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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.
Now let's play around with moving a light inside of Composition. To clean up my Timeline I am going to press P to reveal the position of this light, then Shift+T to reveal the intensity of a light. You remember that T is the same shortcut as opacity for other layers. In the Comp panel you will see that the light has the same three axis arrows that you saw for 3D layers and for the camera. If you place the cursor over one of the axis arrows and a letter appears next to it that means any dragging is constrained to that axis.
And you can confirm that by what parameter is changing down in the Timeline panel. That's Y I'll move to the side in X and then play around with the Z parameter, pushing the light further way to the point now where it's actually behind the layer that's why it's not illuminated, and now I am dragging the light outward. You see the light is starting to disappear off the top right corner of the Comp as I push it forward, again this is the same action as with 3D layers, as they come towards you they may fly over you, to the sides or underneath you. I will drag a little bit more back into the Comp.
If you place the cursor near the light but don't see an axis arrow, then you can move it freely in the X and Y dimensions. And just like any other layer you can change your Camera View, example to Custom View 1 and move the light here as well. And now you may even get a better idea of how this light is illuminating the layer, and in this view you can see I can move the light freely in all three dimensions. I'll position it there for now and go back to Active Camera. In addition to moving a light interactively in the Comp panel, of course you can also just scrub its values here in the Timeline panel.
Now you might notice that at different positions, the layer is more or less illuminated. If the light is very close to the layer, only the area right underneath the light is getting lit up. That's because the rays being cast by the light, or it's such an extreme angle to the layer, very little light is being bounced back to you the viewer. You can compensate for that by either pulling the light away from the layer or increasing the Intensity. For example, with this light very close to the layer I can crank up the Intensity to get a real burned out spot right underneath the light and so get some illumination over the rest of the layer.
Now you get kind of an interesting glare as the light is moved around this layer. If I back the light away from the layer, you'll see the whole layer now is over-exposed, I will go ahead and back the Intensity down. And indeed, I can actually put the light more or less centered over this layer, back off Intensity and get a little bit of a vignetting appearance. I'll put the light a little close to the layer, increase Intensity, and now I've got a nice falloff, the corners are darkened and the center of the layer is illuminated.
And if you ever want to double-check exactly what effect the light is having on a layer, just toggle it off. There is the original layer without the light, you can see how flat it is now and there is the layer being lit up by your 3D light. And I happen to love lights in After Effects. I think they are the one of the most underused motion graphics tools just to add a little bit of polish and mystery to your layers.
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