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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.
Next, let's just keyframe a really simple animation of these two layers, just so you can get a feel for what's the same and what's a little bit different about handling 3D layers in After Effects. First I'm going to go ahead and start these off in the same distance away from me, the same Z dimension. By the way, when two layers have the same Z dimension, then sorting order in the Timeline panel does matter as to who appears in front of whom. And I'm going to put Enter a New just slightly above Dimension, as we had before, maybe a little bit of on overlap, just like that.
We're going to animate both Position and Rotation of these layers. I'm pretty close to my ending pose, so I'm going to go later in time, like somewhere around say 3 seconds and just set up a bit of a Rotation for these layers. Now, remember, don't animate Orientation, animate Rotation. And I'll go ahead and give myself a little Rotation, perhaps like this. Then let's enter the same Rotation in the opposite direction for my other layer. Go to +50 there. Now, since you have three different Rotation parameters for each layer to worry about, it's important to remember to enable keyframing for the right property, for the layer you actually intend to animate, such as Y Rotation.
I'm going to make sure that I enable keyframing for that. And since I mentioned that I also want to animate the Position, I'll enable keyframing for the Position values for both layers at this at rest time and Position. Okay, I'm going to press Home to return to Time 0 in my composition and let's animate a bit of a move. I want this Enter a New layer to rotate, maybe starting from around say there. I'll type in 70, just because I happen to like even numbers, and we'll have the other layer rotate from the opposite direction, -70. Next, let's edit the Position.
Let's have Enter a New fly down from close to us and Dimension fly towards us from further away. So we're scrubbing the Position value for Enter a New. Now, again, notice as I bring the layer closer to me, it gets larger. You can also animate the Scale for 3D layers, but just keep in mind, their perspective related to how close or how far away will also automatically scale these layers as well. Let's have fun and start it from maybe around here, which is -900, and again, have the other layer do the opposite animation. Start from +900.
You notice as the layers get close to you, they scale very quickly. As layers go further away from you, the change doesn't happen nearly as fast. Again, that's just natural perspective you'd expect in the real world. I'm going to End my Work Area a little bit earlier here, maybe just 10 frames after my keyframes, then press 0 on numeric keypad and RAM Preview. And there's my very simple animation, flying down and coming towards me. Maybe I want to make some tweaks to that, so just have the fly down in position happen much sooner.
Do this for both of these layers. I'm pressing Shift to snap the keyframe in my Current Time Indicator, and I'm going to select them and change them into Easy Ease keyframes so that the layers align more softly. Preview, and then the rotation continues on after they land. 3D layers, by the way, react very well to Motion Blur. You might notice I've already enabled Motion Blur for the composition. But once again, I need to also enable it for the layers I want to be blurred.
I'll move it somewhere earlier in time where the layers are really moving fast. I have both layers selected, so I just enable for one and both layers will get Motion Blur. And After Effects actually does calculate a very nice Blur in 3D, that takes into account the Position, Scale, and Rotation layers as they move. Preview again. It takes a little bit longer to calculate, particularly as these layers get very close to me. But there's our animation. So as you see, very basic keyframing in 3D isn't much different than keyframing 2D layers.
A couple of other things I want to note before we go on. These text layers continuously rasterize, so they stay nice and sharp, particularly when Motion Blur is off. So we don't need to worry about starting off with really large text layers to look good in 3D. However, as you have pixel-based layers, like video or photographs, the closer they come to the camera, the more they're going to be scaled up, and the more important it is that you have a lot of pixels and a lot of resolution to start with. And I'll talk a little bit about scaling in 3D in a sidebar at the very end of this lesson.
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