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Please note: All images used here are, of course Copyright by my client. All rights reserved. I've therefore only included semi-low-res samples in the project files - which will look better if you create yours at a higher resolution.
Thanks for all the amazing response I've gotten from everybody on my first tutorial. I appreciate your comments.
In this article, I'm going to tell you about two AE essentials here -- mastering the 3D fundamentals in AE5, and using one of the best plug-ins to come out in a long time: Trapcode's Shine.
In one of my latest projects for a TV Show, "Magic On Ice" -- a show open, I decided to use the techniques I'll describe here.
I hope they help you become a better AE Expert.
I get inspiration from everything I see -- not just video -- but film, stills, and surprisingly, plain old ordinary everyday life. This particular look was, believe it or not, somewhat distantly inspired by the Death Star scenes in Star Wars. I know what you're saying, "How typical!", but I really love the idea of starting far away from something and then flying, or falling into it as it becomes a bigger picture. The movie "The Matrix"; uses these kind of transitions to great effect. I was also inspired by "Shine" -- the plug-in, not the movie. After seeing some of the effects it could achieve, I decided to put it to use in this show opener.
(A big special thanks goes to Kathlyn and Ron for 'introducing' me to Shine!!)
The idea here is mystery, variety and action.
The show is unique in that it combines grand illusion and ice skating. The client wanted to show, right off, that they do a lot of different unique acts and that the opener should set you up for somewhat of a 'thrill' ride... His idea was to start off mysteriously, and then plunge into action. This is part of a bigger intro, so I'm just discussing a particular part of it here.
There's basically only three steps to do in this piece.
- Part One: Grab Stills and create a Wall
- Part Two: Import into After Effects and use 3d to animate camera moves
- Part Three: Add some Shine
The rest, as usual, is optional and playtime. So let's get started!
Part One: Grab Stills and Create a Wall
A: Grab Stills
First -- you need images. For my client, everything he had was on video. I captured these to Premiere 6 (although you can just as easily bring it into After Effects) and saved still frames from it. Ctrl+Sh+M (Mac = CMD+Sh+M) for Premiere, Alt+Ctrl+S (Alt+CMD+S) for AE)
Why not use moving video instead of Stills? Well we will if we want to --
but not yet. Right now we want the least possible amount of rendering time.
A common oversite amongst beginners is a little detail called Interlacing.
Now -- if you're capturing out of Premiere you'll need to de-interlace your images. If you're capturing out of AE, you'll just need to interpret your footage correctly.
Check out the differences below.
From AE: Right click (or CMD click for Mac users) on your video in the project box and select Interpret Footage->Main. Select Separate Fields and choose either upper first or lower first depending on how the video was first captured. (That's a mini-tutorial in itself!) When you save frames they will now be de-interlaced. (Unless you've changed your prefs. Otherwise)
From Premiere: Save out normally and we'll use Photoshop to de-interlace them (Filters->Video->De-Interlace).
B: Manipulate the photos to create a wall in Photoshop
You may be wondering why I don't do all this in AE. The simple reason is that I want to do as much preprocessing as possible BEFORE taking up rendering time making AE do it. For those of you without PS, you could do roughly these same steps in AE and render out a still to use for the same final effect.
To create the "wall" effect is pretty straight forward. I created half my wall just by dragging the images in and aligning them by hand. You could also create a custom Action to do this automatically similar to the "Contact Sheet" option, but this really didn't merit it.
I placed the images in without getting too time consuming on the exact alignment. I simply created a layer above them all and drew thick black lines as borders to hide all my messy edges.
After creating half my wall I flattened it -- and duplicated it so that I now have quite a long wall to travel along.
C: Hue Saturation
Definitely one of my most used Photoshop commands is Ctrl+U - Hue/Saturation. Here I used it to get a very warm/hot sepia tone.
This left me with the nicely colored image below.
Part Two: After Effects 3D
In After Effects, make a new composition, size 720x480 (or customize it to your needs)
and a duration 15 seconds or so.
Add Your Source Image
Double click in your project window and import "Still Wall Orange_sm.jpg" from the source folder you downloaded.
Drag it into your timeline and turn on the 3D checkbox.
Add a Camera
Rather than tilt the 'Wall' as we normally would for a fake 3D Effect, instead we're going to use the Camera to make all our moves for us. This is less intuitive for 2D artists that aren't experienced in 3D programs, but it's definitely more powerful, so do yourself a favor and force yourself to get used to it.
Right click (CMD+Click) in a blank area of your timeline and select New->Camera
On a normal camera, 17mm is super wide and fish-eye like -- good for warped dramatics, 50mm is normal and kinda boring, and 200mm is a zoom lens -- good for flattening features and enhancing the perception of depth of field (which is why it's often used for headshots of people where the background is blurred.)
A rather ominous looking dialog comes up. If you're familiar with photography, you'll gasp with excitement. If you're not, you'll think about quitting this tutorial right here. Don't worry -- Play around with it, or just accept the defaults and move on for now. (You can always come back to it by double clicking the camera layer name.)
I used a wide angle 24mm lens because I wanted to simulate the lens needed to capture a large wall or building.
If you really want it to look like a true physical object you're photographing, turn on Depth of Field in the options menu.
Depth of field, in short, allows things to come in and out of focus as you approach them, just like a real camera.
Very nice, but your rendering time is increased. I left mine off until the very end render.
Setup the beginning shot
Twirl down the camera options.
Set the camera up for your starting position. Play around until you get the look you want to start out with. I usually turn on the stopwatch for all the properties so I can animate them over time. To do this easily - just drag your mouse cursor down them all at once. Here's the settings I started with.
You should have a look roughly like this:
Notice that when you turned on the 3D layer box for your wall layer -- a drop down menu became available in your comp window (as shown above) It's now set to Active Camera. If you change it, it may help you position your camera and lights. My favorites are Custom View 1 and Top, although I usually try to position while looking through Active Camera -- it's just the photographer in me.
Add your lights
The same way you added a camera, add a light. I chose a Point light as the type because it's not as broad as Parallel and not as sharp as Spot. It's just what I had in mind. Here's my settings:
I moved it down and up so that you can only see a bit of the wall at a time. This adds to the mystery of the wall.
Here's my settings:
And the result:
Okay, now I'm starting to like the moody feeling. That ugly sun looking thing, by the way, represents your light.
Animate the Camera
This is where you'll need to practice and experiment quite heavily if you're not used to 3D camera moves. You are most concerned with the Position settings -- since your camera is moving along the wall. However, you also want to change your Point of Interest settings as well, as this will tilt and rotate your camera -- in effect -- aiming it at what you want to look at.
Here are my settings at different frames. Take a look at the source project for a better understanding.
Experiment with different views to get a better feel for camera placement as you animate.
The top view is the Front View.
In the Right View, you have the ability to drag handles independently of each other. That vertical line down the middle represents the side of your wall.
- Green = y (vertically)
Red = x (horizontally)
Blue = z (depth)
Circle with X in it = controls Point of Interest -- or where your camera 'aims'.
Circle with funky lines emanating = your light
Veiw from the Camera
NOTE: You start seeing the low quality of the scaled down image here.
My original image was1600 x 2448 (4mb) and held up very nicely even while zoomed in.
Pick a frame to zoom in on and animate accordingly.
Part Three: Adding the Shine.
Since Shine is not a true 3D shine, applying it to your Wall layer will have disappointing results. It will not shine outside of the layer and appear boxed in. Try it and see. But not to worry, there's a quick work around.
The trick it to create a new comp with your Shine Wall comp nested inside it.
Go to your project window and drag your Shine Wall comp into the little Comp Icon at the bottom of your project window to create a new comp with your Shine Wall comp inside it. (Gosh, that's kinda wordy)
Name this one Shine Wall With Shine, or some similarly creative name.
Now the magic starts.
Shine is quite easy to manipulate, and quite fast at rendering. You can download a demo from their site which works perfeclty Give it a try.
Select your Shine Wall layer and go to Effects->Trapcode->Shine. The default settings make the image unrecognizable, so do a little tweaking. Also set keyframes for Process Point, Boost Light and Shine Opacity as shown in my settings below.
I started my animation at about 46% opacity and increase it quickly to 100%. Then I took the Boost light way up whilst animating the second number of the source point.
For the end part I just matched up moving video with the layer I zoomed into and voila!
The camera falls head first into a moving frame of video.
Wait! What about the moving Video??
Ah yes, well, here is where the wisdom of using the camera for your moves really comes into play. This is optional. This effect works fine with no moving video. But YOU want to get advance eh?
The best way is to cheat it. You don't REALLY need all those frames moving to give the illusion that they are all video frames. Just pick out about four or five and insert video, or even slideshow still pictures into them.
- Go back to your Shine Wall Comp.
- Change the view to Front View
- Import a video clip and drag it to the timeline. Turn on it's 3D Switch
- Now, scale it and move it to fit 'inside' one of the frames of your video wall. Apply Effect->Adjust->Hue/Saturation -- Colorize to get it to match the wall. (I'm leaving it full colorful here so it stands out for illustration only.)
Now when you switch the view back to Active Camera, no more modification is required. All the lights and camera moves will work perfectly with it.
If your clip isn't long enough for the whole animation you can loop it or Time Stretch it by going to Layer->Time Stretch.
When you go back to your Shine Wall with Shine comp it will automatically shine from your moving video.
And so ends another tutorial. I Hope you've learned enough to create something cool! If it does, drop me a line.