as spotlighting current motion designers and software developers.
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