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Once you've set up the initial comp with the layered files and you've added the 3D camera into the scene, it's time to start to extrude layers into 3D space. Essentially, you're using the Z axis, and in 3D animation terms, it's often explained like this. We've got our X axis that can move things along horizontally, the Y axis, which does vertical, and the Z axis, which goes in and out. I've actually seen animators label their fingers to make this easier, but that's essentially all it is, is a three-axis movement.
We're going to go ahead and start to move these layers along the Z axis to expand them, and this will create the sense of depth that leads to parallax once the camera is animated. Now, I'm going to duplicate these layers here and press Ctrl+D, and now I've got a new stage. Let's just open those up, and we'll close these Stage 1 Files. This is a good idea as you first start to design because it creates a safety net or a series of breadcrumbs, so you can go backwards in time and look at what you've been doing. So if I mess up Stage 2, I can resume my work with Stage 1, and I'll just save the project.
All right, let's start with this nice, simple file here. I've got my camera and my layers. What I need to do is set this to 2 Views to make this a bit simpler. And on the left, I see the view from the Top, and the right is the Active Camera View. If these don't match on your system, you have the ability to change them with the pop-up menu. I'm going to take this one labeled Top and choose Custom View 1, which many refer to as a God view.
It's about 45 degrees to the left and 45 degrees up, and it lets you look down on your set like the director. And with the layer selected, I could press P for Position. We have the X, Y, and Z axis. Now, what's going to happen is is you're going to push layers further away. So as I move the brick further away, it goes back in space. However, looking at the image here, it doesn't look right.
I'm going to now press Shift+S to add the Scale Property and scale that back up. And you know you've scaled it to the right size when it touches the edge of the frame. Let's go ahead in this case and pull the bush forward towards the camera, and then Shift+S for Scale, and I can scale that down just a little bit, there we go.
Okay, we've adjusted the size of those. Now, when you move something closer to the camera, you have to scale it down so it looks right. When you move it further away, you have to scale it up. This is where that Reference layer comes in. You could toggle that Reference layer off and on to compare it. In this case, it's pretty close. It looks like the background layer needs to be maybe one pixel bigger. So I'll go ahead and select the Scale Property, and I'll hold down the Alt key here as I drag, Option on a Mac, just to scale that down a bit.
That looks good! Turn the Reference off and on, and notice there, very minimal difference between the two, that's good enough. Once satisfied, I could throw away the Reference layer or leave it around, it's up to you. I'll just go ahead and hide it there, and that looks pretty good. Let's repeat that process for this other document. We'll go with 2 Views, change one of the views to Custom View 1.
Using the Comma keys I could zoom in and out, and I'm going to go ahead and push the field further away. Now, this should be really far away, because it is really far away. As for scale, scale that up so it touches the edge. Now, the tent should be a little bit farther back. So P for Position, I'll move it back a small amount, and then holding down the Shift Key, press S for Scale, and scale that up.
That looks pretty good! If I look at the virtual set here, I can get a good idea what's happening. You also may decide to change the colors here, and this makes it easier in certain views to see what you're doing. For example, if you set this to Top View and zoom out, you get a good idea of the different layers. For example, the yellow layer here is the field, the red layer is the tent, and the purple layer is the soldiers, and this helps you understand the relative distance between the different objects as you position them along the Z axis.
When satisfied, I'll just flip that back to Custom View 1, and I could zoom in and take a look at my set. Remember, the Comma key and the Plus key are useful because you could zoom in and out. Holding down the spacebar you could pan the window to frame it up how you need to, to design your frames. Now that we've got all the layers positioned and the cameras placed, we just need to size the composition for proper output.
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