Week 10

Week 10 – Topics

3D Space and using cameras
Final Project assignment

  • enabling layers for 3D
  • moving layers in 3D space
  • how layers stack in 3D
  • 3D rotation and orientation
  • multiplaning effects
  • 3D motion paths
  • multiple views
  • camera settings
  • customizing 3D views
  • camera track and orbit tools
  • moving and animating cameras
  • layer and camera auto-orientation
  • 3D lights
  • vignettes
  • animating lights
  • casting shadows
  • OpenGL and Fast Previews
  • Vanishing Point Exchange
  • Photoshop 3D Layers
  • adding dimension to stills
  • editing stills for 3D
Week 10 – Assignments

1. Work on the storyboard for your final project. Using the ToolFarm Storyboard template (or your own storyboard template) start work on creating the storyboard for your project. The Final project storyboard is due week 12. By Week 12, post an image of your storyboard to your Tumblr blog and write a paragraph about the concept for your animation. I will ask you to bring in your storyboard on Week 12.

2. 3D Lights exercise
Just like a camera, the Point of Interest helps you aim the light. If the light is selected, you will see both the light’s body and its anchor-point-like Point of Interest in the Comp panel. Practice dragging these around to develop a feel for how they work. Now experiment with scrubbing its Cone Angle and Cone Feather parameters. You can quickly achieve a variety of cool looks – especially when you also manipulate its Position and Point of Interest to control the angle the light is cast! Using 06-Basic Lights_starter have fun animating the light’s parameters. Play with your own light and save your project.

3. Casting Shadows exercise

Using 07-Shadows*starter put your new found skills to work by setting up an animation for the light and perhaps the 3D layers. Shadows enhance the realism of the scene and are a great graphical element. But note how slow they are to render–  Look along the bottom right of the Comp panel for an icon of a computer monitor with a lightning bolt inside it: This is the Fast Previews switch. Click on it to reveal its menu of choices. Select Fast Previews Preferences from the bottom of this menu, and verify that Enable OpenGL is on while Enable Adaptive Resolution with OpenGL is off. Choose OpenGL–Interactive so that your animation will render faster

4. Dimensional Skills
Creating your own comp using the Samoan scene.psd file, tweak the spacing between the layers and animate a camera move. See the Comps_Finished > 09-Faux Dimension_final. Here they also animated Tint applied to an Adjustment Layer to transition the background layers from color to grayscale, emphasizing the man as the focal point of the shot. As a final touch, they set the man layer to Orient Towards Camera to reduce distortion.
Option: You can use your own files for this exercise if you’d like

5. Reading from AEA: Chapter  9: Track and Key

Final Project – Due Week 16

For the final project I’d like you to focus on representing genres in the design of your project. You must incorporate typography in your project. Remember the genres we’ve discussed in class:

  • Fluid
  • Organic
  • Vector
  • Hand-drawn
  • Collage
  • Film
  • Kinetic typography
  • Information design

You have 2 choices for a Final Project. You must incorporate type in your project. Please choose ONE of the following:

1. Information Design
Create a motion graphics sequence communicating how to do something, explaining something, communicating a message, or present your information design idea so that I can approve it before you start to storyboard it.
Footage can include video, still photographs, titles, sound files, graphics and/or illustrations.

Example: Information Design

Information Design / Data Visualization

Done very well by the creative agency Jess3

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from JESS3 on Vimeo.

JESS3 designed and animated this for the JESS3 lecture at AIGA Baltimore in Feb 2010.

— OR —

2. Film Titles
Create a motion graphics sequence representing a film or television movie or show. (The film or television show must be fictitious.)
Footage can include video, still photographs, titles, sound files, graphics and/or illustrations.

Example: Film Titles


  • Complete Storyboard
  • Standard definition video (720×480)
  • Duration: 1 to 2 min
  • Must use sound. Please only use rights cleared materials, music, etc.
  • Please check and double check your spelling

Design Considerations:

  • Type should be legible, use appropriate fonts for the design
  • Effective screen compositions and transitions
  • Good color harmony
  • Communicate the message
  • Quality and effectiveness of your execution of your design
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your technical and creative decisions.
Genres – Motion Graphics

Also know as “Kitchen Sink” style, collage my involve throwing in everything to the kitchen sink. Just like the collages of cut out magazine images we make in second grade, this style has the same feel, an often frenetic, rapid animation style. Stardust does this well.


this style is seen in film titles and trailers. There is a pacing common to trailer graphics and they have a heavy focus on typography. Picture Mill does good stuff here.

Motion Graphics “People to know”

  • Who did you choose this person and why?
  • How would you categorize their work? Does it fit into any of the Genres we outlined in the Week 06 notes?
  • Find a video of their work discuss.

Jeremy Cox
Genevieve Gauckler
Jeremy Blake
Pablo Ferro
Michel Gondry
David Shrigley
Smith & Foulkes
Maurice Binder
Doug Aitken
Jenny Holzer
Milton Glaser
Oskar Fischinger
Tibor Kalman
Hillman Curtis
Kuntzel Deygas
Thomas Wilfred
The Films of Charles & Ray Eames: The Powers of Ten

Lesson 8 – 3D Space
Page  193 enabling layers for 3D

1.  Open this lesson’s project file Lesson_08.aep. In the Project panel, locate and double-click Comp > 01-Basic 3D*starter to open it. It contains two overlapping text layers. First, let’s reinforce the way you would normally interact with these layers:

  • With 2D layers, the stacking order in the timeline determines who renders on top. Swap the order of Enter a New and Dimension in this comp; the higher one in the Timeline panel is the one drawn the most forward in the Comp viewer.
  • With 2D layers, you can move them only in the X (left and right) and Y (up and down) dimensions. To make a layer appear to move closer or farther away, you need to play with its Scale value.
  • 2D layers rotate like a pinwheel around their Anchor Point. (We’ve already centered the Anchor in these text layers to get a nice rotation.)

2.  Undo any of your experimenting in step 1 to return to Enter a New on top of Dimension, both set to 100% scale. Make sure the Switches column is visible in the Timeline panel. Select both layers, then click in the hollow box underneath the three-dimensional cube icon: This is the 3D Layer switch. The layers will not change size or place in the Comp viewer. However, you will see red, green, and blue axis arrows sticking out of the Anchor Points of layers that are selected. Press “P” to reveal their Position values: There is now a third value, known as Z. It defaults to 0.0.

Scaling Quality and 3D

Scaling up beyond 100% usually reduces image quality. But with 3D layers, you can’t just look at their Scale value; its size also depends on how close it is to the virtual camera.

To tell if a layer is being scaled larger than 100%, duplicate it, turn off the 3D Layer switch for the duplicate, and set its Scale to 100%. If the duplicate is still the same size or larger than the 3D version, you’re okay. If the duplicate is smaller, you are “blowing up” the 3D version: Get a higher resolution source, or move the layer farther away from the camera.

Layers that continuously rasterize are your friend in 3D space, as After Effects can rerender them as needed so that they stay sharp. This includes all text layers. You can enable an optional Continuous Rasterization switch (the sunburst icon) for Illustrator artwork; we’ve already done that for you as required throughout this lesson

Page 194   moving layers in 3D space

3. Press F2 to deselect the layers. While closely watching the Comp viewer, scrub the third Position value (Z) for Dimension. As you scrub to the left to reduce the Z Position value, Dimension will appear to grow larger as it comes toward you. As you scrub to the right (increasing Z Position), it will appear to grow smaller as it moves away from you.

Key Concept #1: The size a 3D layer is drawn is determined by a combination of its Scale value and how close it is to the camera. (If you have not explicitly created a camera, After Effects uses an invisible default camera.) There is a second phenomenon you might have noticed: If the Z Position value for Dimension is less than the Z Position for Enter a New, Dimension will appear to pop in front of Enter a New, even though Dimension is below it in the timeline.

Page  194 how layers stack in 3D

Key Concept #2: With 3D layers, stacking order in the Timeline panel no longer determines which one draws on top in the Comp viewer. What matters now is how far they are from the camera.

4.  In addition to scrubbing the Position values for 3D layers, you can also drag them around in the Comp panel. However, pay attention to the cursor as you try this:

  • If you place the cursor near the layer’s Anchor Point and do not see an additional letter at the cursor’s tail, you can freely drag a layer in any direction.
  • If you see an X, Y, or Z next to the cursor, your dragging will be constrained to that dimension. To ensure you get this special cursor, place it near the desired axis’ arrow.

5.  Set Dimension’s Z Position back to 0. With Dimension selected, press “R” : Instead of getting just Rotation, you will see four parameters! Here’s what they do:

  • Orientation is used to “pose” a layer in 3D space – for example, to face up or to the right. This parameter won’t animate as you might expect, so don’t use it for keyframing.
  • Z Rotation is the same as the normal 2D Rotation you’re used to.
  • Y Rotation spins the layer around its vertical (up/down) axis. Go ahead and scrub it!
  • X Rotation spins a layer around its horizontal axis.
Page  195   3D rotation and orientation

You can scrub these Rotation values, or press “W” to select the “Wotate” (Rotate) tool and manipulate them directly in the Comp panel. (Keep an eye out for the axis letters popping up next to the cursor – like Position, they indicate your dragging will be constrained to that one dimension.)

As you play with X and Y Rotation, you should notice that Dimension will appear to intersect Enter a New as portions of them cross – another cool bonus of 3D space.

6.  Scrub Dimension’s X or Y Rotation values to 90° while watching the Comp viewer: They will disappear when viewed on-edge.

Key Concept #3: 3D Layers in After Effects do not have any thickness. This is their main limitation and is the primary reason you may need to use a real 3D program to achieve certain looks.

Press “V” to return to the Selection tool. Continue to experiment with Position and Rotation values for Enter a New and Dimension, including enabling keyframing for them and trying an animation or two. If you feel more like watching than doing right now, twirl down the Comps_Finished folder in the Project panel and double-click 01-Basic 3D_final to open it. Press “0” on the numeric keypad to RAM Preview. We’ve animated Z Position and Y Rotation for the two text layers to make them fly and swivel into position.

Once you’ve digested this, open 01-Basic 3D_final2 and RAM Preview. In this comp, we removed the Position animation and instead applied a 3D Text Animation Preset to each text layer. (As discussed back in Lesson 5, individual characters in text layers may also exist in 3D space.)

Page  196 multiplaning effects

Perspective in 3D is not just placing things closer, farther away, or at an angle to the camera. Another important 3D trick is known as multiplaning where objects close to you whiz by quickly, while those farther away appear to move more slowly. This phenomenon can be faked in 2D by animating each object by hand. In 3D space, it happens naturally. While demonstrating this trick, we’ll also show you some alternate ways to view your work.

1.  In the Project panel’s Comps folder, double-click 02-Multiplaning*starter to open it. This composition contains a set of 10 layers, all parented to a Null Object. RAM Preview this comp: All of the buildings drift from right to left, as if locked together.

2. The plan is for you to arrange each of the buildings and trees at different distances from the imaginary camera. Select all of the layers. Enable the 3D Layer switch for any one of them, and it will be enabled for all selected layers.

3. Type “P” until Position is revealed for all of the layers, then deselect them (otherwise, you might accidentally edit all of the layers at the same time!). It is easy to lose perspective (pardon the pun) when viewing only the result. Therefore, After Effects provides a number of alternate 3D views. You can also see more than one view at the same time, making it easier to understand what is going on.

4.  Along the bottom of the Comp panel is the Select View Layout popup menu; it currently says 1 View. Click on it and choose 2 Views – Vertical. The Comp panel will split into two.

5.  With the Selection tool active, click in the top half of the Comp panel – there will be yellow triangles in the corners of its Comp panel to confirm its selection. Now look at the 3D View popup to the left of Select View Layout: It should say Active Camera (if it doesn’t, set it to this). The Active Camera is what your 3D camera sees and is the view that will ultimately render.

Click in the bottom half of the Comp panel, then on the 3D View popup. The first six choices below Active Camera are called orthographic views. These are the standard “drafting” views that observe your 3D scene from a specific side, with no perspective distortion. Select Top for now; think of this as looking down on your “stage.” Click on a layer in the Comp view; it will be highlighted in the Timeline panel. Scrub the Z Position (the third value) for this layer to a negative value: You will see it move down in the Top view (toward the camera), while the same object comes forward in the Active Camera view.

Select the lower view and click on the 3D View popup again. The last three choices are temporary camera angles you can use while rearranging layers. Select Custom View 3. Now as you scrub the Z Position for a layer, you get a much better idea of what’s going on on your “stage.”

6.  Move the buildings, trees, and clouds (but not the null!) back and forth in Z to create an arrangement you like.

7.  When you think you’re getting close to a good arrangement, RAM Preview: The Active Camera view (the top) will calculate and play back your animation. Now as the buildings drift past, the objects closer to your imaginary camera (lower Z Position values) move faster, and those farther away (higher Z Position values) move more slowly, causing their relationships to change over the course of the animation. Note that you didn’t have to create any additional Position keyframes to make this happen! Continue to tweak. When you want to see your final animation at full size, set Select View Layout to 1 View and 3D View to Active Camera, and preview again. For comparison, our version is saved in Comps_Finished > 02-Multiplaning_final. Save your project before moving on.

Page  198 3D motion paths

3D Animation
We often tell clients “it’s called 3D because it takes three times as long.” This is particularly true when it comes to editing motion paths for a 3D layer, as you need to look at the path from multiple angles to fully understand what’s happening.

1.  Select Close All from the Composition panel’s dropdown menu to close all of your previous comps. Return to the Project panel and open Comps > 03-3D Animation*starter. This comp contains four small layers with their 3D Layer switches already enabled, and are slightly separated in Z. Your goal is to make the layers Under and Pressure fly down into their current locations.

2.  Since Under and Pressure are already in their “at rest” positions, this is a good place to set keyframes:

  • Move the current time indicator to around 01:00.
  • Select Under and Pressure, turn on the stopwatches for Position and reveal this property in the Timeline panel.

3. Think about where you want these layers to fly in from. For example, it may be fun to have Under fly in from the upper left, and Pressure from the lower right, both starting out closer to the viewer.

  • Press Home to return to 00:00.
  • Deselect the layers.
  • Drag Under to the upper left of the frame; this moves it in X and Y.
  • Hover your cursor over Under’s blue axis arrow until you see a Z appear next to it. Click and drag to the right, and you will pull Under forward in Z (you can confirm this by watching its Position Z value in the Timeline panel).
  • The dotted line in the Comp panel is Under’s motion path. Look for the slightly larger dots; these are the handles for the keyframes. Click and drag these dots to create an arcing motion path. If you can’t see them, press C(L), click on the keyframe icon in the Comp viewer and drag out the handles (you may need to move in time so you can see the icon clearly).
  • Repeat the same for Pressure, making it arc in from a different location at 00:00, and changing its Position Z value.
Page  199 multiple views

Editing in Multiple Views
By working just in the Active Camera view, you’ve seen only part of the picture of what’s really going on with your motion paths.

4.  Set the 3D View popup to Left to view the layers edge-on from the side. Select Under to see its motion path. Scrub the time indicator and you might see that this layer is actually sliding in from above, rather than slamming straight down.

To edit more interactively, set the Select View Layout popup to 4 Views. Click on the upper left view, and set its 3D View popup to Top. Set the upper right view to Front, the lower left view to Left, and the lower right view to Active Camera. This way, you can see your path from all angles as well as the final result. (You will probably need to reduce the Magnification to 50% for each view to fit everything in. If you still have trouble seeing all the layers, turn the page and read Using the Camera Tools.)

5.  Select Under again to reveal its motion path. Drag the motion path handles in the Left view while watching the result in the other views. Try to arrange a straighter entry into the second keyframe, while keeping the swooping-in motion you had originally. This will require some back-and-forth editing to get it the way you want.

RAM Preview, and the Active Camera view will play back your results. After you’re happy, click on the word Position for Pressure to highlight its motion path, and adjust it. Feel free to get more creative with the move, such as starting the words completely off-screen. Our version is in Comps_Finished > 03-3D Anima tion _final. Of course, yours does not have to look like ours – just as long as you feel you have a better grasp of editing motion paths in 3D space. Save your project before moving on.

After you have set up your animation, select a layer and choose Layer > Transform > Auto-Orient. Choose the Orient Along Path option and click OK. The layer will now bank and turn as it zooms down into position. We used this trick in our 03-3D Animation_final2 comp.

Page  200 camera settings

The 3D Camera
Moving layers in 3D space is very useful, but the real fun happens when you move a camera through that space. Once you know how to animate a 3D layer, you have mastered most of what you need to animate a camera. The main differences are:

  • Its “anchor point” is called its Point of Interest. Rather than a center point, this is where the camera is being aimed.
  • It has Angle of View and Zoom parameters (the two are linked), which affect the perspective of the layers it is viewing.
  • There is a different set of tools used to move and view it. Read about them in Using the Camera Tools on the next page. Adding a Camera Nothing demystifies a feature like using it, so let’s dive in!

1.  Close all previous comps by selecting Close All from the Comp panel’s dropdown menu. Return to the Project panel and open Comps > 04-Basic Camera*starter – it contains an expanded version of the logo from the previous exercise. The layers that make up the logo have already been arranged in 3D space for you. Rather than animate these layers, this time you’re going to animate a camera around them. They should have their Position values exposed; we’ve arrayed them around Z = 0.0, as this will be the center of our “universe.”

2.  Select Layer > New > Camera; the Camera Settings will open. The Preset popup near the top simulates a number of common lenses. Higher numbers are telephoto lenses, which means the camera will have a large Zoom value and reduced perspective distortion; smaller numbers are wide-angle lenses, which translates to a small Zoom value and exaggerated perspective distortion. The 50mm preset matches the comp’s invisible default camera, so pick it for now. Disable the Enable Depth of Field option and click OK.

3.  Make sure your new Camera layer is selected. Press “P” to reveal its Position, then Shift + A to reveal its Point of Interest. Note that the Point of Interest’s Z value is 0.0, which places it in the center of our logo layers.

Page  201 customizing 3D views

Moving the Camera
To use these tools for manipulating the camera, you need to be in a Camera view (such as Active Camera or Camera 1) and have a camera layer selected.

Orbit Camera Tool: Use this tool to rotate how the camera views the scene. If the camera’s Auto Orientation is set to Orient Towards Point of Interest (the default), you will be moving the body of the camera (its Position), and it will pivot about its Point of Interest. If the camera’s Auto Orientation is Off (see page 204), you will be editing the Orientation values for the camera.

Track XY Camera Tool: This tool pans around a scene by moving the camera up, down, left, and right. It edits the X and Y Position and Point of Interest values.

Track Z Camera Tool: Use this tool to push the camera in on a scene or to pull it back. It edits the camera’s Z Position and Point of Interest values.

The biggest “gotcha” comes when you create one keyframe for the camera’s Position, go to another point in time, and move the camera using the Orbit Camera tool to create a second Position keyframe. Although you may have seen a nice arc while you were moving the camera in the Comp view, the resulting motion path will be a straight line between keyframes. Edit their Bezier handles to create a rounded arc.

Page  201 camera track and orbit tools

Navigating the Views
If you are in any of the Orthographic (Front, Left, Top, Back, Right, Bottom) or Custom views, these tools do not edit the camera’s values. Instead, they zoom and pan around these views strictly for preview purposes.

Orbit Camera Tool: This tool works only in the Custom views. You can use it to re-pose these temporary views on your 3D scene.

Track XY Camera Tool: This replaces the Hand tool and pans around your view. Track Z Camera Tool: This acts as a continuous zoom tool, allowing you to smoothly zoom in and out on your desired view without the camera icon changing its size. Unified Camera Tool If you have a three-button mouse, try using the new Unified Camera tool. The three buttons switch between the different modes.

Page  202 moving and animating cameras

4.  In the Comp panel, select 2 Views – Vertical. Set the upper view to Active Camera, and the lower view to Top. You will probably need to set the Magnification for both to 50%. Is the Top view zoomed in too close to see the camera as well as the layers? Hover the cursor over the Comp panel and press “C” until the cursor changes into a two-way arrow (the Track Z tool). In the lower view, drag down or to the left until the camera’s field of view outline is about half the width of the viewer. Press “C” three times to change the cursor to a four-way arrow (the Track XY tool) and drag upward until the layers and the camera are centered in this view. (These tools are discussed in more detail in Using the Camera Tools.)

Moving the Camera
5.  As with any 3D layer, you could scrub the camera’s values in the Timeline panel or drag it directly in the Comp panel (the same rules for axis constraints apply). For a more interactive experience, select the Orbit Camera tool: With the cursor over the Comp panel, press “C” until it changes into a ball with an arrow curving around it. Drag around in the Active Camera view (the upper one) and watch how the camera moves in the Top view below. You can also watch the Position values change in the Timeline panel.

The Camera Settings Dialog
This initially daunting dialog is really just asking you two things: how wide or narrow is the camera’s field of view, and how much it should blur out-of-focus layers. If you are familiar with cameras and lenses, this dialog gives you a number of ways to precisely define your camera, including by Angle of View (a common 3D program parameter), or by Focal Length and Film Size (or camera sensor size). You can also define your depth of field by aperture or f-stop. If you are a camera newbie, the parameter you are most interested in is Zoom. Set Units to Pixels: When the camera is the Zoom value’s distance from a layer, the scale of the layer will not be altered in 3D space. All other layers will appear larger or smaller depending on how close to or far away they are from the camera. The smaller the Zoom value, the more exaggerated this effect will be.

Press “V” to switch back to the Selection tool. In the Top view, drag the boxy camera icon (this is its Position); notice how moving it changes the perspective in Active Camera view.

6.  Make sure the lower view is selected – there will be yellow triangles in its corners. Set the 3D View popup for it to Front. In the Front view, carefully click on the crosshair: This is the camera’s Point of Interest, which determines what is centered in its sights. Drag it while watching the result in the Active Camera above to get a feel for how it works. Also try dragging it in other views, such as Custom View 3.
7.  Time for the payoff: setting up a camera move!

  • Press Home to make sure you are at 00:00.
  • Click on the stopwatches for Camera’s Point of Interest and Position to enable keyframing.
  • Use whatever combination of tools and views you prefer to set up a camera pose you like.
  • Press End to move to the end of this comp and set up a new camera pose.

RAM Preview and observe your camera move. Even though you set up the start and end poses, you might not be happy with how it looks in the middle. Rather than adding a third keyframe, try adjusting the motion paths for the camera’s Position and Point of Interest. These are common Bezier paths, just like those you edited for 3D layers in the previous exercise. You can switch Select View Layout to 4 Views to get a better picture of your path, or pick one view at a time to work in.

Our version is Comps_Finished > 04-Basic Camera_final. We decided to leave the Point of Interest focused on the middle of the logo, and instead created a series of alternating fast and slow Position moves to generate surprise and excitement. We enabled motion blur for the logo layers to further enhance the impression of speed.

Page  204 layer and camera auto-orientation

Cameras and Auto Orientation
Both 2D and 3D layers can be set to automatically orient themselves along their motion paths. 3D cameras bring a couple of new twists to this idea…
1.  In the Project panel’s Comps folder, double-click 05-Orientation*starter to open it. This composition contains a number of music symbols hanging in 3D space, a 3D camera, and a 2D background plus soundtrack. RAM Preview; the camera gently weaves through the notes.

2.  Set Select View Layout to 2 Views – Horizontal. Verify that the left view is set to Top and the right view is set to Active Camera.
Select the camera and study its path: We have set its Point of Interest to focus on the last symbol and animated its Position (the camera’s body). As the camera body moves left and right, it turns to always face its Point of Interest. Alternate Orientations Let’s say we want a more exciting animation. This default 2 point camera can be a bit tricky to animate for complex flight paths, as you would have two motion paths to worry about – so let’s try some alternatives.

3.  Select the camera and open Layer > Transform > Auto- Orient. Select the Off option and click OK. The Point of Interest – and the line that connects it to the camera in the Comp views – will disappear. This is known as a 1 point camera as now you have only Position to deal with. Drag the current time indicator through the timeline while watching the Comp panel; now the camera will always point straight ahead.
If the camera were a car or airplane, it would turn to follow its motion path rather than always face the same direction. You can animate the rotation of the camera to simulate this turning. Or, you can let After Effects do the work for you!

4.  With the camera still selected, again open Layer > Transform > Auto-Orient. Select the option Orient Along Path and click OK. As you drag the current time indicator through the timeline, in the Top view you will see the camera automatically turn to follow its path. In the Active Camera view, the result will be a much more obvious movement as the camera swoops around. This makes it easy to create thrill-ride-style 3D camera animations.

However, be aware that using the Orient Along Path option will often require more work on your part! Make sure there is always something interesting to look at as the camera swings around. You may also need to smooth out kinks in your motion path that will cause sudden camera movements. This is where mastery of the Graph Editor and use of the Roving Keyframes option (both discussed in Lesson 2) come in handy.

Orient Towards Camera
RAM Preview or scrub the current time indicator through time. As the camera swings along its path, it occasionally looks at some of the musical symbols from quite a skewed angle. The resulting perspective distortion can often look interesting. Other times, it distorts objects like client logos a bit too much for their taste, and can break the illusion of 3D space as you view layers from their sides. Therefore, there’s one more auto-orientation trick you should know about:

5.  Click on layer 2 (repeat) and S+click on layer 14 (demisemiquaver) to select all of the music symbols. Study the Comp panel for a moment, in particular how the axis arrows for the symbols are all pointing in the same direction Open Layer > Transform > Auto-Orient again – this time for the 3D layers, rather than the camera. Select the option Orient Towards Camera, and click OK. Watch what happens in the Comp panel: All of the symbols swivel to face directly toward the camera. You can really see this behavior when you scrub the current time indicator. (If you are uncertain whether you followed our directions correctly, compare your result with our Comps_Finished > 05-Orientation_final.)

Page  206 3D lights

3D Lights
If you don’t add a light to a scene, After Effects will automatically illuminate all 3D layers equally so that they are just as bright as they were as 2D layers. However, adding a 3D light can considerably enhance the mood of a scene.

1.  Save your project. Select Close All from the Comp panel’s dropdown menu to close all previous comps. Then open Comps > 06-Basic Lights*starter. It contains a single 2D video layer.

2.  To see the results of 3D lights, you need at least one 3D layer.

  • Enable the 3D layer switch (the cube icon) for Clock.mov.
  • Then enable the Lock switch for the layer so you don’t accidentally move it while playing with your light.

3.  Select the menu item Layer > New > Light. The Light Settings dialog will open. Let’s go over some of its parameters:

  • Light Type decides how the light rays are cast. Ambient illuminates everything evenly; Parallel casts straight rays as if from a distant source. More useful are Spot and Point. Point is akin to a bulb hanging in space. Spot is the most versatile, as you can control how narrow a cone it casts. Choose Point for now.
  • Intensity is the brightness of the light. It can be cranked over 100% to blow out a scene or reduced below 0% to create pools of darkness in a complex scene. Set it to 100% for now.
  • Cone Angle and Cone Feather are available only with the Spot light type. They control how wide an area of light is cast and how soft its edges are.
  • Color is – ta da! – the color of the light. Start with a white light. You can later change it to a pale blue to cool down a scene, or a pale orange to warm it up.
  • We’ll deal with shadows in the next exercise, so leave them off.
  • Give your light a useful name such as “First Light” and click OK. (If you get a warning dialog, you missed step 2.)

4.  The corners of Clock.mov will darken a bit as the light falls away, creating a subtle vignette. First Light should be selected; press “P” to reveal its Position, then Shift + T to reveal its Intensity.

Page  207 vignettes
  • • Scrub the Z Position parameter for First Light. As the light moves closer to the layer, the illuminated area will shrink; back it away, and the layer will be illuminated more evenly.
  • • You can also scrub the X and Y Position values or place your light interactively by dragging it around the Comp viewer. The same rules apply as for any other 3D layer: If you click on one of the axis arrows or otherwise see an axis character next to your cursor, your dragging will be constrained to that dimension.
  • • Scrub Intensity: It controls how brightly the layer is lit. (Return it to somewhere between 100% and 150% when you’re done.)

5.  Double-click your light layer (First Light) to re-open its Light Settings. Set Light Type to Spot, Cone Angle to 60, and Cone Feather to 0. Click OK, and now you will have a sharply defined pool of light, rather than a soft vignette. (If the pool is very small, set the light’s Z Position to -400 to back it away from the layer.)

Page  207 animating lights

A long list of parameters should twirl open in the Timeline panel. You will see that Spot lights are similar to normal 3D cameras in that they have both a Position and a Point of Interest. Just like a camera, the Point of Interest helps you aim the light. If the light is selected, you will see both the light’s body and its anchor-point-like Point of Interest in the Comp panel. Practice dragging these around to develop a feel for how they work. Now experiment with scrubbing its Cone Angle and Cone Feather parameters. You can quickly achieve a variety of cool looks – especially when you also manipulate its Position and Point of Interest to control the angle the light is cast! In Comps_Finished > 06-Basic Lights_final we had fun animating the light’s parameters. Play with your own light and save your project before moving on.

Page  208 casting shadows

Casting Shadows
Lights in After Effects also have the ability to cast shadows. For shadows to happen, you need three things:

  • A light enabled to cast shadows.
  • A 3D layer to cast the shadows.
  • A 3D layer to receive shadows, that is also farther away from the light than the layer casting the shadows. In this exercise, you will become familiar with setting up shadows, plus how lights, layers, and shadows interact.

1.  Return to the Project panel and double-click Comps > 07-Shadows*starter. It contains two layers that are already enabled for 3D and spread out in Z space: Layer 1 (shadows) is a text layer, and layer 2 (shadow catcher) is a still image.

2.  Select Layer > New > Light. In the Light Settings dialog, set the Light Type to Point and Intensity to 125%. Enable the Casts Shadows option, and for now set Shadow Darkness to 50% and Shadow Diffusion to 0 pixels. Click OK, and a new Light layer will be added to your comp. The illumination of the layers will change, but no shadows will be visible yet… By default, layers can receive shadows, but do not cast them. This is because shadows require a lot of computing power, and After Effects does not want to slow you down if you didn’t want them. In this case, we do want them:

3.  Select the layer “shadows” and reveal its Material Options. The very first parameter is Casts Shadows; as we hinted, it defaults to Off. Click on Off to toggle it to On. Now you will see some rather large shadows cast from the text! While you’re here, let’s quickly explore two other useful options:

  • Click on the Casts Shadows value one more time, and it will toggle to Only. Now you will see only the shadow, not the original layer.
  • Toggle Casts Shadows back to On, then scrub the Light Transmission parameter. At 0%, the shadow is black; at 100%, it is the color of the layer casting the shadow. (By the way, this also applies to multicolored layers, including video…) Set it back to 0% for now. Then press “P” to reveal this layer’s Position again, just to remember where it resides in 3D space.

4.  Select the Light layer to see its axes in the Comp panel and press “P” to reveal its Position. Move the light either by scrubbing its Position values or interactively dragging it in the Comp panel. As you do so, the size and position of the shadow changes. Note that as the light gets closer to the layer casting the shadow, the shadow gets wider. Back the light away in Z space (high negative values), and the shadow will get smaller.

5.  Scrub the Z Position values for shadows and shadow catcher. The closer these two layers are to each other, the tighter the shadow. Return them to their original positions when done (shadows at 360, 278, 0; shadow catcher at 340, 42, 250).

6.  Select shadow catcher and press “R” to reveal its Orientation and Rotation properties. Scrub its X or Y Rotation values to tilt it in relation to the layer casting the shadow: The shadow will be angled too. (If you rotate it too far, you will see the edge of this layer; there will be numerous occasions where you need to enlarge layers to avoid this faux pas during 3D animations!)

7.  Select Light again, and type A A(two as in quick succession) to reveal its Light Options. Scrub the Shadow Diffusion parameter: This controls how soft the shadow is at the cost of longer render times. Then scrub Shadow Darkness: It controls how dark (“dense”) the shadow is. Now that you have an idea of how shadows interact, go ahead and put your newfound skills to work by setting up an animation for the light and perhaps the 3D layers. Shadows enhance the realism of the scene and are a great graphical element. But note how slow they are to render: We’ll discuss some ways to deal with that in the next exercise.

Page  210 OpenGL and Fast Previews

OpenGL and Fast Previews
Depending on the speed of your computer (and how much caffeine you’ve had), you may have noticed things have been slowing down as you worked through the exercises in this lesson – particularly that last one with shadows. In this exercise, we’ll push you over the edge – then show you how to speed back up by taking advantage of the OpenGL graphics chip inside your computer. Along the way, you will also gain more useful experience working with lights and shadows.

1.  Open Comps > 08-OpenGL*starter. We’ve taken a multilayered illustration, separated its elements in 3D space, and enabled them to cast and receive shadows. We also added a 3D camera to play with. Select the Orbit Camera tool and drag around in the Comp panel to swivel about the 3D layers. Hopefully, your computer is still pretty responsive while performing this simple task. Undo to return to the original straight-on camera position.

2.  Add a Layer > New > Light. In the Light Settings dialog, set the Light Type to Spot, Intensity to 100%, Cone Angle to 120°, and Cone Feather to 20%. Enable Casts Shadows and set Shadow Darkness to 50% plus Shadow Diffusion to 0 pixels. Click OK.

3.  New lights in After Effects tend to default to being too close to most layers. In this case, the pool of light cast will be fairly small, despite your generous Cone Angle. With the light selected, press “P” to reveal its Position and scrub the Z Position value to the left to back the light away from the 3D layers. Go until they are better illuminated, and you’ll start to see some nice shadowplay between the layers. While doing this, you may notice your computer is considerably more sluggish than it was before.

4.  Look along the bottom right of the Comp panel for an icon of a computer monitor with a lightning bolt inside it: This is the Fast Previews switch.

Click on it to reveal its menu of choices. We initially set up Fast Previews for this comp to Off, which means After Effects will always be using its highest quality renderer. Select Fast Previews Preferences from the bottom of this menu, and verify that Enable OpenGL is on while Enable Adaptive Resolution with OpenGL is off. Choose OpenGL–Interactive, then try scrubbing the Z Position for your light. Your computer should be considerably more responsive now!

With the Orbit Camera tool still selected, also try swiveling the camera, or press “V” to switch back to the Selection tool and drag around the back of the light. Depending on the OpenGL chip in your computer, you may have now noticed some compromises in the image quality – for example, crunchy aliased edges around the layers and shadows.

When Fast Previews is set to OpenGL–Interactive, you will see these compromises only while editing your scene; as soon as you let go of the mouse, the normal After Effects renderer will kick in and show you a higher quality scene. OpenGL chips continue to improve; look for the quality gap to shrink with each new computer you buy.

By the way, this is a fun comp to play with; go ahead and build an animation with these pieces. Our version is in Comps_Finished > 08-OpenGL_final: We animated the various layers as well as the camera, plus added a large dark purple solid behind everything to catch all our shadows. Drag the current time indicator; it should be fairly interactive, as we have OpenGL enabled. Then RAM Preview to see how long a high-quality render would take!

Page  212 Vanishing Point Exchange

Vanishing Point Exchange
If you have an image that contains box-like shapes with flat surfaces and clear corners, you can create a mesh in Photoshop CS4 Extended that traces these surfaces and converts the result into a simple 3D structure, which you can then manipulate in After Effects.

1 . In Photoshop CS4 Extended, open the image Lesson 08 > 08_Sources > 3D > building*starter.jpg. Then choose the menu item Filter > Vanishing Point. (If you don’t have Photoshop CS4 Extended, jump ahead to Step 9 and use our VPE file to import into After Effects.)

2.  Your task is to define the flat surfaces in this photo. The first surface you define is the most important, as all of the other surfaces will be based on it. After studying this photo, we decided to start with the window, as we can see the entire object and we know it should be a perfectly flat rectangle in real life. HoldC(L) and press =to zoom in on the image. Then hold the spacebar and drag the image until the window is clearly visible. Using the Create Plane tool (which is selected by default), carefully click in the four corners of the outer frame of the window. You can tweak them afterward by dragging them into position. If Photoshop sees a problem with their position, the outline will turn red; Undo and try again. If Photoshop is happy, you will see a blue grid.

3.  HoldC(L) and press -to zoom down until you can see the entire image. Drag the handles along the sides of the grid until the grid covers the entire wall. If the grid corners do not match the building, drag them into place. Compare the blue grid with the lines formed by the shingles and window frame to make sure the grid and wall are aligned; drag the lower left corner to tweak.

4.  PressC(L) and drag the handle in the middle of the right edge of the grid until the second wall is covered. Again, drag the corners until the grid aligns with the shingles on the wall. (If your photo contains corners that are not perfect right angles, you can hold O(A) and drag the sides of a grid to swivel it into place.)

5.  Now you can move on to the roof. Select the left-hand grid by clicking anywhere on the left wall. Hold C(L) and drag the top middle handle upward until the left portion of the roof overhang is covered with a grid. You may notice that the grid does not line up perfectly with the roof. This is caused by lens distortion in the photo. It’s good enough for this demonstration, but for your own projects, you can reduce this distortion either by shooting photos with a “longer” lens (telephoto, not wide-angle), or using Filter > Distort > Lens Correction in Photoshop.

6.  Click on the right wall to select the right-hand grid. Hold C(L) and drag its top middle hand upward to cover the right side of the roof. To cover the last remaining bit, click on the middle-left handle of this newest grid and drag it left until it lines up with the other roof grid.

7.  To export this image as a 3D construct, click on the menu near the upper left corner of the Vanishing Point window and select Export to After Effects. Create a new folder, give your file a name, and save it. Photoshop will create several files in this folder, including a VPE (Vanishing Point Exchange) file, an image file for each grid you defined, and a 3DS model file
that can be imported into many 3D programs.

8.  Click OK in the upper right corner of the Vanishing Point window. Use File > Save As and give your file a new name; this new file will contain your Vanishing Point grids. We saved our version as building_final.psd.

9.  In After Effects CS4, select the My Comps folder. Then choose the special import command File > Import > Vanishing Point. Navigate to the folder where you exported your results, and select the VPE file. (Our version is in the 08_Sources > 3D > building pieces folder.) Two items will be created in My Comps: a folder with an image for each grid section, and a composition with the same name as your VPE file. Double-click this comp to open it.
10 Use the Camera tools to move around your “building” – you will find it’s more like a fake Hollywood set, but it is far more useful than the original flat photograph! To move the building itself, animate the Parent layer in the Timeline (it’s a null object, with all of the other grid panels attached).

Page  214 Photoshop 3D Layers

Photoshop 3D Layers
Another way to create 3D objects is to import a 3D model into Photoshop CS4 Extended, export it as a PSD file, and import the result into After Effects CS4.

1.  In Photoshop CS4 Extended, select File > New. In the Preset popup, choose Film & Video. Then in the Size popup, select either NTSC D1 Square Pixel or PAL D1 Square Pixel. Click OK. (If you don’t have Photoshop CS4 Extended, jump ahead to step 8 and use our resulting file.)

2.  Select 3D > New Layer from 3D File. Navigate to the Lesson 08 > 08_Sources > 3D folder, select TV.3DS, and click Open; a stylized TV monitor will appear in your new document. Select the 3D Rotate tool from along the tool bar on the left, then click and drag in your document window to swivel your 3D model.

3.  Set Window > Workspace to Advanced 3D, which will open the 3D and Layers panels. In the 3D panel, look under the group Box01 and select N08_Default. This is the material the model’s creator assigned to the TV’s screen. In the bottom half of the 3D panel, click on the color swatch for Diffuse and choose a different color. After a pause, you will see the 3D model’s screen update, plus any other surface that has the same material applied will also update. Change the color to black, and click OK.

4.  We want our TV to project an image. To assign an image to the screen to be projected, click on the popup menu to the right of the Self-Illumination color swatch, and select Load Texture. Then select the still image or QuickTime movie you want to appear on the TV – such as Lesson 08 > 08_Sources > movies > Clock.mov – and click Open. If a pixel aspect correction dialog appears, click Yes. Your image will now appear on the TV’s screen.

5.  Unfortunately, the model’s creator assigned the same texture to both the screen and the back of the TV. Fortunately, we don’t really need the piece that makes up the back of the TV. In the 3D panel, disable the group Box02 by clicking on the eyeball to its left.

6.  The TV’s outlines are a bit aliased. In the 3D panel, select the master group named Scene. Then in the bottom part of the panel, set the Anti-Alias popup to Better (the trade-off is increased rendering times).

7.  Select File > Save As. Make sure that the Format popup in the Save dialog is set to Photoshop and that Layers is enabled before you click Save; if a Photoshop Format Options dialog opens, enable Maximize Compatibility and click OK.

8.  Back in After Effects CS4, select the My Comps folder. Choose File > Import > File and select the PSD file you saved above. (Our version is saved as Lesson 08 > 08_Sources > 3D > TV clock.psd.) After clicking Open, a second dialog will appear. Make sure that the Import Kind popup is set to Composition – Cropped Layers, and that the Live Photoshop 3D option is enabled. Then click OK. Two items will be created in My Comps: a folder and a composition named after your file. Double-click the comp to open it.

9.  In the Timeline panel, you will see four layers:

  • Background is a white solid filling the frame; you can delete it.
  • TV is the layer that contains a plug-in which is rendering the 3D model. If you applied a movie as a texture to the TV screen, the layer’s duration will be truncated to match. You can apply more effects to this layer, as well as alter its Opacity.
  • TV Controller is a null object that controls the position and orientation of the layer. Twirl it open to reveal its Transform properties; edit or keyframe these to move the 3D model.
  • Camera 1 is a normal After Effects 3D camera. Use the Camera tools to move it around your 3D model. If you assigned a movie to the TV’s screen, move the current time indicator and note how the image updates. 3D models are a bit slow to work with, but the possibilities are quite interesting!
Page  216 adding dimension to stills

Dimensional Stills
In this final exercise, you will learn how to re-create a look popularized by the film The Kid Stays in the Picture. The underlying trick requires editing a still photograph so that some of its elements are on separate layers. These layers are then spread out in Z space in After Effects. Animate a camera around these layers, and they will appear to move in relation to each other. First we’ll show you how to set up this comp, then how to prepare your own images to exploit this technique.

1.  Save your project. Close all previous comps by selecting Close All from the Comp panel’s dropdown menu. You will be building this comp from scratch, starting with the layered still image file. (If you want to see where we’re headed, play Finished Movies > 09-Faux Dimension.mov.)

2.  In the Project panel, select the My Comps folder. Navigate to the 08_Sources folder – it should be in the same place as this lesson’s project file. Open it, and single-click Samoan scene.psd to select it. This is a layered Photoshop file we already prepared for you. Set the Import As popup to Composition – Cropped Layers and click Open. A second dialog will open with additional options; just click OK.

3.  Your My Comps folder will open; inside of it will be a comp and a folder named Samoan scene. Double-click the comp Samoan scene to open it. It will initially be as large as the original image. Set the Magnification to Fit up to 100%.

4.  Open the Composition Settings dialog. Change the Preset popup to the format you are currently working in, such as NTSC DV. Set the Duration to 05:00, edit the comp’s name if you like, and click OK.

5.  Time to array the layers in 3D space. You can delete layer 6, as it’s a copy of the original unaltered image, and you won’t be needing it for your move.

  • Type Control + A to Select All. Enable the 3D Layer switch for any one layer, and it will be enabled for all selected layers.
  • Type “P” to reveal Position for the selected layers, then deselect them (so you don’t accidentally edit more than one at a time!). A good starting point is to leave the background at Z = 0 to keep it more or less stable, as this is where a camera’s Point of Interest defaults to. Then move the other layers 10 to 50 pixels apart from each other and toward you in Z so they will multiplane as you move the camera. For example, set the Z Position for left pole to –25, pot+wall to –50, foreground pole to –75, and man to –100 (you can always edit these later).

6.  Add a Layer > New > Camera. Use the 50mm preset for a starting point. To speed up rendering, leave Enable Depth of Field off and click OK. Type “P” to reveal the camera’s Position property and scrub its Z value to the left (larger negative numbers to back away from your 3D layers) until you see more of the image – but not so far that you see its edges!

7.  Select the Orbit Camera tool and drag around in the Comp panel – you will now see a multiplane effect between the layers of this still image. Don’t drag so far that you see the edges of the layers, or doubled-up images from the layers behind (see the sidebar on the next page). If you find this tricky, you may need to reduce the camera’s Angle of View: Select the camera, type Shift + A A to reveal its Camera Options in addition to its Position, increase Zoom, then adjust the camera’s Z Position to compensate. Tweak the spacing between the layers and animate a camera move. Our version is in Comps_Finished > 09-Faux Dimension_final. We also animated Tint applied to an Adjustment Layer to transition the background layers from color to grayscale, emphasizing the man as the focal point of the shot. As a final touch, we set the man layer to Orient Towards Camera to reduce distortion.

Page  218 editing stills for 3D

Cutting Up Stills

To re-create the “Kid Stays in the Picture” technique with your own sources, you need to do some file preparation beforehand:

The best sources have a few clearly defined objects that were originally different distances from the camera. They can overlap each other, but keep in mind that you will need to rebuild any portions of an object that are obscured by another object. Generic backgrounds such as walls and nature are fairly easy to fake. Detailed objects, such as someone’s face, are much harder to rebuild convincingly. Your initial file needs to be larger than your final output format. This will give you more pixels to work with when you perform masking and cloning. The added resolution will also give you more freedom to zoom in on the image without worrying about the quality degrading.

Decide what program you are most comfortable cutting apart objects in. Many use Paths in Photoshop for this. We’re just as comfortable using the mask tools in After Effects. Start with the original image as your first layer, then make a duplicate layer for each object. For Samoan scene, this meant a layer for the man, two for the wooden poles, one for the wall behind the man with a pot on it, and one for the rest of the background. Use masks or paths to cut out each object on its own layer. Make sure the path is just inside the object’s outline; you don’t want to see a fringe of what’s behind it. When an object is partially obscured, you are going to have to make a guess as to what the shape of the original object might have been. Feather the edges of your shapes based on how sharp or soft their outlines are. The background layer does not need cutting out. Our masking efforts are contained in this lesson’s project file, in Comps_Finished > 09-Samoan cut-up. Solo each layer to see the corresponding shape. For the man layer, we used two mask paths: a hard-edged one for his body, then a softly feathered one for his hair. To continue working on this file in Photoshop, we then used Composition > Save Frame As > Photoshop Layers.

Finally, decide which program you are most comfortable cloning in. Again, Photoshop is a popular choice (and what we used for this exercise), but you could also use the paint and clone tools in After Effects. Your first task is reconstructing any bits of your layers that were obscured by another object. In Samoan scene, we had to rebuild the pot, fan, and wall that were obscured by the pole in front of them. The Lock Transparent Pixels feature in Photoshop’s Layers panel (above) came in handy to make sure we didn’t accidentally paint outside our masked shapes.

Your second task is cloning the foreground objects out of your background layer. You don’t need to clone out every last pixel – just around the edges. The rest will hopefully be obscured behind the foreground layers. The more you plan to move the camera, however, the more you need to clone. It is not unusual to set up an animation in After Effects, then find you have to go back into Photoshop to perform additional clean-ups.


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Instructor for Graphic Design 71