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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.
As of After Effect CS6, the default bevel style is none, so you just get a straight, sharp, squared-off edge as you extrude your layers. However, it's far more interesting to choose a bevel style that will add a little bit of taper to these edges, and also kick off light in interesting ways. The simplest type of bevel is an angular bevel that just cuts off parts of the edges. And you can immediately see how these beveled edges are catching this light and kicking it off at a brighter angle than the sides or face. This of course will change as you move the light around your scene.
You can increase the Bevel Depth to create a wider bevel, but be warned that Bevel Depth is added on to the dimensions of the faces of your layer. The more that you increase Bevel Depth, the larger your objects become, and they may start to collide into each other. Quite often you'll want to stick with either smaller Bevel Depths, which I think look a bit more elegant anyway, or you might need to set up your type layer to, say, not use quite as fat of a font or to have more tracking, more spacing in between the characters.
In the case of Bevel Depth you do have independent control to make the holes beveled less than the outside edges. In some fonts it's quite common if what are called counters, the inside holes are like this e or this d or other similar characters, to start to fill-in because of the bevel. You can scale down the bevel amount for those counters to be less than it is for the normal outside edges. You don't normally need to do this, but if you have a font with tight holes or counters it's another option to make things look a little bit cleaner and easier to read.
I'm going to reduce my bevel and I'm actually going to reduce my Extrusion Depth as well. It's a personal preference of mine, I tend like thinner, more elegant looks than really fat chunky bevels. I'll keep it little bit chunky here just you can see what I am doing. In addition to the Bevel Style of Angular you have two curved bevel types, Concave and Convex. Convex rounds the bevel outward. It's a nicely sanded, rounded off corner, so you get a more gentle light fall off from the faces through the bevels to the sides of your characters.
If you want something that has a bit more character and shows off these differences in lighting even more strongly, choose Concave. That scoops in the bevel rather then rounds it out. This gives you even more opportunity to kick off specular highlights, have a bit of shadowing, and have some interesting lighting changes across the faces of your beveled and extruded objects. And speaking of shadowing, I am going to temporarily increase this extrusion depth, these darker areas in here are the result of just being not illuminated by this light.
To actually have characters in your layer cast shadows on each other or even portions of themselves, you do need to go into your Material Options and enable Cast Shadows. Once you do so, now you get some interesting shadowing going on between the surfaces inside your extruded text. This is the reason that I set my shadow darkness to be only 60%. If I set my key lights, Shadow Darkness, up to 100, you can see how these shadows really fill in and can make your text a little more mysterious, but maybe harder to read. By backing off to number such as 50 or 60%, now I just have a little bit of shadowing going on, giving me more of a sense of actual depth, but my text is still easy to read. Twirl my light, and I'm going to reduce my Extrusion Depth to create something a little bit more elegant here.
I cannot emphasize how fun it is to bevel an object, even with just a tiny bevel, then play around with these specular highlights just to get some interesting little bright areas, or what I call specular kicks, to make your 3D object more interesting. Now we go down into my Material Options, increase my Specular Intensity to 100%, so I really see the effects of those highlights, but then tighten up the size of the Specular highlights, so it's only in little restricted areas.
And this Specular Shininess parameter is a lot more sensitive with ray-trace layers than it was with classic layers. Normally I'll be increasing this over 50%, closer to a 100 for normal 3D layers. Now that I have done that, you can see some really nice little specular highlights just here in the bevels, depending on how the light is positioned around this text. At some angle all you see are the specular highlights of the bevel kicking off the light even though it's not hitting the sides or faces directly. And again this is another reason that I happen to like the Concave bevel style, because it gives more options and angles to kick off those highlights.
Angular is a bit fatter, rounded convex not as exciting, I like concave. And those are the basics of extruding and beveling shape layers or text layers. Normal movie layers, still images, et cetera, cannot be extruded and beveled. However, you can bend them, and that's what I'm going to talk about in the next movie.
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