After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space

with Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
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After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space
Video duration: 0s 4h 49m Intermediate Updated Dec 06, 2012


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 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 library.

Topics include:
  • Keyframing motion paths in 3D
  • Managing multiple 3D views
  • Auto-orienting cameras along a path
  • Creating shadows
  • Understanding Vanishing Point Exchange
  • Importing a 3D model into Photoshop Extended
  • Scaling in 3D
  • OpenGL acceleration
After Effects


Hi, I'm Chris Meyer of Crish Design and welcome to the After Effects Apprentice lesson on 3D Space. Now, most graphics and video are both created and played back on 2D screens--flat surfaces like your computer screen, your television, a movie theater screen, tablets, phones, et cetera. However, as you know, the real world has three dimensions. In addition to X and Y, there's a Z dimension-- how close things are to you or far away they are. And things move differently when they're in 3D space compared to just moving on a flat plane.

Well, After Effects has the ability to allow you to create in 3D space, and that's what we're going to be discussing in this lesson. I'm going to start by showing you the differences between working in 2D and 3D, give you an idea of some of the effects of perspective and multiplaning, and also how to animate in 3D space using multiple views. The Trish will then show you how to create 3D cameras, how to manipulate and animate those cameras, and how to create orbit camera rigs. She'll also show you how to take advantage of auto-orientation: having layers always look at the camera or have the camera always follow a path.

I'll return then to show you about depth of field, where layers can be selectively in or out of focus, and then turn our attention to 3D lights. I'll show you how to create lights, animate them, create shadows, and work with light falloff, where objects closer are lit more brightly than objects that are further away. I'll then discuss the brand-new ray-traced 3D renderer introduced in After Effects CS6. This allows you to extrude and bevel layers, play with transparency and reflectivity, and even create environment maps that wrap around your world.

Ther are also a series of sidebar movies at the end on the differences between rotation and orientation, the different axis modes in After Effects to manipulate your 3D layers, the implications of scaling in 3D, and different preview strategies to speed up how you work. We also have a set of movies in this lesson about Photoshop integration, using Vanishing Point Exchange, the so-called dimensional stills technique where you cut up an image and spread it out in 3D space, and also the legacy Photoshop 3D feature. It's no longer supported in After Effects CS6, but those of you with earlier versions and who don't have acces to a 3D program might want to take advantage of it.

3D is a very deep subject and initially it is a little hard to wrap your head around it. However, once you master it, it will really enhance your animations. It will just give them a further sense of realism, mystery, and just plain interest for the viewer. So with all that said, let's dive in and have some fun.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects Apprentice 11: 3D Space .

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Q: This course was updated on 12/06/2012. What changed?
A: This was a more extensive update than the other After Effects Apprentice courses. We added three new movies to Chapter 4 that cover 3D camera features in versions CS5.5 and later, such as depth of field blur. We added a new chapter on the 3D ray-traced renderer in CS6, and another chapter featuring a Quizzler challenge for CS6. Lastly, we added a movie that shows our premium subscribers how to use the exercise files, and added new sets of exercise files designed for After Effects CS5.5 and After Effects CS6.
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