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After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics with Ian Robinson covers some of the core principles used to create motion graphics, breaking them down into smaller groups of applied techniques in After Effects. The course explores everything from gathering inspiration to integrating traditional typography, transitional elements, animated textures, color, and more into motion graphics. Instructions for building a toolkit with templates and a style guide for future projects are also included. Exercise files accompany the course.
If you're joining me from the last video, this scene probably looks pretty familiar. But if it's new to you, check it out. We've got a ground plane, our ALL Winter text in three-dimensional space, and then we have a point light which is just kind of tinting the scene a little bit yellow, and then we have a parallel light which is helping illuminate the scene overall just a little bit from the back, and then the spotlight, which is our primary light. There are some features that a lot of people tend to gloss over or miss when they first get started, and I want to just sort of bring those to light here in this video about lighting techniques, because you need to know these little, fine details if you want to take your designs to the next level.
So the first thing I want to explain is the shadow depth. Right now, if we grab our Orbit Around tool, and orbit around to the back side of the type, as you can see here--here let me zoom in to 100%--the shadows look pretty good. Our type layer is sitting right on the ground. It's just right there on the ground. But if we go to Composition > Comp Settings, under the Advanced tab, under the Rendering Plug-in for Advanced 3D, you want to click on the Options button.
Now by default the Shadow Map Resolution is set to the comp size of your project. Let's first change that to 250. Now since our project is 1280 x 720, this is going to bring the Shadow Map Resolution down. When we look at the scene, all I have do is press OK, and you can see I've got kind of a light leak underneath the layer here, and that's because the shadow map doesn't have very much detail. You might be thinking yourself, why in the heck would I want to give myself less detail? Well if you've got a really complicated scene with a whole bunch of shadows and you know it looks perfectly fine for your one frame of high-res render that you did for reference, then if you're just trying to preview an animation, go ahead and change your shadow maps way, way down to 250. Then do your renders.
That way you'll see whether shadows are supposed to be falling, but you're not wasting extra time waiting for a full-res render when the animation hasn't been approved yet. So back under our Comp Settings, let's go to Options and change this. Just so you can see it, we'll change it up to 4000. Now, obviously that would increase render time significantly, but once we go ahead and do that, now look at how sharp and crisp that shadow is. It's almost too crisp. See how I'm getting some of the jaggies there just because of the jaggedness of the type.
We'll go ahead and just change our Options right back to the comp size, but I wanted you to see that feature because it is kind of important when you're trying to just get that little extra bit of detail. The next thing I want to show you is quite a lot of fun, and it has to do with the fact that a lot of times when you create lights, you may want a light to illuminate some things in the scene but not other things. So if I zoom back out here, you can see our scene, and right now we have our spotlight that's illuminating the entire scene and then our point light is just kind of giving this slight yellow cast. Okay.
Well, let's say I want my point light to only affect the type, but I don't want it to affect the ground. Things are going to look really strange here, but what I want you do in the point layer is go over to the adjustment check box, and what this does is it changes this point light into an adjustment layer. Let's go ahead and click on that. Since it's an adjustment layer and everything in the scene is below the point light, it's still affecting everything in the scene.
But what I want it to do is affect just the type, not the ground. So this is going to look weird, but I'm going to grab the type layer and drag it below the ground. Traditionally, when you render things in After Effects and that sort of thing, I'm sure you're probably used to the traditional Photoshop workflow where--you know, whatever is on the layer above is always shown visibly above the previous layer. But since we're in three- dimensional space, this really doesn't matter. Now when we drag our point light down underneath the ground layer but above the type layer, look at what happens.
Boom, as I toggle the visibility of the point layer on and off, you can see we've just added a nice highlight to the text, but haven't affected the ground layer at all. So to further illustrate my point, let's go ahead and change the spotlight into an adjustment layer as well. Go ahead and drag the spotlight down below the ground plane and check it out. It's still illuminating the type. If we open up the options for the light by pressing AA, we can adjust the Cone Angle. As you can see, I still have my spot- light illuminating the type, but it's not illuminating the ground.
Now obviously, I can just turn that right back off, and we're back to where we started. But again, I just wanted you to know how you can isolate each individual light in the scene. Let's move the spotlight back up. And so as you can see, we've added a lot more detail to the scene just by looking at some of the finer points of using lights with adjustment layers, as well as adjusting our shadow maps under the Advanced Comp settings.
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