Classic Course: Instant Sex

A simple trick to enhance the look of boring stock footage & 3D renders

We’re re-publishing some of our older but hopefully still useful courses for free. This technique is one of our favorites: a way to add a softening glow and increased contrast to video or 3D renders that we called Instant Sex. This is a different treatment than the Glow effect; it renders very fast, and we share ways to choose whether you’re glowing the highlights and/or shadows.

(Funny Story: We originally submitted the After Effects version of this course to using the name “Instant Sex.” They rejected it because the name was considered NSFW (Not Safe For Work) – or at the very least, not family-friendly, as users of all ages access We re-named it “Filmic Glow” and created Final Cut Pro and Motion versions of it as well. Below is the original After Effects version.)

The Backstory

We were working on a trade show opening for a tech industry client, who supplied a set of golf commercials(!) as reference for the look they wanted. We cut those commercials into the stock video footage and custom 3D renders we were accumulating for the job, and were depressed at how flat our footage looked in comparison to these high-budget, shot-on-film commercials. Then we remembered a tip we learned from VFX house Reality Check where they duplicated their 3D renders and used the Overlay blending mode on the layer on top, which increases contrast and saturation. We combined this with a tip from long-time AE programmer Dan Wilk to try using blending modes with blurs, and blurred the “overlay” copy from the Reality Check trick. The result immediately looked many times better than the original render or stock video. If you don’t already know this technique, it’ll make you a hero with your clients.

Instant Sex 1/1: Classic Sex

In this we movie step through the basics of creating this effect, from the original Reality Check “modes” trick, to adding blur to the copy on tip with the blending mode applied, to trying different modes and combinations.

Instant Sex 2/2: Alternative Sex

In the second movie, we show a few refinements and enhancements of the basic Instant Sex trick, including:

  • using an Adjustment Layer to make it easier to apply the effect to an entire timeline (rather than every video clip individually)
  • using a different set of effects applied to a single layer to recreate the effect, without relying on duplicating footage and using blending modes
  • save Animation Presets so you can easily re-apply this look to other footage later
  • using effects other than normal blurs to create alternate, specialized looks

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Chris and Trish Meyer

Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, HBO, PBS, and TLC; in opening titles for several movies including Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr. Ripley; at trade shows and press events for corporate clients ranging from Apple to Xerox; and in special venues encompassing IMAX, CircleVision, the NBC AstroVision sign in Times Square, and the four-block-long Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. They were among the original users of CoSA (now Adobe) After Effects, and have written the numerous books including “Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects” and “After Effects Apprentice” both published by Focal Press. Both Chris and Trish have backgrounds as musicians, and are currently fascinated with exploring fine art and mixed media in addition to their normal commercial design work. They have recently relocated from Los Angeles to the mountains near Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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