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This course pulls together the skills you've been learning in the previous After Effects Apprentice installments to create a real-world video promo. Trish leads you through building the artwork and components used in the final piece, and then Chris shows how to assemble these precompositions into a 3D world, timed to music. Along the way, Trish and Chris also share their thoughts as they design a video project, including unifying the overall look and handling change requests from clients.
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.
To help visually sell that this is a 3D world, it would be nice if I could see a reflection of this panel on our floor. If I switch to some of the alternate views like Custom View 1, you can see that it's just not visible as if the floors aren't reflecting at all. Every version of After Effects up through CS5.5 unfortunately does not natively support reflections. There are a few different plug-ins available that allow you to fake reflections or you can manually build a reflection. Let me show you how to do that. First off, you need to take your Skater layer and duplicate it to create your reflection.
Next, you need to rotate this reflection copy down into place. I will press R, rotation, and Scrub its X Rotation, or orientation, to put it down at plus or minus 180 degrees, so it can act as a reflection. Type in 180. Again, this is where placing your anchor point at the very bottom of the layer made life a lot easier. When I scrub through X Rotation value, it rotated right around this hinge at the very bottom of the layer. That's a reflection.
But it looks a little unrealistic right now. So let's refine it a little bit. Select that second layer and pre-compose it. You can either right-click on it and choose Pre-compose or use the Layer menu item, Pre-compose. Give it a good name like Skater Reflection and choose the first option, Leave all attributes. We already have it in place. We already have it rotated. We don't want to lose any of that. We just need to send the layer itself back to our brand-new composition.
I will go ahead and open-up that new comp. Click OK, and here's a comp that is exactly sized time and dimension-wise to fit our layer. It appears right-side up here, because rotation happened in the Main Comp. To make this reflection more realistic, I need to do a couple things. One: I want its transparency to fall off so that it further gets away from that hinge point the less visible it is. And second: quite often reflections tend to get a little bit blurrier or hazier the further away they are from the source.
To make both of these happen, I need a control layer, a gradient that goes from one edge to the other to control transparency and blur. To create a gradient, I will make sure no layers are selected, make sure the Rectangle tool is selected, then double- click on that tool, and I'll get a Shape layer exactly sized to match this composition. It so happens that the last Shape layer created didn't use a gradient. If you are seeing something else, hold down the Option key on Mac, or Alt key on Windows, and click on this icon until you get the type of layer you want.
That's a radial gradient, that's no fill at all, that's a solid fill, that's a linear gradient, and that's what you need in this case to go from one color to another from one edge to another. It looks like Stroke also defaulted off, which is perfect. That's what I need. Again, if you're seeing a stroke hold on Option on Mac, or Alt on Windows, and click through the available options until you get this red line saying no stroke at all. When I select the Shape group inside this layer that has my gradient, I get an extra set of little dots that determine the start and end of my gradient.
So I will drag this one up the top and drag the other dot down to the bottom of my layer. And if I'm now confident, I place those exactly where I want them to be. I can twirl open my Shape group, twirl open Gradient Fill, and numerically set these. And I see that I am a pixel off here. So I am going to enter 0 for that, just to make sure it's squared up. Next, I want to edit the gradient. I can either make sure the layer is selected and click on the Gradient Color swatch up here on top of Timeline panel or click on the words Edit Gradients down here in the Timeline panel.
There's a Edit Gradient. I just need a simple white shape that falls off in transparency. So I will make sure that my color stops are set to white and make sure my Opacity stops go from 100% to 0%. And for now I am going to make sure that my midpoint is indeed in the middle of that gradient. I can always tweak this later to adjust how my gradient falls off. Then I will click OK. Now that I have my gradient, I am going to temporarily twirl it up to free up some room in my timeline and turn off its visibility so it doesn't get in the way.
Now that I can see the entire layer, I am going to play around with the blur settings. I will do the transparency part of this adjustment later, but right on I want to see the entire layer while I am making my adjustments. I will choose to Skater layer. And if you have After Effects CS5.5 like I do, add Effect > Blur & Sharpen > Camera Lens Blur. If you have an earlier version of After Effects, you want to choose just the ordinary Lens Blur effect instead. The two of them are similar, but Camera Lens Blur is more powerful, and it replaced Lens Blur in CS5.5.
You might be tempted to go ahead and use Compound Blur, but frankly it doesn't look anywhere near as good as Lens Blur does. So I am going to choose this one instead. There's Camera Lens Blur. I am going to make sure I Repeat my Edge Pixels so I don't get any sort of artifacting at the edges like I have there. I am going to choose my Blur Map. In this case my Shape layer and choose what Property of that layer to use. Luminance, or in this case I am going to choose the Alpha, because that's how I constructed my ramp.
Now right now I'm blurry at the bottom and sharp at the top. This bottom edge is what's closest to my panel in my original composition so that's kind of opposite of what I want. I want to it be sharp here and blurry here. So instead I'll say Invert My Blur Map, and that's better. I am going to increase blur radius to get the amount of blur that I like, and I can see that lovely hexagon blur of Edge Blur, and you just don't get that-- the Compound Blur, the Lens Blur effect is much nicer.
And I'm gonna head and choose a radius of around, say, 10, 11, 12--whatever looks good to you. Now that I have my Gradient Blur, let's go ahead and fade off this layer. To do that, it's pretty simple. I will just toggle Switches modes. For the Skater layer, set this Track Matte to use the Alpha of the Shape layer above. And now it will fade off from being very visible to being invisible. I will go back to my Main Comp, and you can see now the reflection fades away as it gets further away from the main layer. Now that reflection looks a bit strong to me.
I guess you could say that was a nicely waxed floor, but again anything that's too perfect can look maybe not realistic. There's a couple of ways of making it less perfect. One way is just to make it less opaque. I will press T to reveal opacity and fade out a little bit so that my reflection is imperfect, somewhere right around there is pretty good. If you feel like you still have too much reflection, another trick is to go back into your Skater reflection, pick your Shape layer, open up the Gradient Editor, and play around with the opacity and midpoint for that falloff to make it persist longer or to fade out faster.
I am going to pick something right around in that area to make it disappear more quickly and have a more subtle reflection. The last thing I am going to do is parent reflection to the Skater so that if I decide to reposition the Skater its reflection will come along with it. And to do that, I can just use this pick whip to connect one to the other. And there we go! Switch back to Active Camera, and that's what a reflected layer looks like.
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