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A Quick Guide to After Effects' 26 'Generate' Effects

A Quick Guide to After Effects' 26 'Generate' Effects

We're breaking down the Generate category in After Effects and how to use each effect.

After more than a decade of VFX magic in After Effects, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of native effects that now ship with the software. While searching the Effects and Presets panel can help you find what you're looking for, the nomenclature in AE's vault of effects isn't always clear.

You might run across an effect with an unusual name and not know what it does until you go through the trouble of actually applying it to your layer, then adjusting certain properties of the effect to try and get an idea of what it does. You also may be short-changing yourself, going the long way around to solve a problem when a simple effect exists that could do the trick instantly.
Today, we're going to break down a list of 26 effects found under the Generate category in After Effects' Effects and Presets panel.

Justin Odisho’s great YouTube channel features hundreds of VFX and editing tutorials spanning across Premiere Pro, After Effects, and even Photoshop, and in this one, he demonstrates each of the 26 “Generate” effects.

We’re going to briefly explain each effect below the video so you can have a quick reference guide for how each one works.
4-Color Gradient - You can apply this to a layer to create four zones of various color gradients. You can actually animate the colors using the Positions & Colors drop-down in the Effect Controls panel. Also in the Effect Controls panel, Blend makes the four colors bleed together more smoothly, and adjusting Jitter can help fix banding issues you might experience.

Advanced Lightning - Creates a manually-keyframable CG lightning effect. While there are a ton of adjustable parameters available, perhaps the coolest feature of Advanced Lightning is the ability to have it wrap the edges of an alpha object using the Alpha Obstacle parameter.  

Of course, if you’re looking for awesome lightning VFX, look no further than our free Lightning VFX collection!
Audio Spectrum and Audio Waveform - Analyzes your project’s audio and produce simple, customizable audio waveforms.

Beam - Generates a moving beam of light. If you’re looking to add some cool out-of-this-world laser bolts that go way beyond the basic results provided in this effect, be sure to check out another free VFX collection you can download right now: Blasters!

You can see this complimentary collection in action below!
CC Glue Gun - When paired with the right video footage, this effect can be really cool. It creates an orb that encapsulates your video, and it even simulates reflections and shading effects to make it look like your video is playing in a 3D bubble. It can also be animated along a path for some truly mind-bending results.

CC Light Burst 2.5 - This effect looks like a motion blur from pulling a camera back towards you really quickly at a slow shutter speed (similar to Radial Blur).  

CC Light Rays - Generates volumetric light around an object’s edges that can be animated.
Source: Justin Odisho | https://bit.ly/2ZmTEzo
CC Light Sweep - Creates a beam of light that can be animated to sweep across the screen.

CC Threads - This one is definitely unique. It gives a 3D woven fabric look to your video and also punches in tons of alpha transparency to further enhance the look. This would be great for an Ant-Man type of super macro shot.

Cell Pattern - This effect can create a ton of different patterns that can be animated over time (a snowy retro TV effect could be one example).

Checkerboard - Creates a black and white tiled pattern that can be adjusted for all kinds of distortions and optical illusion-type effects.

Circle - This is pretty self-explanatory! However, as demonstrated in the video above, you can create some classic spy movie looks with this by setting the blending mode to “Multiply” and animating its movement. You can also create cool stylized sun effects.

Ellipse - Basically just like Circle.

Eyedropper Fill - Creates a colored overlay based on the sample point’s color data of your footage.  

Fill - Just a secondary way of creating a solid color layer (as opposed to Layer>New>Solid>Select Color).

Fractal - Have you ever said to yourself, “If only there was a way I could get this complex mathematical equation in my head represented in my visual effects as a fractal." Well, you are in luck, because that’s just what this effect does. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a math wizard to animate fractals into cool visualizations in After Effects.
Source: Justin Odisho | https://bit.ly/2VxzSAi
One final note about the “Fractals” effect. You can actually interact with this effect in several interesting ways, such as zooming and panning. You can learn more about using tools with “Fractals” on Adobe’s website.

Gradient Ramp - A tried and true way of quickly generating a basic gradient on a layer. You’ll probably notice color banding, so adjust the Ramp Scatter parameter to blend the gradient into a smooth transition.

Grid - Generates a customizable grid pattern that could be used as an overlay to a futuristic screen.

Lens Flare - Creates a somewhat cheesy lens flare, with the ability to toggle between three different lenses.
Source: Justin Odisho | https://bit.ly/3g6mvPl
Paint Bucket - For a stylized cartoon look, “Paint Bucket” can be used to simply click and apply color to various areas of your image. As mentioned in the video, this tool could also be incredibly helpful for creating quick green screen masks to specific areas, utilizing its super-fast edge detection.

Radio Waves - This effect defaults to a smaller circle that slowly expands, as another smaller circle begins in the middle of it, and so on. This effect isn’t limited to just a circle or set shape, though you can even create your own mask for repeating patterns that are completely customized.

Scribble - This is a really great way to add a stylized hand-drawn 80s look to any mask. Just create your mask and drop the effect on to immediately start animating. You can watch Justin Odisho’s Scribble tutorial below to learn more!
Stroke - Adds an adjustable outline to a mask or shape layer.

Vegas - Creates light trails around the edges of objects in your video.

Write-on - You can animate this effect to look like you’re writing with a marker on top of a video. It could also be used creatively to make some cool alpha matte transitions.

There you have it, all 26 “Generate” effects! If you’d like to learn more about what each effect parameter does under every effect, you can check out Adobe’s full list.

Hopefully, this guide will help you to save time at a glance and have a better understanding of what effects are at your disposal, allowing you to eliminate guesswork and focus on simply producing awesome visual effects!

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