3D Dance Show in After Effects
CreativeCOW presents 3D Dance Show in After Effects -- Adobe After Effects Tutorial

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When Ari Grunzeweig needed to create a dynamic promo, he turned to a remarkable combination of keyed footage, particles, and the dynamic 3D compositing and cameras in Adobe After Effects to build a virtual world exploding with dance and light. Take a look to see how to build your own 3D world in After Effects.

We built a 3D stadium inside of After Effects and populated it with dancers that we filmed on the green screen.

Our client, Life Vest Inside, a non-profit that is dedicated to uniting and empowering the world with kindness, holds their flagship event every year; Dance for Kindness.

Last year we had the idea of creating a short hype video to generate excitement around the world for the event. The video was created using stills from the last few years of the event and edited using the 2D/3D parallax technique that has become very popular.

This year, we wanted to do something more energetic and flashy. Since Dance For Kindness (DFK) is a dance event. We wanted that to come through loud and clear. For many years, I've been in love with Bill O'Neil's tutorial on Building a 3D World in After Effects, and I finally got my chance to create something similar. Bill's tutorial was an enormous help and inspiration for this project.

Here is the video we created:

Creating this video was complex, so I'll break down the elements into sections.
  1. Creating the virtual stadium
  2. Filming the dancers and fans
  3. Compositing the dancers and adding the cameras
  4. Adding the particles for extra flare


This is where Bill's tutorial was most helpful. The elements were mostly built in Photoshop as 2D layers and then assembled in After Effects in 3D space.  All the set layers are 2D with the exception of the lighting truss that appears most evidently at 0:04, 0:10, and 0:24. That truss is a 3D layer integrated using Video Copilot's Element 3D. The 3D truss only appears a few times for very short periods, though it goes a long way in selling the 3d environment of the scene.

Click on any image to enlarge


All the filming was done at Youtube Space NY. For those of you who don't know about Youtube Space, make sure to look into it because it is a dream come true for people in our field. Youtube Space NY had a green screen cyc temporarily setup in one of their studios. We shot the dancers using 2 C500 cameras with prime Canon Cine lenses. 1 camera filming full body and the second waist up. That gave us the flexibility to use different shots in the edit and retain resolution.

Lighting and keying was a challenge. As the day went on, the green paint began to scratch off which cause some keying troubles down the road. And with the dancers being in constant quick motion, that caused more difficulty for keying. The saving grace was 2-fold. Firstly, the virtual stadium background was fairly dark which hid some of the minor keying problems. Secondly, the shots all move so fast with so much action, that it is hard to notice any keying problems unless you are looking for them specifically.

Shooting the stadium fans was very simple. We gathered our dancers in a few different groups and put on some music for them to groove to, then layered them across the x-axis and staggered them in z-space with some depth of field applied.


This stage is where the bulk of the work occurs. I began by editing together a rough cut of the dancers to get an understanding of the timing of the music and which exact moments I wanted to use from each dancer. This was an integral step. Without doing this, I would have wasted a lot of time on the next phase. Once the rough cut was complete, it was time to bring those clips into After Effects.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 3.45.33 PM

Each shot had a unique virtual camera. I decided on the camera moves based on what the dancer was doing as well as what shot came before and after. Because the dancers are 2D layers in 3D space I had those dancer layers rotate on the y-axis in conjunction with the camera. That allows the layers to not appear paper thin at any point.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 3.32.06 PM

The dancers that appear on the screens in the background are a separate edit, then applied to each of the 3 background screens. To make those screens have a 'jumbotron' feel, applied CC Ball Action as an adjustment layer, and then added a grid overlay with a slight bevel.


This video is not a stand-alone piece. It is meant to work along side a website and lots of other marketing material. As such, the branding had to match those other elements. The colour of the lights and the tint of the background screen were chosen to match the branding.

The particles were created using 2 Trapcode Particular layers. One layer was the coloured streak. The second layer was the musical notes. The particles that spiraled around the dancers were controlled by a light emitter, using the dancer as an obscuration layer. In order for the obscuration layer to work, make sure the keying is done in a precomp for Particular to understand the alpha channel. This is another great tool that helped sell the 3D environment.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 3.53.58 PM


So there you have it! This is probably the most complex compositing job I've done and I'm very happy with the results. Jobs like this are a great way to learn new tricks and solve many challenges. Can't wait for next year's DFK video!

Hope you all enjoyed this and learnt something new. Make sure to check out Dance for Kindness Here!

Ari Grunzeweig founded Imagination Creations in 2006. Since then, he and his team have been creating and working on imaginative video projects for clients in all fields, largely in the non-profit world.