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Using environment maps

From: After Effects CS6 New Features

Video: Using environment maps

Okay that's one way to see reflections. Let's turn that layer off. Add another layer in, such as this Bosque background. I will put it at the very bottom of layer stack. I will switch back to Active Camera, so I can see my 2D and 3D layers at the same time. And there's a new option for layers, to make it an environment layer. When you enable this layer, it is automatically wrapped around a sphere that encompasses your entire world, and it's available for reflections.

Using environment maps

Okay that's one way to see reflections. Let's turn that layer off. Add another layer in, such as this Bosque background. I will put it at the very bottom of layer stack. I will switch back to Active Camera, so I can see my 2D and 3D layers at the same time. And there's a new option for layers, to make it an environment layer. When you enable this layer, it is automatically wrapped around a sphere that encompasses your entire world, and it's available for reflections.

Now typing AA, which normally reveals a layer's 3D parameters, does not reveal the environment parameters for layer. You actually need to twirl down, get to Options, and then decide whether or not it appears normally and in reflections, reflections only, which is kind of interesting, or does not appear in reflections and instead is wrapped around your world. When you choose a layer to be an environment layer, you're going to need a lot of pixels. In this case, I am playing around with the composition. It's only 872 pixels wide, and I have chosen environment layer that's more than twice as big, but you can see how blurred it is because it needs to be stretched so much to wrap around the world.

You seriously need to look at images that are several K in size to get a good high-resolution environment map. Just a normal piece of video or a low-resolution still is not going to cut it. I am going to switch this to Reflections Only, and you can see now the trees from that still being reflected in this type. And you can orient how your environment is rotated in this world. Y rotation is the vertical axis, I will just go ahead and start rotating that parameter. And you go ahead and move things around to get a nice particular pose or particular reflection that you like.

You can also rotate other axes as well to get really dialed in what it is you get to see. The advantage of this is is if you don't have a special seamless environment map, there will eventually be a seam where the image wraps around and meet itself from the back. So quite often you are going to need to play around with rotating and positioning your environment layer to make sure you don't see that seam inside this image. It so just happens that this image is fairly symmetrical from left side or right side and the seam is not quite as obvious.

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After Effects CS6 New Features

31 video lessons · 11860 viewers

Chris Meyer
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