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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 let's discuss the issue of Rotation and Orientation for 3D layers. I'm going to start off by dragging my Enter a New layer down a little bit, in clear white space, so it is easier to see what's going on. Just as in 2D, you can edit Rotation interactively in the Comp panel or by scrubbing down in the Timeline panel. Let's start down here. You'll see separate X, Y, and Z Rotation parameters, each with their own animation stopwatch. Z Rotation is what you have with normal 2D layers.
As I scrub its value, you'll see that it's pinwheeling around the axis arrow that's pointed right at you, the Z axis, and I'll undo. X and Y are unique to 3D layers. If I scrub the value for X Rotation, you'll see that it's twirling around its horizontal or X axis, that red axis arrow. Likewise, if I scrub the Y Rotation value, you'll see the layer is now pivoting around its vertical axis or that green Y axis arrow.
Another cool thing about this is, if it overlaps another layer that's fairly closely spaced in Z Position, as I rotate one layer, it will start to intersect another layer and parts of it will start to pass behind that other layer, as you'll see going on here. So it's not just a matter of the layer being completely in front of or completely behind another layer, depending how they're oriented in space, you can actually get intersections between 3D layers in After Effects. I'll set that back to 0, and as I mentioned, if you want to edit interactively, the shortcut key is W, and you can either click on a layer and start to rotate it freely in three-dimensional space, or if you want to constrain your Rotation, I'll undo, again, position your cursor on these axis arrows until a letter appears, such as X. Now I'll be rotating just in the X dimension; same thing for Z, and same thing for Y.
Now, as I've done this, you might have noticed that the Rotation properties have not been changing, this Orientation property has been changing. This is basically a second take on Rotation. It combines X, Y, and Z Orientation values all in one parameter, like in the Position our Scale. Now, you might be tempted to say, well, this looks far easier to use, I'll just use Orientation all the time. Well, Orientation is great for posing a layer, giving it an initial pose, like pointing straight up. However, it's not recommended for animating a layer, and I'll show that in a separate sidebar movie at the end of this lesson.
The way we divide labor is we pose using Orientation and we animate using the Rotation properties. Therefore, by default when you're interactively scrubbing a layer here in the Comp panel, keep in mind that you are editing its Orientation. Now, if instead you want to edit the Rotation values, that's easy to change. When you have the Rotation tool selected, you'll get an additional pop-up here along your tool panel that allows you to choose. Does the Rotation tool affect the Orientation, the default, or the Rotation of the layer? And now as I scrub this layer, you'll see that it's the Rotation values that are getting changed in the Timeline panel.
I'll set this back to the defaults just for now and zero this layer out. Now, a very important thing about 3D layers in After Effects is that as you start to Rotate or Position them to where you view them on edge, you will see they disappear. This is because so-called 3D layers in After Effects actually have no depth to them. They have no thickness. We refer to them as postcards in space. You have a nice image, but you turn them on edge, go ahead and do this in the other dimension as well, they'll disappear on you.
Quite often this is actually referred to as two and a-half D (2.5D). You have the full X and Y dimensions, but you're a little bit cheated when it comes to the Z dimension in depth. You can Position and Rotate layers in Z space, but a standard 3D layer in After Effects has no thickness to it. If you need thickness, you're either talking a dedicated 3D program or special third-party plug-ins. I'll set this back to 0 (zero) so you can see it again, and I'll press V to return to my Selection tool. So now that we have a handle on how to move and manipulate 3D layers in After Effects, in the next movie, let's go ahead and keyframe them.
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