Join Ian Robinson for an in-depth discussion in this video Extruding shapes, part of After Effects CS6 Essential Training.
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To add true depth to your objects in After Effects, you need to extrude them, and there are two kinds of objects you can extrude in After Effects. The first one being Shape Layers and the second one being Text Objects. So if we look at our composition here, you can see I have three layers. If we toggle on and off the visibility, you can see exactly which layer is what object. Now notice these are Illustrator files. If I click on the word Eco and open up its options, I only have the Transform options.
This is not live editable text but a graphic. I wanted to start from this point because it's pretty common to get sent an Illustrator file and be asked to animate it. Also, one of the great things about the integration between Illustrator and After Effects is the fact that you can convert any Illustrator layer into a Shape layer. So let's select Layer 3 and go up under Layer > Create Shapes from Vector Layer. When we do that, notice the visibility of Layer 4 has turned off and we have shape outlines.
Now just for good housekeeping sake, let's enable shy on the Shape layer and then turn on our Shy guy in the top of our timeline. With that original layer hidden, I want to now enable 3D on all of these layers. So let's go to the Switches panel and click and drag across all of the layers to enable 3D for all of them. Let's open up some of the options for these layers. If you expand Layer 3 notice I have my Material Options. And if we open the Transform Options I have the normal X, Y, Z options.
Okay, that's well and good. With the Shape layer, if we open that up, you can see I do have all my options for each shape. Notice I have Paths and Fills, and if we zoom in here, you can see it's drawn a path for each individual shape on the layer. All right, now let's collapse our Shape layer, and notice the Transform options here normal X, Y, Z things. We really won't get the Extrude option until we change our renderer. So let's go to the upper right corner of the Comp Viewer and click on the Classic 3D button.
This will take us to the Composition Settings in the Advanced tab, and under here we can click on the pulldown for the Renderer. So let's change it from Classic 3D to Ray-traced 3D. Now before we click OK, watch the options here on my Shape Outlines. When I click OK, notice now I get the subset of options for Geometry Options. If I expand that group here, you can see I can control Bevel, which I'll explain here in a second. The Hole Depth which is the areas in between any holes, you can control how strong or loose that works.
But Extrusion Depth is where you can actually add depth to this object. I want to show you something really quickly, but notice my scene is still trying to render. I can see that here in the Comp Viewer and I can also see it with my mouse. If you press Caps Lock on your keyboard it will disable the render as it's happening, and you can scroll freely up and down on your Layer panel. The reason I wanted to enable this, if we scroll down to the Geometry Options for Layer 3, here let me make the timeline a little larger.
Notice in my Geometry Options for Layer 3 I have a Curve setting and Segments, but I don't have any Extrude options. Notice for Layer 1, I have Bevel and Extrude Options. That's the difference between a normal 3D Layer in the Ray-traced Renderer, and a Shape Layer in the Ray-traced Renderer. I get extra options for extrusion with Shape layers. Now while the Refresh is disabled, let's just go ahead and click on Extrusion Depth and change it from zero to 20.
I'm going to press Enter on my keyboard to set that. Let's go back and resize our interface so the timeline is a little smaller, and change the Magnification back to Fit to 100. Now let's click our Caps Lock and disable refresh so it redraws the scene. I use that key command quite a bit when I know there are just specific parameters I'm trying to change and I don't necessarily need to see anything in the scene at that point in time. Now another way we could speed this up, if you click on your Fast Preview button in the lower right corner of your Comp Viewer, we could change this from Adaptive Resolution to Draft or Fast Draft.
Let's see what happens when we change it to Draft. Notice it should move a lot more quickly. Also, we can change the Resolution from Full to Auto. This will speed things up. Notice it defaulted to setting half resolution because I'm roughly at half my magnification. Okay, now let's zoom in to the scene. I'm just scrolling in with my mouse and I'm going to press the Spacebar and click and drag so we can kind of center up this object. Notice, I'm not really seeing any true dimension to this object. In order to see better dimension, let's change from 1 View to 2 Views - Horizontal.
In the top view on the left side, notice I have depth but I'm really not getting a perspective with this depth. So what we need to do is change the left view from Top to Custom View 1. Now you want to make sure you're seeing these yellow triangles in the corners, that way you know that this is selected. So I'm going to click in the gray area on the left side making sure it's active and change to Custom View 1. Now with that set up, I can scroll into my view with my mouse and press the Spacebar to kind of set this up. There are a number of ways that I could actually see the dimension of my extrusion.
The first way is to add a light in the scene. So let's get started with that. We can go up under Layer and choose New > Light. When we add a light, I'm going to add a Point light. We can leave its Intensity a little over a hundred at 108. I do want to Cast Shadows because I found that that does sort of just increase the definition what I'm looking at. And we can leave the Fallof at Inverse Square Clamped. Now let's click OK. Now it's going to take a second for the scene to re-render, but notice immediately now I can start to see the edges of my shape.
Now I'm going to zoom out over my Active Camera here, I'm just moving my mouse over the Active Camera and scrolling out with my mouse. I can click on the X control handle and bring the light over towards the left side of my shape. I know I'm still not relatively close to the shape because I'm not quite seeing my Control Handles there. So if we zoom out in this part of the scene, I can just pull up on the Y axis and move a little closer to the shape on the Z axis from the Custom View panel.
Okay, this is looking pretty good. Let's zoom back in to my Custom View and now you can see we have our shape. I'm not really seeing too much dimension other than my extrusion because I haven't adjusted the Material Options for the shape yet. So let's select our Shape Outlines layer and press AA to open not only the Geometry Options but my Material Options. Notice here, I have a ton of Material Options and we will get in depth with these in a later video.
Right now, I just want you to focus on Transparency. If we click and drag that to the right, let's increase our Transparency to around 65%. I can actually start to see through my shape. If you press Shift+Command+H or Shift+ Ctrl+H on the PC, we can turn off the section boundaries or Light Control handles. That will just give us a little more definition to our shape. Now there's one more thing we need to look at with extruding our shape and then we're done. If we scroll back up here, there is an option for Bevels.
We have a Bevel Depth but notice the Bevel Style is set to None. So let's click on that and change that to Convex. That means the edge of this layer is going to be bevelled in a slightly convexed fashion. So if I zoom in a little more closely here, notice I'm getting highlights right around the sides of my shape. Since this is at 200% it's a little jagged. But if I really wanted to see the quality of this, we could change from Draft mode to Off in our Quick View options.
So let's go ahead and turn that off and see what we've done with our extrusion. So now let's zoom out to 100% and you can see we have successfully extruded our shape. The next steps would be dealing with the Material Options and actually refining the lighting.
- Setting up the workspace, important preferences, and the cache
- Importing footage and comps
- Relinking missing footage
- Creating type, shape layers, and masks
- Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
- Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
- Timing animations to audio
- Building backgrounds with effects
- Rendering with the Render Queue and Adobe Media Encoder
- Animating 3D type
- Smoothing shaky footage and retouching footage
- Keying green screen footage
- Working with 3D: extruding shapes, adding ray-traced lighting, and more