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Controlling the focal plane in CS5.5 and later

From: After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

Video: Controlling the focal plane in CS5.5 and later

In the previous movie I showed you how to enable Depth of Field Blur for a camera, and also how to edit the Focus Distance, and interactively watch the focal plane line in, say, the Top view of the camera. However, there's couple of ways of automating this process. One we showed you earlier. I'm going to double-click the camera to open up its settings. You can lock the Focus Distance to zoom. That means the focal plane will always equal the length of your camera lens. It is set by millimeters or whatever parameter you want to use here in the Camera Settings dialog, or Zoom can be set by the number of pixels here in the Timeline panel.

Controlling the focal plane in CS5.5 and later

In the previous movie I showed you how to enable Depth of Field Blur for a camera, and also how to edit the Focus Distance, and interactively watch the focal plane line in, say, the Top view of the camera. However, there's couple of ways of automating this process. One we showed you earlier. I'm going to double-click the camera to open up its settings. You can lock the Focus Distance to zoom. That means the focal plane will always equal the length of your camera lens. It is set by millimeters or whatever parameter you want to use here in the Camera Settings dialog, or Zoom can be set by the number of pixels here in the Timeline panel.

But as of After Effects CS5.5, there's couple of more options. And I turn off Lock to Zoom. As long as you have a two-node camera, where you have the back of the camera and a point of interest, and you are in After Effects CS 5.5 or later, You can selectively focus on specific layers. Let's say, for example, that I want this layer to be in focus for the camera's current position. I'm going to select that layer, Shift+select the camera, so both the target layer and the camera are both selected.

Go up to the Layer menu, and choose the new command Camera > Set Focus Distance to Layer. This will allow After Effects to automatically calculate the distance between the camera and that layer, and set the focal plane right at that layer's center, or its anchor point. Now this is just a fixed value, as you get closer or further away that layer can still fall in and out of focus, and to enhance the Depth of Field Blur effect I'm going to increase the blur level to 200% of its normal response.

In other words twice as sensitive as a real camera would be. Now you can really see how layers go in and out of focus as that focal plane moves through the composition. I'm here at the end of the composition and this Final layer is obviously my hero. Let's say that I want that layer to always be in focus, no matter where the camera is along it flight path. Well, to do that, again, I select that layer, Shift+select the camera, I can do it in the Comp panel or down here in the Layer panel, and use Layer > Camera > Link Focus Distance to Layer.

Rather than being a set once command, which Set Focus is, Link Focus writes an expression, a little bit of JavaScript code, for the focus distance parameter and it will constantly recalculate how far away it is from the layer you chose. Again, you need to have a two-node camera, and you need to be in After Effects CS 5.5 or later to get this Command. I'll select this item, you'll notice that that layer immediately become sharp, and you will see that the focus distance value has turned red, and even if I try to scrub it, it's going to return to that value. I twirl it down, I'll see that an expression has been written for this layer that automatically keeps it in focus.

You don't need to understand that expression, you just need to know that the red value means it's being controlled by an expression. Expressions are the subject of a later lesson, but you can always turn expressions temporally off and on by clicking on this equal parameter to disable and re-enable expressions. Now as the camera moves through this flight path in this composition, you will notice that this repeat symbol at the very end stays in focus. As I fly through these different musical symbols, they go out of focus as they get closer to the camera, or in other words, further away from the focal plane.

You'll notice over in this display, that focal plane stays locked on that layer's position. And therefore it stays in focus. One other option you have is to lock the focus to your point of interest. That gives you an animatable target of where you want your focus to be throughout your composition. In this case I'm going to deselect all and select just the camera, not another layer, and use the command Layer > Camera > Link Focus Distance to Point of Interest.

It's warning me that I've already set one expression to do this. It needs to create a brand-new expression that's going to override the previous one. That's okay. I'll click OK, you'll see now that my focal point line has jumped to my point of interest. If I move my point of interest the focal plane line moves with me. And as I animate through this composition it stays locked on that point. Now Depth of Field Blur exists in After Effects since the very beginning of 3D Space. Unfortunately it tended to have very poor blur quality like you see here.

One of the major differences in After Effects CS 5.5 and later is now you have a lot more control and lot more parameters to determine exactly how that blur looks, and that's the subject of the next movie.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space
After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

54 video lessons · 14218 viewers

Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
Author

 
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  1. 4m 47s
    1. Welcome
      2m 47s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 15m 12s
    1. Comparing 2D and 3D
      5m 30s
    2. Rotation in 3D
      4m 47s
    3. Keyframing in 3D
      4m 55s
  3. 15m 9s
    1. Multi-planing workaround in 2D
      3m 21s
    2. Using 3D views
      6m 45s
    3. Natural multi-planing in 3D
      5m 3s
  4. 13m 9s
    1. Keyframing a fly-in
      5m 24s
    2. Editing 3D motion paths
      5m 43s
    3. Auto-orienting a layer along its path
      2m 2s
  5. 1h 4m
    1. Adding a camera to a composition
      9m 0s
    2. Comparing camera presets
      2m 48s
    3. Using the camera tools with the active camera
      4m 48s
    4. Using the camera tools in the alternate views
      4m 50s
    5. 3D view options
      1m 58s
    6. Animating a 3D camera
      6m 20s
    7. Creating an orbit camera rig
      5m 42s
    8. Extending your camera rig
      4m 31s
    9. Auto-orientation with 3D cameras
      7m 33s
    10. Depth of field blur in CS5.5 and later
      5m 47s
    11. Controlling the focal plane in CS5.5 and later
      5m 12s
    12. Iris properties in CS5.5 and later
      6m 16s
  6. 29m 15s
    1. Creating a 3D light
      6m 35s
    2. Working with Point lights
      3m 20s
    3. Working with Spot lights
      3m 48s
    4. Creating shadows
      10m 13s
    5. The Light Falloff feature in After Effects CS5.5 and later
      5m 19s
  7. 48m 6s
    1. Enabling ray-traced 3D in CS6
      3m 26s
    2. Extrusions in CS6
      3m 39s
    3. Bevels in CS6
      5m 39s
    4. Bending layers in CS6
      5m 35s
    5. Transparency in CS6
      4m 20s
    6. Refraction in CS6
      4m 6s
    7. Targeting Surfaces in CS6
      3m 23s
    8. Reflections in CS6
      7m 35s
    9. Environment layers in CS6
      5m 40s
    10. Quality vs. speed in CS6
      4m 43s
  8. 11m 33s
    1. Quizzler challenge for CS6
      1m 42s
    2. Quizzler solution for CS6
      9m 51s
  9. 41m 6s
    1. Vanishing Point Exchange in Photoshop Extended
      9m 18s
    2. Vanishing Point Exchange in After Effects
      4m 38s
    3. Importing a 3D model into Photoshop Extended in CS5.5 and earlier
      9m 7s
    4. Creating 3D objects using Repoussé in CS5.5 and earlier
      9m 46s
    5. Live Photoshop 3D inside After Effects in CS5.5 and earlier
      8m 17s
  10. 20m 58s
    1. Introduction to dimensional stills
      3m 41s
    2. Cutting up the source image
      2m 25s
    3. Repairing the layers in Photoshop
      8m 26s
    4. Animating the resulting layers in After Effects
      6m 26s
  11. 25m 27s
    1. Rotation vs. orientation
      3m 15s
    2. Understanding the axis modes
      4m 4s
    3. Scaling issues in 3D
      4m 57s
    4. OpenGL acceleration in CS5 and earlier
      6m 23s
    5. Fast previews in CS6 and later
      6m 48s

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