How do you creatic static electricty on a path?

I want to do an effect where static electricity or lightning travels across an object - an example would be the kind of thing that happens in Back to the future 1 as the Car leaves 1955 and lines of static go along the cables from the clock tower.  I want it to flow around certain objects or along a path.  I looked for a tutorial on something similar but could not see one.


  • Triem23
    Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 19,784 Ambassador
    In general, you'll need to create a pair of points (at least). These can be 2D or 3D depending on the nature of the shot. In the lightning effect you can now attach the start and end points of your bolts to the points. Now, by animating these points you can move your lightning. You can also animate the start and end length of the bolts (for example, if you set start length to 0.25 and end length to 0.75 your bolt will only extend half of the distance between the points without reaching either one). After that, you'll play with the settings of the lightning effect to get the look you want. Finally, for wrapping electric bolts "around" objects you'll have to do manual masking--either subtracting from the bolt layer areas you want occluded, or adding an overlay of the background layers you want occluding the bolts.
  • AxelWilkinson
    AxelWilkinson Staff Administrator, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 5,249 Staff
    Depending on the result you are going for, another technique that is handy is to animate the Start and End points within a Lightning effect.  So then you can make a short section of bolt travel along the path of the entire arc, from one point to another.  This basic technique is shown in this tutorial:
    Of course, in that video the lightning has been straightened out, to give a laser effect, but if you leave it more lightning-y in shape, the part where you animate the start and end is still relevant.
  • DavidClarke
    DavidClarke Website User Posts: 10
    Many thanks for both these suggestions, I will have a go.  I had been using something similar in After Effects and have done laser beams in AE using their lightning effect, but never got a static electricity effect to do what I wanted.  At least knowing I am playing with the right things, just not doing it correctly, is s start.