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In the previous movie, we created some completely translucent text. To make it easier to read, we increased the Transparency Rolloff parameter just to get some definition back to the edges. However, this is not a realistic look. Normally, when light rays travel through translucent objects, they get bent whenever they hit the interface between two different materials, like between air and glass. Well, to simulate that effect, you want to pay attention to the Index of Refraction parameter in After Effects. Right now, only the text is in 3D, the background is in 2D, and you will remember the 2D and 3D layers do not interact with each other in After Effects.
You'll still get a composite based on alpha channels and partial transparency, but a 3D layer by itself cannot bend the rays of a 2D layer. But even in this simple case, light rays are bouncing around inside this 3D object itself. So as I increase my Index of Refraction, you'll see some changes happening, and basically how light rays are moving around and through this object itself. The way that you see the back surfaces and the bevels through the front surfaces and bevels is slightly distorted.
Now right around 1.5 is roughly the equivalent of glass. I am going to scrub the Refraction back down to 1 for now and convert my Background layer into a 3D layer. Initially its Z position is zero, that's why you didn't see it jump when I enabled the 3D switch, but now both the background and the text are being calculated by the ray-traced 3D engine. As a result, as I slowly increase the Index of Refraction, you'll now see that background layer is much more distorted as it passes through our translucent 3D object in front.
And here is where you really start to get those true 3D looks. This looks much more glasslike now than when the background was just a 2D layer. Turn the 3D layer switch back on, ah, that's much more lovely. You'll see some slight offsetting and distortion of the background layer coming through the foreground layer, particularly down in this area, and this is where I have to tell you that there's been a big difference in two different versions of After Effects. The initial versions of After Effects CS6, versions .00 and .01, did not accurately calculate the Index of Refraction, and as a result, the effects were very exaggerated.
The .02 release, sometimes known as 11.0.2, fixed this problem and gives more realistic refraction. So in general, make sure that you update After Effects to the latest version, no matter what version you're running. The larger the distance between objects, in other words the further I scrub this background away from my 3D text in the front, the more exaggerated this effect is going to be. Also placing objects at angles to each other will be more exaggerated as you increase the Index of Refraction.
Now you're seeing a lot of fun going on here with the way light rays are being bent inside the bevels, et cetera. These are not reflections, we'll talk about that in a couple of movies. This is just light rays coming through the surface, being bent as it goes through one surface, and being bent back as it comes through the other surface, as it goes from air to glass to air again. So one of my design tips would be, even if you have a simple 2D background behind a 3D object, it could even be a piece of footage, go ahead and enable the 3D layer switch for that background, even if you don't intend to fly around in 3D space, just to get these improved interactions between your 3D objects and what's behind them, more interesting refractions, et cetera.
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