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Creating a Glass Globe

Creating a Glass Globe
A CreativeCOW Adobe After Effects Tutorial


Broadcast Designer Kurt Murphy demonstrates creating a glass globe
Kurt Murphy Kurt Murphy
Art Director, WIVB-TV, Buffalo, New York, USA
email: Kurt Murphy

Article Focus:
When broadcast designer Kurt Murphy received a glass globe as a gift, it inspired him to see if he could create one in After Effects. In this tutorial, Kurt demonstrates creating and animating a glass globe totally in After Effects using Solids and Effects. This project is totally self-contained, needing no outside footage, but you will need the production bundle to complete it. Also nice but not necessary is the Trapcode Starglow plug-in.


Download Movie Project file

My girlfriend got me a nice glass globe with a glass base for Christmas. I thought that It would be a cool project to animate in After Effects so I thought I'd give it a try. I also wanted to create it completely within After Effects using Solids and Effects, so that it was self-contained without any external files (though, it requires the Production bundle). After I completed it I decided to write this tutorial for the Cow after I ran into a few 'gotcha's' which I thought were interesting. The one 3rd party effect that I did use was Trapcode's Starglow (which I hopelessly rely on - and almost begs to be used here); but if you don't have it, it really won't affect anything (though I strongly suggest you get it).


The Globe


As I said, I wanted to create this completely within After Effects, so for the map I created a clipping path from a simplified Photoshop Earth map that I had on file. You could also use an Illustrator or an image file. I created a 12 second comp in After Effects called 'outside globe' that was twice as long as it was high (1200 x 600), added a Solid (Command-Y -Make Comp Size), then pasted the Earth path info into that. It was then scaled end to end (fig. 01).


The Earth image was created to be wrapped around a sphere - twice as long as it is high and both sides match up when it's wrapped. I also added a grid to the image by creating a Comp Size Solid over the map and adding a Grid Effect (Effect>Render>Grid). I kept the default spacing settings, but changed the Border thickness to 2.5 (fig. 02, below).

Next I created a 12 second, 720 x 540 comp called 'globe FINAL'. I ALWAYS label the comp that I'm going to render with the word FINAL (in UPPER case), so that I can easily spot which one to render in the Project Window - quite often I end up with dozens of comps. I drag the 'outside globe' into it and give it a light grey color (Effect>Render>Fill), then add CC Sphere to it (Effect>Perspective>CC Sphere). The default settings need a little tweaking; The continents are too shaded, so I adjust the lighting and shading, plus I want to see only the Outside of the globe - the inside will have to be a new comp because it will appear distorted through the glass. The X rotation is tipped slightly and the Y rotation is animated minus one revolution over the 12 seconds (fig. 03).



Next I needed to create the distorted 'inside globe' of the globe... This is where the 'gotcha's' come in. I duplicated the 'outside globe' in the Project Window and re-named it 'inside globe'. I then duplicated the 'outside globe' in the Time Layout Window (TLW) and replaced the bottom one with the 'inside globe' comp. (While the bottom 'outside globe' is highlighted, option-drag the 'inside globe' comp to either the TLW or the comp window. This will replace the highlighted layer with the new layer whilst keeping all the parameters). Nothing will appear to have changed (except the Layer name) because the two files are still the same... But that's gonna change. Any changes that I make in the 'inside globe' comp will be reflected in my 'FINAL' comp. I like to have both comps open at the same time, so that I can see how my changes are taking affect... So Option double-click the 'inside globe' Layer (in the TLW) to open it up in a new Tab in your Comp Window. Then, drag the tab off and place it next to the 'FINAL' comp (fig. 04-below).


Looking at my real glass globe, I see that the backside of the continents are distorted and magnified, with the distortion becoming quite severe at the outside edges of the globe. I also notice that there is a grain to matte finish of the continents as they are magnified. I added a slight noise (8 pixels) on the 'inside globe' earth matte. I also unchecked the "Use Color Noise." Next it was scaled 150% on the Y axis only. To distort the 'edges' I added CC Flo Motion (Effect>Distort>CC Flo Motion), knotting the 2 sides 44 pixels. The problem is that when it's wrapped around a sphere, the 2 distorted sides come together to form one seam (which was immediately evident in the 'globe FINAL' comp). Also, seeing how the sphere was rotated over time on the Y axis, the CC Flo Motion distortion also rotated along that Y axis. I had to do a few things to remedy this.

In order to distort the edges AND have it wrapped around a sphere AND rotate it along the Y axis, I needed to change the order of some things. I needed to 'rotate' the sphere in the 'inside globe' comp instead of down the pipeline with CC Sphere. To 'rotate' it, I used the Offset filter (Effect>Distort>Offset). Offset pans the image within a layer. Visual information pushed off one side of the image appears on the opposite side; this would give the impression that the sphere was rotating. Seeing how the globe rotated one time over 12 seconds, I animated the Shift Center To point 1200 pixels (the length of the comp) over 12 seconds. This would give the appearance of the backside animating at the same speed. I could now add the CC Flo Motion for the distortion. In the 'globe FINAL' comp, I removed the Y axis keyframes, and instead moved the Y axis to 180 degrees so that the continents rotated correctly with the 'earth matte.' With the Y axis at 0 degrees the continents on the 'outside globe' and the 'inside globe' played at the same time - giving me 2 Australia's (you could see John Dickinson waving); by rotating the Y axis to 180 degrees, you would see the continents in front on the 'outside globe', then appear on the backside on the 'inside globe' layer. Back in the 'inside globe' comp I moved the Knot points to the 200 and 1000 pixel points which gave the animation this appearance.

Click here to see the fig. 05 movie

Fig. 06 shows the Effect window for the 'inside globe' earth matte. To further sell the distorted background I added an Adjustment Layer (Layer>New>Adjustment Layer) at 66% opacity (love those Adjustments Layers!) in the 'inside globe' comp with a Gaussian Blur of 33 pixels, horizontally.




Click here to see the results

Rant: I would have used the great Boris Gaussian Blur because it allows me to blur both the horizontal and vertical blurs by different amounts... But someone opening this project a few years down the road on an upgraded machine might find themselves with this error message, "This project contains 72 references to missing effects, please install the following effects to restore these references." Because the effects aren't @$$#!? backwards compatible and you've got to add all the effects again and re-keyframe them if you're lucky enough to have an older machine where you can write the old information down! Whew, end rant.


The Background


I wanted to have a moving background to place my globe over so that there would be some interaction within the sphere. I created new 12 second comp called 'fractal background' and used the amazing Fractal Noise (Effect>Noise>Fractal Noise) to create a smoky, blobby background, then animated the Offset Turbulence, Evolution and Sub Rotation over 12 seconds. I colorized it using Hue/Saturation (Effect>Adjust>Hue/Saturation), then added a slight Glow over time (Effect>Stylize>Glow). I also added a Solid with a mask so that the Fractal Noise was mainly in the center.




The Background & the Globe


With the background now in place behind the globe, I can now experiment with transfer modes for the front side and back side of the globe. After cycling through the various Transfer Modes (Shift + and -) a million jillion times, I settled on a Hard Light for the 'outside globe' comp or outside and a Linear Light mode with a opacity of 75% for the 'inside globe' comp. These seemed to interact well with each other and the background. Keep in mind, if you use a different background (say, lighter one), you may need to revisit the Transfer Mode settings (a million jillion more times).

From looking at the real Globe, I noticed that any background that was reflected trough it was flopped and distorted. In the Project Window, I dragged the 'fractal background' comp to the Create New Composition icon and renamed it 'distorted bgrnd.' I dragged it into the 'globe FINAL' comp, placing it between the 'outside globe' and 'inside globe' layers. I added a CC Sphere to it - which placed it perfectly within the existing globe. I Option double-clicked the 'distorted bgrnd' layer to open it up into a new tab, then dragged it off next to the 'globe FINAL' comp. I flopped the background (Scale -100), then first tried a CC Lens (but didn't like it), then settled on the CC Flo Motion again for the distortion. By Soloing the layer in the 'globe FINAL,' I could see where to move the 2 knots so that the distortion came from the 2 sides (fig. 08-below).


After running a few RAM Previews, I decided to move the 'distorted bgrnd' below both globe layers - the distorted background was hiding too much of the 'inside globe' layer, even with a Hard Light selected on the background.

I was just going to leave the project as is, but then I thought I'd put it on...


The Base


The base consists of 4 side Solids and one top Solid. I created the first Solid at 222 pixels wide by 333 pixels deep. I added a camera (default setting), then made the Solid a 3D layer by clicking the Cube icon. Then I duplicated the Solid and moved the 2nd Solid along the Y axis 222 pixels. I brought the Opacity down on them all to 50% to make it easier to see what I was doing. I duplicated this Solid then rotated it along the Z axis 90 degrees and moved it into position (fig 09--below).



Finally, this Solid was duplicated and moved 222 pixels along the Z axis to the other side, giving me a box. I created a new Solid at 222 by 222 pixels and moved that to the top. I un-soloed the Solids, then moved my camera so that the base matched the globe. I had to move the 2 globe layers and distorted background up to accommodate the base better. I changed the opacity of the Solids back to 100% and parented the 4 side Solids to the top Solid. I then rotated the top Solid - and parented base Solids (fig. 10).



The 'fractal background' layer is duplicated and switched to a 3D layer, where it's moved in 3D space to match one of the base sides. When it's in place, the Solid is used as its Trackmatte (fig. 11).



All 4 sides and top are done this same way (fig. 12).



Now, let the Opacity and Transfer Mode games begin (Fig 13).



Next I wanted to add a globe reflection to 2 sides and top of the base. I couldn't just use the 'outside globe' layer because the bottom of the sphere needs to be reflected onto the base and it's viewed from the top. So, the 'outside globe' is duplicated in the Project Window and renamed 'earth matte reflect.' It's then opened and and the Y Scale only is changed to -100. This turns the earth upside down. I want to keep all the lighting/shading parameters and motion of the 'outside globe' sphere for the reflected one, so it's duplicated (command-D) in the TLW, and Option-replaced it with the new 'earth matte reflect.' It's then moved into place and the X rotation tweaked a bit (fig. 14--below) and then changed to an Overlay Transfer Mode.



The top base Solid is duplicated in the TLW, where the layer is moved to above the 'earth matte reflect' and used as a matte (fig. 15).



For the sides, the 'earth matte reflect' is duplicated in the TLW and the 3D cube is switched on, making it a 3D layer. It's then moved rotated by the 3D arrows into place (fig. 16--below);



the sphere will now look flat (not to worry, it's supposed to). The side Solid is duplicated, moved above the 'earth matte reflect' and used as a Trackmatte. The other side is done much the same way except that the layer is also skewed a bit (Effect>Distort>Transform). I used an Overlay on one side and a Classic Difference on the other and dropping the opacity a bit.

The real glass base had little bevel along the edges, so I thought I'd also add one. I created a Solid, called 'edge' (500 x 500) and using the Pen tool to cut out a mask to use as a matte (fig. 17).



'Fractal background' is brought in again and turned into a 3D layer where it's placed under the mask. The Levels (Effect>Adjust>Levels) are brought up to make it lighter and an Add Transfer mode is selected (fig. 18), then the masked 'edge' Solid is used as a Trackmatte.




Highlights


I've used this highlight (fig. 19) which I gleaned from this 8 ball clipart many times (fig. 20) - But I needed to make it within After Effects.

fig. 19 fig. 20

I created a new comp (500 x 500) called 'hilite'. Next I added a Solid (Comp Size) and added a 4-Color Gradient (Effect>Render>4-Color Gradient). Four gray points are added to try to match the Photoshop image (fig. 21--below).

fig. 21 fig. 22


A circle mask is added by double-clicking the circle-mask icon; then another mask (with Subtract selected) is created with the Pen tool to remove the middle portion (fig. 22--above).

fig. 23 fig. 24

A feathered Linear Wipe (Effect>Transition>Linear Wipe) is added to remove some of the gradient effect. The inner Mask is feathered along the Y axis by 44 pixels to soften the line. The Layer is duplicated, the feather removed and opacity brought down to 66% (fig. 23--above). A new Gray Solid is added and masked off for the box light highlight (fig. 24--above) - a feathered Linear Wipe is used to dissolve out the top. This comp is then brought into the 'globe FINAL', scaled to fit over the globe with an Add Transfer mode and the opacity brought down to 56%.

I HAD created some small highlights using the Paint tools on a Solid, but instead I decided to add a few subtle Lens Flare layers (Effect>Render>Lens Flare) of varying opacities and sizes throughout (fig. 25).



I added one animated Lens Flare riding along the edge of the globe. The Blend With Original, Brightness, and Flare Center were animated over time. The Flare Center gives you straight lines between points, you need to double-click the Flare layer to open up the Flare path to be able to adjust the bezier paths (fig. 26). It's best to move the Timebar so that the Lens Center falls in the middle of the flare path; then adjust the beginning and end keyframe beziers to ride the arc. Try never to add a third keyframe in the center of the arc, instead adjust the first and last beziers to create the arc.




The Text


For the text, CC Cylinder will be used to wrap it around the globe. First a new comp is created (1400 x 333) called 'text.' The Text tool is used to spell out "GLASS GLOBE• " a few times (fig. 27).

The size of the text and shrinking the width of the comp are adjusted so that the text will wrap seamlessly when the Cylinder is implemented. I wanted to have a highlight texture traveling through the text, so once again Fractal Noise was used to create it. A new Solid was added below the text and Fractal Noise added with the Offset Turbulence and Evolution animated over time (fig. 28).



The text is then used as a Trackmatte for the Fractal Noise. The 'text' comp is brought into the 'globe FINAL' comp and CC Cylinder (Effect>Perspective>CC Cylinder) is added. Using CC Cylinder's controls, the Outside is selected, it's placed and rotated into position, and the Y axis is rotated the opposite direction of the globe. With a Hard Light Transfer mode, it's a little hard to read, but I like the look (fig. 29--below).



I want to add an edge to the text - however I want to add a separate edge so that it reacts differently than the main text.

In the Project Window, the 'text' comp is duplicated, renamed 'text hilite' and opened up. I add a stroke to the "GLASS GLOBE• " text and the Fill color is deleted. The Fractal Noise is tweaked a bit to differ slightly from the 'text' Fractal Noise. Now the 'text' layer is duplicated in the TLW and the new 'text hilite' is Option dragged into it, replacing it. A Screen transfer mode is selected and the opacity is brought down to 44% (fig. 30).



Now I need to create the backside of the text that falls outside of the globe. Once again the 'text' comp is duplicated in the Project Window and renamed 'text backside.' It's opened up and the "GLASS GLOBE• " text is made gray and also given a white stroke. It's then used as a Luma Trackmatte for the 'fractal 1' layer. This will be the backside of the text that falls outside the globe. Again, duplicate the 'text' layer in the TLW, drag it below the other 'text' layers, then Option drag in the 'text backside' to replace it. The Effect Window (F3) is called up and the 'render' option is changed from Outside to Inside (fig. 31).



A matte needs to be created to isolate the text from the inside of the globe, so a new Solid is made that's 500 x 500 called 'globe matte.' While it's selected the Elliptical Mask Tool icon (fig. 32--below) is double-clicked, creating a circle mask. It's then moved and scaled to fit perfectly over the globe (fig. 33--below), and used as an Alpha Inverted Trackmatte to the 'text backside' layer. The 'text backside' layer's opacity is brought down to 56% and an overlay Transfer mode is used.

fig. 32 fig. 33

Almost there... The 'text backside' comp is now duplicated from the Project Window (honest, last time!), and renamed 'text distort.' It's opened up and an Adjustment Layer is created above the other 2 layers. The text outline is switched from a white to a light gray. Like the 'inside globe' continents of the sphere, the text must also be cheated to give the appearance of rotating around the backside of the sphere. First, the text is flopped along the X axis so that it reads backwards (fig. 34--below);



next the Offset filter is used on the text layer to move it from right to left (because it's 'behind' the sphere) one full time. The Shift Center To is animated from X 644 to X minus 633 over the 12 seconds. On the Adjustment Layer I used a Magnify (Effect>Distort>Magnify) with a Magnification of 105 and a Size of 664 to give the text a distorted double look (fig. 35).



Finally, I added the cool CC Lens effect (Effect>Distort>CC Lens). I opened up the comp settings (command-K) and made the height of the comp 500 pixels high to help accommodate the Lens effect. I also adjusted both the 'fractal' Solid and Adjustment Layer (Command Shift-Y) to Make Comp Size. The Lens Size was then brought down to 35 (fig. 36) to fit and the Convergence lowered to 86.

This 'text distort' comp was then brought into the 'globe FINAL' comp and placed below the 'outside globe' layer. It was scaled and rotated (5 degrees) slightly to match the other text. A Luminosity Transfer mode was then used and opacity brought down to 42%. The text seemed to ride a bit low, so I opened up the 'text distort' comp and moved the text layer up a few pixels so that it rode a bit higher. Finally I added a Gaussian Blur to the layer with a blur of 4 pixels vertically.


Final tweaking


I added a reflection map (22%) of the 'fractal background' to the 'outside globe' sphere (in the CC Sphere effect menu) so that the background was slightly reflected on the sphere. I also wanted a small circle at the top and bottom of the globe, so I opened up the 'outside globe' comp and added a thin Solid (1600 x 8) to the top and bottom of the comp (fig. 37).



Lastly, Trapcode's Starglow was subtly added to the 'outside glow' and two base sides with HV Prism at a high setting.

Okay, now hit RAM Preview and say, "wow, I LOVE this program!"

Kurt Murphy

Discuss this technique in the After Effects forum at CreativeCOW.


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Comments

Creating a Glass Globe
by Patrick Miller
This looks very helpful however, this tutorial needs to be updated for cs3 After Effects 8.


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