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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.
We mentioned very early in this lesson that a parent size of a layer in After Effects is controlled not just by its Scale parameter, but also by its Position. How close or how far away it is from the camera or the viewer. Now you might have heard that with 2D layers it's very important not to scale past 100%. Because at that point you're blowing up pixels, After Effects is having to make up new image pixels from scratch and you reduce in quality. But how do you tell when you're losing image quality in 3D? Let me solo these layers, I am going to look at it in isolation.
Now when I increase a layer beyond 100 %, you can see what starts to happen. The image gets very aliased looking and starts to fall apart. However, if I was to bring this layer very close to you, I would get the same effect. Even though the scale is still 100%, which is perfect image quality in 2D, you will see that this 3D layer looks pretty darn ugly. What's going on is the act of bringing a layer close to the viewer, is causing After Effects to have to scale it up underneath the hood.
So even though you don't see it in the scale parameter, the layer is indeed being scaled and for 3D layers, it's a combination of position relative to the viewer and scale which determines the final treatment of that layer. For example, I can go ahead and scale this layer back down and the layer becomes sharp again. So how can you tell when you are losing image quality for a 3D layer, particularly since you cannot rely just on the Scale value anymore. Well, here is how. Take the layer you are worried about, duplicate it, turn off it's 3D layer switch, so it becomes a 2D layer again.
Type S to reveal Scale, and set the Scale to 100%. This is the maximum size that layer can appear and not lose image quality. If you are positioned and scaled, 3D layer is smaller than your reference 2D layer at 100%, you are fine; you are not losing any image quality. However, if your scaled and positioned 3D layer is bigger than your reference 2D layer, you have got problems.
And just to check and go ahead and turn on just my 2D layer, I will take a snapshot of it, just for reference, then look at my 3D layer, and compare the snapshot of my 2D layer, to the size of my 3D layer. Now I can see that now my 3D layer has been scaled up compared to my 2D layer, therefore, I am potentially losing image quality. So how do you get around this? Well, if you know you are going to be looking at layers very close up in 3D, it's good to start with layers that have more pixels.
I am going to right-click on this layer, Reveal the layer Source in my Project, and look at its number of pixels. If this is an image been given to me by a client or perhaps a photograph or an image that I am scanning, I'll want this to have more pixels and higher resolution so that I can get closer to it without losing image quality. However, you are not always working with pixel based layers. In these earlier compositions, for example, we are working with After Effects text layers. The nice thing about text layers is that they are always continuously rasterized; that means no matter how much you scale them up or how close you get to them in 3D they will always be sharp.
For example, if I take this layer, and bring it really close to us, you will see it's still sharp. So that's an advantage of Text layers in After Effects, and also an advantage of the Shape layers, a subject we will cover in a future lesson. If you also have images that were created in a program like Illustrator and they are vector based, again, you have the option to continuously rasterize those layers and keep them sharp. For example, if I pick this house, turnoff its continuous Rasterization button, you can already see it's soft and fuzzy and aliased.
It's too close to me. However, by continuously rasterizing this layer, it will now become sharp, and that's an advantage of vector-based artwork. So just Illustrator files, vector based artwork in PDF et cetera. Now you don't want to make your sources needlessly large. Don't bring in a 5000 pixel photo, if you are never going to get that close to it. But if you do intend to get close to layers, for example, bring this house really close, make sure you have a lot of pixels or use vector based artwork like text layers, shape layers or illustrate artwork, and turn on its continuously rasterize switch.
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