The Art of Halation: Emulating Analog Film Style in Digital Design

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In the age of digital perfection, we find ourselves constantly trying to recreate the analog film style. One of the key elements of this style is halation, the reddish-orange halo that surrounds bright light sources. In this blog, we will explore the concept of halation, its origins in film, and how to achieve it in After Effects.

What is Halation?

Halation is a glow effect that occurs around bright light sources in film. Surprisingly, halation is actually a flaw in the film. Keep it extrelemly simplified, when light enters the camera’s aperture and passes through the layers of celluloid film, it reaches the final red layer and bounces back into the red layer of the film. It pretty much gives that red layer some extra love. This results in a “halo” effect, making the presence of light known around the brightest parts of the frame.

Emulating Halation in After Effects

Now that we understand the concept of halation, let’s explore how to achieve this effect in After Effects. There are multiple ways to recreate halation, and we will discuss two of them.

Method 1

1. Duplicate the footage and rename it to “Halation”.
2. Apply a Levels effect to crush the dark values and leave only the highlights.
3. Use a Curves effect to tweak the highlights and create the desired effect.
4. Apply a Shift Channels effect to operate on the red and green values.
5. Add a Channel Blur effect to create the blurriness and fall-off of the halo.
6. Adjust the blend mode of the halation layer to “Add” for it to show up on the footage.

Method 2

1. Duplicate the footage and rename it to “Halation”.
2. Apply a Cineon Converter effect and adjust the white point to crush the darker values.
3. Use a Curves effect to fine-tune the highlights and eliminate unwanted parts of the frame.
4. Apply a Find Edges effect to emphasize the halo effect.
5. Add a Tint effect to map the white point to a desired color (e.g., red or burnt orange).
6. Use a Gaussian Blur effect to create the fall-off and softness of the halo.
7. Adjust the blend mode of the halation layer to “Add” for it to show up on the footage.

Also, this might not work for every situation – for example, I do run into issues with the highlights on hair – so it may take some finessing. Besides that, it’s quick, works well on 3D renders, and helps add to that coveted “film look.”

For information on how to install Presets/Scripts, please visit our Knowledge Base Documentation.

OFF

As you can clearly see here… BORING AF!

ON

HOLY S*%*!!! Look at that sweet Halation!

Halation is a beautiful effect that adds a touch of analog film style to digital design, but it isn’t the only thing to define that elusive”film” look. But, by understanding the origins of halation and using the right techniques in After Effects, it is possible to recreate this effect and enhance the visual appeal of your videos. Whether you choose Method 1 or Method 2, experimenting with halation can bring a unique and nostalgic element to your film…err, digital.