Lens flares have become a strong staple of sci-fi visuals as strong lights aimed at the camera from lasers or engines work to create surreal and abstract artefacts that can greatly enhance the sense of scale, space or brightness.
UE4 Lens Flares by default work by taking multiple copies of the image, blurring them, inversing some and altering their colors – the user has control over the different lens dirt texture and the general shape of the artefacts can be altered only.
While the method used by Unreal is the most accurate and also affects any bright pixels on screen like reflections, it is extremely limited in artistic possibilities and would be ultimately scrapped for this project.
To resolve the issue mentioned before I decided to use a 3rd party plug-in (https://www.unrealengine.com/marketplace/custom-lens-flare-tool) to make my own custom lens flare.
This plug in worked by creating an UI element that is tied to a world space object. This meant that flares could be placed independently of light sources and that different light could have different flares – extremely inaccurate physically, but really useful for my sci-fi project. Moreover this tool would allows artefact spawn and distortion tied to individual axis movement of camera which mean that I could create to high quality realistic flares that would normally be used in films only.
Using this tool I managed to port over some of my own custom lens flares that I had developed in After Effects with the Video Co-Pilot Lens Flares plug-in into UE4 with great results!