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Environment layers in CS6

From: After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

Video: Environment layers in CS6

In the previous, movie I carefully arranged my scene so that a layer providing reflection bounces pixels off a reflective 3D layer and back to the camera. However, it can be hard to arrange your scene to make sure you've got an interesting reflection no matter how you're viewing your 3D layer. For example, I have got my Active Camera view selected, I'll turn on it's Transparency Grid, and by doing so you'll notice the sides of my text aren't reflecting anything, there's nothing behind or off to the sides to bounce pixels or bounce rays back to the camera.

Environment layers in CS6

In the previous, movie I carefully arranged my scene so that a layer providing reflection bounces pixels off a reflective 3D layer and back to the camera. However, it can be hard to arrange your scene to make sure you've got an interesting reflection no matter how you're viewing your 3D layer. For example, I have got my Active Camera view selected, I'll turn on it's Transparency Grid, and by doing so you'll notice the sides of my text aren't reflecting anything, there's nothing behind or off to the sides to bounce pixels or bounce rays back to the camera.

You could build up another layer behind, another layer of to the sides, and maybe layers above and layers below, or you can take advantage of a nice feature in After Effect CS6 referred to as Environment layers. I'll return my layout to normal, where this timeline panel is back with the other timeline panels, switch back to 1 View for now, and open up the composition Ray Trace5-Environment Map*starter. My initial layout of this scene is similar to what you've seen before. I have a light, a camera, extruded and beveled text, and the still image layer that has its 3D layer switch turned on.

I am going to double-click this layer so you can see it in this layer panel, and say Fit up to 100%, and it's a very special image, a panoramic image. It's actually 360 degrees around, and 180 degrees from top to bottom. Ideal panoramic images have this 2:1 aspect ratio, twice as wide as they are tall, 360 degrees versus 180, and also are seamless at their sides. Return to my composition. If I want this panoramic image to be wrapped around my world, I need to select it and go to Layer > Environment Layer.

Doing so changes how this layer is rendered. You'll notice that we now see only a small portion of this layer. I'll go to Top view and select my camera. This camera doesn't see the whole world now, let alone our whole environment layer, it only sees this slice of the world. Therefore, we're only seeing a slice of our background environment layer. I'm going to select the environment layer and twirl open its Properties, and you'll notice it has far fewer options than before.

It has no material options, there's no options on how it reflects light, it's two purposes in life is to be an evenly illuminate background, and to be a source of reflections for other 3D layers inside this composition. Twirl down it's Options, and you'll see that its primary options are Opacity, so you can blend together multiple environment layers, and Rotation and Orientation. And indeed, you can spin this environment layer around your world to go ahead and lay it out the way that you want. I'll Undo to get back to 0 degrees.

Okay, let's select our text layer, type AA to get its 3D-specific parameters, and now increase the reflection intensity. As we do so you'll see it starts to reflect the environment layer. And the reflection that you're seeing is on the other side of the world from the camera's current location. In essence, one part of your environment layer has been wrapped around behind the camera. You'll also notice you've got reflection on the sides, in the bevels, along the bottom, et cetera.

That's because this environment layer is wrapped around a globe completely in composing your 3D world. So you've got pixels reflecting in your lawyer no matter what your perspective is on the scene. I'll go back to my environment layer, and as I rotate it, you will see that not only does it rotate, reflections also move across my reflective layer, because it's seeing different parts of my environment. Environment layers also have the option to set them to be in both reflections and in the background, to be in reflections only, or to be only in the background and not being reflected.

You can use environment layers not just to be wonderful reflective sources, but also to create environments such as star fields, universes, and such. I'll set it back so it's both a reflective source, and appears on my render. Now the big caveat about using environment layers is that you need a huge number of pixels to keep nice, sharp reflections. I am going to go back to my camera for a moment, double-click it. And you notice its angle of view is 65 1/2 degrees, more or less. That means out of the 360 degree circle that my environment layer has been spread around, I'm only seeing 65 degrees of it, or just over 1/6th of the pixels available in that entire environment layer.

If you have a high def comp, of say, 1920 pixels wide, you multiply that by 6, you need quite a huge environment layer to have really sharp reflections. Another alternative to having a huge environment layer is to create a pre-comp that has the necessary number of pixels, and composite together multiple images to create a rich environment that you can then nest into your final comp, enabled as a layered environment layer, and then have the camera render that. So when you are working with environment layers, you'll either need to have a huge number of pixels to keep things sharp, a very wide angle camera to see more pixels of your background, if I turn this off and go to the comp's 50 millimeter camera, you'll see it renders only a small slice of our background compared to my wide-angle lens, or you'll have to live with blurry reflections to soften up the fact that you don't have a lot of resolution in your environment layer.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space
After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

54 video lessons · 13974 viewers

Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
Author

 
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  1. 4m 47s
    1. Welcome
      2m 47s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 15m 12s
    1. Comparing 2D and 3D
      5m 30s
    2. Rotation in 3D
      4m 47s
    3. Keyframing in 3D
      4m 55s
  3. 15m 9s
    1. Multi-planing workaround in 2D
      3m 21s
    2. Using 3D views
      6m 45s
    3. Natural multi-planing in 3D
      5m 3s
  4. 13m 9s
    1. Keyframing a fly-in
      5m 24s
    2. Editing 3D motion paths
      5m 43s
    3. Auto-orienting a layer along its path
      2m 2s
  5. 1h 4m
    1. Adding a camera to a composition
      9m 0s
    2. Comparing camera presets
      2m 48s
    3. Using the camera tools with the active camera
      4m 48s
    4. Using the camera tools in the alternate views
      4m 50s
    5. 3D view options
      1m 58s
    6. Animating a 3D camera
      6m 20s
    7. Creating an orbit camera rig
      5m 42s
    8. Extending your camera rig
      4m 31s
    9. Auto-orientation with 3D cameras
      7m 33s
    10. Depth of field blur in CS5.5 and later
      5m 47s
    11. Controlling the focal plane in CS5.5 and later
      5m 12s
    12. Iris properties in CS5.5 and later
      6m 16s
  6. 29m 15s
    1. Creating a 3D light
      6m 35s
    2. Working with Point lights
      3m 20s
    3. Working with Spot lights
      3m 48s
    4. Creating shadows
      10m 13s
    5. The Light Falloff feature in After Effects CS5.5 and later
      5m 19s
  7. 48m 6s
    1. Enabling ray-traced 3D in CS6
      3m 26s
    2. Extrusions in CS6
      3m 39s
    3. Bevels in CS6
      5m 39s
    4. Bending layers in CS6
      5m 35s
    5. Transparency in CS6
      4m 20s
    6. Refraction in CS6
      4m 6s
    7. Targeting Surfaces in CS6
      3m 23s
    8. Reflections in CS6
      7m 35s
    9. Environment layers in CS6
      5m 40s
    10. Quality vs. speed in CS6
      4m 43s
  8. 11m 33s
    1. Quizzler challenge for CS6
      1m 42s
    2. Quizzler solution for CS6
      9m 51s
  9. 41m 6s
    1. Vanishing Point Exchange in Photoshop Extended
      9m 18s
    2. Vanishing Point Exchange in After Effects
      4m 38s
    3. Importing a 3D model into Photoshop Extended in CS5.5 and earlier
      9m 7s
    4. Creating 3D objects using Repoussé in CS5.5 and earlier
      9m 46s
    5. Live Photoshop 3D inside After Effects in CS5.5 and earlier
      8m 17s
  10. 20m 58s
    1. Introduction to dimensional stills
      3m 41s
    2. Cutting up the source image
      2m 25s
    3. Repairing the layers in Photoshop
      8m 26s
    4. Animating the resulting layers in After Effects
      6m 26s
  11. 25m 27s
    1. Rotation vs. orientation
      3m 15s
    2. Understanding the axis modes
      4m 4s
    3. Scaling issues in 3D
      4m 57s
    4. OpenGL acceleration in CS5 and earlier
      6m 23s
    5. Fast previews in CS6 and later
      6m 48s

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