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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.
In the previous two movies on Vanishing Point Exchange we created what was really a house of cards 3D model. That was just a series of flat surfaces arranged to create the illusion of a 3D object. In this movie, we're going to show you how to actually import a full dimensional 3D model, and note that you'll need Photoshop Extended CS4 or later to do this. I'm going to hide After Effects, I'm back in Photoshop, and to do this you need to start with a blank document. So I'll go to File>New, and as the Photoshop document size will be our beginning composition size, I'm going to go down to the Film & Video templates and choose NTSC D1 Square Pixel.
You could choose any of these, I'm choosing this one because it's nice and small and efficient. I'm going to set my Background Color to Transparent, since I might want a bit of background behind this later, and click OK. In addition to having a document with a clear background layer, you'll see that I already have action and title safe guides in this document. That's a feature of Photoshop's templates. Next, I'm going to go to 3D>New layer From 3D File. In this movie you won't actually be building your geometry inside of Photoshop, you'll be importing a model that you or someone else has made in a dedicated 3D modeling program.
Select this, and you'll see at the bottom I have a list of different formats that Photoshop can import. 3D Studio Max from Autodesk is a very common exchange format. You'll find a lot of libraries in this format. There is also DAE, Google Earth, Wavefront |OBJ, another common format, et cetera. We've provided you a TV saved in a 3D Studio Max format, select that and click Open. It will take Photoshop a second to think about it, and now we have our TV inside a Photoshop layer. To move around the TV I've got a few different tools, such as Object Rotate and Camera Rotate.
For now I'm going to rotate just the object and leave the invisible camera where it is. Select, you'll see I've some axis arrows up here in the upper left corner, click and drag, and here is my TV model. To see more details about how this TV was constructed, I can either look in my Layers panel, or even better, I'll go up to Window and open up the dedicated 3D panel. I'm going to tear it off and put it close to my model so I can see what's going on, and make it a little bit taller so I can see all these details. You are at the mercy of the person who created the model to name things in a manner that makes sense.
In this case the model's creator seemed to have kept the names for various primitive objects, like Box, Text, and Cylinder. So unless you're the one who created the model, you'll need to spend a little bit of time turning different pieces on and off and seeing just what they relate to. I can see that that is the back of the TV, text is indeed the little Samsung logo here at the bottom, and here are elements of the base that have also been built. The main screen is up here, under Box01.
I want to replace some of the colors and textures that came with this model. I'm going to start off with this white frame, it's a bit blown out for me. And again, you'll need to actually go through the individual textures applied to this model to get an idea for who is who. I see this first texture has Diffuse color of white. I suspect that might be this white plastic. I'll choose another color such as red, and I see that I did indeed pick the right texture for the white plastic. I think I'm going to go for something a little bit more in the beige range, to make this a little more understated.
A gotcha between Photoshop Extended CS4 and later versions is that for this particular model Photoshop CS4 saw the Ambient color, the additional Fill color applied to model, as a nice dark gray. For some reason on this same model CS5 and later sees it as white. That's what's blowing off the colors in this model. Since I do have my own lights in this scene, I'm going to knock down the Ambient to a very low value, almost black, with just a little bit of Fill around the edges, and I'll click OK. You'll notice that the person who created this model has used this texture N06 for several other pieces, including the pedestal for this, so changing one color changed multiple model pieces.
The next item I'd like to work on is replace this screen with a graphic, maybe even a movie. So again I need to do a little bit of hunting as to which of these textures represent that screen. Just from the colors, the darker gray is probably the speakers here on the left and right and this lighter gray is probably the screen. The person who created this model chose a neutral gray to start with, to simulate the screen being turned off. I'm going to replace this with my own graphic. Now, since computer monitors and TVs actually project light, I'm going to turn the natural color of this monitor basically off, I'll set it to black, and instead I'm going to go to the Illumination property for this monitor; what colors does this project other than just reflect the available light.
You can set a color or there is this little Folder icon to the right. It allows you to either create a New Texture in Photoshop or Load a Texture from an image or video you already have on your computer. I'm going to choose Load Texture. You can choose your own video or navigate inside the Source files provided with these Exercise Files. Open up movies. I want to pick the movie Clock. Click Open. I'll be given a warning about the pixel aspect ratio. This new document is using square pixels, that particular movie used non-square video pixels.
I'll go ahead and let Photoshop correct the difference between the two. And there is my video mapped into my 3D model in Photoshop. As soon as I click and drag, Photoshop employs a different rendering engine to make it more responsive. As soon as I let go, this is how the scene looks with the current lighting. Now, as I rotated this monitor, you might have noticed something odd, the video is also mapped onto the back of this particular monitor. That was an unfortunate choice by the person who created this model. They used the same texture, N08, for the back of this model as they did for the screen.
You cannot actually edit the 3D model geometry inside Photoshop, but you can turn layers on and off. I'll just turn off the back of the monitor and leave it at that, and I'll just make sure I see this primarily from the front angle inside After Effects. Now, you will be able to do your own camera move on this object later on inside After Effects. However, you cannot use lighting from After Effects. You need to decide on all of your lighting inside Photoshop. And you'll see down here we have a couple of lights already selected for this layer.
You can go ahead and edit Color, Intensity, and other parameters of the light, or pick among some Preset lighting that Adobe has provided. For example, Dawn is a warm Preset. You see this purple color. Day Lights are a bit more neutral. Fire is colorized red. Mardi Gras is -- well, I don't know how to describe that to be honest, and other options. I'll go ahead and go back to the Default Lights for now. Now, there is one more very important parameter you have to be aware of, and that is your Rendering Quality. Select the scene.
This is the container for the entire model. Then look at the bottom part of the 3D panel for Render Settings. You have some options for how this is rendered. For example, things such as Wireframe can create a very customized Illustrator sort of look. Indeed, Shaded Illustration is also kind of cool. It combines a Wireframe with the colors. But I'll go ahead and leave this at the default for now. Secondly, there's Quality. Photoshop defaults to Interactive mode, because that's basically the fastest and most responsive. However, you'll see the price here is a lot of aliasing, where you get a lot of jaggy lines.
For rendering inside After Effects you will want to use Ray Traced Draft. That will get rid of a lot of these aliased jaggy lines; you see how they smooth up there, and give you a better appearance at the expense of more rendering time. There is another option in here called Ray Traced Final, that's what you want to use for print, but it takes forever to render inside Affect Effects on every single frame. So stay away from this one when you plan to import them all into After Effects. By the way, the namings of these have changed a little bit between versions of Photoshop, just remember you want the middle one.
Now that you've set up your scene, all you need to do is save it as a Photoshop file. So I'll select Save, choose where I want to put this, perhaps in my 3D folder. I'll call this MyTV. Make sure we save as layers, Photoshop Format, and click Save. Go ahead and leave these Format options at their defaults, click OK, and now you're ready to go into After Effects.
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