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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.
Now that I'm viewing my scene as two different views; I've set up one of the views to be Active Camera, what's going to render, and I've set up another view to show me a perspective on the scene, now I can start separating these buildings in Z space. To do that, it's just a matter of selecting a layer, either here in one of the Composition panels or down here in the Timeline panel, and either scrubbing its values, again, in the Timeline panel or interactively grabbing its axis arrow to constrain my movements and pulling these layers out.
So I'm going to pull this shrub close to us, along with this building, not in front of the shrub, but a little bit behind, like about there, and in general start pushing these buildings forward and back to create an arrangement that I like. I'll bring this building up a little bit into the gap as well. Make sure you scrub your Current Time Indicator, so you see things at different points in time, to get a better idea of what's going on. Make sure that you see that axis arrow Z. If I didn't, I'll start moving the building freely and I'll disconnect from the ground and bad things will happen.
Let's go ahead and set that back a little bit in space and set these larger buildings even further away. I'll put my skyscraper further back. Let's do something with these clouds. Maybe I'll even put this cloud in between these two buildings, like around there. Now, you might notice that as I grab these layers and pull them towards you and away from you, even though my movement is supposedly constrained to the Z axis, over in the left Active Camera, they seem to go higher or lower in the frame.
It's not that I'm editing the Y Position of this layer. This is just another natural result of 3D perspective. As you know, when an object flies towards you, it will eventually go over your head. You also know as an object goes away from you, it will eventually disappear towards the horizon, which is lower. So you do have to think a little bit more and be a little bit more iterative when you place these layers, because you might find that you need to change the Y Position as well after you've changed the Z axis. I'll get a little bit more separation here just for fun, pull the house a little bit closer like that, and drag my Current Time Indicator and see how this is going.
And now I'm seeing a lot more Multiplaning action going on with my buildings. I'll press 0 on the numeric keypad to RAM Preview. Now we'll see the buildings closest to us are indeed moving faster than the buildings further away. And we are getting a little bit of movement between these clouds and these buildings. If you're not getting the desired amount of movement, the difference in speeds that the different layers are moving, you just need to spread things further apart in space. And I'll push this building further back. Oops, See, I didn't have my Z axis selected so I'm freely moving this layer.
I'll undo, make sure I'm moving just that dimension, and push things back. Same with the skyscraper, even further away. Put that cloud behind it, put this cloud in between. Again, I'm freely moving. Let's use that axis arrow. There we go. And if you find it a little to fiddly to grab these axis arrows, you know, frankly, quite often, I just go ahead and scrub values down here in the Timeline panel, that's what I'm used to.
Now, as I drag the Current Time Indicator, I can get even more variation and speed between the different layers of my composition. Note that I've not keyframed Position for any of these other layers. The Null Object that all these layers are connected to is still the only layer that is animating, and indeed I can go ahead and edit just that Null and have the whole scene move faster or slower. It's the natural spread between these layers in 3D space I've set up that's giving me this impression of Multiplaning, and that's one of the big advantages of 3D space.
You get much more natural looking animations, depending on how you arrange your scene in space. I'll RAM Preview again. Now, you can see where this would be much faster to set up and tweak than having to animate all of these layers individually in 2D space. You can even see the shrub moving a little bit in relation to this building. Now, if you got lost with what I was doing, you can go ahead and open up Comps_Finished and open up Multiplaning _final and you'll see a similar result with these buildings.
Now that you have a basic understanding of 3D, let's move onto something more advanced and actually animating our layers through 3D space.
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