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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
Folks, this chapter represents almost like a transition of sorts in this training series. We're going to be going from kind of initiatory After Effects features to more significant, complex, and advanced ones, starting with, in this chapter, 3D. We're going to take this map of this olive farm, and we're going to bring this to life by making these elements 3D. This is a significantly more complex project that we've seen before. It's much more like a real- world After Effects project.
There are 42 visible layers in this. So, there is a lot to play with, and what we're going to do is we're going to take some of these layers - again, this is just from a flat Illustrator file, just a regular old run-of-the-mill graphics file - We are going to make this come alive by moving these pieces of this map in 3D space. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to select this Icon 2. Let's select. This is layer number 6. Go ahead and select that layer. What we're going to do is hit the letter P for Position.
We want to make sure that we're seeing the switches area, these little icons here. If not, you can go ahead and click on the Toggle Switches/modes button. If you look over here, there is a cube. This column indicates the ability to make a layer three-dimensional. Now, if you're familiar with like 'Shrek' and stuff like that, in other words, 3D objects, you might be a little bit confused by what's going on with After Effects. In After Effects, we don't really create 3-dimensional objects, typically. With the 3D in After Effects, usually what we mean is the 3D world, the 3D environment.
So, the object itself remains flat, like a piece of paper. But when we make a regular old 2D layer 3-dimensional, what that gives us is the power and ability to move that in 3D space. If you can move things in 3D space, then you could simulate three dimensions, which is very powerful. It sounds like very amateurish, just to move flat things in space, but if done correctly, the result is really powerful. So, we're going to go to this Cube check box on Icon 2, and we're going to check that.
Now, not very much seemed to happen - the layer looks the same - but really what has happened is that we now - if you see what happened with Position - it added a third dimension. We know about X, left and right. We know about Y, up and down. And now that the layer is 3D, we have Z. In other words, it is closer to us, and farther away from us. Now until you have multiple three- dimensional layers in your scene, then it's going to look like you're just scaling up and down an object.
When you move it along the Z axis, it is coming closer toward you and farther apart. It's basically just going to look like you're scaling it up and down. But if we combine that with other layers, let's say, for example, this tree right here, behind it. This tree is the tree frontmost layer, layer number 15. I'm going to go ahead and make this a three-dimensional layer by clicking its Cube icon, and hit P for position. Then we play with position here. Adjust that. Maybe bring that up closer to Icon 2.
What I'm going to do now is I'm going to change the view using this dropdown. It says Active Camera, by default. I'm going to change this to the top view. So, now we're seeing the top view of the layers. These views are only good for three-dimensional layers. So, we're only seeing two of the lines here, but we could see that we now have this relationship between these two layers. Just for a reference, let's go ahead and put Icon 3, 4 and 5 in three-dimensions as well. So, we see that they are aligned with the ground plane, the initial place where all objects are.
We've aligned Icon 2 and the tree layer, which we can adjust here. We could click and drag on these little arrows to adjust along this axis. But we could see that we have adjusted them in space now, so that the tree that we created in 3D is now in front of Icon 2. So, because this is the top view, think of the viewer as sitting right here, almost as if we were in a movie theater, and this is the movie screen, and the audience would be down here at the bottom of this screen.
So, this view is to help you kind of get situated in 3D space. If it's more helpful for you - I'm going to take this back to Active Camera - you can go to the dropdown to the right of that, and change this from 1 View to 4 Views. So, now you can see different views of the objects. So, now we are seeing our three-dimensional objects. We're seeing the icons. I could zoom in here and see the icons and the tree. Here we're seeing the right view. So, we have the regular icons, and then we have the tree, and then the main icon back here.
You could see also, if we zoom in here, that even though in the original design, the tree was behind the icon. Now because we've arranged them in 3D space, so that the icon is behind the tree, the tree is obscuring the view of the icon. So, we can grab this along the right edge, again, using our movie theater now, just almost like we're looking at the side of the movie theater where the right side is the movie screen point it to the left, and the audience would be here on the left watching the screens to the right. So, we can grab the arrow in Z space here, and move this in front of the tree.
You could see the difference in the front view of what that looks like. So, here is the icon in front. Move it behind the tree. You could see it in back. So, we're basically, again, staggering these layers in three dimensions. I'm going to take this back to 1 View here. A piece like this - and I separated this into tons of different layers. Every tree is its own layer. That's what will create the most 3D depth is that each of these trees are its own layer, and they move in three dimensions. It will add a lot to the realism. But the problem is, is we that when we have a layer this complex, or a project this complex, it is very time-consuming to arrange all of these objects in 3D space, but that is just what you need to do.
That is the name of the game. But once you have arranged these objects in 3D space, and then what we could do is create a camera, and move around this scene in a very realistic and lifelike way. One rule I want to point out before we get into talking about that in the next movie is that there are some rules with 2D and 3D layers, and one is that 2D layers don't play the 3D game. So, for example, I have this Frame layer at the top. I'll go ahead and take off the visibility, so you could see this outline of this frame.
If the Frame layer is 3D - and let's go down to the Choo Choo Tracks layer - it's like the railroad tracks. I called it Choo Choo Tracks. So, I'm going to make the Choo Choo Tracks layer 3D as well. So, the Frame is 3D, and the Choo Choo Tracks are 3D. I'm going to select Choo Choo Tracks and press P to reveal its position. If I adjust this in Z space, I can, at some point, bring this layer in front of the Frame layer.
In other words, the 3Dness allows layers to go in front of each other, even above. It, like, overrides the layer stacking order. So, as we saw with Icon 2 and the tree, even though the Icon 2 layer is on top, we're able to go back and forth, between those two layers, because they exist in 3D space. I'm going to go ahead and try to - let's actually go to a 4 View here, and we have our railroad track. If we were to move this around, at some point, the Choo Choo Tracks - for some reason, that's not working, because the stacking order is too high - but at some point, the railroad tracks can overlap the Frame.
They can go in front of this frame. So, if we wanted to make sure that the frame was always in front, then we would make it a two-dimensional layer. We'd make sure that it stayed 2D, same thing with the background. Usually, when you have a background like this - take this back to 1 View here - when you have a background like a solid color like this, you typically want to keep that in two-dimensions. So, that way nothing goes behind it. So, basically, if you have a 3D layer, then layer order doesn't matter. It will go in front of and back of whatever objects are in 3D space.
But if you have 2D layers, they cannot defy the layer order. So, what is in front will always remain in front, what is in back will always remain in back, if those layers are 2D layers. So, what I'm going to do between now and when I see you in the next movie, I'm going to arrange these objects in 3D space. I'm just going to go, let's say, for example, the Left Barn BIG. I'm going to hit P. I'm going to make this a 3D layer. I'm going to adjust this in Z space, and then I could go to the Left Barn SMALL layer, again, make this a 3D layer, adjust the Z space.
As you could see, they can override the layer order, because of the fact that they are both 3D layers. But I'm going to adjust everything staggered in three-dimensional space, so that we have, again, a series of layers in 3D. I'll show you what that looks like in the next movie. We'll also add some light and cameras to increase the realism and give some 3D movement to this scene.
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