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I'm going to start by cleaning up my display by closing all of my compositions as well as unnecessary panel,s such as the Footage panel, and twirl open a couple of folders, bring the Comp panel forward again. In next couple of movies, I want to explore transparency in the ray-traced renderer, and in particular, I want you to understand the difference between transparency and opacity. I am going to open up this Comp, ray trace 3-Transparency*starter, and to start out with, we have a Light, a Camera, some 3D text, which has already been extruded and beveled.
You'll see I've played around with the parameters a little bit here, where I've increased both the Diffuse and Specular Intensities up to 75%, and reduced the size of my specular hotspot a little bit by increasing Specular Shininess above its default. And I currently have a 2D Background layer, and in the next movie in particular, we'll see what is the difference between the background being 2D or 3D, but first let's play around with good old-fashioned Opacity. I am going to select my text, hold Shift and press T to also add the Opacity parameter.
Altering the Opacity for a layer basically affects its Alpha Channel, and when you reduce Opacity and reduce the strength of the Alpha Channel, both the Diffuse value, the basic overall shading of the layer, and the Specular value, the hotspots, are reduced together and by the same amount. I am going to set this to 50% and take a snapshot, the shortcut is Shift+F5. And we'll scrub this back up to 100% for now.
By contrast, the Transparency parameter still affects the Alpha Channel of the layer, but you will notice that only the diffuse coloration is what's getting faded out here, the specular highlights remain at full strength. And here at 100%, we've lost all of our diffuse lighting, particularly on the sides of the text and bevels that aren't facing the light, but we've kept these nice specular hotspots. And that creates quite a different look than fading opacity. I am going to set this back to 50% for comparison.
I have 100% Specular, 50% Diffuse, I still have a reduced Alpha Channel because I am seeing my 2D layer come through my 3D text. Let's compare that to Opacity. The shortcut to show a snapshot is F5. There is Opacity, where the Diffuse and Specular colorations have been reduced by the same amount, and the effect of Transparency with Specular remains strong and it's just the Diffuse that is in essence melting away. What this means is, if I increase Transparency to 100%, which means the Diffuse values of our layer have disappeared completely, I'll still see the outline of my extruded and beveled layer because those specular highlights are still visible.
If I was to select the Light and press P to reveal its position, and scrub it down as it comes down in front of the text, you'll see how the light is playing against those bevels and creating different specular highlight patterns in the text. Now I'll undo to put it back up to its high position. Now completely transparent layers can be fun, but they can also be kind of hard to read, as you see here. This S in particular has all but disappeared. Well, to help counter that, you can use the parameter Transparency Rolloff.
What Transparency Rolloff does is reduce the effects of transparency on sides of the object that aren't facing the camera. Namely, the sides of this text are edge onto the camera, meaning as I increase Transparency Rolloff, those sides become opaque, and therefore visible. That's how you can add definition to an otherwise completely translucent 3D object in After Effects. 100% is a bit harsh. I might want to pick an intermediate setting, like somewhere around there.
Now these translucent looks are kind of cool, but you can take this look even further by playing around with the index of refraction, and that's what we'll experiment with in the next movie.
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