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After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space
Illustration by John Hersey

Fast previews in CS6 and later


From:

After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer

Video: Fast previews in CS6 and later

After Effects CS6 added a ray-traced 3D renderer as an option for your compositions. Unfortunately, this renderer can be quite slow, particularly if you've cranked up the quality or if you don't have an authorized NVIDIA card that provides CUDA acceleration for your ray-trace calculations. As a result, Adobe overhauled the Faster Previews options for 3D compositions, and I would like to run through those in this side bar. I'm going to open up my composition RT7_Fast Previews*starter. It includes an environment layer-- identified by this little icon--two extruded and beveled 3D text layers that have some soft reflections in their faces as well as some transparency, and then an ordinary camera and light.
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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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After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space
4h 49m Intermediate Oct 19, 2011 Updated Dec 06, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Keyframing motion paths in 3D
  • Managing multiple 3D views
  • Auto-orienting cameras along a path
  • Creating shadows
  • Understanding Vanishing Point Exchange
  • Importing a 3D model into Photoshop Extended
  • Scaling in 3D
  • OpenGL acceleration
Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects
Authors:
Chris Meyer Trish Meyer

Fast previews in CS6 and later

After Effects CS6 added a ray-traced 3D renderer as an option for your compositions. Unfortunately, this renderer can be quite slow, particularly if you've cranked up the quality or if you don't have an authorized NVIDIA card that provides CUDA acceleration for your ray-trace calculations. As a result, Adobe overhauled the Faster Previews options for 3D compositions, and I would like to run through those in this side bar. I'm going to open up my composition RT7_Fast Previews*starter. It includes an environment layer-- identified by this little icon--two extruded and beveled 3D text layers that have some soft reflections in their faces as well as some transparency, and then an ordinary camera and light.

Along the bottom of the composition panel is a Fast Previews button that provides access to these different preview options. As of After Effects CS6, these first three options rely on CUDA acceleration from an approved NVIDIA graphics card. I happen to have a Quadra 4000 inside this 8-core Mac Pro tower. Quite often I'll use two Quadro 4000s gained together to get more speed. If you don't have access to an approved graphics acceleration card, these last two options work with essentially any graphics card.

But, as always, the trade- off is a quality versus speed. For this particular composition, I'm using a Quality setting of 5 rays--a little bit higher than the default 3--and the default anti-aliasing filter of Box. I still have a little bit of noise in my reflections, but it's not too bad. I'm going to start by using the Fast Preview option of Off, which shows you your final render quality. I'm going to press C to switch to the Unified Camera tool and by left-clicking I can orbit around this scene, and as I do so, you'll see how slow it responds.

I'll click and drag and finally it catches up with me. Drag again, it catches up with me. So even though I have a pretty good graphics card, this is not something I would call highly responsive. I'll undo. I'm going to step down to the option of Adaptive Resolution. This basically says, while I'm trying to do something interactively--so just drag a camera around the composition--go down to a lower resolution so that you have fewer pixels to calculate.

Then, when I release the mouse button, calculate the scene at final quality. So with Adaptive Resolution selected, I'll left-click and drag and you'll see it's far more responsive, but as I'm doing so, I have a reduced-resolution image for my 3D layers. So it is a bit of a trade-off. As soon as I release the mouse button, the scene renders at the final quality. You'll notice that the adaptive resolution quality is being displayed in the upper right-hand corner of my comp panel while I drag, and you'll notice that the Fast Previews button is yellow, indicating it's currently engaged.

It's using an accelerated mode. You can set how low After Effects will go with Adaptive Resolution underneath Fast Previews Preferences. This opens up the normal Preferences dialog to the Previews panel and says if necessary, it'll go as low as 1/8th, only draw 1/8th of the pixels across and 1/8th of the pixels down or 1/64th of the total pixels in your scene. If you're working with really large compositions such as high-definition video or even 4K digital cinema, you may need these lower resolutions.

I've personally find 1/8th to be a bit on the harsh side while I'm working, so I'll try not to go below 1/4th personally, but I'm a quality wonk. Do what you need to do with your hardware to make the program responsive so you don't become frustrated using it. I'm going to undo back to my original pose. Let's go down one more step in the Fast Preview hierarchy, to Draft. Draft still uses CUDA acceleration to give me a ray-traced render, but it drops the Render Options down to use only one ray per pixel.

When you did that you lose your soft reflections. You lose anti-aliasing around the edges. But you have a very responsive scene that is at least rendering all the pixels, even if it is sacrificing some of the quality in some of those pixels. And I'll undo that. If you do not have an authorized accelerated card with After Effects, After Effects will probably seem extremely slow doing CPU-only rendering. Therefore, you might need to drop down to one of these other two options.

Fast Draft turns off the ray-traced renderer. It just uses a very simple shader. I have lost my environment layer, which is part of the ray-trace feature set. I've lost my reflections and my transparency, and you also notice I've lost any anti-aliasing. But you now have a very responsive composition. This is what you may need to do on some laptops that don't have NVIDIA graphics chips, etc. I'll undo. And the final choice is of limited use unless you have very complex scenes, and that's Wireframe.

Here you don't get to see any details at all, just a wireframe box that shows where are your extruded, worked, beveled, etc., layers are. But frankly, in the a real 3D program when you have complex scenes, you'll be using this mode as well, just because is too difficult to render all of those surfaces. And I'll undo. There are keyboard shortcuts to quickly access these five different options. You can hold Command+Option on Mac or Control+Option on Windows, then go through the numbers. Command+Option+1 or Control+Option+1 chooses off. Final quality.

Holding those modifier keys and 2 gives you Adaptive Resolution. 3 gives you Fast Draft mode. 4 gives you Draft. 5 gives you wireframes. So if you memorize those, that is a way to quickly switch between different modes depending on what level of interactivity you need. If you anticipate using the ray-traced 3D renderer in After Effects, my first piece of advice for you is get the fastest video chip or card you can afford, with a fair amount of video RAM--2 gigs or more if you can.

The more video RAM you have, the larger environment layer you can load, the more models you can load, etc. But, failing that, there's always manipulating the Fast Preview mode to get you the sort of interactivity that you need.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space.


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Q: This course was updated on 12/06/2012. What changed?
A: This was a more extensive update than the other After Effects Apprentice courses. We added three new movies to Chapter 4 that cover 3D camera features in versions CS5.5 and later, such as depth of field blur. We added a new chapter on the 3D ray-traced renderer in CS6, and another chapter featuring a Quizzler challenge for CS6. Lastly, we added a movie that shows our premium subscribers how to use the exercise files, and added new sets of exercise files designed for After Effects CS5.5 and After Effects CS6.
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