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Setting the depth of field

From: Motion Control 3D: Bringing Your Photos to Life in Three Dimensions

Video: Setting the depth of field

You'll remember when we first created the camera, we enabled the Depth of Field option. This allows you to adjust what's in focus and what's out of focus. On a physical camera, this is typically controlled by the aperture, and the more you open up the camera to let in light, the more shallow the depth of field. In After Effects, you can keyframe this property to do things like a rack focus. But it's also very important that you check it so you have a natural falloff in the scene. I've opened up a new project here, and I have a couple of different projects imported as well as the three we are previously working on.

Setting the depth of field

You'll remember when we first created the camera, we enabled the Depth of Field option. This allows you to adjust what's in focus and what's out of focus. On a physical camera, this is typically controlled by the aperture, and the more you open up the camera to let in light, the more shallow the depth of field. In After Effects, you can keyframe this property to do things like a rack focus. But it's also very important that you check it so you have a natural falloff in the scene. I've opened up a new project here, and I have a couple of different projects imported as well as the three we are previously working on.

Let's take a look at the camera settings. In this case, the camera is panning down, and we are seeing our subjects moving a bit. We clearly have our foreground subjects as well as the crowd further in the back. What I want to do here is adjust it so that the crowd is not as in focus. Let's take a look with 2 Views, and we'll set this one to Custom View 1. Notice with the motion here, not as far back is that other layer. It's a bit back there but not terribly far back.

If I select the camera, what becomes important is to adjust the depth of field. So I am going to double-click there and turn on the Depth of Field option, and this allows me to adjust what's in focus and what's out of focus. Under the Camera Options here, I could play with the total amount of Blur level as well as the size of the Aperture. The wider that gets, the more things that are further away are going to fall out of focus.

Let's zoom in here, and you will start to see that. There it is! And I could adjust the Focus Distance, placing what's in focus in the shot. Now, that's working pretty well. We have put the people in the background slightly out of focus. But this shot is only going to work so well because we don't have that much distance between the people. If I want to refine that, we can go ahead and push the crowd further away, or we can do some other things here.

We will take the Crowd layer and push it further away as well as the Background layer. There we go! And we just need to scale those two layers up a bit. Notice the bounding box makes that really easy to tell when you have it right. Here we go! All right. Now because we've increased the distance, the objects that are further away fall out of focus.

If you look at the camera there--and we will switch this to a top view--it will become easier to see the distance. There it is! There is my camera. And what I want to do is adjust it so that, that focal plane sits right on top of our subjects, which is that first layer there. If you want to make sure of that, go ahead and change the color of that layer, so it really stands out. That lets you know that you have placed those properly into focus.

That's great! Our soldiers are now in focus, and the background has fallen out just a bit. Let's take a look here. We'll take the Field group, and set this to 2 Views, and we will change this one to Top view. Let's go ahead and adjust the Position here and the Depth of Field. I have got the Camera selected, I will twirl this down, and under Camera options we have got the Depth of Field. It's already turned on.

I am going to zoom out here so I can really see my layers, and there is our foreground. There is the tent. Let's adjust the Depth of Field for the camera. With the Camera selected, I notice that the Depth of Field is set so the tent is in focus, but my people are blurry. So what I need to do is move this camera to the start position and adjust the Depth of Field. There it is! I am going to pull that so it sits squarely on top of my subject.

Now that we've done that, we can adjust the overall Aperture size to change the amount of blurring or use the Blur level, zoom in there. That's working well. And as we drag through here, I am going to want to keyframe that. So as the camera moves, we need to adjust the Depth of Field settings.

So I need to pull that back out, so they stay in focus. There we go! I can adjust the Blur Level if I want the background of fall out more, looks good. And let's preview that. And what you are seeing is a natural falloff of the tent, but better yet, the background really going soft for things that are further away.

And that really makes that look good. Using the Depth of Field option is important, but I find that the top view makes it really easy to see where the Depth of Field is positioned within the scene.

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