Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video 027 Creating a reflective floor using After Effects, part of Design in Motion.
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Hi! Rob Garrott here and welcome to Design in Motion. The weekly series where we explore important fundamentals in the world of motion graphics. Now there is a lot of ways to create a reflected floor look in After Effects. Most motion graphics artists have there own formula for doing it. Today, we're going to look at two different ways using the built-in tools in After Effects. Let's get started. This is our starting file in After Effects and what we want to do is create the illusion that this type is sitting on a reflective floor with an infinite plane, and we'll see that the type is zooming pass the camera into the center of the frame and then rotating gently in front of the camera.
We got a little bit of a drift on there. Let me walk through the layers just a bit so you can see what's going on here. I've got some Blue Solids at the bottom. I am going to start by soloing out the first one and that's just a regular Solid layer with a ramp effect applied to it to give me this fall off from dark to light. Then I've got the same layer duplicated and I've got it set on Multiply. I am going to be moving this layer to create the infinite plane. So that's why there's two of these right here. Now the next layer up is a Reflective type PRE, and this type precomp, if I double-click on that it takes me into the precomp itself. This type is just a regular type layer, but it's inside of its own composition and it has the Gradient Overlay applied to it which is giving us this light orange to dark orange transition across the face of the type.
The reason I have it precomped is so that the Gradient Overlay won't move when I transform the type, but also it gives me the flexibility to change the type at will later on. I may want to have to say tomorrow or today or coming up next, that kind of thing. It makes it very easy to change that in a precomp and I can also add extra things to it if I want to make variations on the type. Precomping your type like that is a great way to give yourself some flexibility, in this particular situation. Let's go back to the START composition. The next two layers are simply the Camera and the Camera Parent, and these are what's animated in giving us the movement.
I am going unsolo those layers so I am back to the full composition. So the first step in this process is to create the infinite plane and this top Blue Solid that I've on Multiply is going to become the infinite plane. All I need to do is just take it and drag it down. Watch this! I am going to hold the Shift key down while I am dragging and the position that you drag it to is entirely up to you. We don't want to bring it down here, because we want the type to have the feeling that it's sitting on this plane. So I'll drag it about there. I don't want to drag it down in the middle of the type. That's little bit distracting having that line running through my type.
So I am going to bring that right up about here and then now when I scrub through, you can see that my type appears to be sitting on an infinite plane. The next step is to create the reflective look for that infinite plane. The technique that I am going to use this first time is simply a transformation technique. I'm going to create a copy of this layer and flip it over and that will become the reflection. This technique works really well with type. Let's select the type Precomp, hit Command+D or Ctrl+D on the keyboard and on the lower Precomp I'm going to hit S on the keyboard to reveal the scale options.
Normally, the scale options are all linked together so that they transform together as one. I'm going to unlink them and then on the Y option, this is X, Y, and Z. On the Y option I'm going to change it to -100 and that's going to flip my layer over. Now I can hit P on the keyboard and bring up the position options, and I'm going to drag on the Y. I'm going to click on the Y option and scroll it down, and as I scrub that value down, it's going to bring the type down perfectly only on Y.
I don't want to slide it left or right. I want to align it perfectly. I am going to eyeball this. There isn't really a numeric value you could put in here, because that value would change based on the word that you've typed out here, and also the font size that you're choosing as well. So it's best to just eyeball it. So now you can see I've got a great looking reflection, but it still doesn't feel like it's part of the floor. To make it look like it's part of the floor is going to be a multi-step process. They're easy steps, but the first step is to change the blending mode and I've already forgot my Modes visible here and I'll select the blend modes for that Precomp for the reflection, and I am going to change that to Add.
That Add blending mode is going to give the type a little bit of a washed out feel so it starts to feel like it's embedded in the floor. Now I want to adjust the Opacity. So I'll select that layer and hit T to bring up the Opacity options and I'll dial that down. This is sort of a season to taste moment. I am going to go to about maybe 45% or so, and now you can see that it starts to really feel like it's in the floor. On most floors that are reflective the reflection diminishes in intensity from the reflective object. That means that we need a gradient in our reflection so that it's more intense here and less intense down here.
That gradient is something we're going to create with a solid layer. So let's make a new solid, Command+Y or Ctrl+Y, and that will bring up this Solid Settings window. And the Solid Settings, whatever they say here in your particular version of After Effects, it will remember the last time you created a solid. You want to hit Make Comp Size. We want this composition to be the same as our existing comp, and I am working at 960x540 here. I'll hit OK now. The color is not important. Let's just hit OK. That gives us a white solid. The reason that color is not important is because we're going to use this solid as a mask layer.
So what we are going to do next is to create a mask that will provide us with a gradient on the edge of this. So I'll hit Q on the keyboard to bring up the Mask tool, and when I click and drag on this Solid layer it's going to create a mask, and I am dragging from top left or close to top left towards the bottom right. Now that sets up a mask on this layer. I want to feather the edges of this mask, but only on this side here, so I am going to go to the Layer menu > Mask > Mask Feather. On the Mask Feather I'm going to unlock the Vertical and Horizontal, and only on the Vertical I'll change it to about 75, and that's gives me graded edge only on the top part of the mask.
Now what I can do is use this mask to mask off that type. So let's bring this down. We want to use it as a Track Matte for that type layer, so it needs to be down right above it. The next thing I want to do is to change it into a 3D Solid so that it moves with the type in 3D space. So I'll click on my Switches/Modes columns and then turn on the three Switch for that solid. You'll notice that it jumped. All I really need to do now is hit P on the keyboard to bring up the position, and I can scrub the X value left and right. I am going to bring that X value right over here. There we go! Excellent! I don't need to parent these guys up, because my type is not moving.
But if my type were going to move, I'd want to parent this Solid layer to that reflection type. So I'll go ahead and do that now, just in case I decide I want to animate them together later. Now this White Solid will move with the reflective type. The reflected layer is now below the White Solid. What I want to do next is to use this as a Track Matte. So let's switch back to the Modes column and I'm going to click on the Track Matte options and tell it to be an Alpha Inverted Matte. So that sets the White Solid up as an Alpha Inverted Matte for that Reflection layer and now I've got a graded reflection. Now the cool thing about this is that I can adjust this by simply grabbing the Y handle on the Solid layer, and I'll hit V on the keyboard to bring up my Move tool, and I can just move that up and down.
You can see that I can gradate that reflection off by just moving the position of this Solid layer. And that gives me a lot of control and versatility. So the next technique I want to show you is a variation on this theme, but it uses a filter. So let's bring up the floor Mirror START. Now this is the same composition file that we had before. I am going to take the Blue Solid layer and just like I did before drag it down. Now I am going to select the type layer and then go to Effects & Presets, the palette here, and I can't remember exactly what submenu the Mirror effect is under. So I'll just type in mir and that's going to find the Mirror effect and it was under the Distort submenu.
So now I can drag it from this palette right onto my Type layer, and when I do that, I now get Mirror controls pop-up in the effects here. Now what I need to do is to first rotate the mirror, and I'll rotate it 90 degrees. I can drag it here and look, here comes at mirror just like that. I've done it 90 degrees and I get this cool effect. This can be a lot of fun. You can put this effect on video and you have all kinds of great fun with it. But now I want to slide that mirror down. So let's go to the Y value, which is 270 right now, and I just drag it down. I can eyeball that, again, you can see now I have a same kind of look that I had before with the duplicated layer except I only have that one effect and just one layer down here.
I want to be able to gradate that reflection off, but there isn't a control for that in the effects here. So I have to use that same technique with a Solid layer. So I'll get that same Solid layer rather than make it again. I've got it in the other composition. So I am going to go to the Solid layer here grab it, Command+C or Ctrl+C to copy it, and then in my Mirror composition I am going to paste it down, Command+V or Ctrl+V, right above that layer. Now I can set this as a Track Matte again. It's already a 3D Solid, so I just turn that on and set it to be an Inverted Matte and that'll gradate off the reflection.
Now the downside of this technique is that I don't have as much flexibility, because the Mirror effect is linked to that layer, anything I do to this reflection will tend to happen on the type layer itself. For example, if I move this up you can see that it gradates out the actual type layer too. And I won't do that, Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. So here is the two finished movies side by side, and I am going to hit Play on the Reflective floor. Now this is the first technique that uses the actual transformation of a duplicate layer.
It looks pretty good, nice reflection on there, and it's got good movement to it and we got a great gradient coming off there. So it's little bit less intense from the top of the reflection to the bottom of reflection. Then here is the reflective floor with the mirror. Now these two techniques look very similar. The advantage to the reflective mirror is that it uses only one layer. The disadvantage of course is that you have less control. The technique using the duplicate layer transform, which is this one here, uses more layers, but it gives you more control.
Now remember this is not the only way to do this. There is a lot of variations on these techniques. The most important thing is that the technique that you're using should be flexible and it should make sense for the type of animation you're creating. For more great After Effects courses, check out the After Effects section on lynda.com. That's it for this edition of Design in Motion. Keep it moving and I'll see you next time!
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