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This installment of the After Effects Apprentice series introduces 3D space in Adobe After Effects. Authors Chris and Trish Meyer highlight key design considerations for working in 3D and provide step-by-step instructions for enhancing a scene with 3D lights and cameras. The course explores integration between Photoshop and After Effects, including modeling 3D objects with Repoussé extrusions and creating dimensional still images, and offers tips on using the different Axis Modes and maintaining maximum quality in 3D. There's also a chapter dedicated to the ray-traced 3D renderer, introduced in After Effects CS6, which allows you to build 3D layers into your composites, with realistic motion blur, depth of field, and reflections.
The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com library.
Now that you know how to use the Camera tools, both in the Active Camera View and in the orthographic and custom views, we can now focus on how to animate the camera. Quite often I like to work in the Top View and in the Left View, and I've already optimized both of these views so that I can see all of the layers and the camera inside the composition background. So now that we're set up, I'll press F10 to see my Top View, and I'll also just reset my Camera again, and let's start talking about how to animate.
Now, one thing you have to remember when you're using a Two-Node Camera, which has a Point of Interest, is that if you're going to move the Point of Interest and look at different areas of your scene, you will have to animate Point of Interest as well. Let me undo. It's a common mistake to turn on the stopwatch just for the camera's Position, but if you plan on changing the Point of Interest, don't forget to also enable the stopwatch for Point of Interest. Now, in this particular case I just like to orbit around my Point of Interest, I don't right now plan on editing it, so I'll turn off the stopwatch.
However, I will leave the Point of Interest visible, that way I can keep an eye on its value, just in case I accidentally change it by using one of the Camera tools. And I'll press C to jump to the Camera tool. I'll use the Orbit Camera tool to swing around the camera, so that it's looking at the layers from the right-hand side. Because I have the stopwatch enabled, that will be the value for the first keyframe. If I move later in time, let's say about 2 seconds, and then I use the Orbit Camera tool to swing around to look at the layers from another point of view, it may appear in the Active Camera View that I'm doing a very nice orbit, and this is kind of a gotcha, because what you see is not what you're going to get.
If you notice in the Top View, when I make my second keyframe where the camera is on the left-hand side, it's actually just remembering this position, and in between there is a Motion Path that's a straight line. I'll press V to return to the Selection tool, select the keyframe, and you notice it has two handles. When I was using the Orbit Camera tool, it appeared that the back of the camera was swinging in a nice arc, but in order to actually create that arc, you will need to pull the handles out and create that arc yourself.
And if you don't do that, let me just undo, what you'll actually end up with is a path that gets closer to the layers in the center of the animation. So again, this wasn't what I was seeing as I was swiveling around the Orbit Camera tool. One way to solve this problem is to make an Orbit Camera Rig, and I'll cover that in the next movie, but for now I'll just pull the handles out for both keyframes, and that should make for a nice smooth orbiting move. Remember you can also change the camera just by pulling the back of the camera in the Top View, or I could move the camera higher.
I'll press F11, and then I can drag the Y axis arrow. But this also moves the Point of Interest. I can check that's the case by watching its value change in the Timeline, but I haven't actually turned on the stopwatch for the Point of Interest. So when I return to time 0, my first keyframe looks completely different in the Active Camera View, and that's because the Point of Interest has been changed for the entire lens of the composition. So let me Undo and I'll remind you of a little shortcut.
If I want to raise the camera higher but leave the Point of Interest alone, I simply press the Command key on Mac, Ctrl key on Windows, and now I can look down at my scene, or I can come closer to my scene by pressing the Command key, the Point of Interest will not be changed. So have some fun. There is no right and wrong way to animate the camera, but it is important to look at the Motion Path from a couple of different views, because it's very hard to know what's going on with the layer if you only look at it from the Top View. So if you set up your shortcuts for F10 and F11, it's very easy to pop back and forth and check how those handles are looking.
If you have the project file, go ahead and open our finished version from the Comps_Finished folder. I'll RAM preview. Here you can see I have set a number of keyframes for Position. The first two keyframes move the camera very quickly and then there's about a second and a-half or so where it moves slowly, and then another 10 frames, where it does a quick swivel. Because Motion Blur is enabled for all the layers, you get that nice Swish Pan Effect any time the camera moves quickly. Now, in this case we only have Easy Ease In set for the last keyframe, but remember you can always go into the Graph Editor, select the Camera, and it will show you the Speed Graph for Position.
If it's not showing you the Speed Graph, just set it to Auto-Select Graph Type or select Speed Graph. And you can see that it's moving very quickly for the first 10 frames, and in the next section it's moving quite slowly, and then it moves very quickly for 10 frames and so on, and then at the end it slowly eases into the last keyframe. And if I wanted to round out some of the timing here, I could select all of the keyframes except for the last one, and pick the Convert selected keyframes to Auto Bezier.
Now we'll just round out the hard edges so that the animation is not quite so jarring. So don't forget to go into the Graph Editor and check it out, as well as check out some of the handles on the Motion Path, you might find, like this Position here, that the handles are maybe not optimized as well as they could be. I'll leave you with another variation from the Idea Corner folder. Here we took the same elements, but animated the individual parts of the logo. Remember you know how to animate layers and you know how to animate the camera, so there's no reason why you couldn't combine those two techniques.
In the next movie, I'll show you how to Parent your camera to a Null Object as we set up a basic Orbit Camera Rig.
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