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By ShadesMcPherson

Proton Stream Tutorial v1.0
Jeff Schmidt 4/19/2009

DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for any illegal downloading of software, or any remifications caused by that including, but not limited to: Downloading of a virus, wrong programs or any lawful actions taken by the companies in which you rip off.

That being said...

Here is my tutorial on how to make relatively realistic Proton Beams in Adobe After Effects. It was designed to give users a very basic understanding of how to do this, and not to be an exact recipe for making your own streams. Tweak settings, add effects, do whatever you need to do for your own satisfaction. I'm using CS3, but I don't know if this tutorial is compatible with all versions, due to plug in changes, and change in drop down menu titles. Here are some basic things to remember when starting this tutorial-

You WILL NEED TO DOWNLOAD "SAPPHIRE LIGHTNING S_ZAP" for the blue lightning portion. It is available from Gen Arts Inc. at http://www.genarts.com/sapphire-ae.html for a free trial download, limited only by time, so you can use it fully for this for a short time. Then, you can always download it via a torrent downloader. Do so at your own risk.

Make sure your composition's frame rate is the same as the frame rate in your final project!

composition>new composition
- Make it black then set this, and ALL solids in this tutorial to "Screen" mode
effect>generate>advanced lightning
- Turn forking down to 0%
- Open "Expert Settings" and set your "Complexity" to 3 - 4, and set "Fractal Type" to "Spline"

Rotate your beam so it faces the direction you would like (it's best to go corner to corner. That way, when you composite this later, you have the fullest length to use.)

Open "Core Settings" and set your "Core Radius" to something that pleases, you. I usually set it to at least 8. Set the "Core Opacity" to 100% and your "Core Color" to a Yellowish-Orange. I usually set it somewhere around a yellowish green, because in some shots in GB1, the core of the beam is that color. Reference the rooftop crossing of the streams, and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Open "Glow Settings" and set both "Glow Radius" and "Glow Settings" to 0.

Click the "Animate" button on "Conductivity" and then drag your timeline slider to the point in time where you want your Proton Beam to stop wiggling. Turn "Conductivity" up to any where past 0. The longer you're firing the beam, the higher you want the number set to. Play around with it and get something you like, but it's going to be drastically changed, animation wise, so don't be too particular. It's just to get some base movement out of your proton core.

Set "Turbulence" to somewhere above .5 but nowhere near 1 because that'll make your endpoint jump around a lot more than you want it to.

Once you have your beam some-what animated, now we get to the stronger motion.

effects>distort>wave warp
-Set "Wave Height" to something higher than default, but not too high. Fiddle with it for your own tastes.
-Set "Wave Length" much higher than default, somewhere around "300" but again, fiddle with the settings for yourself, and see what you come up with.
- Set "Direction" to the direction your beam is facing. Self explanatory.
- Set "Pinning" to the location where your beam is starting. This will make the starting point of your beam move less, and therefore your beam will look much more realistic.
- Set "Wave Speed" to again, something higher than default. I find that your speed should be somewhat correllated to your wave height, dicating that a ghostbuster with a shakier hand, makes larger, faster waves, while a more seasoned veteran will have a much straighter, steadier shot.

Now on to that trademarked ghostbusters proton glow!!

- Set "Glow Colors" to "A&B Colors"
- Set "Color A" and "Color B" to a Deep reddish orange, and a golden yellow. Does not matter which is which for this.
- Set "Glow Threshold", "Glow Radius" and "Glow Intensity" to however you feel comfortable. Fiddle with them to figure them out, it's all up to you on this part.

Use the "Color Phase" Wheel to animate the color by clicking on the "Animate" button and then scrub through your timeline and set it more yellow, or more orange down the line.

And that is how you get your Proton Beam core! Now, onto the Electron Arcs using the Sapphire S_Zap plug-in!!

So, as we started the earlier part, we do the same here.

- Make it black then set this, and ALL solids in this tutorial to "Screen" mode
effects>sapphire render>s_zap

Align the newly made lightning beam with your Proton Core.

The rest of this portion is relatively self-explanatory, so I won't go in to too much detail. If anyone has problems with this portion, let me know, and I'll add the info into this tutorial later if need be.

Now the default settings for this plug-in are actually a pretty good starting point. One thing I DEFINITELY recommend doing is setting the "Branch Angle" to Zero Degrees, so that the branches of the lightning will follow straight on the proton core, and not jump around all over the place. You're going to want to change the "Glow Color" to a much more vibrant blue, and afterwards play with the other glow settings to your liking. Also, play with "Branchiness" and "Branch Length" to get a good feeling. Luckily, this one is already animated. Play with the speed and such just to tweak it. Like I said, the default settings for this are already pretty good, unlike the Advanced Lightning plug-in used for the beam.

There are lense flare plug-in's that are very simple, and not needed for this tutorial. I'm also not going to say anymore about lining up your beams and what not than this- The only way I know how to do is it frame by frame lining them up with the animation button clicked on the Start point portion on your effects menus. Besides that, you're on your own.

Good luck, guys!

Jeff Schmidt a.k.a. Ian "Shades" McPherson
Last edited by ShadesMcPherson on January 12th, 2011, 10:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
AJ Quick liked this
ok i've been testing this and the beam came out swimmingly but i dont know how to make the beam end that comes out of the gun tip go straight and not stray off from the lens flare and i can't get the beam into my video.

How do i go about this sir?
To fix that, you have to have the edge of your beam on the edge of the screen. Then, on the Wave Warp controls, you NEED to set the "pinning" to whatever edge you have the stream start at.

About putting it over your footage, try exporting the final beam shot as an AVI, uncompressed, then just open your footage of the buster, import the AVI of the beam, set the mode to "screen" like in photoshop and then just line up yer stuffs. Any other questions?
By ShadesMcPherson
An update to my formula-

On the orange core layer, add another wave warp effect with different settings (speed, length AND width) to make the beam still move correctly, but have irregularity to it, making it more organic and realistic.

On the blue electric arc layer, copy and paste your two wave warps from the core layer to this one, and the arcs will follow the beam much closer to how they do in the movie.

When all is said and done, add a new "Adjustment Layer" and add the effect "CC Force Motion Blur" under the effects menu "Time". Change the shutter angle to 360 to encompass all degrees of movement.

I'm still working on an effect to get the small purple glowy bits that flow backwards down the stream.

New Vid! Check it!
Hmm... off hand I can't really remember. More than likely it was cc particle world, with glow added on after wards.

I'll open up after effects, find that proton stream and check it out for you.

Aah good thing I checked, it's Particle Playground. Here's what I did to make it look that way:

Set the cannon barrel radius to about 10, particles per second to 60. Velocity 120, color white, and particle radius to 0.6.

Under gravity, set the force to 240. And then just throw a glow over it.

As before, I always suggest you fiddle with all of the settings so that you can really get a feel for what everything does, and can make it work how YOU want it to. Good luck!! Loved the vid.
ArtsNFartsNCrafts wrote:As a fellow after effects user, it's also good to note that you should make sure that your project is set to the same framerate as your footage...otherwise it won't be as convincing.

LOL yes, I really should've said that. I totally forgot to do that in my first attempt at putting a proton stream over video, and it's obvious.

Really, if you don't know much about After Effects, you should definitely check out the free tutorials on www.videocopilot.net

It's where I learned what I know. I just wish he'd make a proton pack tutorial lol because I know his streams would turn out even better than mine!
Here's an updated video of what can be done with this tutorial. I'll be updating the tutorial itself soon, as well as making a video tutorial of the entire process, including the new methods and effects used.


Also, I will soon be uploading a 10 second loopable clip that anyone can use to throw over their own videos!
Oooooh! I remember seeing a tutorial on that somewhere. I think I even had a trial version of it a while back! Shows how good my memory is!


There's the stock footage anyone can use, just shoot me an email and I'll send anyone the uncompressed footage. Just give me recognition when those credits start to roll! ^_^

EDIT: WOW My memory IS HORRID! I just re read how I even told people to get that plug in in my original tutorial! I really need to update this lol
User avatar
By kevinj319
These look great!

Remember the red beam starts at the ghost/object being fired at, and works its way backward to meet the wand (only takes 1 or 2 frames), only at that point does the bright flash happen and the blue beams start firing out.
By ShadesMcPherson
Kevin... uh...1? - Yeah, I'm definitely aware. Also, for some scenes the beam wiggles backwards as well. I just didn't feel like going into masks and what not. I figured if you're enough of a fan to make a fan film, you already knew that lol. To be honest, I could go either way on the matter. One's screen accurate, and the other just makes more sense, ya know?

Kevin 2 - I know, right? The whole time (as I'm sure you remember from reading the old tutorial) I did it by duplicating the wave warps for each beam on to the lightning. BIG P.I.T.A. I think this newer, revised method works better for getting the arcs to really travel on the beam, and not just near it (IE GB:TVG.) I remember when I watched Spilled Milk how utterly impressed I was on how the beams came out. I figured that you started with my tuts, judging by the amounts of comments you posted in this very thread, but you really took what I've done above and beyond. They really came out amazing.
By ShadesMcPherson
You got it. I might tonight, actually, considering I really effed up my sleep schedule. We'll see. There were a few things I left out, like how to use Advanced lightning, some mesh warp things blah blah blah.

If you ever have any questions, please feel free to PM me and I'll do what I can to help out!!
By ShadesMcPherson
All you need to do is go frame by frame (or like I do, 3 or 4 frames at a time) and line it up. You'll always want to look at your footage when making the streams (ie shoot first, add effects later) so you know how to make them look right. Then just make sure when making your stream, you keep your project settings the same as your base footage and then start the beam almost all the way at one side of the screen. That way, you'll always have a good amount of overlap. If you're talking more along the lines of a capture stream, just scale the solid you made your stream layer first, then line up your shots. If you have more specific questions, just shoot me a PM and I'll be glad to help you out.
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