Join Chad Perkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Adding lighting, part of Element 3D Essential Training.
In this chapter, we are going to take a look at native 3D tools and how that impacts the look of your work in Element. First up, we are going to be talking about lights. If you're new to the world of 3D, then you will be very surprised by the power of lights when you're working with a 3D object. In regular After Effects, lights are cool and they make a big difference, but nothing compared to the difference that they make when you are working with actual 3D objects. Here for example is this asteroid that we saw earlier. This is with its default textures and its custom lights.
It not only looks so much better but also composites better into our scene. So, I am going to show you how to set up a basic lighting setup. And then, after the tutorial is over, I am going to give you some cinematography basics for those of you that are interested. Now, what I want to do is right-click in a blank area of the Timeline Panel. I am going to choose New>Light. What I am going to do is I am going to choose a Parallel Light. Now, in regular, in real life I would say, in regular After Effects work, I really prefer to use spotlights, like conical shape of the spotlight, and the feathered edges and everything else that comes with a spotlight.
It really looks fantastic. But, I find that, and let's go ahead and choose spot for a second. I will click OK. I find that when I use a spotlight--oops! Let me lock my Element layer there. When I use a spotlight in Element, it's really hard to get it exactly where I want it to go. Later in this chapter, we will be looking at the elementary script which will help with that. But, a lot of times, actually probably about 80-90% of the time when I use a spotlight and I want to get it to do a specific thing, I can never get it right.
So, what I am going to do is delete this, make another new light, and this time I am going to make a parallel light. And when I work with Element, I get far better results 9 times out of 10 when I'm using a parallel light than when I am using a spotlight. So, the way the parallel light works is it basically just shoots light from a huge light source, like the sun for example is a good example of a parallel light where it's just a huge wall of light coming from a given direction.
And it really doesn't matter too much where the light is positioned. It matters much more just where the point of interest is here. So, you could just grab this point and move it around, even though this light is on the left side of the rock, if I move this over here, we are actually lighting the right side of the rock. So really, you just put your parallel light anywhere and light all over the object from that one spot. And again, there are exceptions, but I almost always prefer to at least start with a parallel light.
Now, you notice that once we added a light, any light, it gets rid of this kind of ambient 2D light that is by default on our objects where it just kind of looks like a regular 2D layer. And now we have lit the object and we could have shadows and everything else. Now, the first thing I do when I'm getting my light is to get what's called the key light. This is the dominant light source. It's not necessarily the brightest light, it's just the dominant light in our scene. A lot of times what will happen--I am just going to move this out of the way so I could see it a little bit better here.
A lot of times what will happen is that when we get a good key light, we want to create contours, these image contours which bring out the detail of the texture of our 3D object, and it creates really strong shadows. So then, what we'll do is right-click, create a new light again, but this time, I want to change the light type to Ambient, which is a light type I don't find myself using too much in Aftereffects outside of Element, but in Element, I find myself using it all the time. So, I use ambient lights for a fill.
So, I will change the color to more like a pinkish color like we have here in the background galaxy stuff, I'll click OK, click OK. And that's ridiculously bright. So, we will go ahead and open up the ambient light, and drop the Intensity down a lot. We will bring that up just a small, little amount. Even that much there, even 9% makes a difference, and you could see that it composites a little better now because it has some colors in common with the background. It just fills in the shadow areas.
So, if I take that off, before and after, before, after. It's very subtle, that's exactly where I'm going for. Now there is one other type of light that's pretty common, that's called a backlight. I am going to right-click and create another new parallel light and change the color back to the bluish, greenish blue color. Click Parallel Light, click OK, and then we're going to maybe move this around. I'm hoping I can pull this off in the middle of the tutorial.
The backlight is much harder to get. Sometimes we'll have to go and actually open up the Layers property, the Transform properties, and play around let's say with the X property for example, and the Z until I get the backlight. Basically what that is, is it's a light from the back of the object that kind of just lights up the edge of the contours here, and we're getting that here. And actually, let me double-click the light, and I'll change this back to like a pinkish color, so you could really see what's going on here, click OK.
And now we're seeing it along the edge. It's kind of more of a side light, and you could tweak it till we get it more of a backlight. But, that's kind of what a backlight does is just brings out a little bit of the edge textures and makes that pop a little more. This works especially well if you're on a dark background, and we want to make the subject pop a little bit more. So again, we have our three lights; we have our key light, our main light, we have the fill to fill in the shadows over on the side, and then we also have our backlight.
Now, that completes the tutorial. So, for those of you that just wanted to get a basic understanding of playing around with lights in Aftereffects with Element, then you can go ahead and move on to the next movie. For those of you that are interested, I want to talk to you a little bit more about some cinematography principles and how to make your models really look incredible. Now, the lighting setup I've just showed you is often referred to as three-point lighting because we have a key, a fill, and a backlight. But, one of the things that I often see when people talk about this whole three-point lighting things, they give you a very mechanical explanation of where we want to have a key light from 45 degrees away from the camera on this side, and then a fill light on this side and the backlight coming from this side.
And it's really a bad idea to think of three-point lighting as a technique like a mechanical thing to do. Really, it's better to think of three-point lighting like concepts. So, we have a fill light here or rather a key light on this spot, but it's not in any relation to the camera, and it doesn't really matter. We could have our key light anywhere we want. We could put our key light coming from the top down. We could put it from the bottom up if we wanted to, we could put the key light wherever we want.
But, that is the dominant light source, and all other lights and the placement of all other lights is really determined by the key light. Because of that, I really recommend that you start with the key light and then determine where to put the other lights. Now, I am going to go back into my Light's final composition here because this is lit a little bit better. I spent a little bit more time on this one. And the whole thing is with three- point lighting is it's just again concepts, it's just ideas, you don't have to do anything. As a matter of fact, one of the things I like to do a lot is have two-point lighting.
I have just a key and maybe just the kicker, the rim light, the hair light, the backlight, whatever you want to call it. These terms are often used interchangeably. I just have that light on the side. So, I really don't have a fill, it's two- point lighting, I have the key and the backlight, or, I might want to turn off my key light here, and just have the two backlights. And that looks pretty awesome, and that's totally legal, and it's not three-point lighting and that's fine. I can also just have my key light and my fill light if I want to do that. I can also have my fill light, and my two backlights.
You can see there is an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to lighting, and as a matter of fact, I actually used four-point lighting for this example. I have my key light, I have my fill light, and I have two backlights one on each side. So, there really is a lot of flexibility here, and the key is to make the object look I would say beautiful, but it's really you want to make the object look like it should look. I want this space rock to look really rocky. So, I wanted to have a lot of lights that brought out the contours and the detail to really show that detail off.
Without the backlights, it looks much more flat. This brings up another good point. I am just going to go ahead and turn off the other lights, and play with the key for a second. I will open up the key and the Transform here. But, when we move the light around, and we put the light right in the front of the object, the more we put the light directly in front of the object, basically where the camera is coming from, the more we flatten out the textures of the object.
This is probably why the lights in your bathroom are right in front of the mirror pointed right at your face, so that tends to make you look nice and flat and smooth. So, when we light things from the side, we tend to bring out all the contours, the details, the wrinkles, and the scars, and everything else by again lighting from the side. Now, with people, that's not always desirable, but with objects, a lot of times it is, you want these contours, they are beautiful, they are something about these little edges and details that the human eye is really pleased by.
So, that's something to be aware of. Another thing to be aware of, I am just going to go ahead and undo this to get this light back to where it was before. But, another thing here is that if I unlock the camera and move the camera around, that once we move the camera that everything is shot. Our backlight is no longer our backlight, and our other backlight is just kind of a key light now. Everything is completely messed up, or, if I go back to Element even and I play with the rotation of the object, then that also messes up the lighting.
So, just like in real life, when a subject or the camera moves, then the lighting needs to change as well, assuming of course that you want to maintain the same lighting. This is just another reason why the three-point mechanical setup just doesn't often work. So, that's enough about cinematography for right now. But, it's just really important to know that the quality of your lighting, your ability to light a subject will make such a huge difference when you're dealing with 3D models in Element.
- Assigning objects to groups
- Adjusting basic object transform properties
- Creating 3D objects from text and masks
- Working with bevel presets
- Creating custom materials
- Adding illumination
- Creating bumps with normal maps
- Using replicator shapes
- Animating with the animation engine
- Creating a shallow depth of field