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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.
Finally, the payoff, after you've prepped your file inside Photoshop and have all these individual layers painted up as necessary and you've saved it as a layered PSD file, you can go back into After Effects, select the folder you want to import this into, such as My Comps, and do Command+I on Mac, Ctrl+I on Windows, select your file. If you've been working on your own version, select that and import it, if not, inside your Exercise Files, inside Sources, you'll see Samoan scene.psd.
This is the version that I cut up a few years ago when we did not have Content-Aware Fill and I only used the clone brush, and you'll see it's nowhere near as good as you can do with more recent version of Photoshop. There are reasons occasionally to upgrade, and Content-Aware Fill is one of them. Anyway, Open. I do indeed want a composition, I want to retain the layer sizes, earlier versions will say crop layers. Live Photoshop 3D doesn't matter to me, now I'll click OK. I have all my individual layers again and I have my Samoan scene as a composition in After Effects.
Now remember, I started with a source that was larger than my intended target. So I am going to go to Composition Settings and drop the size back down to my intended final render size. Let's just say I happen to be doing this for NTSC DV. I will click OK. All my layers look large right now, that's fine; that just gives me some more what I can do with the camera. And the next step is separating these layers in Z space, so I can have some fake dimension and depth. I am going to enable the 3D layer switch for all of these layers.
I don't need my original frame anymore, so I can even delete that layer and for that matter, I am not going to be doing any parenting, so I am going to right-click and say Hide This, just to buy myself some more space from the Timeline. I will quickly add a layer>New>Camera. In an earlier chapter in this lesson Trish explained these settings to you. I am going to go ahead and choose a shorter camera lens length, which will give me more exaggerated depth of field, and more payoff when I do my camera move. I will click OK.
I am going to select all my layers; Command+A or Ctrl+A, P to reveal their position and start thinking about their relative Z positions compared to each other. I can go ahead and back this camera up quite a bit to get more framing of this particular layer, maybe around there to start. The next thing I need to do is separate out these individual layers in Z space, so I can have some multi- planning and some illusion of dimension. To make that easier, I am going to switch to 2 Views, - Horizontal, keep one view on active camera, and set the other view to something such as Top, so I can see where the layers are in relation to each other.
Right now, they are all on the same plane, I am going to select the man, I am going to press C to get the Camera tools again, in this case I will go ahead and toggle through to the Z tool, so I can back off and see the entire layer, V for selection, and I will pull the man forward. Since I did not do a great job cloning that background layer, I am not going to pull him too far forward, because you see I just reveal what's left of them in the scene behind. I am just going to pull him about 75 to 100 units forward, just to get a little bit of separation.
Select the foreground pole, click on its Z axis arrow and drag it towards almost even with the man, choose the pot and wall, put it close to the back of that pole, so I can replicate the real dimension of the scene and the left pole is much more in the background. I am only going to pull it away a little bit from that background. Now that I have some Z separation in the scene, I can select my camera and start moving it around to get some fake dimension in the scene.
Since I happen to have a One-Node camera to start with, I can go ahead and pan back and forth, give some multi-planning. You can see how that forward pole is moving across the pole behind it, or I can double-click the camera, back to Camera Settings, switch back to a Two-Node Camera, which is my personal favorite, click OK. Now I can animate the back of the camera, as well as where the camera is pointed. That gives me a lot more options in how I animate this scene. At this point, go ahead and have some fun and keyframe a camera move on this scene, a little bit later in time, change our focus a little bit, maybe pull the camera back a little bit, and if you want, you can even animate things such as the position of the man.
I will start him back in the scene, and as I go later on time, I might pull him forward a little bit. Again, making sure I don't accidentally reveal a copy of him in the background, but looks like I have got it well hidden here. So now here is an example of my camera move and multi-planning and pulling the guy forward in the scene. If you want to see another example of this, you can go back to the Faux Dimension_final comp that we saw earlier inside the Comps_Finished folder, and in addition to animating the camera, and animating the man, I also had an adjustment layer, Type U to reveal its keyframes, changing the tint of the scene.
Remember, everything below an adjustment layer is affected by that layer, everything above is left alone. This allows me to isolate the man from all of the objects behind him. You can either que up a RAM Preview or just go to Finished Movies>Faux Dimension and play that back, and you will see that in addition to a camera move around the scene, with a bit of multi-planning, you have the man pulling forward and then the adjustment layer is animating tint effect, faded the rest of the background layers, the black and white to further put focus on this man here in the foreground, and that's the dimensional still technique.
It's particularly useful if you were just given historical photos where no video existed; there's also become something that people like to use in its own right. It's very time consuming, but it's another trick you now know how to do, and with that, you now have a pretty good idea of how to handle 3D in After Effects, so you can add more dimension to your animations.
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