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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.
Now that Trish has shown you how to use 3D cameras in After Effects, I'd like to show you how to use 3D Lights. I've already gone in my Composition panel and used Close All to clean up my display, and I'm going to go to my Comps folder and open up Comp 06-Basic Lights*starter. You'll notice that currently it only has one layer, and that layer is 2D; its 3D layer switch has not yet been turned on. I am going to leave it off for now just to show you what happens if you don't have any 3D layers in your composition. I am going to go to layer>New>Light, give it a name that makes sense, like first light, and for now I am just going to quickly check parameters, because we're going to dive into them in more detail in just a moment.
I am going to make sure the Color is something bright, not dark, otherwise you won't see it. White is always a good default. And I am going to make sure the Intensity to start out is around 100%. Again, these are things you can edit, and we'll be doing that in just a second, but this is a good starting point. If you were to click OK at this point, you'd get a warning dialog, Cameras and Lights do not affect 2D layers. Select a layer and choose layer > 3D layer from the menu. In other words, 3D Lights only work with 3D layers, layers that have had the 3D layer switch enabled.
So I'll click OK out of that dialog. And as the warning dialog suggested, I could either select my 2D layer and use the layer menu to go ahead and make it a 3D layer, or even faster is just to turn on the 3D layer switch for that layer. As soon as I do so, you'll see its illumination change. 2D layers show you their original image, the original brightness of every pixel, and if there is no active light in the composition, 3D layers show the same thing. But when you have the combination of a 3D layer and a 3D light, now how bright those pixels are is dependent upon the relative angle of the layer and the light and those light settings.
Now, you can edit all of the light's parameters after you've created it, and you can do that in two different places. You can select the Light layer in the Timeline panel and either keep it twirling down parameters, or use a handy keyboard shortcut, AA. AA reveals the 3D specific parameters of any 3D layer, such as a camera, light, or other layer that you've selected. We'll work from the parameters in the Timeline panel in the next movie, but for now let me show you the other way, we just double-click a layer, get the Light Settings dialog again.
And as of After Effects CS5, they've added this live Preview switch. That means any changes you make in this dialog will immediately be reflected in your composition. That's made it a lot more viable to have the Light Settings dialog open while you're editing light parameters. So let's quickly go through some of these parameters. First off is Light Type; there's several different types of lights. An Ambient Light has no position and has no direction. It illuminates all layers equally, no matter where they are in a scene.
And it's a good light to help you cheat, if you just need to add or subtract a little bit of illumination from an overall scene. Parallel Light is supposed to represent the effect of a light that's an infinite distance away, such as the sun, or even further. And the idea that all of its light rays are cast in the same direction, the rays are parallel to each other. This is actually one of the less dramatic lights, and frankly, one you're not going to use that often for Motion Graphics, unless you need it for special effects. The two lights you'll be using most often are Spot and Point.
A Spot Light has the most parameters to play with. It has a light back, but it also has a Cone Angle and a Cone Feather. Anyone who has worked with real lights, this is kind of like the equivalent of the barn doors on it where we can adjust how wide of an angle the light is casting. I can go ahead and scrub this down to very narrow Cone of Light or into a very broad Cone, out to 180 degrees. Typically, you'll be somewhere in the neighborhood to say 60-120. I tend to use around 90 as a starting point, then edit from there, depending on what the scene needs.
Cone Feather controls how hard that Falloff is from no illumination to full illumination. Now, unlike parameters such as Mask Feather, which feathers on both sides of the mask, inside and outside; Cone Feather only affects area inside the cone of light. Now let's put the Feather down to 0 to see the cone actually widen out to a hard circle, that is the maximum Cone Angle of this light. Whenever I increase the Cone Feather, it actually cuts into the illuminated area.
It still reaches out to that original hard circle you see, but it feathers from there to full illumination. Again, 50% is a pretty good starting point and you can edit from there, depending on what you need for a scene. The other Light Type is Point Light. Point Light is like a light bulb hanging in space. There is no barn doors or anything else guiding the direction of the light or how rays are cast, they're all cast out equally from that one source of light. Next is Color. Again, as I mentioned earlier, white is a good starting point.
As soon as you start getting into strongly colored lights, you're going to strongly color your scene and probably reduce the illumination in the scene. Unless I'm going for a very specific colorized effect, I tend to use just very pale tints for my lights. Maybe a little bit of red, or a little bit of orange to warm up a scene, or maybe a little bit of blue or purple to cool down a scene. Again, white is a good starting point, and then you can alter the light, depending on how you want to change the mood in your scene. I'll set this back to white for now; I'll click OK.
Falloff is a brand-new parameter that was introduced in After Effects CS5.5, and I'll discuss that in its own movie later in this chapter. And Casts Shadows is another very important parameter, that's going to get its own movie just a little bit later on in this chapter, but for now leave Falloff to None and leave Casts Shadows unchecked. Again, I've named my lights, which is always a good idea, and I'll click OK, and now I have a light on my scene illuminating my 3D layer. In the next movie, let's play around with positioning this light.
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