Join Ian Robinson for an in-depth discussion in this video Exploring the ray-traced 3D renderer, part of After Effects CC Essential Training (2015).
- Let me start this video by explaining that the Ray-traced renderer is one of the hardware accelerated features of After Effects CC. The Ray-traced renderer performs much better on a computer that has a supported and video graphics card and CUDA installed. While neither CUDA nor Nvidia video card are actually required to run the Ray-traced renderer, having both definitely will speed up your workflow when working with the Ray-traced renderer. To learn more about this you can go to the Internet and search for supported graphics cards.
Or better yet, I've already gone through the process of finding this page, so we'll just jump over here into Safari and you can see it's the GPU CUDA OpenGL features page. This page is excellent in the Help menu because it's consistenly updated. And there are several different links in here explaining how GPU acceleration works inside of After Effects. And if you scroll down there are some other links that actually explained which graphics cards are supported, and which ones aren't, and all kinds of technical things that, if you're into that sort of thing, you can have a blast with.
Okay, so I'm just gonna go ahead and jump back into After Effects. Inside of After Effects here we have a basic project that has two 3D layers. I have this green precomp layer and my Illustrator file. Now if you look in the upper right corner of this composition, since I have 3D layers enabled, I have this Renderer button. Let's click on that and that'll open my Composition Settings. You can also press command or control K, and then just make sure you're in the Advanced tab.
So in here, under the Renderer, I want to change it from Classic 3D to Ray-traced 3D. Now when we click Okay, you may see a warning window pop up, that's just telling you what features are enabled and disabled when you change the renderer. Now if we go down to the bottom of the timeline here I want you to open up Layer two. And let's not look at the Transform Options because those are pretty similar to what we've seen before. But if we collapse those, now you'll notice we have Geometry Options.
Now Illustrator layers, Type layers, and Shape layers all can have some form of 3D created within the Ray-traced renderer. Illustrator layers give you Geometry Options that give you the ability to actually bend the layer, not create 3D depth, but actually bend it in space. So let's open up its Geometry Options. In here, I have a Curvature option. So I can increase the Curvature, and notice as I increase the Curvature it's actually bending a little bit.
And to better see this I'm gonna change the view from Active Camera to this Custom View one. It'll take a second to redraw the scene, but once it redraws you can see here now it's actually starting to bend. Here, I'll zoom into 100% so you can better see exactly what's happening. Now notice it's a very jagged bend because it only has four segments to the bend. So let's just click and increase the number of segments to that bend, I'll crank it up to something ridiculous, not 189, but let's do something like 58.
So now when I've increased the number of segments I have a little more smooth bend. If we increase this number a little bit more notice it's just gonna kind of push my logo a little further back so I may have to open up the Transform Options and actually move it here a little bit on its Z axis back in front of my other layer. So I know it's taking a second to refresh but, there we go, you can kind of see this bend. If you want to see it more clearly we can go up to our toolbar here, click and hold and grab the Orbit Around tool.
Here now I can just click and drag around, and notice as I orbit around you can see I'm actually bending that logo. So that's all well and good, but what if I actually want to make a 3D version of this logo. Well thankfully, you can convert Illustrator files into Shape layers. So I'm going to start by actually deleting this position key frame here, just by highlighting it and pressing Delete. And I'll go back down to my Geometry options and I'll change the Curvature back to zero and the segments back to four, because it's not bending, and it will take a second to redraw but once it does, you'll see there's my logo over top of my background.
Okay, now with Layer two selected, go ahead and click on Layer two I want you to go up under Layer and choose Create Shapes from Vector Layer. It'll take a second but it'll turn off the visibilty for Layer three and it opens up our Shape layer, which it looks like nothing's really happened. But if we open up the Options for Layer one, now notice we have Geometry Options that if you open, have Extrusion Depth. So let's go ahead and just increase the Extrusion Depth to something like 52.
Now it'll take a second to redraw, but here you can see some things started to happen, but you can't really see what's going on with the geometry until you actually add a light into the scene. So let's go up under Layer and choose New Light. Now I'll go ahead and just create Point Light. We can leave the Color set up at white and the Intensity with 100 and we'll just go ahead and click Okay. Now you can see the 3D geometry that's in here. And since I still have my Orbit Around tool here you can see it definitely has 3D depth.
So here I'll just orbit around just a little bit so we can better see what's going on. Give it a second to redraw. And let's look at some of the other options within this geometry. I'll select Layer two here and I'll scroll down because in addition to the Geometry Options with the Extrusion Depth, we also have a Bevel Style. So see on the edge here, it's just a sharp edge? If I click on the pull down I could choose something like Concave and once I choose Concave, it'll actually give me a nice sharp edge on the edge of my Geometry.
If I want to see this a little more clearly, I'll just press the period key to zoom in. It'll take a second to redraw, but there you go. You can see it's got some of these edges. Now if your system doesn't quite look like this, notice mine is Adaptive Resolution, you can come down here to the lower right corner and click on your previews. And see, we can switch it between Adaptive Resolution and Draft, and Fast Draft, and things like that, or, we could just switch it to Off which will give you the final render quality. So I'm gonna go ahead and switch mine to Off.
And it'll take a second to redraw when I go back to 100% here, but you'll notice it looks kind of jagged and it really doesn't look quite like metal. Well the jagged thing we'll fix all the way at the end, so for right now, let's look at the Material Options. I'll close my Geometry Options and open the Material Options. Down here under my materials I'll just make my timeline a little larger and now you should notice I have thing like Light Transmission which I had before, but if you come down here now I have a Metal option and a Reflection Intensity.
Well notice there are no reflections, so let's go in and crank the Reflection Intensity. I'll bring it up to something like 79 or 80%. Now when you change this, since we turned off the Adaptive Resolution it's gonna take a little while to render, but once it renders, look at that, weee, we have nice little highlights and reflections in here. And it's now starting to actually look a little bit like metal. Now of course I encourage you to continue scrubbing through some of these options and see how things adjust.
But there's another way of really making metal pop inside of After Effects and that's by using an Environment Map. So here, I'll scroll up and collapse Layer two. In this green precomp is really colorful and so I want to use this to kind of colorize the whole thing. So I'll select Layer five and then I'll go up under Edit and just choose Duplicate to create a duplicate of that layer. And then I can right click on the duplicate and choose Environment Layer.
And what this will do if you see the icon right here, it looks kind of like a circle, it's actually wrapping a sphere around absolutely everything. So here, if I make this a little larger you can see it's definitely encompassing the entire thing and it's giving it a much more interesting look. If I press to T to open its Opacity I can bring down the Opacity in the Environment Layer and it does kind of blend it back a little bit. Just understand whenever you make some adjustments you're gonna have to give your system a little bit longer to go ahead and redraw the scene to give you a good preview as to what's going on.
So really when I'm working with 3D objects in the Ray-traced renderer what I'll do is go ahead and extrude the base object and I'll create my animation. Then once I've created my animation I'll go ahead and work with the Material Options and create an Environment Layer so that I can really see what's going on here. But the last thing you need to do before you ever try and render out of the Ray-traced renderer is actually change its Render Options. Because if I rendered this right now it would look kind of jagged and ragged like this and I don't like that.
So let's go back down here to this button where our previews are, click and hold, and notice at the bottom there are Renderer Options. So if I click on that in here I can increase the Ray-tracing Quality. So I'll go ahead and change that up to nine. And then under the Anti-aliasing Filter I'll click on the pull down and each one of these is slightly different, I'll go ahead and choose Cubic because I think that looks pretty darn good. Now understand when you change the Ray-tracing Quality here it's gonna give you an example of how many motion blur samples it's gonna use per frame.
And it'll give you some general guidelines as to how long things are going to take. But just understand it will take a little while the higher this number is. So when I click Okay, I'm gonna have to wait here a little while for my system to go ahead and redraw. But once it actaully redraws, you'll get to see that the quality of the Ray-traced renderer can defintiely get bumped up considerably, as long as you make sure to go down to your Renderer Options. So once you've actually bumped up your Renderer Options then you can go ahead and add this into your Render queue, and knock out a render of your 3D animation.
Just make sure that you give yourself enough time so that your system can go ahead and process through each of the different layers it needs to go through to actually render a nice clean Ray-traced 3D object.
- Building graphics such as lower thirds, logos, and credit rolls
- Repairing and retiming video
- Keying green-screen footage
- Animating a 3D logo
- Motion tracking
Your guide, Ian Robinson, wraps up the course with some project management techniques that will help you merge projects from multiple editors, and get you in the habit of archiving completed work.