Steve Kilisky's Dynamic Media Blog

December 21, 2006

AE or 3D?

I written quite a bit about using AE to create a 3Desque look with 2D elements using AE's 3D compositing capabilities. A while back Chris Zwar posted a link to an amazing animation (be patient it takes a long time to load) he created that took creating 3D from 2D to a new level. When I watched it I had a hard time figuring out was done in AE and what was done in a 3D app, so I emailed him to ask about how he created it.

Here's what he had to say:

" In terms of what was AE 3D- the answer is practically everything. The curtains drawing back at the beginning were a piece of stock footage but everything else was done inside AE. Even the curtains which don't draw back are solids with fractal noise. The bouncing balls were CC spheres (with expressions to squash and bounce them appropriately), the "gun" at the end was a CC cylinder, the wooden blocks which form the rings and the "Challenge" pattern were just 3D solids arranged by expressions, etc etc. The "sets" were a combination of free textures downloaded from Mayang's texture site (first for a Google search on "free textures") and lots of dingbats. Much of it is actually very crude but disguised by dark shadows, depth-of-field and Knoll Lens Flares. I did most of it on my G5 iMac and the render times averaged about 4 minutes per frame, although I  think most of that came down to the Knoll plug-in and multiple light-sources. The entire project was done for the UK production company "Cheerful Scout", and was designed to be screened at the French Museum of Carnivale Art. I'm a huge fan of expressions, and expressions hold everything together. Wherever possible, elements bounce (just a scale expression) to the music, which I split into 3 layers (bass, mids and highs) before converting to keyframes. ...The waiters, for example, were a few small solids with stroked masks held together by parenting, and animated with a pendulum expression. I spent ages trying to come up with a driven-pendulum expression in which the arms would realistically receive power from the body's movements, and the hands from the arms etc, but could never get it to work properly. So in the end I just used a normal pendulum (not driven) and tweaked the settings manually. But I had fun trying - I probably spent most of a Saturday just watching yellow solids bounce around as they moved from right to left while swearing at my "physics for programmers" book... apart from the curtains being drawn apart at the opening, the entire thing was completed inside After Effects. FWIW I don't even own Photoshop.

I hope you'll agree that Chris is extremely talented and is pushing the envelope using After Effects. Thanks for sharing this Chris!

BTW, if you visit his Web site, be sure to check out some cool sample projects he has shared and links to some articles he's written.

Posted by Steve Kilisky at 4:43 PM on December 21, 2006


Grant Lovering — 2:45 PM on December 30, 2006

We have a great example to add to the discussion, a flythrough created for a commercial that I'm sure most would swear was created in true 3D, everything you see was created in AE.

The biggest problems we had were solving curved shapes (mostly solved in the artwork) and the somewhat unreliable penetrating edges you sometimes get in AE. We also found DOF caused no end of variation in the way the edges behaved.

Enjoy -
Grant [resin]

Eventful Adelaide

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