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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
Now we are going to add even more realism to our scene by adding real shadows, not faked Photoshop painted shadows, but real genuine shadows created from our light source, shadows that interact with the other objects in our scene. So, what I'm going to do-- it's actually a pretty complex process. I am going to double-click on the Light layer. I could open the Light layer up here and go into Light Options, but for me it just seems like it is easier just to double-click the Light and we get the same parameters right here. And what we are going to do is check Casts Shadows and then click OK.
And when you do that, as a new After Effects user, it can be very frustrating because nothing seems to change very much. So, what I am going to do is I am gong to resize my layers, because what we need to do is go into the Material Options for each layer and change the Light and Shadow settings. So, I am going to select the top layer-- that's a Icon 5, layer number 5-- and I'm going to go down to the Green Barn Shadow on this layer 38. I am going to Shift+Click that layer so it selects all the layers between layers 5 and 38. Then I am going to press the letter A two times.
If I press it once, it is going to show us the Anchor Point property for each layer. We don't want that, so push A two times. A, A, and there we go. Here are the 3D options for every layer. Now making sure not to click anything else because it will mess our selection up, go to the Casts Shadows parameter. And we need to turn this on, because what's happening is it that there are shadows being cast by the light source. But in order for an object to cast shadow on to another object, we need to enable this setting here.
So, I am going to turn Casts Shadows from off to on and if you have all those layers selected, then all those layers will now be casting shadows. This is a mess though, so close this up with all theses layer selected by hitting Shift+Tilde and that will collapse those layers, clean things up in our Timeline panel nicely. Resize this and now we could see we have some shadows added to our scene. We have a shadow being cast. Here we could see it. We could see definitely this shadow here, all based on where this light is.
If we were to take this light and move it over and move the direction that it's pointing over, we would also be changing what receives shadow and how that shadow is being cast. Now one of the things that I don't like about this shadow, as cool as shadows are, is that it's just way too dark. I don't think I've seen this light would have shadows this completely dark. So, we can change that. Go ahead and go back to the Light layer, double-click it, and then let's take Shadow Darkness down to maybe 50%, and then let's go down to Shadow Diffusion and increase this, maybe to about 15-20, somewhere around there.
Shadow Darkness is basically kind of like an opacity switch for the shadow. So, by taking it to 50% we are basically saying that we want lighter shadows, which in a scene lit this bright, it looks weird to have shadows that are very dark. So, having 50% shadows are good and then Shadow Diffusion makes it so that there are softer edges, so it does not have hard edge, which gives it kind of a nice softer feel to our piece here. I am going to go ahead and click OK now. One of the things that's a little frustrating, going through all of this and going through all those settings where we enable camera casting shadows might seem a little frustrating.
But there are times, like say for example the way that this 2 icon is casting its shadow on the trees, it doesn't look very natural. I don't like it and actually let me get the Unified Camera tool and click and drag around so we can see the way that this is casting shadows. Because we softened it and diffused it, it's not as bad as it once was. But we might want really hard shadows, and it just didn't look very good in the tree. So, we might choose to take the number 2 icon and make just that one thing not casts shadows, and that's really the magic of lighting in After Effects, especially if you have been on a real world set.
You know that you can't easily exclude things from light that easily. You can't just click an on and off switch and have something not have light bounced onto it or have a shadow bounced onto it. But you can here in After Effects. And you could see the difference that these shadows make, the extra little bit of realism and depth that these shadows add. It's just remarkable. So, again, even though this 3D thing in After Effects is very simple, it's just flat layers arranged in a three- dimensional world, with these extra features they can be made to look much more realistic.
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