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One of my favorite things to do in 3D compositions is to add a 3D light, because interplay of light and particularly shadows can really help raise the production value of the scene. So with my Main Comp selected, let's go ahead and add a Layer > New > Light. The Light Settings dialog remembers the last light you edited, so you don't know what this is going to be at. I am going to create a Spot light, and indeed my Light Type has been set to Spot. That's good. I usually start with the color of white and maybe bend the light very slightly to warm up or cold down the scene.
I find the lights quite often tend to under-illuminate scenes, just because it's hard to perfect the angle from the light to the layer back to the camera. So I'll often start with an Intensity above 100, like 120, 125, just to help the illumination. Let's have a basic Cone Angle of 90. You can edit this later. And a Cone Feather of 50 since I like nice vignetting in my scenes. A new feature in After Effects CS5.5 is a light falloff parameter. Rather than feather, which is what happens around the edges of a light, falloff has to do with distance, how does the light get weaker the further objects are away.
In this case, I want everyone to be illuminated pretty brightly, so I am going to leave Falloff set to None. However, something that is important is I do want to cast shadows. If shadows aren't working, this is one of the things you need to check to make sure it's enabled. I almost never use Shadows of 100%. They're just too dense and too dark. I want it to be a fairly subtle improvement to the scene rather than being very obvious. So I'll set this to 40 and set Shadow Diffusion to a fairly high number like 20 to give me nice soft shadows. Again, you can change these later.
I'll click OK, and there is my light. You will notice immediately that my floor has become a lot less illuminated. To see that floor, I would need to put the light up above the floor aiming down at it. However, I want to be able to cast shadows from layers onto the layers behind. So I suspect I am going to have a fairly low lighting angle. You could add another light just to come down on the floor to illuminate it or a really good trick is to choose the Radar layer, type AA to reveal its 3D specific parameters and say just don't accept lights, keep your original illumination.
Notice that I am still accepting shadows, I am just not accepting the light itself. I'll twirl that back up for now. Now the next thing I am going to do to make my light easier to position and control is to set this Point of Interest to a good focal point. In this case, I'm particularly concerned about the text and casting shadows from the text under the video layer behind. I can go ahead and set up multiple views and start playing around with choosing the side view, picking a good place to put the light like right here on the text layer, or I can cheat. I can take the text layer, type P to reveal its position, copy it, go to my light, type P to reveal its position and Shift+A to reveal its Point of Interest, this point I was manipulating.
Select that parameter to target it and paste, and now my Point of Interest is centered on that text and bright at its feet. It's going to make it easier for me to go ahead and swivel this slide around later to reposition how my shadows fall. And speaking of shadows, let's tackle those in the next movie.
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