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Adding a 2D background

From: After Effects Apprentice 15: Creating a Sports Opening Title

Video: Adding a 2D background

I like how my 3D world looks, but frankly, my world is looking a bit empty, particularly here at the very start of the composition, because there is a lot of black space and very little going on. I could try to create a very large background in 3D that pans along with the camera, but frankly that will take quite a large layer, and it might take a little while to render. Another trick many people use is they'll just go ahead and put 2D backgrounds behind their 3D worlds. If it's fairly indistinct and don't have a lot of recognizable objects or a lot of perspective, you can get away with it.

Adding a 2D background

I like how my 3D world looks, but frankly, my world is looking a bit empty, particularly here at the very start of the composition, because there is a lot of black space and very little going on. I could try to create a very large background in 3D that pans along with the camera, but frankly that will take quite a large layer, and it might take a little while to render. Another trick many people use is they'll just go ahead and put 2D backgrounds behind their 3D worlds. If it's fairly indistinct and don't have a lot of recognizable objects or a lot of perspective, you can get away with it.

So in this case, I am going to go back to my Project panel, and since I already have the sound of thunder in my sound track, I went ahead and found some more lightning for my background. I have this horizontal lightning movie that I've also picked up. I'll go up to 100%, play through so you can see what it looks like. And that's a lot of fun. Very active lighting. Nice wide horizontal look to it. Might work well in a widescreen composition. So I am going to go back to my Main Comp, select my Horizontal Lightning, and drag it to the very bottom here, so it goes behind all of my layers.

I'll drag it so I can start to see some lightning, there we go. And here is my problem. It's a piece of 4x3 video, and I'm creating a widescreen composition. Well, there is a couple of ways of making it fill out your screen. One is to where I click, choose Transform and say Fit to Comp Width. That's where I am falling short. And this will scale it up by the precise amount needed to match the width of this composition, and we'll also scale up the height accordingly by the exact same amounts. Normally, I don't like scaling over 100%, but for indistinct backgrounds like this, you can get away with it.

Now if you are worried that you're scaling up too much, and if it is something fairly indistinct like lightning where you cannot tell that the Aspect Ratio may not be quite right, you can get away with saying Transform just Fit to Comp. This will keep it 100% in the height and just stretch the width as necessary to fit. This results in a slightly sharper background. However, if you have anything recognizable back there, something that's supposed to be a circle--people's heads, cars whatever--you're going to tell them the Aspect Ratio is wrong.

Lightning, I can get away with. Okay, there is my lightning, but it's blue and the rest of my world is kind of this red dirt color. I could go for this contrasting color, or I could go ahead and make things blend together. I am going to go for the blending approach. So with my horizontal lightning selected, I'll choose Effect > Color Correction > Tritone. Tritone keeps your black and white points intact and changes just the midrange colors, and now eyedropper--a nice bright color from my video.

And now I have lightning that matches in with the rest of my world. Now this lightning is a bit bright. You'll notice that even when nothing is going on, I still have a fairly bright background. So I am going to follow this with Effect > Color Correction > Levels and bring up my black point to knock that out. And again, if you're using an older version of After Effects, you might see only a black and white histogram. This is one of the little improvements they made in a later version where you actually got R, G, and B separately displayed in the levels histogram, kind of nice.

And you go ahead and bring it up to make your world black in the background. If you feel like you are just back to where you started, with black and nothing back there, you can go ahead and back this off a little bit to get a little bit of a haze. Then play with the Gamma to go ahead and create a blend between lights and darks that you want. I am going a little bit later to where lightning is present and use Gamma to dial in the look that I like. How much glow in essence is thrown in that lightning. Let's go ahead and look at a couple of different frames here. There is another good lightning hit, like there.

I don't want my core to get too soft. So I am going to bring down my white point, to make the core more solid, then play around with the Gamma to get the amount of glow that I want. I think that looks pretty good. That was before and after, much more intense now.

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This video is part of

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  1. 3m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 39s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 17m 38s
    1. Building the grid floor
      8m 48s
    2. Creating a radar sweep
      5m 13s
    3. Adding lightning
      3m 37s
  3. 14m 18s
    1. Building the video panel
      4m 34s
    2. Using the Block Dissolve effect
      3m 52s
    3. Stylizing the footage
      2m 15s
    4. Duplicating precomps
      3m 37s
  4. 21m 22s
    1. Importing Illustrator files
      5m 47s
    2. Working with paths and masks
      4m 54s
    3. Animating the Stroke effect
      4m 20s
    4. Tinting the event names
      2m 42s
    5. Wiggling the rings
      3m 39s
  5. 33m 35s
    1. Starting a new composition
      1m 48s
    2. Spotting music
      5m 55s
    3. Building the floor
      5m 27s
    4. Adding a video panel
      3m 40s
    5. Creating a reflection
      7m 47s
    6. Adding the dial
      4m 7s
    7. Arranging the frame
      4m 51s
  6. 9m 22s
    1. Setting up the final pose
      4m 28s
    2. Keyframing the camera
      4m 54s
  7. 14m 39s
    1. Adding a text layer
      5m 16s
    2. Using text animation presets
      3m 16s
    3. Customizing the preset
      6m 7s
  8. 6m 56s
    1. Adding a Spot light
      3m 41s
    2. Casting shadows
      3m 15s
  9. 12m 7s
    1. Improving consistency
      2m 43s
    2. Adding a 2D background
      4m 29s
    3. Tying up loose ends
      4m 55s
  10. 20m 37s
    1. Overview of Main Comp 2
      3m 32s
    2. Grouping layers
      4m 39s
    3. Animating the swivel
      9m 2s
    4. Assembling the final comp
      3m 24s
  11. 25m 56s
    1. Adding a transition
      7m 0s
    2. Keyframing the camera
      3m 20s
    3. Adding a filmic glow
      4m 0s
    4. Increasing the motion blur
      4m 2s
    5. Retiming a video source
      7m 34s
  12. 13m 4s
    1. Exploring render settings
      2m 48s
    2. Outputting for archiving
      1m 15s
    3. Outputting anamorphic widescreen DV
      1m 57s
    4. Creating a 4:3 center-cut version
      2m 31s
    5. Outputting for web
      2m 23s
    6. Exploring components for editors
      2m 10s
  13. 12m 49s
    1. Creating the inner ring
      5m 19s
    2. Creating the outer ring
      3m 9s
    3. Creating the text ring
      4m 21s

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