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How to Create Realistic Heat Distortion Effects with After Effects

Heat distortion is a phenomenon that occurs when hot air causes light rays to bend, creating a wavy or rippled appearance in the image. Heat distortion can be used to create realistic effects for scenes involving fire, explosions, jet engines, or hot weather.

One way to create heat distortion effects in After Effects is to use a plug-in that simulates the physical properties of heat waves and distortion. There are several plug-ins available for this purpose, such as Heat Distortion by Video Copilot [^1^], Universe Heatwave by Maxon [^2^], or Heat 2 by W. A. Production [^3^]. These plug-ins offer different features and options for customizing the heat distortion effect, such as noise, wind, direction, speed, amount, and masks.

In this article, we will focus on how to use Heat Distortion by Video Copilot, which is a plug-in that simulates realistic heat waves and distortion. It is compatible with Mac and PC, and works with After Effects CS5 and up. You can buy it for $24.95 from their website, or get it as part of the Flight Kit bundle.

Step 1: Install the Plug-in

To install Heat Distortion by Video Copilot, you need to download the installer from their website and run it. Follow the instructions on the screen and choose the location where you want to install the plug-in. You may need to restart After Effects after the installation is complete.

Step 2: Apply the Effect

To apply Heat Distortion to your footage, you need to create a new adjustment layer above your video layer. Then go to Effect > Video Copilot > Heat Distortion and drag it onto the adjustment layer. You should see a subtle heat distortion effect applied to your footage by default.

Step 3: Adjust the Settings

To customize the heat distortion effect, you can adjust the settings in the Effect Controls panel. Here are some of the main parameters you can tweak:

Distortion Amount: This controls how much distortion is applied to the image. Higher values create more wavy and distorted effects.

Distortion Size: This controls how large the distortion waves are. Higher values create bigger and smoother waves.

Noise Type: This controls what kind of noise is used to generate the distortion. You can choose from two types: Billowed or Ridged. Billowed noise creates more organic and natural-looking distortion, while Ridged noise creates more sharp and angular distortion.

Noise Detail: This controls how much detail is added or subtracted to the noise. Higher values create more complex and detailed distortion, while lower values create more simple and smooth distortion.

Noise Speed: This controls how fast the noise moves across the image. Higher values create more dynamic and animated effects, while lower values create more static and subtle effects.

Noise Direction: This controls the direction of the noise movement. You can use the angle dial or enter a value in degrees to change the direction.

Noise Evolution: This controls how much the noise changes over time. Higher values create more variation and randomness in the distortion, while lower values create more consistent and predictable distortion.

Heat Bias: This controls how much heat haze is added to the image. Higher values create more blurry and hazy effects, while lower values create more clear and crisp effects.

Heat Bias Size: This controls how large the heat haze is. Higher values create bigger and smoother haze, while lower values create smaller and sharper haze.

Masks: This allows you to use masks to limit where the heat distortion effect is applied. You can choose from several mask shapes or use a layer in your composition as a mask.

Step 4: Preview and Render

To preview your heat distortion effect, you can use the RAM preview or standard preview options in After Effects. To render 248dff8e21


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