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After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics with Ian Robinson covers some of the core principles used to create motion graphics, breaking them down into smaller groups of applied techniques in After Effects. The course explores everything from gathering inspiration to integrating traditional typography, transitional elements, animated textures, color, and more into motion graphics. Instructions for building a toolkit with templates and a style guide for future projects are also included. Exercise files accompany the course.
Material options and lights kind of go together like peas in a pod. Usually once I add a light into the scene, I immediately have to go and adjust my material options for all the different objects that I'm treating with my light. So if you're joining me from previous videos, you might recognize the scene, but if not, I'll get you up to speed really quick. Let's start with the bottom and work our way up. First thing, we have this ALL Winter type existing in three-dimensional space with a point light that only affecting that type, and I know that because it's set as an adjustment layer.
If I turn that off, you can see the light's affecting the entire scene, whereas when I turn it back on, it's only affecting the layers below this ALL Winter layer. We have a ground plane, which is accepting the shadows and the spotlight, and we have these two trees. Now we're going to have an interesting use of these two trees in a little bit, but right now I placed them in the scene, so as we orbit our camera around--let me grab the Orbit Camera tool-- it adds a sense of depth once we actually start animating. You can see since they are set so far off in Z space.
But with Material Options, I'm going to use these trees in a second to actually cast a bunch of color throughout the scene. So I'll show you that in just a minute. We have our camera, obviously, which we've been orbiting around with, our spotlight, which is the primary light in this scene, and a parallel light. So let's get started with the material options. First thing, let's see how to use objects to cast colors, and we can do that by selecting our ALL Winter type and pressing A twice to open our Material Options.
Now, I want to grab the Orbit Around tool here and orbit around to the side, so we can see the shadow quite clearly. If you look under Material Options for this text, I want you to adjust the Light Transmission setting from zero all the way up to 100. Light Transmission makes your objects behave a little bit like a piece of stained glass. Whenever a light shines through it, the color from that layer or object will then in turn be transmitted throughout the scene with Light Transmissions. So let's go ahead and use our trees to do the same effects.
I'll orbit back around in the scene here, and what we want to do is move this spotlight backwards. And the reason we want to do that, it's this spotlight that helping cast the shadows, but it's also casting the color of the objects. So to easily move this light back in the scene, let's just click on the Z axis handle and push down, and that moves the light back on its Z axis, and then we'll click on the Y axis to bring it back up in the scene. Now once it's closed, we can go ahead and just click on the Z axis again to bring it back throughout our layer.
Now you noticed nothings happening with the trees yet, and that's because the trees aren't transmitting anything. So first off, let's select both our trees and press AA to open the Material Options. Now since I had both layers selected, I don't need to see the material options for both once I make some of these changes. So let's go to Light Transmissions and click and drag that all the way up to 100. Now again, since I had both layers selected, both options were updated. But I'm still not seeing anything, and that's because Light Transmission is directly controlled by Casts Shadows, so let's turn that on.
Now we can see the shadows going throughout the scene, and it's also kind of giving an interesting highlight to the type. But we need to add color to the trees in order to create colorcasts throughout the scene. So this is one of the nice things that I really enjoy about the material options. You can use effects to add colors, like tint. So let's go to Effect > Color Correction > Tint, but the Material Options are actually smart enough to look at the effects before it starts transmitting the color.
This is a really nice option, as far as the process of how After Effects renders things. So let's go to Map Black To and adjust the Black settings, because these trees are primarily black when we make these adjustments. That will change the color of the tree. Now, let's choose kind of an interesting wintry color, and we'll choose kind this wintry teal. Let's make it a little more saturated than the type that we have, here we go. Click OK. And you can see it's given me a nice dark blue striation through the type and into the scene.
Let's do the same thing with the other tree. We'll go to Effect and Tint and again, we'll adjust the Black settings to a slightly different blue color. And when we click OK, now you can see I've got kind of these cool blue colors moving throughout the scene. If I grab my Orbit Around tool, you can see it a little more clearly if I bring the camera up in the scene. There we go. So adjusting the Material Options for Light Transmission is a really cool way of adjusting some colors and creating some depth in the scene.
But the last thing I want to show you with Material Options has to do with these five settings down here. So in order to clearly illustrate this, I'm just going to solo this point light and our text layers. Let's go ahead and do that. Now, right off the bat, we're not seeing very much, and that's because the Brightness setting for this point light is very low, so I'll just select the light in the canvas and press AA to open our Light options. Let's crank the Intensity up, so we can really accentuate the differences that we will make when we make adjustments to our ALL Winter layer.
First thing I want you to look at is this Specular option. If I crank this up or crank this down, this is really adjusting the volume of the specular highlight. So let me crank that up a little bit here. Now, if we crank up the Diffuse setting, notice this is kind of controlling how far out the specular highlight is reflecting. Let's adjust the Shininess here, and wow! That's really giving us a pretty drastic result. If we crank up the Shininess, the Shininess is really controlling the overall size of the specular highlight, so I want to have kind of a smaller specular highlight.
So if you can tell, it sort of rigged backwards. If we crank up the Shininess, it's making the object more shiny, which is in turn accentuating the specularity of the highlight, so it's making the highlight smaller. Let's go ahead and click on our light and just bring it down here a little bit, so we can see this a little more. So if we adjust the Shininess, it's controlling the overall size of the specular highlight. If we adjust the Specular parameter, that's just the overall volume or brightness of that specular highlight.
And then Diffuse is kind of controlling how soft that transition is throughout the rest of the word. Now, Ambient controls reflectivity very much like the Diffuse layer, but this adjusts the overall reflectivity of the layer with all the lights in the scene. Now since there's only one light, it's not mixing in any other Ambient light color, so this really isn't doing anything right now. Those are the five main options that I go ahead and tweak when I'm making adjustments with lights in my Material Options.
So let's back out and look at our scene, and as you can see, when you really start mixing the power of lights and material options, you can really tweak out the overall style of your 3D scene.
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