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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 After Effects CS5 and earlier, the camera Depth of Field blur tended to calculate slowly, and didn't really look all that good. Well this changed as of After Effects CS5.5, where the camera now gained a large number of iris-related parameters. The iris being the opening in a camera, which determines the shape and quality of the blur. The default is Fast Rectangle, which is how After Effects CS5 and earlier looked. However, you now have a long list of different basic iris shapes, from ones that can be quite graphical, like Triangle, to once that are more similar to a real camera. Hexagon has six vein iris, Heptagon is a to seven vein iris, et cetera.
Hexagon is a good typical camera look. I'll take a snapshot of that for comparison. And go back to Fast Rectangle for comparison. Very much like a box blur compared to the more realistic Hexagon form. These various Blur parameters were both added to the Camera and also to a 2D effect called Camera Lens Blur. To explore these parameters, sometimes it can be faster to work with a 2D version of this blur, than to work in 3D space, which can be more computationally intensive.
So just for the sake of learning what these parameters do, I am going to open up a new composition, 05c-Camera Lens Blur*starter, and I am going to back to 1 View, make sure that I can see this at 100% magnification. Camera Lens Blur works particularly well when you have a lot have contrast, little highlights, like light sources, compared to an otherwise darker background. That's where you can really see nice Lens Blur patterns. I am going to select my 2D footage and apply Effect > Blur&Sharpen > Camera Lens Blur, as of After Effects CS5.5, this replaced the old lens blur effect, and apply it.
Now you see some nice circular highlights for these blurs. I'm going to increase the Blur Radius, so you can really see what's going on here. Now we can see some pretty large shapes, and for this effect I am going to turn on Repeat Edge Pixels. That means don't blur the alpha channel, just blur the RGB channels. You don't need to worry about this with a normal 3D Camera Blur. Now you have a much better view of what's happening with the different shapes. Triangle, which now has a very obvious shape to it. Square, and by the wa,y you can rotate, so you can be very graphical, such as this, or even animate it to create some interesting graphical effects. I'll return to 0 for now.
And other shapes up through Decagon, a 10-sided Iris, which is almost round. These more complex shapes attend to take longer to render then say the Fast Rectangle we had back with the 3D Camera. However, you can round these Shapes out. I am going to go back to something like, say, Pentagon, which is a five-sided shape, and play around with a Roundness parameter, where I can make it a completely perfect circle, or something in between with just a little bit of bowing to the sides of that Iris shape. You have Aspect Ratio. If you shoot with an anamorphic camera, your blurs tend to take on the different shapes, so you set that to match your pixel Aspect Ratio. And Diffraction Fringe, which is kind of a fun effect. Again, take a look at how nicely filled in these circles are.
As I increase Diffraction Fringe, you'll notice that the brightness tends to creep out more towards the outside of the circle, and it tends to be less bright or less luminance in the middle of the circle. Diffraction Fridge up to 0, Fridge of a maximum of 500. And again this is another path to a more graphical look, particularly as we try out larger Blur Radius settings, such as around there. Another area very much worth exploring in both the 2D Camera Lens Blur Effect and 3D Cameras is the highlight section. It's the ability to pump up the gain of specular highlights, brighter than they would normally be, which can give that extra pop in a scene.
The two main parameters are Gain and Threshold. I am going quite Gain up for now, now you see my bright circles getting even brighter. Threshold is very important as well. This says, above what luminance value do we brighten those highlights. Now with the 3D Camera this defaults to the highest value, 255 out of a 0 to 255 range, which means virtually no pixels qualified to be increased, or to have Gain applied to them. I far prefer the default value in the Cameras Lens Blur effect, which allows the top 20% or so of your luminous values to give this extra gain.
In the scene, which is predominantly dark, I might even lower it, so that more of my brights get pumped up by this Gain setting. Again that's Gain 0, Gain 100. As you increase Gain, you'll notice that these Highlights start moving towards white. If you want to get color back in these highlights, increase the Saturation parameter. I tend to like colorful, graphical looks, and don't worry all that much of about realism. So quite often I will increase the Saturation to get my color back in these highlights, and create them more colorful scene. And again before, and after, maxing out the Saturation setting.
Again, these Highlights settings and these Iris properties are identical between the Camera Lens Blur Effect applied to 2D Footage and 3D Cameras. And you'll see all these parameters down here in the Timeline Panel. The Cameras Lens Blur Effect has I one more advantage of allowing you to apply a Blur Map, and this way it becomes a compound blur effect, where you can look at another layer to decide what sections of this layer will receive the blur. We talked about compound effects in depth back in the lesson on testing and pre-composing compositions.
So that's Camera Lens Blur, and also Depth of Field Blur, in After Effects. Again, as of After Effects CS5.5, there was a major change in allowing you to have more control over how those blurs actually looked.
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