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Reflections in CS6

From: After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

Video: Reflections in CS6

In this movie, we're going to move from Transparent layers, where you can see through them to the layers behind, to Reflective layers, layers that allow you to see the image that's in front of the layer being bounced off the face of the 3D object you're looking at. I'm going to open up the comp Raytrace4-Reflections*starter. I have some extruded and beveled text in front of a still image that has been placed in 3D Space. And to get a better view of what's going on I'm going to change my layout to 2 Views - Vertical. Up top is my Active Camera, so I can see what's going to render, and down below I have a top view of my scene where I can see most of the layers, but let's improve this view.

Reflections in CS6

In this movie, we're going to move from Transparent layers, where you can see through them to the layers behind, to Reflective layers, layers that allow you to see the image that's in front of the layer being bounced off the face of the 3D object you're looking at. I'm going to open up the comp Raytrace4-Reflections*starter. I have some extruded and beveled text in front of a still image that has been placed in 3D Space. And to get a better view of what's going on I'm going to change my layout to 2 Views - Vertical. Up top is my Active Camera, so I can see what's going to render, and down below I have a top view of my scene where I can see most of the layers, but let's improve this view.

I'm going to select View > Look at All Layers, and that will initially resize my views so they all fit inside this viewport. I'm going to press 'C' to bring up the Unified Camera tool, right-click and drag to zoom back a little more in scene, and give myself some more room to move these layers around. Press 'V' to return to the Selection Tool. Initially, my layer that I wish to reflect is sitting behind my text. There is nothing in front of the text to bounce off of it and back to the camera, and let's see the consequences of that.

I'm going to select the Text layer, type AA to reveal its 3D specific parameters, and I'm going to twirl up Geometry Options for now as I don't need them. I'm actually going to go ahead and drag this Timeline panel over here to the left into the same frame as my Project panel, so that I can see this long list of parameters closer to the images I'm working with. I'll drag this a little bit wider just to make sure I can see the parameters. Watch what happens when I increase the reflection intensity of the text with this initial layout of my scene.

As I increase Reflection Intensity, you'll notice that the face of the text goes dark. There's two things going on here. One, there's nothing in front of the text to reflect back to the camera, so what's been reflected in essence is black space. Two, After Effects employs what's called an Energy Conserving Shader. What that means is, as it increases the amount of reflection it's calculated into shading the face of this text, it's reducing the diffuse color of this text.

If your scene was properly laid out this will keep a roughly equal luminance as you mix together reflections and the original color of the layer. But if you don't have scene laid out properly, your color disappears, and all you see is, well, nothing being reflected. You will notice, however, that the sides of the text are indeed reflecting portions of this image behind. Basically you have pixels of the image that are hitting these edges of the text and getting bounced to the camera, so you will see these glancing reflections.

I'm going to go ahead and select my background layer, type AA to reveal its 3D specific parameters, resize my window a little bit here, and change its Appears in Reflections parameter, so it's only Appears in Reflections. Now you can see more clearly how that Background layer is being reflected off the sides of this text. And I'll turn the Reflections back on. Now let's lay the scene out a bit little more properly to get real reflections. To do that, I need to move my layer that has the image I wish to reflect somewhere in this scene so that its pixels can get bounced off the face of my 3D object back to the camera.

You can scrub the Position values of this layer or you can just go ahead and pick it up in one of your views and drag it. As I do so you'll see a couple of things happen. One, it's now between the camera and the 3D layer, that arrangement is not going to work. I'm going to need to get it out of the way of the camera. I have it behind the camera now, but you still can't really see the reflective qualities of this layer. That's because it's still in front of the light. The light needs to illuminate this layer so that it can bounce pixels back to my reflective 3D object.

As I drag my layer a little further away from the camera, now you'll see these reflections appear in the layer behind. And I can rearrange my scene so that the Reflective layer is better illuminated by this light. You notice I still have specular highlights hitting the edges of my text. The Energy Conserving Shader in After Effects does not reduce the strength of your specular highlights, it just reduces the strength of the diffuse color, the diffuse lighting of your layer, as you increase reflections.

Now you can start to arrange your scene a little bit better, to get the desired reflection pattern that you want. How far the reflection source is away from your 3D layer will have an effect. I've now pulled it so far away that it doesn't cover the entire text, but I could always scale it up larger, and of course you can move it to sides, rotate it, et cetera, to get different views. There's a couple of tricks you can employ to ease your layout of the scene. If you don't intend to actually see this layer, you just want to use it as a reflection source, you can do two things.

One, you can set Appears in Reflection to Only. That way you don't need to bother with where this reflective source is in the scene relative to the camera. Here it's in front of my camera, which would normally block its view, but since I have Appears in Reflections set to Only, it's still appearing as a reflection in the scene. It disappears from the Camera's view but it still appears in reflections. Two, you notice I still have some lighting issues, I would have to pull my light back, or maybe add another light, or add ambient light. But if all I want is this reflection source to be evenly lit, I can change its Accepts Lights parameter to Off.

Now it will reflect its original color values, regardless of what's happening with the lighting in the scene. Now I'm free to place my lights to go ahead and get the specular highlights that I want, or to blend the amount of reflections with the amount of diffuse color of this text. There's one more trick I'd like to show you. You'll notice that my reflection is mirror sharp right now. That might be what you want, it may not be what you want. Sometimes slightly soft or diffuse reflections look a little nicer. Well, you could blur your source image, or even better, you can fine-tune how each layer responds to those reflections.

Basically change how each surface behaves in your scene. And in this case that parameter is called Reflection Sharpness. As I reduce the sharpness, you'll notice my reflections start to get soft. This means, for example, you could have a floor that had a very diffuse reflection such as this, and then have a mirror or other piece of glass in the scene that had a perfectly sharp reflection. You don't need to alter the source, alter how each layer responds to that source. Now you might also notice that my reflections are a bit on the noisy side when I reduce the Reflection Sharpness.

That's an issue I'll talk about a couple of movies from now when we discuss ray-trace and quality. But what I want to focus on in this movie is how you have to layout your scene. You have to make sure that pixels from one layer are getting bounced off your reflective 3D object, back to the camera, and that you've taken into account the illumination of that layer throwing off the reflection, either by positioning your light carefully or just telling it not to accept lights so it stays naturally, fully illuminated.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space
After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

54 video lessons · 14129 viewers

Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
Author

 
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  1. 4m 47s
    1. Welcome
      2m 47s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 15m 12s
    1. Comparing 2D and 3D
      5m 30s
    2. Rotation in 3D
      4m 47s
    3. Keyframing in 3D
      4m 55s
  3. 15m 9s
    1. Multi-planing workaround in 2D
      3m 21s
    2. Using 3D views
      6m 45s
    3. Natural multi-planing in 3D
      5m 3s
  4. 13m 9s
    1. Keyframing a fly-in
      5m 24s
    2. Editing 3D motion paths
      5m 43s
    3. Auto-orienting a layer along its path
      2m 2s
  5. 1h 4m
    1. Adding a camera to a composition
      9m 0s
    2. Comparing camera presets
      2m 48s
    3. Using the camera tools with the active camera
      4m 48s
    4. Using the camera tools in the alternate views
      4m 50s
    5. 3D view options
      1m 58s
    6. Animating a 3D camera
      6m 20s
    7. Creating an orbit camera rig
      5m 42s
    8. Extending your camera rig
      4m 31s
    9. Auto-orientation with 3D cameras
      7m 33s
    10. Depth of field blur in CS5.5 and later
      5m 47s
    11. Controlling the focal plane in CS5.5 and later
      5m 12s
    12. Iris properties in CS5.5 and later
      6m 16s
  6. 29m 15s
    1. Creating a 3D light
      6m 35s
    2. Working with Point lights
      3m 20s
    3. Working with Spot lights
      3m 48s
    4. Creating shadows
      10m 13s
    5. The Light Falloff feature in After Effects CS5.5 and later
      5m 19s
  7. 48m 6s
    1. Enabling ray-traced 3D in CS6
      3m 26s
    2. Extrusions in CS6
      3m 39s
    3. Bevels in CS6
      5m 39s
    4. Bending layers in CS6
      5m 35s
    5. Transparency in CS6
      4m 20s
    6. Refraction in CS6
      4m 6s
    7. Targeting Surfaces in CS6
      3m 23s
    8. Reflections in CS6
      7m 35s
    9. Environment layers in CS6
      5m 40s
    10. Quality vs. speed in CS6
      4m 43s
  8. 11m 33s
    1. Quizzler challenge for CS6
      1m 42s
    2. Quizzler solution for CS6
      9m 51s
  9. 41m 6s
    1. Vanishing Point Exchange in Photoshop Extended
      9m 18s
    2. Vanishing Point Exchange in After Effects
      4m 38s
    3. Importing a 3D model into Photoshop Extended in CS5.5 and earlier
      9m 7s
    4. Creating 3D objects using Repoussé in CS5.5 and earlier
      9m 46s
    5. Live Photoshop 3D inside After Effects in CS5.5 and earlier
      8m 17s
  10. 20m 58s
    1. Introduction to dimensional stills
      3m 41s
    2. Cutting up the source image
      2m 25s
    3. Repairing the layers in Photoshop
      8m 26s
    4. Animating the resulting layers in After Effects
      6m 26s
  11. 25m 27s
    1. Rotation vs. orientation
      3m 15s
    2. Understanding the axis modes
      4m 4s
    3. Scaling issues in 3D
      4m 57s
    4. OpenGL acceleration in CS5 and earlier
      6m 23s
    5. Fast previews in CS6 and later
      6m 48s

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