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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.
As you work with 3D layers in After Effects, you will quickly realize that the simple Comp Viewer you may be used to from 2D layers just doesn't cut it, you're going to need some additional perspectives on your scene. So before we go any further, let's explore how to bring up those alternate views. I'm going to go double-click 02- Multiplaning*starter, my original starter composition. This is the scene as before. All of my layers have been Parented to an animating Null. I'll type Command+A on the Mac, Ctrl+A on windows to select all of my layers. Enable a 3D layer switch for all of these layers.
Initially not much changes, except for the appearance of these axis arrows, and type P to reveal the Position properties for all of these layers. You'll see that my Null Object is animating along X, but not in Y, and its Z is set to 0. And for Children of other layers, their Position parameters are offsets to the Null Object. In this case all of their Z values are also 0, indicating they're all in the same plane. By default, After Effects shows you 1 View of your composition, and for 2D layers that's usually all you need.
But for 3D layers, sometimes you need to look at things from multiple angles. Therefore, you can click on this pop-up and choose alternate layouts, variety of 2 Views or 4 View Layouts. Those who are already familiar using 3D programs will immediately gravitate to these various 4 Up Views. Those who are new to 3D space will probably be more comfortable easing into this by using one of this 2 View options, 2 Views - Horizontal and 2 Views - Vertical. What you choose is going to depend on the Aspect Ratio of your composition and also of your monitor.
If you have a relatively square monitor, you may prefer this Vertical View. I've a relatively widescreen monitor, so I'm going to change this to 2 Views - Horizontal, so I can see them side-by-side. These are two different perspectives on the same composition. As I change the Current Time Indicator, both of the views will update to that point in time. Next comes deciding what I see in each of these Viewports. When I change the settings of a View, I need to be conscious of which one is active.
And you can tell that by these little yellow triangles that exist in the corners of the currently active View, the one on the left or the one on the right. Let's work with the one on the left first. Now, the default view in After Effects is Active Camera. If you have multiple 3D cameras in the scene, this is basically what's going to render. If you don't have any 3D cameras, After Effects creates a hidden default camera for you and uses that.
However, if you start creating 3D cameras, and Trish will show you how to do that later in this lesson, you can use this pop-up to determine which camera you're looking at or just view which camera is currently active, which camera layer has been trimmed to play at the current point in time and which one is on top in the Timeline panel. I always keep at least one of my views set to Active Camera, because I always need to be conscious of what's going to render, that's very important. So there is my Active Camera View. Now let's move over to this other view and decide what to look at there.
In addition to selecting among cameras in the scene, you have two more sets of views. This set is known as the orthographic views. These views are from a particular angle, like Front, Top, or Left, with no perspective whatsoever. Any dimensionality has been removed from these scenes. Now, since these layers are all flat, they're all postcards and space, and they're all at the same Position in Z, all we see is just a flat edge on postcard for all of these layers.
Same with the Top View. As soon as I pick a layer and then start to move it, you'll see it separate away from the other layers in these orthographic views. I'll undo, just temporarily hold Shift+R to reveals its Rotation. And as I start to rotate it, you'll see it start to come away from that flat postcard plane in the orthographic views. I'll undo for now and close up Rotation. In addition to these non-perspective views, which are useful for arranging layers, After Effects also offers a set of perspective views; Custom Views 1, 2, and 3.
Custom View 2 is a camera that's from above, looking down on your set. You can think of this as the balcony view of your scene. Again, I'll move my Current Time Indicator so you can see it move on by. And Custom Views 1 and 3, you look at it from the left side and from the right side of your scene. Quite often one of these Custom Views is a good starting point to help you arrange your scene. However, you can feel free to change between these views. After Effects will even allow you to set up keyboard shortcuts to quickly change between them.
If you look underneath the View menu, you'll see it has an option to either Switch your 3D View or Assign a Shortcut key to one of your views. Now, in this case, F10 has already been set to the Top View, F11 to the Left View, and F12 to Custom View 1. That's a nice assortment to start with, but you can reprogram these by choosing a different view here. For example, I've chosen Custom View 3, and going View>Assign Shortcut to>F12 (Replace "Custom View 1"), and now I've got that set to be Custom View 3 instead.
As I press F10, F11, and F12, I can quickly jump between those views in my active viewer, look for those yellow triangles. Now, a quick note for those on the Mac Operating System, Expose will take over those keyboard shortcuts. You may need to go into your System Preferences, go to Expose & Spaces, I'll switch to Expose, and disable any Expose keyboard shortcuts to not use any of these important ones that After Effects uses.
For example, F10, F11, and F12, and close that. Okay. Now that we know how to look at our composition in multiple ways, let's take advantage of that in the next movie to actually separate our buildings and get more perspective.
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