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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.
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.
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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