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3D Axis Arrows

From: After Effects CS4: Apprentice's Guide to Key Features

Video: 3D Axis Arrows

We have a running joke about 3D. It is called 3D because everything takes three times as long. Well, moving or rotating can be one of those examples. Fortunately, there is a set of tools called Access Arrows to make that a little bit easier in After Effects. For example, here I have a text layer, Enter a New. And normally in 2D, I just pick it up and I drag it around. But watch what happens when I enable its 3D Layer Switch. When I turn it on, this layer suddenly grows a set of arrows in the Composition panel. These are the Access Arrows. They are color coded, so the RGB, Red, Green, and Blue, equal the X, the Y and the Z dimensions. If you hover your cursor over one of these arrows to where the access letter appears such as X, your dragging will be constrained in just that dimension, such as X. Y.

3D Axis Arrows

We have a running joke about 3D. It is called 3D because everything takes three times as long. Well, moving or rotating can be one of those examples. Fortunately, there is a set of tools called Access Arrows to make that a little bit easier in After Effects. For example, here I have a text layer, Enter a New. And normally in 2D, I just pick it up and I drag it around. But watch what happens when I enable its 3D Layer Switch. When I turn it on, this layer suddenly grows a set of arrows in the Composition panel. These are the Access Arrows. They are color coded, so the RGB, Red, Green, and Blue, equal the X, the Y and the Z dimensions. If you hover your cursor over one of these arrows to where the access letter appears such as X, your dragging will be constrained in just that dimension, such as X. Y.

This little blue thing is actually a Blue Arrow coming straight at you. Z, closer to you and further away. If I change to one of the Custom view, so you can see it from an angle, you can see that Z a bit easier. It is dragging towards you and then further away. I will go back the Active Camera for now. If you want to freely move this layer, you need to put the cursor close to these Access Arrows, but not to the point where you see a letter. Just off of it like right there and now, you can go ahead and freely move it in whatever dimension you like. Now, along with changing the position, you could also rotate based on these Access Arrows. I will go open to my Tool panel and select the Rotation tool.

Shortcut key is W for Wotate, and now you will see I've got a little Rotation Icon and again, Y rotation, X rotation, and Z rotation. Again, if I want to freely rotate in any dimension, I need to get to where I am close, but not quite where I am seeing any of the Access Letters, and now I can freely rotate the layer around. I press V to return to my normal Selection tool, where I can go ahead and drag the position.

Now, you do not need to use the Access Arrows. You can still reveal parameters on the Timeline, such as P for Position and R for Rotation and then just directly scrub the values in the Timeline panel such as the Orientation, Rotation, and your different dimensions. But if you are in interactive type, these Access Arrows allow you to go ahead and directly grab a layer in 3D and move it around constraining the dimensions as you like or freely dragging around if you like.

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