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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 I'd like to show you a brand-new light parameter that was introduced in After Effects CS5.5. I am going to go to Composition and Close All for now to clean up my display, and to play ground with this, I'm going to open up the comp 08-Open GL*starter. We also use this comp in one of the sidebars, but let's play with it here to show you this brand-new parameter. Here I have a number of layers at different distances from my camera, and to prove that I'll go to an orthographic view, like Top, and see how these layers are spread out in space.
Again, I can also look from the side, like Left, and see these different distances. Let's go back to Active Camera. I am going to add layer>New>Light to the scene. By the way, if you love keyboard shortcuts, it's basically all the modifier keys, plus L for Light. On a Mac, Option+Shift+Command, on Windows it's Alt+Shift+Ctrl. Brand-new light. Again, I am going to choose a Point Light so we don't confuse what's going on with the Cone Angle with what's going on due to Falloff. I'll start with Intensity around say 125% and a white light color.
I'm going to turn off Casts Shadows for now, just to keep things simple. But I am going to turn on Falloff. You won't see this pop-up in earlier versions of After Effects. This was introduced in After Effects CS5.5. And I am going to start off with Inverse Square Clamped. It's kind of a long technical name, but this is the way the lights work in reality. The further away you get, the light intensity falls off using an inverse square law. So I'll select that and click OK. You'll notice I have some additional Light options; the Falloff pop-up we just saw and Radius.
I am going to back up my light a little bit here so that it is illuminating these layers and start playing around with the Radius parameter. This is how large your light is. The Intensity then starts falling off, beginning at the Radius. As I decrease this, the light Intensity falls off more quickly. I can pull it down to the point where it's illuminating just the speakers and a little bit of the background layers, and if it's getting too dark, I can increase the Intensity. Or I can increase the Radius so that it also illuminates layers further away from the light, and now they're all lit fairly equally, because I'm casting a very large Radius of light.
But to create some more interesting looks, you might want to try a smaller Radius, play with Intensity to taste, and even move around the light. For example, if it's off to the side, it's going to illuminate the speaker on the right more than the speaker on the left, just because it is closer to the light. Again, to help picture this let's go to 2 Views>Horizontal. I'll switch my Right View to a custom view, and now you can see Position of my light relative to the layers controls how the layers that are further away are illuminated.
Kind of a nice look. This is the way lights work in the real world and with judicious use you can create more interesting scenes in After Effects. In addition to Inverse Square Clamped, which is how lights really work, After Effects gives you another option called Smooth, which is kind of like the cheater's light. By setting this to Smooth, I now have two parameters. As before, the Radius defines where is the light at full Intensity. Any area inside the Radius will remain full brightness, full Intensity.
Then the Falloff Distance is how far beyond the Radius does the light falloff. If I was to take Falloff Distance down to 0, we will see just a hard circle of light. Just areas inside this Radius from the light will be illuminated. As I increase the Radius, you will see I'll start to reveal the layers behind. And I'll scrub it back down again. Something a little tighter like that. Then as I increase the Falloff Distance, I basically am setting the equivalent of a Feather for that light.
Now, it's almost like a Light Cone, but now it's distance-based rather than angle-based, or I can keep broadening it out to create a nice softer Falloff and a bit more of a vignettinging feel in my scene. By the way, these are really cool parameters to animate to go ahead and do a reveal of your scene. For example, start with the speakers. Then increase the Radius and reveal more layers inside your scene. Once you get this set up, you can start combining it with other things such as shadows. It takes a while to calculate, but now we have some nice complex shadow interplay between these different layers.
Again, this was a brand-new feature added in just After Effects CS5.5. You won't have it in earlier versions. And if you're new to 3D space, I'd start off by setting this to None and making sure you have normal things like shadows and other light parameters mastered before you take your lighting to the next level, then start playing with Falloff.
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