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Even though After Effects can do some pretty amazing things with 3D, one of the things that you need to get comfortable with is the idea that you should pre-render elements. So when you pre-render individual passes, you'll be able to actually bring those back into a project and create a more realistic-looking final composite. In our project here, we're going to focus on creating a render pass of just this 3D element by itself and then a separate pass for just the shadow that's coming out from behind it.
Again, the reason that we're doing this, it's going to give us flexibility, so when we bring these elements back in, we can use the blend modes, first off, because we won't need to be in the Ray-traced renderer. And secondly, we could apply some additional effects to some of the different layers to really add some pop to our graphic. So to get started, we need to look at the Project panel. We should definitely start to organize things and get it ready so when we render, we can come back and make sure that everything looks the way that it's supposed to. So first thing, if we double-click our Track_Desk_OUT, you can see this is our main composite.
Now like I said, we're creating a render for the title and a render for the shadow. Rather than having to duplicate layers and copy things, et cetera, let's just duplicate this composition. So with Track_Desk_OUT selected, go up under Edit and say Duplicate. Let's change the Track_Desk_Out 2 to say Track_Desk_Shadow_OUT. Okay, this is the one we're going to create the shadow and this one we will just render out the title.
For organization sake, let's select both compositions and drag them down to the bottom of our Project panel. We can collapse our 12_02_Tracked_ Desk project folder and we could take this Desk _1080 video and drag it down to the folder in the bottom of the Project panel. When we let go, it's automatically going to create a new folder that will already contain the QuickTime file. So let's rename this Video and press Return. The Solar_Sky layer, we don't need because we're not using it in this composition, so let's just drag that directly to the trash.
Now there's one other folder I usually have and that's the pre-comp folder. So let's select our Logo_Comp_PREcomp composition and drag that down to the bottom of the Project panel on the folder icon. Now with our new folder, let's rename this Precomps and press Return when you're done. All right! Now we have our two compositions, so let's focus on setting up our shadow pass. So double-click the Track_Desk_Shadow comp, and if we look in our timeline, we can see we've got everything already turned on.
In order to render just the shadow, all we need to do are change some of the Material Options. Also as I'm looking at this, this has the backplate which is our desk. The term backplate is commonly used for the bottom piece of the video that you're going to be matching everything back into. So let's scroll down to the bottom of the timeline and select Desk_1080 and just turn off its visibility. Again, we just don't need this for now. Now for all three of our logo elements, just select the layers in the timeline and press AA to open their Geometry Options and their Material Options.
If we scroll down to the Material Options for one of those objects and just change Casts Shadows from On to Only by clicking. Now you can see we've gotten rid of those elements and it's only casting shadows. This is almost perfect, the only thing that I want to do is get rid of this highlight because we don't really need that. We could go in and mask this after the fact, but honestly, there's a quicker way. We could change the Material Options for our background white shadow catcher layer.
So if we scroll down in our composition, there's our shadow catcher layer and press AA to open its Geometry and Material Options. Now in here, let's change Accept Lights from On to Off. Now I know it looked like there was a major change in this render, but if you go to your Fast Preview button, you can change it to Adaptive Resolution and you'll notice that we won't see much of a difference between one version or the other because in the Ray-traced renderer, things are going to be extra ordinarily blurry.
And since we are going to be bringing this back in, we'll actually be able to make some adjustments to the layer to make up for any slight differences that might be happening between having Accept Lights On or Off. The most important thing with this version is the fact that this white layer stays nice and flat. Now let's look closely at the shadow detail. Notice how speckled the edges of this end up looking. You can change to 100% magnification and it's still going to look like that.
Basically, what we need to do is go up the Ray-traced renderer and make some adjustments. So in the upper right corner of your comp viewer, click on the Ray-traced button, and under the Ray-traced 3D options, we want to click on the Options button and change the Ray-tracing Quality. I want to choose a really high quality render, so I'm going to change this from 4 to 12. Now let's look at the Anti-aliasing Filter. If you click on the Box pulldown, notice we have a couple different options. I want to choose Cubic.
Understand that anti-aliasing primarily deals with 3D geometry, but since these shadows are created from the 3D geometry, I want to go ahead and up the quality of this filter a little bit by changing the render to Cubic. Now when we click OK and we click OK one more time, you may notice it takes quite a while to render your scene. That's perfectly fine because again, we're not going to be coming back to this specific scene right now. We're just trying to queue it up to render. So in the interest of keeping your system moving quickly, go ahead and press the Caps Lock key.
That will stop the refresh of your system. Now we can actually load this into the Render Queue. So I'm going to go back and to my timeline and make sure that my Track_Desk_Shadow tab is selected. If you press Ctrl+M; Command+M, or go up under Composition > Add to Render Queue, we can add this comp to the Render Queue. For the Render Queue Settings, I'm going to leave it set to the Best Quality. We don't need to do any field renders and notice it's already set to render the entire work area, which will work perfectly well. So let's click OK.
Now under the Output Module, if you click on the pulldown options, there are a couple different presets that you can use. The one I recommend using is this TIFF Sequence with Alpha preset. The reason you want to create a TIFF sequence is so you can stop your system at anytime if you need to, I don't know, work on a different project or just use your computer for something else. When you stop the project and you're rendering an image sequence, After Effects will stop at the last frame you rendered. Then when you come back, you can queue up your render again and hit Render and it'll continue rendering frames right from the previous point.
If you rendered, let's say, a QuickTime or a Windows Media File and you stopped it right at the middle, since the entire file wasn't created with its final wrapper, that would be corrupted. So if you know you're going to have a render that's going to take a long time, you want to make sure to set up your image sequence to render. If we look at the TIFF Sequence with Alpha settings, we can click on that and you see it is rendering RGB + Alpha. That's what the little Plus button here at the Depth means, it has an Alpha, and then we'll go ahead and render a Premultiplied alpha channel. That's fine.
When we click OK, that's all set. Now we need to go back to our Track_Desk_OUT comp. So let's just click the tab in the timeline. Now in here, since all we need to render is the text elements, let's scroll down to the bottom and disable our background plate and we can actually turn off the visibility of our shadow catcher. I'm not going to make any other adjustments to this because I do want to render just this. And even though we have the material set to cast shadows, if I scroll in here, since these objects have a little bit of depth to them, I still want to make sure that they're rendered the same way that they would be if we had the background in there.
So just to make sure that this is going to render without anything on the background, go to the bottom middle section of your comp window. If you click on the RGB button, change it to Alpha and then you should see it's just going to be your logo. So this works perfectly. So let's go back to RGB and then we need to make sure to update our ray-traced settings for our title. So go to the upper right corner of the comp window and click on the Ray-traced 3D button. And then under the Renderer Options, click on the Options button, change the Ray-tracing Quality to 12 and the Anti-aliasing Filter to Cubic.
Now when we click OK, we can click OK one more time, and make sure that we have our Track_Desk_OUT comp selected in the timeline and then go up under Composition > Add to Render Queue. Now with this added to the Render Queue, let's change our Output Module by clicking on the pulldown and change it to TIFF Sequence with Alpha. Usually every time I add something to the Render Queue, I also check where it's set to go output. Now I know I've already set up a project previously to the proper folder, but let's double-check where we have both of these set up to go.
So if we click on the Track_Desk_Shadow_ OUT name to the right of Output To under the first item in our Render Queue. And then in your file browser, navigate to your exercise files, in the Footage folder, and I created a folder called Renders. We can choose that and click Save, and let's make sure the second Output Module is set there as well. You can click on its name and sure enough, it's set to that same folder. When we click Save, we'll be good to go. Now we can hit the Render button and our image sequences will render out.
Then we'll be all set to actually start building our final composite.
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