Join Chad Perkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Using ambient occlusion (AO), part of Element 3D Essential Training (2013).
Several times throughout this training series, I refer to the fact that Element does not cast shadows, and that is correct. But, it does have a very valuable substitute in something called Ambient Occlusion. Now, earlier we looked at this example with this rain that kind of morphs in the snow, and falls on the ground. And, if you look really closely, as these little snow pellets, these stylized huge snow pellets, come close to the ground, you can see right here, that it is starting to cast a shadow on the ground.
And then, as it lands in the ground, there is a shadow around these little pellets of snow landing on the ground. It creates a very believable effect as they land on the ground. These are not really casting shadows. Again, this is using something called Ambient Occlusion, which is really helpful, and I use Ambient Occlusion on almost every single Element project ever. So, let's go to Ambient Occlusion START and see how this works. Now, this does not have Ambient Occlusion on. And, you can see how these snow pellets seem to just kind of float in the air as they land.
That's not, that's not good. So, let's go ahead and select the Element layer, and open up Render Settings again, and we'll open up Ambient Occlusion. And, what Ambient occlusion does is it creates shadows where areas come in contact with each other. Now, this only works on 3D objects in Element. It doesn't recognize After Effects 2D layers for this. But, if I turn on Ambient Occlusion, we see very faint shadows. These settings are very mild by default, sometimes hard to see.
So, let's take up the Intensity a lot, like to 10. And now, we can start to see darkness in all these areas, and it's not just as objects come in contact with other 3D objects, but also in the cracks and crevices of the 3D objects themselves. So, there's actually shadow detail now, and these crevices like never before. So, if you look, let's say, for example, over here, we're seeing a little bit of shadow detail. And, if I turn this off, we can see that go away, and it kind of lights up a little bit more. So, we could see the before and the after.
Now, one of the things we could also do is that we can increase the Radius. And, that's how I was able to get the fake shadows, because we're basically increasing the distance, or the size, of the Ambient Occlusion, which creates a bigger shadow area. So, these objects actually don't have to be exactly touching, in order for the shadow to show up. Of course, this looks ridiculous, but it demonstrates the point that this is available. If it's not smooth enough, you can increase the Samples, and if it's also too bright or too dark, we can adjust that with the Gamma setting.
So, let's go over to the text example and see how this works with the text. I'm going to select the Element 3D layer, open up Render Settings, and we'll close Fog, and we'll open up Ambient Occlusion. And we'll enable it, and we'll see the difference that this makes in the text. So, I'm going to zoom in so, we can actually see this a little more closely. One of the most important areas that Ambient Occlusion helps is with contact with other objects, as we just saw. So, as I increase the Intensity-- let's, again, jack this up really high, let's say to 10-- and, we can see this a little bit more clearly.
There is the before and the after. So, you see in all of the areas of contacts in between these crevices, they all have this Ambient Occlusion. Before, after. Before, after. And, we could also increase the Radius, or we could decrease it. So, it's smaller, but just so it's obvious, I'm going to crank up the Radius a little bit, and again, we have a very high Intensity value of 10, as high as it goes. And, you'll notice that as we pull out, and we can see everything, the difference that it makes; that it seems like, without Ambient Occlusion, that the text is kind of floating on the background. They really don't seem like they're necessarily touching.
But, with Ambient Occlusion, you can see these contact shadows, that they are. And it also makes the text look more believable, as well, even though these settings are a little, little on hardcore side; maybe 5 would be a little bit better there. In the real world, as objects touch, we see this kind of contact shadow. So, you'll probably want to use this most of the time.
- 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