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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.
I've returned to After Effects. I'm going to play around with some of these 3D objects I've been creating in Photoshop. First, I'm going to clear my display by doing Close All and I'm going to clean up by selecting this building that I imported in earlier movies and put it down in the My Comps folder. And indeed select My Comps, because you're going to be importing some brand-new material into it. I'm going to type Command+I on Mac, Ctrl +I on Windows to get the Import dialog. I'm going to go up to the 3D folder, where I've been saving all my files so far. And if you followed along with the 3D model steps a couple of movies ago, select the model you saved from Photoshop.
If you do not have access to Photoshop or do not perform those steps, instead, you can select TV clock.psd. I'll click Open, and in the next dialog that appears, change Import Kind to Composition - Retain layer Sizes. This will create an After Effects composition for me, return the layers to the required size. This was called Crop layers in earlier versions of After Effects. Then make sure the option Live Photoshop 3D is enabled. This is what allows you to get access to the 3D models saved inside layered Photoshop files.
Now, I will click OK, and you see inside my selected folder, I have a subfolder with my components and a new comp called TV clock. And it is the same size as the file I created in Photoshop. I'll double-click it to open it. It will take a moment to render; 3D from Photoshop is very slow in After Effects, so that's something you have to get used to. Now I will zoom up to 100% to give myself a little bit more room to view this. Here's that model you saw inside Photoshop, and even more significantly, since we applied a movie as the Texture for the face of that TV, you can click at later points in time and see the video actually play inside the TV monitor.
Now, you might have some previewing issues like I have here with the screens going black in between the redraws. I am actually going to change OpenGL off for now, just so I have more consistent playback inside the display. Since the Photoshop 3D plug-in is itself an OpenGL plug-in, I'm not relying on the Fast Previews options to decide how this is going to be drawn. Even though I seem to create just one layer inside Photoshop, you'll see four layers appear inside the resulting After Effects composition. One is the Background. You don't need this layer, so I am going to turn that off for now, so I get transparency.
The Camera is crated for you, and indeed if I press C to get my Orbit Camera tool, I can indeed move around this 3D model. You'll even see a little bit of lighting reflections here as my lights set up inside Photoshop play across this model. Then there are these two different layers named TV, and it's very important to understand the difference between these two layers. The layer named TV is the layer that actually renders. If I turn it off, it disappears; turn it back on, the TV is drawn.
I'm going to type E to reveal Effects, and you'll see there is an effect applied called Live Photoshop 3D. I'll use the keyboard shortcut F3 to open up the Effects Control panel, and you see it has very few parameters; weather or not to use Photoshop's Camera, or your Composition Camera. If you want to reanimate this in After Effects, you need to use the Comp Camera. And also whether or not to use Photoshop's Transformations or allow you to move it around inside After Effects. And again, you want to be able to reanimate this in After Effects, so leave that checked off. There's also a whole set of Transform properties that this plug-in is using to decide how to position this layer in space.
You'll notice all the values are red. This means they've been expressed to another layer, and that other layer is this layer called TV Controller. TV Controller is just a Null Object. You notice it has its 3D layer switch set. You can even turn it off and it won't affect the TV, just the outline of that Null Object, and this is the layer that you actually scrub and animate to move your TV around. Adobe has done this so you can go ahead and keyframe normal Transform properties rather than dive into an effect and try to keyframe those properties.
Now, the first things I am going to do is give myself a nice basic orientation, where the TV is facing at me, 90 degrees, 360. I can scrub these to go ahead and rotate the TV here and animate it, and I could also change its Position by animating these parameters. You'll notice that these parameters don't necessarily work the way you expect them to; Y makes sense, X however seems to work like Z and vice versa. That's why it's often better to position one of these things in space, then move your camera around it.
Now, one thing you might have noticed is that this model is looking jagged and ugly again. That shouldn't be, because you set it to Ray Traced Draft back in Photoshop, which looked better. Well, here is another important trick about Photoshop 3D layers; the layer that actually renders defaults to being in Draft Quality. Draft Quality says use the fastest interactive rendering option. That's great, because it makes it much faster to go ahead and set up camera poses, animation keyframes, et cetera.
When you render, you want to make sure your Render Settings render at Best Quality, and that's how your templates should be set up. You can also preview Best Quality right here on the comp by toggling this Quality from Draft to Best. Now, there will be a pause while it renders, and now you get nice clean anti-aliasing, with some nice lighting Falloff at the expense of very slow interactivity. There we go! So this is actually a sensible tradeoff that Photoshop has given you.
Leave it at Draft so you can quickly move it and position it, and allow your Render Settings to render this at Best Quality. Now, note that I don't have any lights in this scene, and adding lights in After Effects will have no effect on this layer. All of the lighting is done back in Photoshop. If you need to change that lighting or any other parameter, select the layer that has a Live Photoshop 3D effect applied, then go to Edit> Edit Original, and it will now open that model back inside Photoshop. Just to show you how this works, I'm going to go ahead and pick one of the surfaces, change its color, make something in the darker gray, click OK, Save; very important, you must save in Photoshop before toggling back to After Effects, and then this will re-render, after a fashion, with a new color I set up inside Photoshop.
The last tip is, if you want to apply any effects to this layer, again, those effects must be applied to the layer that actually renders, the one that got the Live Photoshop 3D plug-in. Now, importing Repousse objects from Photoshop is just like importing these 3D models, it uses the same underlying technology. I'll choose My Comps, Command or Ctrl+I to Import. I will select the Repousse layer I created, Open. Make sure it's at Composition>Retain layer Sizes. This says Crop layers in earlier versions of After Effects, and that Live Photoshop 3D is enabled.
I'll click OK, double-click the Comp to open it, and there is my Repousse text. And again, it defaults to a Draft Quality, which is more interactive. If I want to see this rendered to higher quality, I toggle, the layer that has the Photoshop effect applied, E to Reveal Effects to Best Quality, and after a fashion, I'll get my anti -aliasing and improved lighting. So that's how you can use Photoshop as sort of a 3D modeling add on to After Effects.
It's not an ideal solution. There are third-party plug-ins that are better. We personally use dedicated 3D programs like CINEMA 4D. However, if all you have access to is a suite like Production Premium, this gives you an option of getting true 3D geometry into After Effects.
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