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Building 3D Objects in Adobe After Effects CS5

Note: This excerpt does not include the lesson files. The lesson files are available with purchase of the book.

Getting started

Adobe After Effects can work with layers in two dimensions (x, y) or three dimensions (x, y, z). So far in this book, you’ve worked almost exclusively in two dimensions. When you specify a layer as three-dimensional (3D), After Effects adds the z axis, which provides control over the layer’s depth. By combining this depth with a variety of lights and camera angles, you can create animated 3D projects that take advantage of the full range of natural motion, lighting and shadows, perspective, and focusing effects. In this lesson, you’ll explore how to create and control basic 3D layers. Then, in Lesson 12, “Using 3D Features,” you’ll continue working with this project, adding lights, effects, and other elements to animate the 3D objects and complete the composition, a promotional video for a book.

First, you’ll preview the movie you’re creating, and then set up the project.

  1. Make sure the following files are in the AECS5_CIB/Lessons/Lesson11 folder on your hard disk, or copy them from the Adobe After Effects CS5 Classroom in a Book DVD now:
    • In the Assets folder: AEBack.jpg, AEFront.jpg, AESpine.jpg
    • In the Sample_Movie folder: Lesson11.mov
  2. Open and play the Lesson11.mov file to see what you will create in this lesson. When you are done, quit QuickTime Player. You may delete this sample movie from your hard disk if you have limited storage space.

    When you begin this lesson, restore the default application settings for After Effects. See “Restoring default preferences” on page 3.

  3. Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift (Windows) or Command+Option+Shift (Mac OS) while starting After Effects. When asked whether you want to delete your preferences file, click OK. Click Close to close the Welcome screen.

    After Effects opens to display an empty, untitled project.

  4. Choose File > Save As.
  5. In the Save Project As dialog box, navigate to the AECS5_CIB/Lessons/Lesson11/ Finished_Project folder.
  6. Name the project Lesson11_Finished.aep, and then click Save.

Creating the composition

The animation you will create in this lesson features a 3D representation of a book about After Effects CS5. First, you’ll set up a composition to model the book.

  1. Click the Create A New Composition button (new_composition.jpg) at the bottom of the Project panel.
  2. In the Composition Settings dialog box, name the composition Book, and choose NTSC DV from the Preset menu.
  3. Choose Square Pixels from the Pixel Aspect Ratio menu, because you will be working with graphics that have square pixels.
  4. Enter 10:00 for the Duration, make sure the Background Color is black, and click OK.

Importing assets

You’ll use three Photoshop files in this project: images of the front cover, back cover, and spine of the book.

  1. Double-click an empty area of the Project panel.
  2. In the Import File dialog box, navigate to the AECS5_CIB/Lessons/Lesson11/Assets folder.
  3. Shift-click to select the AEBack.jpg, AEFront.jpg, and AESpine.jpg files, and then click Open.
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