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Chapter 14. 3D Layers

Chapter 14. 3D Layers

You can argue about which of After Effects 5's new features is the most important, but you can't deny that 3D compositing is the most conspicuous. For the first time, After Effects lets you manipulate layers in three-dimensional space.

Until now, After Effects (and this book) dealt strictly with layers in two dimensions: horizontal and vertical, as measured on the X and Y axes. As a 3D program, however, After Effects now includes depth as well, measured along the Z axis. As in other 3D programs, you can create one or more cameras from which to view and render your 3D composition. You can also create lights to illuminate 3D layers that cast realistic shadows and have adjustable reflective properties. And despite their unique properties, you can adjust and animate 3D layers, cameras, and lights just as you would any 2D layer.

While detractors might argue that After Effects' new 3D layers are really just 2D panels in 3D space and that the program doesn't incorporate any of the modeling tools or other features you're likely to find in a dedicated 3D application, bringing the program into the 3D space does open a new frontier of creative exploration. For example, the sole ability to view the composition from custom camera views alters fundamentally how you would have approached a similar animation in the past. Similarly, 3D lighting features let you manipulate light and shadows in ways that were once difficult or impossible to achieve. What's more, the company will undoubtedly enhance and develop After Effects' burgeoning 3D features in future versions.


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