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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.
I'd like to start out by showing you some basic differences between 2D and 3D layers. If you have the Exercise Files that came with this course, open up the project file AEA_3D Space.aep If instead you're following along using our book After Effects Apprentice, open up the project file that came with Lesson 08, 3D Space. I'm going to go into the Comps folder and double-click the Comp 01-Basic 3D*starter, and here we have two simple text layers. By default, every new layer you create in After Effects is a 2D layer.
I'm going to select these two layers down in my Timeline panel, press P to reveal their Position, then press Shift+S to reveal Scale, and Shift+R to reveal Rotation. And then I'm going to deselect the layers just to make sure I'm not editing two at the same time. I'm going to select Enter a New, and as you all know, there's a couple of different ways of editing the Position of a layer. You can either scrub its values directly in the Timeline panel, I'll undo, or you can pick it up and move it directly in the Comp panel. This little icon is the Anchor Point for the layer, that's a center on which it rotates and scales.
And again, I can scrub Rotation, undo, or I can edit it interactively in the Comp panel. I'll select the Rotation tool, the shortcut is W, and again, just click and drag somewhere on the layer. I'll undo and press V to get back to my Selection tool. If you want to make a layer bigger or smaller, you need to edit its Scale value. And again, I can add or scrub it in the Timeline panel, I go negative, it actually inverts, or I can edit it interactively in the Comp panel, and I'll undo again.
If I want to change what layer is in front of another, I need to alter the stacking order in the Timeline panel. If I put Dimension on top of Enter a New, now it is drawn in front of that other layer. These are all things you know, but I just wanted to review them so you could see the differences of when we go into 3D. 3D is a property you set per layer. You don't have a separate 2D or 3D composition, you can mix 2D and 3D layers inside the same composition.
That is one of the strengths of After Effects. If I want to put this layer into 3D space, I enable this 3D layer switch. The layer does not change appearance in the Comp panel, but you will notice that it has gained more parameters and an addition sort of axis arrows. I'm going to also enable the 3D layer switch for the Dimension layer. In addition to the X and Y Position that you're already familiar with, there's this new property known as Z Position; how far forward or back a layer is located. When I scrub this to the left, I'm bringing the layer forward and towards us.
Negative actually means closer to you. And then if I scrub the layer to the right, I'll put it into positive values and it will go further away. You notice that two other things are happening as I scrub this value. One is the parent Scale is changing. Now, the Scale value itself is not changing. What's going on here is you're altering the layer's perspective. As you know from reality, things that are further away appear smaller, and as they come closer to you, they will appear bigger. The other thing that's happening is depending on the Z value of this layer relative to the Z value of my other layer in this composition, this Enter a New Layer is either drawn in front of or behind the Dimension layer.
This is one of the biggest differences between 2D and 3D layers. Stacking order in the Timeline panel no longer means quite as much. What's more important is where the layers are located in space. That's what determines how they're drawn. Now, in addition to scrubbing interactively here in the Timeline panel, you can still pick up and move the layer, but what's more interesting is if you hover your cursor over these axis arrows. As I do so, you'll see a small x, a small y, and a small z appear next to my cursor.
If I put the cursor in a position where one of those characters appear, my movement will now be constrained to the X axis. Even if I move my cursor up and down, the layer is constrained to moving only left and right. The Y axis, again, movement is constrained, I'm not holding down the Shift key like I would with a 2D layer to constrain its movements. I'm just being careful what axis arrow I'm clicking. And it's kind of hard to see here, but there's this little blue axis arrow pointing straight at you, that's Z; how close or far away, and as I scrub, further away or closer to you.
And you'll see the values have also been changing for Position down in the Timeline panel. If you click the layer somewhere where you do not see the X, Y, or Z arrow, you now have free movement of that layer. But again, you can add the Shift key to constrain its movement just like a 2D layer. I'll undo back. Now, if you forget what color arrow corresponds to which axis, it's very simple. You're probably familiar with RGB, Red, Green, Blue. Well, R, G, and B equal X, Y, and Z. And that's how to quickly remember which colored arrow is which axis.
Now, far less straight forward is the issue of Rotation, and we'll tackle that in the next movie.
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