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Using environmental layers inside of After Effects is another way that you can add a sense of realism to your 3D objects. A lot of people refer to the results of using an environmental layer as environmental mapping, which is why we're calling this environmental maps. The way it works, you can create an environment that will then in turn reflect in your three-dimensional objects, and it's a very straight forward process to creating an environmental map. You can basically turn any layer into one. To give you an example, let's double- click the Project panel and navigate in your exercise files.
We want to go to the Footage folder and in here let's go to the Stills folder and choose the Solar_Sky.jpg. Let's open that and drag it down into our composition. Now I'm just dragging it down to the bottom above my shadow catcher just because that's where I'd like it to be. With this going in here, you can see, okay, it's got sky, if we look up here at the preview, it's got sky and solar panels and all kinds of interesting things. To make this an environmental map, what you want to do is right-click on the layer and then go up to Environment Layer.
When we select Environment Layer, you'll get this thing that looks like a basketball icon and that's just letting us know that this will now be used as an environmental layer. So if we open the options for Layer 7, notice we only have options. When we open that, there is an option to Appear in Reflections On which is exactly what we want. We want the reflections to mimic the sky. But if you click that one more time, you could see Appears in Reflections Only. We didn't see it in the scene beforehand because we do have this shadow catcher layer, since we set Appears in Reflections Only.
Now let's scroll in so we can see the magnification a little more closely. Now that we're closer into a logo, let's scroll up and select our Shapes Outlines. Press AA to open up its Geometry and Material Options. There we go! In order to have this be seen by reflections, we need actually add some intensity to our reflections. Notice Reflection Intensity is set to 0. So let's change this to about 75 and set that.
If we wait for a second, you should see the reflections appearing in the sides of our Shape layer. So hold on one second here and we'll let it render. Now you can see it's created a very shiny, metallic look. You can decrease the Sharpness if you want to blur this out a little bit, or if we orbit it around with the camera, you could see this on the face a little more clearly. Reflection Rolloff is an interesting setting. You can crank this up if you want the reflection to decrease over time, sort of like shadow feathering as it moves away from an object. Now let's move on.
Instead of using this environmental map for our logo, let's use one that would match our final composite. So double-click in the Project panel and navigate through your exercise files once again to the Footage folder, and in here, let's open the Video folder. In the Video folder, there's our QuickTime that we're going to have on the back of our composite called Desk_1080. Let's choose that and click Open. And to add this to our comp, we can just drag it down just above Layer 8 and right-click on it and choose Environment Layer.
As I'm looking at this, you can see in the layer, it does not exist the entire length of my composition. Environment layers are just like cameras, in the fact that you can have more than one in a composition. Whichever layer is higher in the layer hierarchy is going to be the one that ends up getting rendered. If you're waiting a long time for your renders to happen, sometimes you can just press Caps Lock and that will stop the refresh of the scene up here. That'll also allow you to navigate around in your comp and make changes to parameters not having to worry about whether or not you can see an update.
So select Layer 8 and press O. I want to move to the end of that layer and press N because I want to reset my work area to only be as long as that one clip. I don't need it to be as long as the entire comp, again, because our final composite is going to just have this QuickTime as the background. If we look at the options for our material here, we need to make sure that Appears in Reflections is set to Only. So if it says On, toggle it to Only. Now finally, we can collapse Layer 8 and delete Layer 7 because we don't necessarily need that.
And if we turn off our Caps Lock, our scene will refresh, so you can see a little more clearly how the reflections in this specific layer are going to add to the realism of our logo once we create our final composite.
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