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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.
So that's Point Light which is the easiest light. Let's go ahead and try the other common Light Type, Spot. As soon as I do so, you'll see some more parameters open up here in the Timeline panel. I'm going to hold Shift+R to hide the Rotation parameters for our light, because I far prefer controlling lights by moving their Position, and in the case of Spot Lights, the Point of Interest. But Spot Lights, in addition to the back of the light, you now also have a point that says, where is that light being aimed? And I love this degree of control.
For example, I can place that Point of Interest right on my layer. I'll select my layer, press P to see its Position. I see that its Z Position is at 0. I tend to put my Point of Interest at the same Z Position to make sure that Point of Interest is right on that light. Then I will drag the Point of Interest to the area I want to be illuminated, say the top of this X in XII. Now, when I move the back of the light around, I know that, that area is always going to be illuminated, but I can now change the angle of how light is being cast across this layer.
And with Spot Light you can create some pretty rakish angles. I will go ahead and reduce the Cone Angle, just to tighten up this light. Play on with the Feather, either to get a hard Falloff. Now you can have a lot of fun searching around what seems like a Spot Light. Or maybe I will soften that up a little bit, like that. You notice you get a really nice Falloff as you get far away from this cone. If I lose part of my light, I can either zoom down to say 50% Magnification, drag it back in, zoom back up again, or just go ahead and scrub parameters directly in the Timeline panel.
Now, one detail about moving Spot Lights did change as of After Effects CS5. In all versions, if you just pick up the back of the light with no axis letter visible near your cursor, you're going to move just the back of the light. In After Effects CS4 or earlier, if you placed the cursor over an axis arrow to where one of those charactors such as the Z axis, is now visible, again, you would be moving just the back of the light. But as of After Effects CS5 and later, whenever an axis arrow is visible, you're going to move both the back of the light and the Point of Interest as a pair, as a group.
This can make it a little bit quicker to quickly reposition lights in the scene, but if you're used to having independent control of your front and back, there is a modifier key you can use to get the old behavior. Hover your cursor over one of the axis arrows so a letter appears, then add the Command key on Mac, Ctrl key on Windows, then when you drag, even in After Effects CS5, you will move just the back of the light. So I encourage you to spend some time playing around with the Point of Interest, and the back of a light; play around a little bit with Intensity to see how you can Overilluminate a layer, or get down to something very moody, how you can get a very broad lighting of your whole layer, or really focus the Spot Light down, either hard edged and very soft edge, and go ahead and create an animation.
Point of Interest, Position, Intensity, Cone Angle, Cone Feather, these all have stopwatches, they can all be keyframed and animated. And if you're looking for ideas and inspiration, go into our Comps_Finished folder, open up 06_Basic Lights_final and just go ahead and RAM Preview that, just to give you an idea of a little animation we set up, play around with Spot Lights and Intensity to reveal different parts of this layer.
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