Basic 3-D Layers in Motion

Setting up a basic 3-D animation in After Effects requires having some basic knowledge of multiple views, moving layers in three-dimensional space, and using the X-, Y-, and Z-axes. It's really much easier than it sounds, and this project will introduce you to some of those basic controls. You may want to follow along with the completed After Effects file, 3-DText.aep, on the DVD.

1. Start a new project file in After Effects and import two single-layer Photoshop files, FilmReel.psd and MovieText.psd, from the companion DVD (look in the 3-D_MovieText subfolder of the Chapter 3 folder). Import them as Composite files to preserve the transparent layers, or select the individual layers instead of Merged Layers if importing as Footage.

2. Create a new composition, 640 x 480 NTSC (6 seconds in length), drag the film reel composition file from the Project window onto the Comp 1 window, and resize the layer to 70% (Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1 Import and place the film reel composition, and resize the layer.

3. Select the film reel layer, right-click/Ctrl+click it in the Comp 1 window, and select 3-D Layer from the contextual menu. This will convert the layer to a 3-D layer, using the transparent space of the Photoshop layer as the defining edges in 3-D. (You can, instead, click the 3-D Layer box on the Timeline to convert layers.) This layer can now be moved in all three directions, as shown with the X-, Y-, and Z-axis arrows in the middle of the layer (Figure 3.2).

Figure 3.2

Converting the layer into a 3-D layer will allow it to be moved along the X-,Y-,and Z-axes.

Figure 3.2

Converting the layer into a 3-D layer will allow it to be moved along the X-,Y-,and Z-axes.

4. To make the third dimension more predominant, we'll add the ability for this layer to cast shadows when we shine a light on it. Drop down the settings for the layer in the Timeline window, and open Material Options. Turn on the Casts Shadows option.

5. Duplicate the layer in the Timeline window (F/Ctrl+D), select both layers, and press the A key to reveal the Anchor Point settings on both layers.

6. Right-click/Ctrl+click the Comp 1 window tab to bring up the contextual menu, and select Switch 3-D View > Left.

7. On the top layer, set the Z-axis Anchor Point to -20. On the bottom layer, set the Z-axis Anchor Point to +20. This will separate the two layers at the center point, creating a simulated film reel (Figure 3.3).

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Figure 3.3 Offset the anchor points at the center core to simulate two halves of a film reel.

Figure 3.3 Offset the anchor points at the center core to simulate two halves of a film reel.

Parenting the Layers and Adding Text

Now we will connect the two halves of the film reel so they will move in sync with each other.

1. Select the top layer and the Parent pull-down menu in the Timeline. Select the second layer as its parent—the top layer will now copy anything that is applied to the bottom layer. They will now rotate around the center of their perspective anchor points, as if they were actually connected.

2. Press the R key to reveal the Rotate settings for the bottom layer, and click the Y-Rotation Stopwatch to set the first marker at the beginning of the Timeline.

3. Move the Indicator down to the 6-second mark on the Timeline. Set the Y-axis rotation to 3 x +0.0°—this will make the film reel spin three complete revolutions in 6 seconds (Figure 3.4).

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Figure 3.4 With the film reels connected through parenting,they will move together on their anchor points and appear as one object when rotated.

Figure 3.4 With the film reels connected through parenting,they will move together on their anchor points and appear as one object when rotated.

4. Add the movie text layer to the Comp 1 window and scale it down to 85%, centered in the window. Right-click/Ctrl+click it in the Comp 1 window, and select 3-D Layer from the contextual menu.

5. Right-click/Ctrl+click the Comp 1 window tab to bring up the contextual menu, and select Switch 3-D View > Left. Drop down the settings for the layer, and open the Material Options. Turn on the Casts Shadows option.

6. Move the Indicator in the Timeline down to the point where you see the movie reel at a perfect 90° angle. You will see how the movie reel slices right through the text layer. Select the movie text layer, and drag the Z-axis arrow to the right until the layer is just out of reach of the movie reel (Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5

Make the movie text layer a 3-D layer and move it out of the rotating motion path of the film reel.

Figure 3.5

Make the movie text layer a 3-D layer and move it out of the rotating motion path of the film reel.

7. Up to this point, there isn't any real light source shining on the scene, so no shadows are visible yet. Create a spotlight for the scene by selecting Layer > New > Light. When the Light Settings dialog pops up, choose Spot as the Light Type and select the Casts Shadows check box. Adjust the Shadow Darkness to 85% and the Shadow Diffusion to 20 pixels (Figure 3.6).

Figure 3.6

Create a spotlight for the scene that will cast shadows and add depth and realism.

Figure 3.6

Create a spotlight for the scene that will cast shadows and add depth and realism.

Note: For more natural-looking light,add a little yellow or orange tint to the light source. It will

warm up your scene as if lit by incandescent light—or even natural sunlight. If you leave it white,your ^^^

scene will retain a bluish cast and appear cold.

Positioning Lights and Layers

From this point, we will be working in several views on our scene to help us position our lights and layers: the main Active Camera view and Top, Front, and Left side views. Select the Comp View Layout and choose 2 Views. Right-click/Ctrl+click on each window and select the view you want to preview. This will create two comp windows on your screen, so if you're working on a smaller monitor, things might get a bit crowded. Just resize the windows to see the entire comp area and stack them up if necessary. You should leave one of them in the Active Camera view all the time, because you will need to see the effects from all of your movements. At times you will need to adjust the scale of the preview window to be able to see some of the objects that move outside the view window, such as lights, cameras, and layers that fly in and out.

1. Open a side view window, right-click/Ctrl+click the Comp 1 window tab to bring up the contextual menu, and select Switch 3-D View > Left. You can also use the view tab on the bottom right side of the Comp window to change views.

2. Drag the light up to the right of the object layers, and then drag the Point Of Interest handle down to the center of the movie reel. Open the Front view window, and drag the X-axis arrow to pull the light slightly off-center and to the right. This will provide a shadow that will be down and to the left of the movie text layer as it rests in front of the film reel (Figure 3.7). You may want to zoom out in the Comp window so you can see where you are moving the light beyond the boundaries of the frame.

Figure 3.7

Move the light into position to create a shadow that is cast on the lower-left side of the film reel.

Figure 3.7

Move the light into position to create a shadow that is cast on the lower-left side of the film reel.

Figure 3.8 Set the final rest position of the movie text layer at the 3-second mark.

Once the light is set into position, hide the layer so the redraw time won't slow down with each move you make of the Timeline Indicator. Move the Indicator down to the 3-second mark, select the movie text layer in the Timeline, and click the Position Stopwatch. This will set the final position of the movie text fly-in animation (Figure 3.8).

Move the Indicator to the first frame on the Timeline, and set the Z-axis of the movie text layer to -890. This makes the layer disappear from the Active Camera window. When you view the Left side window, you will see it's just out of camera range (Figure 3.9). This gives the appearance that the text will fly in from behind the camera and pull into the spotlight before resting in front of the film reel.

To enhance the realism in this effect, we will add motion blur to the movie text layer as it first enters the frame and pulls into the spotlight. At Frame 1 on the Timeline, apply the Directional Blur filter to the movie text layer, Effect > Blur and Sharpen > Directional Blur. Adjust the Blur Length to 10 pixels and leave the default angle at 0° (Figure 3.10).

Set the Effects Stopwatch on the Timeline, and move the Indicator down to the 3-second mark. Change the Blur Length to 0, because the movie text layer is no longer in motion at this point.

Note: If this animation were to be used in a broadcast production or viewed on a TV monitor,then it would be a good idea to create the project with the Title/Action Safe guides selected on the Comp window.

Use a RAM Preview to check that all of the motion is working properly. Although the light and shadows are in the right place at this point, the scene seems a bit muddy— so we'll add some warm ambient light to brighten up the highlights and shadows. Select Layer > Light, and choose an Ambient light, set at 35% Intensity without casting shadows. To help adjust the color to a darker orange, make sure the shadows are warmed up a bit as well (Figure 3.11). Notice the big difference a small amount of ambient light can have on the entire animation! You can watch the example QuickTime movie 3DFilmText-320.mov found on the DVD for reference.

1 - Active Camera 1

MOVIE

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Blsat |T|ta[aj[).no;[)4;iroiaa ft ft^Fuli Tia y I fctiM ca™ra|T|[ 1 View |t] □ glm A

Figure 3.11 Adding a little ambient light to the scene brightens up the layers and warms up the shadows.
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