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Jim Krause | Classes | P354/J560 Program Graphics & Animation

Lab 11


  • Play with 3D - Practice building walls and floors
  • Learn about lighting
  • Shadow exercise

Review: P354 Lab 10

Cameras in AE only interact with 3D layers. They see regular layers- but they simply don’t have any 3D characteristics.

It’s fine to have stationary cameras and move 3D layers. It’s also fine to have stationary 3D layers and to move the camera. But if you move both camera and layers, things can get complicated. This is best done after getting some practice working in 3D space.

3D Modes & Lights

After Effects can work in several 3D modes:

  • Classic
  • Cinema 4D
  • Ray Traced

Let's use Classic mode today. We'll go into other modes tomorrow.

3D Lights (Meyer Chapter 15)

In our last lab we looked at 3D layers and cameras. Today we'll add lighting.

Lighting can be used to create effects that are impossible to get through any other means. Through lighting we can establish a mood and present our elements in a unique way. Those who learn to manipulate and control lighting will be able to bring their work up to an even higher level.

The downside is that lighting takes time and patience, and also bogs down previewing and rendering times. Shadows in particular take a long time to render.

Be sure to have your comps set to at least half resolution and be selective about setting your work area.

How lighting works in AE

Without any lights, AE will light a 2D or 3D layer at its full visible value. This is AE’s “default light.”

When you add a light, the default light is overridden, and only the light(s) will illuminate the comp’s 3D layers you place. 2D layers will remain unaffected.

It’s possible to add 4 different types of lights in AE:

  • Parallel
  • Spot
  • Point
  • Ambient

With each of these 4 types of lights you can change and keyframe the color and intensity. It’s not possible to change from one type of light to another- though you can fade one up and one down instead.

And just like in most film and video, most scenes call for more than one light. (Key plus fill for example.)

  • Spotlight – This is the most dramatic light in AE. You can modify the cone angle (think spot or flood) and the cone feather (the falloff near the edges).
  • Point light – This is like a bare bulb in space. While you can’t adjust the cone angle, you can adjust the feather. SInce the rays are parallel to each other, this type of light only casts sharp shadows.
  • Parallel light – This is like a point light, but all of the rays point the same direction.
  • Ambient light is the only type of light that doesn’t cast shadows. It works well as a fill light.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • All lights can have intensity (T) set to above 100%.
  • Lights can be used to tint a layer a little. It’s not a great idea to try to make drastic color changes with lights.
  • You can manage some very creative effects with colors- you just need to think like a lighting designer.
  • Be aware that you can turn off all lights, shadows and depth of field controls by pressing the Draft 3D switch. This provides a quick way to look at your 3D layers.

Materials - As you’ve discovered, only 3D layers can react to lights. There are a number of ways you can adjust how a layer interacts with lights.

Select a 3D-enabled layer and press AA to reveal the Material Options. Note the following parameters:

Casts Shadows – can be set on or off (no key framing)

  • Light Transmission refers to the ability to block light.  Can be key framed from 0 – 100.
  • Accepts Shadows & Accepts Lights can be on or off (no key framing)
  • Ambient refers to how sensitive a layer is to ambient light.
  • Diffuse and Specular affect the falloff and hotspot of a light.
  • Shininess refers to how small or focused the hotspot is
  • Metal refers to if the hotspot reflects the light.

In-Class 2 Part Exercise: Lights, Camera, Action!

In this exercise you'll get comfortable working in 3D space, adding lights, casting shadows, and moving cameras.

NOTE: If you want to work in Cinema 4D or Ray Traced mode, first switch to the mode you'd like to work in and then start working on the exercise. The modes react to shadows in surprisingly different ways.

Part 1 (Lights!):

  • Start off with a 10-15 second HD comp (either 1920x1080 or 1280x720)
  • Create a couple of solids and make a "wall" and a floor" (as 3D layers)
  • Create another 3D layer to cast a shadow (text or piece of artwork)
  • Add at least 1 spotlight
  • Position or size the layers so that one casts a tasteful/interesting shadow on the other
  • Animate the light casting the shadow or the layer casting the shadow.
  • When you are finished, output a square pixel Apple ProRes 422, MP4, or H.264 version called "lights"
  • Turn it in to the appropriate Canvas assignment.

Controlling Cameras and Lights

Single or Dual Node - Cameras can be either two node or single node. In two node mode they have two means of control: Position and POI. In single node mode they have only position.

You can change this in Camera setting or by going to Layer > Transform > Auto-Orient

Consider how a dolly or SkyCam camera crew works. One person is in charge of moving the camera and the other in charge of operating the camera. In AE, you can lock the Camera or its POI onto another layer. This layer could be a virtual actor, company logo, or a null object. Once you've got the camera rigged, you can move it in creative ways without losing the shot.

Parenting in AE allows one layer to control the basic transform properties of other layers. With a two node camera, you can reveal its POI, and use the Pick Whip tool to connect it to another layer's position.

This is a great way to control a spotlight or camera.

Let's experiment with both ways. [Demo]

How to use an expression to connect a light or camera's POI (point of interest) to the position of another layer:

  • Make sure you have a two-node Camera
  • In the Timeline, reveal the camera's POI and find the Pick Whip tool (under the Parent & Link category).
  • Reveal the Position attribute of another 3D layer you'd like to control the camera with (E.g. Null object).
  • Drag the Camera's Pick Whip tool to the Position label of the controlling layer.
  • Voila! You can now control the POI of the camera by moving the null object.

This technique also works with Spotlights.

Part 2 (Camera):

  • Add a camera
  • Use either a Null Object to control the camera or use an expression to lock the Camera's POI onto a target.
  • Add a creative camera move.
  • When you are finished, output a square pixel Apple ProRes 422, MP4, or H.264 version called "Camera"
  • Turn it in to the appropriate Canvas assignment.

Homework Reminders:

This week/tomorrow (Thursday):

Redo your text/video/track matte projects to showcase design

For next week (Tuesday):

  • Read Chapters 13, 14 & 17 of the CMG book (Parenting) & Chapter 29 (Motion Stablization)
  • Abstract 3D project with depth, design.
    • Create an entirely new 15 second (minimum) abstract graphic. (It doesn't have to serve any clear purpose, but should show depth and have some aspects of good design.) Create some of the major visual elements from within AE. It must have or contain:
      • A sense of depth
      • Good design
      • An animated 3D layer
      • A visual element whose appearance coincides with an audio element
      • A Ramp effect applied somewhere to make a gradient.
      • Turn in a square-pixel ProRes422, MP4, or H.264 version
      • Be sure to turn in a critique form that indicates where and how you used the effects.
  • 16x9 animated company/corporate/group image branding spot for HDTV (or 4K if you're feeling bold). It can be for a real or fictitous organization. It must have
    • Nice design (remember CRAP!)
    • At least 2 message elements (E.g. Tekgenix logo, name and "building a better tomorrow" slogan)
    • Audio (sound effects, music or both)
    • Sense of depth
    • At least 1 animated camera
    • 2 (or more) 3D layers
    • At least 2 lights interacting with at least 1 of your layers
    • An animated gobo/cookie
    • Turn in a full-size, sqare pixel Apple ProRes 422, MP4, or H.264 version.
    • Be sure to note what you did with your 3D camera, lights and layer in the accompanying critique form.




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