Tutorial for Firefly After Effects

By Alan Donahue

Create a natural-looking firefly animation in After Effects.
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A firefly effect is an animated background that features small glowing spheres appearing and disappearing on the screen. Using the Particle World and a few other effects, you can easily create your own backyard full of fireflies. The fireflies will have a natural glow and random appearance like they are seen in nature.

Set Up

Import a background image in After Effects. The fireflies will look more natural in a dark field or backyard picture. Drag the picture into the "Composition" icon so that the video size matches the picture size. The picture will appear in the "Composition" window. Right-click in the "Composition" window, and select "New" and "Solid." Press "OK" in the pop-up dialogue, and a colored matte will appear on the screen. This will soon be changed to the fireflies.

Particle World Set Up

Type in "Particle" on the "Effects and Presets" window. Drag and drop the "CC Particle World" effect onto the colored solid layer. The layer will disappear, and small green dashes will appear in its place. Click on the "Effect Controls" window. Click on the "Grid" and select "Off." Set the "Birth Rate" to ".2" and "Longevity" to ".73." Expand the "Particle" menu, and set it to "Dark and Shadened Sphere." This will replace the lines with the basic firefly shape.

Firefly Animation

Expand the "Physics" menu for the "Particle World." Set the "Velocity" and "Gravity" to "0.0." Use the "Producer" menu to spread the fireflies out across the composition. Set the "Radius X" to "1.5" and the "Radius Y" to ".8." Set the "Radius Z" to "4.0" so that the particles are pushed back and appear in the scene. Set the "Birth Color" and "Death Color" to dark variations of yellow and orange. Scrub through the video to see how the colors appear on the "Composition" window.

Final Animation

Type in "Glow" in the "Effects and Presets" window, and drop it over the fireflies layer. Set the "Glow Colors" to a light blue and white. It will add a small halo touch to each bug to make them look more realistic. Set the "Glow Threshold" to "11%" and the "Glow Intensity" to "4.4" so that it shines brighter. Press the "Render Preview" icon to play the fireflies on the screen.