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One of the really great things about working in a post processing and compositing application like AfterEffects, is the ability to apply effects, like depths of field and glow, that are doable but render intensive in 3ds Max, and to do it very interactively. I rendered out my EXR sequence for the beauty pass with Z depth. And I'm going to actually show how to go into 3DS Max and extract that out. We do have 3D extractors here in after effects. But sometimes a straight loo my image, a gray scale of that depth, works better in a camera lens blur for depth of field.
Here in 3DS Max, I'll go in my menus and choose rendering and view media file. I'll open up the beauty image and extract that z def by showing it and then saving it. We can do this with a still or with an animation if we need. Opening it, comparing it, and saving out a selected piece. And this way, we're converting it from a buffer, in this case a g buffer or a zdef buffer, and making it simply an rgb image that may be easier to read and deal with. In the view file dialog, I'll select the Lobby Day BT, which is my exr for the beauty pass.
In here I'll click open, and in the open x r configuration I'll choose channel views by layer and choose z depth. And this way instead of viewing the r g b I'm actually viewing the layer of z depth in that image. I'll click open and there's the z depth in that e x r. Now, I can simply save this out. Clicking on the save button, and saving it as an image just RGBA, like a targa for example. I'll call this Lobby Z depth, and in the formats I'll choose, targa, this way I'm converting that Z buffer to RGB, and it's an easier read in After Effects.
I'll click save and save it out as a 24 bit image. I don't really need an alpha channel in this case because I'm viewing a solid wall. If you are dealing in a shot that requires an alpha, make it a 32 bit. I'll click okay and go and import this into after effects to apply some depth of field. Back here in After Effects, I'll go to the project tab, double click in the project window to import footage, and select that Z Depth. Then, I'll click Import. And, if it's a sequence, it will show as a targa sequence. Now that, that's in, I'll drag it down on to my timeline.
Pulling it down underneath my other buffers and turning it off. For depth of field then, I want to apply it to the whole composition. My various color corrected and ambient occlusion layers that all sit together here in this comp. I'll turn on the occlusion and the par t volume. Click on the par t volume and choose Layer, New, and Adjustment Layer. An adjustment layer in After Effects, as the name implies, adjusts everything, in this case, everything below it, so I'll apply my depth of field on the adjustment layer, and it'll effect all of the composed layers underneath.
Now, in the adjustment layer, I'll right-click and choose Effect, and. Blur and sharpen and camera lens blur. In CS6, Adobe renamed lens blur to camera lens blur to give a better indication of what it does. With a camera lens blur selected, the first thing to do is to choose where that depth is coming from. I'll pull the timeline down just a little bit, and here under blur map by layer I'll choose lobbyzdepth.tga. It's simply taking that grayscale as a straight Z depth from the scene.
It's reading it by the luminance. Although we have choice zen here as to what channel we're using. Because its a grayscale we could use red or green or blue. But I'll just leave it at luma for now. Then we can play with the blur focal distance. I'll slide this out, ranging between zero and 255. And this pushes back and forth where that focal plane sits. If you need you can always invert the blur map. If you find for example you want something focused that's far away and everything else in the foreground to blur.
By checking that, we can see that the far door is in focus but the bench and the foreground is blurred out. I'll flip this back and pull that focal distance back just a little bit so more of my scene comes in focus. Once we've got that blur focal distance set, in this case looking at the stairs and letting the back wall, back doors and upper floor just slightly blur, we can adjust the blur radius. I tend to pull mine down just a little bit in settings like this. Pulling it down to three, for example, so that nothing is excessively blurred, even if it's far back.
Many photographers prefer to shoot with a much shallower focus, where one object is in focus, and everything else blurs out into. Focus shapes, even. For a place like this, because we're trying to show off the design, we want everything more or less in focus. And so we want to keep that blur fairly minimal. Just a little suggestion of blur in the really far back objects will do. If you'd like to play with highlight gain and threshold, you can. Although I have enough gain here in the highs that I'm going to leave it alone. This will actually start to bloom and blow out different spots.
Lastly, if you do need a Bokeh blur, for example you've got sparkling points of light on a tree outside or something similar. You can bring that in the Iris properties, playing with the shape, and also choosing the roundness and the aspect. Because this has generally one large area here of brightness, and nothing really sparkly that should blow out in a distinct shape such as a hexagon, I'm going to leave that alone. The neat thing with Zdepth thing is you can animate it. If you're working in a sequence for example. You can turn on the stopwatch next to the focal distance, and key that blur focal distance to keep pace.
For example as the camera goes up the stairs. You can use it to really point out neat features in the architecture. Making sure that the audience's attention is focused on things that you want them to see.
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