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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 addition to importing 3D models, as I showed in the last movie, Photoshop CS5 or later can also extrude selections to create its own 3D geometry. This feature is called Repousse. But before I show it to you, we've got to talk. There are third-party alternatives to do this directly inside After Effects, perhaps the best known is Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator. We prefer the Pro version of it, but it does have several variations on it, including ProAnimator. This is the classic plug-in for extruding and sweeping objects and creating some really cool textures and other interactions.
In addition to Invigorator, Boris Continuum Complete has several 3D effects included in this package, including a very nice 3D Extruded Text plug-in. This little demo movie does not do it justice; it's actually quite sophisticated, including the ability to go ahead and animate the text. And the new kid on the block is ShapeShifter by Mettle. They're positioning this as one of the easiest to use plug-ins to create 3D objects inside After Effects, and it also looks very promising. All three of these choices are more powerful and more responsive to use than Repousse.
However, I know many of you are in work environments where maybe you get the Adobe Suite and nothing else, no budget for plug-ins, if that's the case, let me show you this alternative you have as of CS5. I'm going to hide this, go back to Photoshop, and again, we'll start with a blank document. New, and to remember my settings from last time, I'll give this file a name that makes sense, such as, Repousse. Background is Transparent and good, and I'll click OK. Again, it gives you title and action safe guides to make sure anything you create inside this scene will fit nicely inside your final display.
Repousse can extrude anything that comes from a selection. This can be Alpha Channels, Paths, et cetera. But I am just going to quickly create something from scratch using Photoshop's Text Engine. I'm going to center up my text. I'm going to pick some really bold, chunky font, such as Arial Black; really large Point size, like 120 point, so you can see what's going on, and start to type. Maybe something very, very simple like AEA for After Effects Apprentice. Black text is not all that interesting to extrude and illuminate, so I am going to go ahead and give this a color.
As you probably know by now, I am very partial to things in this gold region, we'll start here. Frankly, that's not even big enough, I am going to scrub this even bigger to get some really big text, so you can see what I am doing. I'll go back to my Selection tool and more or less center it up. Now that I have a text layer, I'll go to 3D>Repousse>Text layer, and you'll see it has these other options for taking layer Masks, Selected Paths, Current Selection from Alpha Channels, et cetera. I'm going to select that. It will ask you if it's okay to rasterize this text. It needs to convert it into pixels to get the selection.
Unfortunately, you will not be able to edit this text later on, so you might consider even saving it as a duplicate layer so you can go back and start fresh if you need to. I'll click Yes. It will take a moment for it to load, and I will get a special Repousse dialog, which I'll go ahead and set off to the side here. It has already given me a Rotate Object tool to play with, so I'll go ahead and bend this down a little bit and look at it from an angle, and you'll see I have a very simple extrusion. Now, to start off, Repousse does give you several Shape Presets that you can start playing around with.
My experience has been most of these Shape Presets have been designed assuming you have a much larger layer than standard def video, perhaps high def video or print, so with these Presets you will almost always need to be reducing the values that Photoshop gives you. For example, I'll go back to this Preset, it's trying to Bevel this edge out, but it's mostly flat. It's because the width of the Bevel, how wide the surface around the edges are being curved and bent is just too large. So I'll go ahead and select this, and go down to a smaller Width, until I have something that makes a lot more sense.
It may be something around there. That's a more elegant look. I'll center up the text so I can see it clear. And note that in addition to these Shape Presets, you can also manually choose a variety of different Bevel profiles for different contours as they call them. Here's the ones that currently ship with Photoshop. Once you have your text, there's a few things you can do with it. Of course you can extrude it to various depths. Again, I find the default a bit on the deep side, but I am going to use that for now, just to show you some tricks. You can Scale things down to a Vanishing Point.
You can have things get larger, so expand out. I'm going to go down to something very close to Vanishing Point dot and then also Twist my text, so a little bit of Rotation goes a long way. This slider is really, really touchy, almost always you're going to find you're going to be better off thinking in terms of units, like degrees, maybe I just want 45 degrees Rotation and directly typing those numbers in. So now I have a bit of Twist and -45. And if you have a Texture applied to this model, you can choose how the Texture is treated around these bends.
In addition to Twisting, go ahead and make this a bit deeper, you can also Bend your model. For example, I'll Bend it by 60 degrees, and you see it starts to Bend off into space here, in this X dimension, and you have a little tool to decide what your Bending is based on. You can also Bend it upwards or downwards in Y, to get a little fancy of a Bend. Maybe pull down over here in Length, where you can see it better. If you start creating models where you start to see some faceting along these edges, you can see we have straight line segments making up this curve, you can increase the Mesh Quality to get a smoother render to your model.
But I am going to go back to Draft for now just to keep this quick and responsive. Now, to be truthful, most elegant Motion Graphics doesn't employ these ugly Bends and stuff like that, so I'm going to go back down to 0, and 0, go to a Scale of 1. And a lot of Motion Graphics uses a very elegant small Depth, like just 0.2 or something like that, or even 0.1 to create something very sophisticated. Add something that's a little bit classier now. Repousse's strength is, in addition to its ability to Bend objects and put Bevels on them, they can also inflate the faces of objects.
So if I want to get a little puff out to the front of these characters, I'll start entering a small Angle here. For example, 45 degrees to start, to get a nice puffed out inflation, or maybe something a little bit smaller, like even 30. I recommend keeping this at 90 or under, because once you go beyond that, things are getting very distorted. I prefer something subtle, like in the area of 20, 30, 40, et cetera. That's nice and interesting, and it will give me some nice light play, as light hits it at different angles.
You do have the ability to apply different Materials to your object. Clicking the Front, the Bevels and the Sides. I'll warn you that Photoshop's defaults are for the most part pretty darn ugly. You might think, oh, nice maroon, that will contrast nicely with gold. Well, it's a textured maroon, it doesn't really look that good, et cetera. They do have the ability to go ahead and create new Materials or even load Materials from Adobe's web site, and I would recommend you do that and also explore Adobe Exchange, because again, I am not so thrilled with the Presets.
As with 3D models, you have Render Settings; you can choose things such as Wireframes, which again, are very interesting for stuff like text; Shaded Illustration, so you get that nice combination of a cartoon shading, plus a bit of Wireframe; and many other options. You also have directly in this dialog access to the same Preset Lights that you saw inside of the 3D panel. I may go to Day Lights just to get a little bit more of an interesting lighting off this layer. Once I'm happy I'll click okay. And, by the way, it's very easy to accidentally close this dialog. If you enter a new value and hit Return, you'll close this dialog, so be careful that you just tab between these spaces or click, don't hit Return, or you'll keep closing Repousse.
Once you have this, you can go back to your Window, 3D again. I had this floating earlier, and again, you have some very important options. You have your Render Settings again; I left it at Shaded Illustration, but I might go back down to the default for now. You have access to the individual lights. If you want to customize them, their color, their intensity, et cetera, and again, if you click Scene, you have the all important quality of the renderer. And again, the Interactive Setting is at the lowest quality, you might notice again some jaggy edges along here.
Also, you don't get things like shadows from the lights. As before, we recommend you select the middle choice, Ray Traced Draft, it takes a little longer to render, but now it's nice and anti-aliased, and also, if I have more Depth to this, you'll see parts of these models actually cast shadows on themselves to give a little bit more of a 3D illusion. Once you have something you're fairly happy with, again, you just need to save a layer, so I'm going to do Save, choose a place to save it; it looks like Photoshop missed my option AE in my name, Repousse AEA I am going to call this layer.
Again, Save it as a Photoshop file, with layers in the folder where you'll be able to find it later on. I'll do Save, I'll keep the default options. I'll close this for now. And now let's go play with these layers inside After Effects.
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