After Effects CS6 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Adjusting ray-tracing quality


After Effects CS6 Essential Training

with Ian Robinson

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Video: Adjusting ray-tracing quality

The Camera Tracker inside of Adobe After Effects is nothing short of amazing. It can analyze the footage and recreate a camera inside of After Effects to replicate the camera that you actually shot the footage with. This way you can insert any elements that you have created into the scene and make it look like they were actually there. To get started let's look at our footage. I'm going to press 0 and load up a RAM Preview and you can see that I have some rather shaky footage. And I did this as kind of a proof of concept.
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  1. 1m 8s
    1. What is After Effects?
      1m 8s
  2. 2m 53s
    1. Welcome
      1m 40s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 13s
  3. 1h 8m
    1. The six foundations of AE
      5m 3s
    2. Introducing the interface and the workspace
      7m 51s
    3. Understanding compositions
      8m 48s
    4. Getting comfortable with layers
      7m 33s
    5. Getting started with animation and keyframes
      8m 30s
    6. Understanding effects
      3m 26s
    7. Moving in 3D space
      7m 41s
    8. Rendering your first animation
      8m 20s
    9. Specifying preferences and cache settings
      5m 44s
    10. Staying organized
      5m 15s
  4. 38m 6s
    1. Creating compositions
      7m 19s
    2. Importing footage and compositions
      7m 54s
    3. Preparing compositions for animation
      8m 7s
    4. Introducing renderers
      3m 15s
    5. Understanding precomposing
      7m 16s
    6. Relinking missing footage
      4m 15s
  5. 59m 58s
    1. Defining layers
      6m 23s
    2. Creating type
      5m 58s
    3. Creating layer solids and shapes with masks
      7m 55s
    4. Building shape layers
      6m 17s
    5. Understanding switches and blend modes
      8m 26s
    6. Crafting custom shapes and masks
      6m 18s
    7. Creating variable-width feathered masks
      5m 1s
    8. Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
      8m 20s
    9. Refining with the Roto Brush
      5m 20s
  6. 1h 8m
    1. Understanding keyframes
      6m 1s
    2. Adding and adjusting keyframes
      9m 54s
    3. Interpolating keyframes
      8m 5s
    4. Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
      7m 17s
    5. Understanding positional keyframes
      7m 0s
    6. Controlling animation with parenting and the pick whip
      9m 57s
    7. Understanding animation paths
      6m 27s
    8. Timing to audio
      4m 41s
    9. Trimming and sliding edits
      5m 31s
    10. Swapping images
      4m 1s
  7. 29m 7s
    1. Layering multiple effects
      9m 13s
    2. Generating graphic effects with adjustment layers
      7m 28s
    3. Building backgrounds with effects
      6m 50s
    4. Creating animated strokes
      5m 36s
  8. 40m 16s
    1. Introducing cameras
      10m 3s
    2. Working with 3D layers
      6m 37s
    3. Positioning layers
      6m 13s
    4. Adding lights and working with Material Options
      9m 22s
    5. Using 3D precompositions
      2m 5s
    6. Adjusting depth of field
      5m 56s
  9. 28m 31s
    1. Caching and prerendering
      6m 33s
    2. Understanding the alpha channels
      5m 18s
    3. Using the Render Queue
      4m 34s
    4. Rendering with Adobe Media Encoder
      7m 15s
    5. Archiving finished projects
      4m 51s
  10. 44m 28s
    1. Creating type animators
      12m 17s
    2. Animating type in 3D space
      6m 35s
    3. Adding and animating type on a path
      8m 45s
    4. Composing 3D type
      8m 41s
    5. Animating shape layers
      8m 10s
  11. 32m 45s
    1. Creating stylized video
      6m 47s
    2. Retiming video footage
      9m 31s
    3. Retouching with the Rubber Stamp tool
      10m 19s
    4. Smoothing shaky camera footage
      6m 8s
  12. 14m 20s
    1. Understanding keying
      3m 19s
    2. Creating a garbage mask
      4m 27s
    3. Getting started with Keylight
      6m 34s
  13. 15m 57s
    1. Importing Photoshop documents
      6m 11s
    2. Importing Illustrator files
      4m 25s
    3. Working With Premiere Pro projects
      5m 21s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Adjusting ray-tracing quality
      8m 19s
    2. Tracking footage
      8m 16s
    3. Extruding shapes
      8m 40s
    4. Bending layers
      8m 39s
    5. Adjusting ray-traced lighting and materials
      9m 22s
    6. Adding environment maps
      4m 58s
    7. Beginning compositing
      8m 52s
    8. Creating render passes
      10m 17s
    9. Building a final composite
      8m 14s
  15. 1m 8s
    1. What's next
      1m 8s

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Watch the Online Video Course After Effects CS6 Essential Training
8h 41m Beginner May 07, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, author Ian Robinson introduces Adobe After Effects CS6 and the world of animation, effects, and compositing. Chapter 1 introduces the six foundations of After Effects, which include concepts like layers, keyframes, rendering, and moving in 3D space. The rest of the course expands on these ideas, and shows how to build compositions with layers, perform rotoscoping, animate your composition with keyframes, add effects and transitions, and render and export the finished piece. Two real-world example projects demonstrate keying green screen footage and creating an advanced 3D composition with the expanded 3D toolset, an important addition to CS6.

Topics include:
  • Setting up the workspace, important preferences, and the cache
  • Importing footage and comps
  • Relinking missing footage
  • Creating type, shape layers, and masks
  • Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
  • Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
  • Timing animations to audio
  • Building backgrounds with effects
  • Rendering with the Render Queue and Adobe Media Encoder
  • Animating 3D type
  • Smoothing shaky footage and retouching footage
  • Keying green screen footage
  • Working with 3D: extruding shapes, adding ray-traced lighting, and more
After Effects
Ian Robinson

Adjusting ray-tracing quality

The Camera Tracker inside of Adobe After Effects is nothing short of amazing. It can analyze the footage and recreate a camera inside of After Effects to replicate the camera that you actually shot the footage with. This way you can insert any elements that you have created into the scene and make it look like they were actually there. To get started let's look at our footage. I'm going to press 0 and load up a RAM Preview and you can see that I have some rather shaky footage. And I did this as kind of a proof of concept.

I went out and shot this with my iPhone and I wanted it to be shaky, because I wanted to see just how powerful this Camera Tracker could be. So I'm going to press Home and apply the Camera Tracker. Now there are multiple ways you can apply the tracker. First way, if you right-click on the layer you can choose Track Camera. When this happens you will see this blue bar that pops-up and in the upper left corner of your Effects control you will get a status update as to how the progress is going as it's analyzing the footage trying to figure out where the camera was.

You could also go up under Effects and go to Perspective > 3D Camera Tracker to apply one, or you could go to the Animation menu and choose Track Camera. Once this has finished analyzing what's going on in the scene, I'll jump back in here and show you what we've come up with. All right, so you can see now it's actually solving the camera and then you will see these little things on the screen that look like, I don't know, Rainbow Brite crosshairs. They're really cool, because they actually track pieces of data in the scene based on where they are in relation to the camera.

So for example, if I scrub through my timeline, notice how all of these little elements stay where they supposedly were created within the scene. I know it's a little jarring as I keep moving my mouse over these crosshairs, because you keep seeing this big red target-looking thing. That's exactly what this is. It's a target. So as we move throughout the scene, here let me zoom in so you can it a little more clearly, notice I have a triangle that gets created as I'm moving around. What After Effects is doing is triangulating between at least three points to create an angle, or a plane, that we could use as reference for placing elements in the scene.

So if I zoom back out here, let's see if we can place something a little over here on the left-hand side. Notice between these three points, this is exactly what I'm looking for. The target is aligned with the edge of the ground and it looks like it's accurate in terms of its angle. You can choose to activate crosshairs just by moving your mouse, or if you left-click and drag you can actually select a bunch of crosshairs. Notice I'm drawing a lasso like that. Notice the more I select, the more it gives me some different perspectives.

Here let's choose over here, in the lower right, I'm going to drag a lasso around all these and you can see, okay, that's quite not what I'm looking for, right? So if you want to deselect some of the points you can hold down Command or Ctrl on the PC and as you deselect points you can use that to figure out, okay, am I getting closer, closer, closer, you get the idea. As you deselect you can get closer or further away, heaven forbid, from what you're looking for. Honestly, as I move my mouse around, you can see, okay, I think the three-point versions are what's going to give me the most accurate track.

So let's come back over here to these three points and right-click. Now when you right-click, you have some options. The first four options are highlighted here or we could delete the selected points. Well I definitely don't want to delete these. So let's look at these four options. The first one, we can Create Text and a Camera. This is what we're going to do right now so you can see exactly what it's like when you insert an element in the scene. But these other two Solid and Camera and Null and Camera, these are just kind of personal preference.

I like working with Solids, because I can set the interactivity between the solid and the background layer and get a better idea as to what's going on in the scene, but some people like using a Null and a Camera, because Null Objects are very flexible and you don't have to worry about whether they get rendered into the scene if you want to render what you're looking at. This last one, Shadow Catcher, Camera and Light, we will get to that later on in the chapter, but basically it's when you're trying to create a 3D composite and really make something look like it's in the scene.

So for right now let's choose Create Text and Camera. Notice we have text in the scene and it's been placed, and look in our composition. We have a Camera and we have Text. Well let's select the Camera and press the U key, and notice I have just a few keyframes. There is Position, Orientation, and Zoom. Now what's interesting, as I'm looking at the Zoom, you can see when we scrub, check it out, the Zoom parameter is never changing.

That has to do with the setting we used in the Camera Tracker by default. So if we select Layer 3 and come back up under the Camera Tracker, look at the Shot Type option. When I click on the pulldown, it's set for a Fixed Angle of View. This is great, because it already figured out that I was using a camera that had a lens that was at a fixed focal length. If you're using a zoom lens, After Effects would have probably switched to Variable Zoom. If it didn't, you could always come here and specify that, and then this last one is to Specify an Angle of View if you know that the scene just doesn't look quite right in terms of what you're looking at.

You can specify the Angle of View if you wanted to save some time, you could just choose the Angle of View for your individual lens. I'll show you how to figure out your own Angle of View later on in the chapter. So let's select our text here and as you can see it has an anchor point. Now if we press U on the text layer, notice there are no keyframes. There are no keyframes, because all of the position data is determined by our camera in the scene. Notice since layer 1 is inhabiting 3D space, as we scrub through the timeline, it looks like it's stuck in the scene.

Now this text is rather large for what I'm looking for, so let's double-click on the text layer and open up our Character control panel. In here we could change the size down a little bit. Let's change it to around 10 pixels. That's great, and I'll deselect just by clicking down in the bottom of the timeline, reselect layer 1 and press R for Rotation and Orientation. We just need to flip this up on its X axis. So we can change the X Rotation to 90 and press Tab, and now it's flipped up in the scene and since it is kind of off at a slight angle here, we can look at adjusting the Y Rotation and the Z Rotation. There we go! Now that it looks like it's a little closer into the scene in terms of what we're looking at, it's sitting over the rock.

If you want to move this to a different point, don't move the position. Press A to select your anchor point, because that way our point that was tracked will stay in its place, and if we just slide on the X axis, we can move our text out of the way. Let's see what we've got in our scene. I'm going to press Home and zero on the keypad to lit up a RAM Preview. Let's hit the Spacebar just so we can see the first couple of seconds, and as you could see, this is tracked remarkably well and obviously we haven't added any shadows or texture or color or anything like that for the time being.

But this is stuck in the scene and it is moving quite nicely. There's one last little thing we could for polish. If we stop playback here, we can select layer 1 and enable Motion Blur. If you click on that switch in the timeline and then make sure it's enabled here in the top of the timeline, we can press Home to move our playhead to the beginning and press 0 to load up a RAM Preview. Okay, I think that's enough. I'm going to hit the Spacebar so we can check it out, and now you can see there is motion blur.

I don't know about you, but I think that looks pretty cool even if our text literally just says Text.

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