Create An Organic Lighting Effect Using Photoshop Stills

This post focuses on creating a particular effect where a bank of lights on a billboard appear to cycle on and off between each set of credits using Photoshop and your favorite NLE. So you’ll have a reference for what I’ll be explaining, take a look at an excerpt of the credits sequence here.  I recommend watching the entire film, which is about 5 minutes long, as well, in order to get a sense for how the credits carry the feel of the film through to the end. The piece is also one of my favorites of a fashion show series produced by Running Lady Studios a few years back.

The director wanted to have a dynamic feel in the credit sequence that matched the feel of the show. That meant high energy and organic motion. But I didn’t want to use Apple Motion or Adobe After Effects due to time constraints. also, truth be told, I wasn’t sure just how long it would take me to figure out how to create the effect using those programs.

I created stills in Photoshop using frames from some B-roll footage I had shot on set just after the show. The first transition, showing a bank of lights on a blank billboard flashing and then showing text, used three stills:

The pattern of three stills used for each of the credits transitions.

1. A “blank” billboard with no text or lights (blank-01)

2. A billboard with the light bank on full (blank-02)

3. A billboard with the first credit text (credit-01)

In FCP, the stills were butted against each other with a simple cross-dissolve transition applied between them:

FCP timeline showing layout of clips and timing of the cross-dissolve transitions.

The flashing is created simply due to the combined luminence of the slides as the transition occurs. The flickering effect was achieved by overlaying a film damage clip (available here on and experimenting with different composition (blend) modes. We happily discovered that using the Overlay mode amplified the intensity changes in the lights beautifully.

Subsequent transitions from credit to credit involved the same pattern with an additional transition to the full light still (blank-02) before starting the pattern again (blank-02/blank-01/blank-02/credit-02).

Variations in the cycle were made by varying the durations of the cross-dissolves for each set of credits.

This is a very simple way to generate an organic and dynamic lighting effect without the overhead of working in an advanced compositing program.

Got questions/thoughts/suggestions? Please drop ’em in the comments!

Thanks for reading!



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