Join Todd Kopriva for an in-depth discussion in this video Environment layers, part of After Effects CS6 New Features Overview.
In After Effects CS6 you can now specify that a layer operates as an environment layer. An environment layer is a layer that is projected onto the inside of a sphere that surrounds the entire scene and can then be used as a backdrop and to reflect off of objects in the scene. Let's see how to define a layer as an environment layer. And also how it works in a scene. Begin in the Material Options project and with the 03 text composition active, click Rain preview. Here we can see that we have a backdrop layer, and the colors and details from that backdrop layer are being reflected from the extruded 3D text object. I'll stop the rain preview.
This layer here, which is called dark gray solid, is just a solid layer which has a couple of effects on it. Let's look in the Effect Controls panel, and see that it's turbulent noise followed by colorama. If I turn off colorama, you'll see that the original result of fractal noise is just grayscale. So, colorama is just meant to colorize it. Here in the Timeline panel we see an icon next to this layers name that indicates that it's an environment layer. If we right-click or control click on Mac OS on the layer, we can also see that there's a check mark next to environment layer.
We deselect this, we can see what it looks like as a simple 2D layer. To make any 2D layer and environment layer, just right-click or control click on Mac OS and choose environment layer. And now the layer is projected onto the inside of a sphere which surrounds the entire scene. I'll momentarily change the rate tracing quality for our composition by control clicking on the Array Trace 3D button and going down to three just for the moment.
Using the Camera tool I just want orbit around so that you can see that the environment layer is wrapping all the way around a sphere. I'll set the rate tracing quality back up to something that doesn't give us quite as much noise. At eight I think that this composition looks really good, but you'll notice that dragging around with the Camera tool is not quite as responsive. By default, an environment layer serves both as a backdrop and as a source of reflections.
You can go into Layers Options by expanding the layer, and then you can choose For Appearance and Reflections on, off, or only. When it's only, the layer does not appear as a back drop but it still does appear in reflections. You choose off, the layer appears as a back drop but is not reflected. I'll put it back to on, the default, and collapse this layer back down. So that's how environment layers work.
You'll find that using an environment layer in a 3D scene is very often a good way to give your 3D objects more interesting reflection detail.
- 3D animation
- User interface changes and removed features