Usbdream-224x100I caught the 7D-shot French short USB Dream at HDSLR Shooter today. Note that its appearance here is not an endorsement of any kind -- the fight scenes are laughable and there is a totally gratuitous stairway jump at the end that had me palming my forehead. But as I don't speak French, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt -- maybe the dialogue is amazing? Anyway, the reason I've posted the short here at No Film School is to talk about lens flares -- specifically, the software emulation of lens flares.

Here's the short, which, again, I'm not endorsing:

Who knew that asphalt was so reflective?

Gratuitous lens flares aren't restricted to low-budget student shorts: the most recent example of a lens-flare happy big-budget feature is J.J. Abrams' incarnation of Star Trek, which features so many lens flares that even Abrams himself called them "ridiculous." But whereas Abrams and co. had a guy offscreen pointing a bright flashlight into their anamorphic lenses (which yield much cooler-looking flares than non-anamorphic lenses), for low budget productions a similar look would require software plugins (which is what USB Dream is very, very obviously using).

Two such plugins are Red Giant's Knoll Light Factory and Video Copilot's Optical Flares. Using these plugins, you can add lens flares in post instead of actually shooting them on-set or on-location. This gives you more control over the flares themselves (they have all different kinds, most of which would be nigh imposisble to achieve optically). Because apparently everything is brighter in the future, these plugins are most often used on sci-fi/future stories. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with these plugins -- I will probably use them myself at some point -- but as with everything in life, doing something just because you can and doing something tastefully are two different things. And doing something as a joke is a third thing! Via kottke comes this parody of Abrams' incarnation of the Star Trek franchise: a clever YouTuber took an old episode of Star Trek and added a bunch of lens flares to make it look like the new iteration. It's pretty effective:

What's your take on lens flares added in post? Useful tool or an affront to "real" cinematography?