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Construct VR environments in After Effects

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  15. Immersive video, VR, and 3D
    1. Construct VR environments in After Effects
    2. Apply immersive video effects
    3. Compositing tools for VR/360 videos
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  21. Knowledge Base
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After Effects offers native support for editing your VR 360 and VR 180 videos. You can use a host of dynamic transitions, effects, and titles to edit and enhance the immersive video experience. You can experiment with the different VR 360 and VR 180 tools in After Effects for a seamless post-production workflow.

Work with VR tools in After Effects


When you work with VR, you could run into memory limitations indicated by a banner that states - Requires GPU Acceleration. By default, Adobe video applications require approximately 1GB of memory for every 1K of horizontal resolution when working in VR. In After Effects 2018, you can reduce the requirements, called Aggressive Memory Management. To enable the setting, select  Preferences > Previews > GPU Information > Aggressive GPU memory use (for VR).

Tools to construct VR environments

The following are tools in After Effects you can use to edit your VR 360 and VR 180 videos:

The VR 360 and VR 180 tools in After Effects automate complex compositions and workflows for a seamless 360 production. These tools provide accurate results and reduce editing time.

Create VR Environment

Create VR Environment automates the process of comp creation and camera relationship setup. You can use it to automate aspects of VR authoring environment in After Effects.

Work with Create VR Environment

Work with Create VR Environment using the following steps:

  1. To launch Create VR Environment, select Composition > VR > Create VR Environment.

  2. In the Create VR Environment dialog, if you want to create a VR master from scratch, choose the Size of your master (1024x1024 works for most of the VR compositions). Set the Frame Rate and Duration of your VR Master, and click Create VR Master.

    Create VR Environment
    Create VR Environment

  3. In the Composition window, change the view to Custom View 1 and create your immersive video. You can select from the various immersive video and other effects in the Effects & Presets panel.

  4. Once you are ready with your composition, open the Create VR Environment dialog and click Generate VR Output. After Effects creates all the compositions, expressions, and adds cameras and distortions required to create a Cubic Map.

  5. To modify your VR Master and apply the changes to your VR comp, click Refresh VR Output in the Create VR Environment dialog. After Effects deletes all comps and recreates them based on the modifications, you made to your VR master.

VR output settings
VR output settings

Camera Settings:
  • Use 2-node camera: Select the option if you want to use a 2-node camera.
  • Use 3D Null camera Control: Select the option if you want to control your SkyBox Camera via a 3D Null layer.
  • Center camera: Select the option if you want to center-align the camera.
Advanced settings:
  • I am using 3D plugins: Select the option if you are using 3D plug-ins.
  • Use edge blending: Select the option when you use plugins that are not true 3D plug-ins.

Extract Cubemap

Extract Cubemap removes equirectangular distortion from 360-degree footage and extracts six separate camera views. The six camera views are positioned in a cube formation. You can do motion-tracking, object removal, add motion graphics, and vfx to the composition.

Work with Extract Cubemap

Work with Extract Cubemap using the following steps:

  1. To launch VR Extract Cubemap, select Composition > VR > Extract Cubemap.

  2. In the VR Extract Cubemap dialog, select a composition from the drop-down list, choose Conversion Resolution, and click Extract Cubemap.

    Extract Cubemap
    Extract Cubemap

  3. After Effects generates a cubemap output for your VR composition. Extract Cubemap adds a VR Master Camera along with six more camera views that are attached to the master camera. Six camera faces are also generated that strategically form a cube.

    Six faces that form the cube
    Six faces that form the cube

    Six faces in the Timeline panel
    Six faces in the Timeline panel

Adobe Immersive Environment

The Adobe Immersive Environment in After Effects allows you to preview how your 360 and 180 degree footage looks like in a VR head-mount display (HMD).

Supported VR headsets

After Effects supports the following VR headsets:

To use your VR headsets, ensure that your system meets the VR system requirements, and install SteamVR application. SteamVR is a virtual reality system that you need whether you are using the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. For more information, visit the SteamVR support page, and refer to the documentation that came with your headset.

Install and setup Steam

To install Steam, use the following steps:

  1. Go to store.steampowered.com/about, and click Install Steam Now. To install, follow the installer instructions.

  2. In Steam, create an account, or log into an existing one.

  3. From within Steam, download and install SteamVR.


    If you are using a Windows Mixed Reality HMD, within Steam, download and install Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR.

  4. From within Steam, click Run Room Setup to set up your room.

    For more information, see the Steam documentation: Room Setup and SteamVR Tutorial.

Install VR headsets

To install:

  • HTC Vive: Follow the instructions that come with your HTC Vive headset. 
  • Oculus Rift: For information on downloading and installing Oculus Rift, see the Oculus Rift documentation.
To install any handheld controllers, follow instruction that come with your controllers.

Enable Adobe Immersive Environment in After Effects

Before you enable Adobe Immersive Environment, ensure that your headsets and controllers are working fine in SteamVR.

  1. In After Effects, select Preferences > Video Preview.

  2. In the Preferences dialog, enable the Enable Mercury Transmit option. In the Video Device section, enable the Adobe Immersive Environment option.
    Enable Adobe Immersive Environment
    Enable Adobe Immersive Environment

Preview footage in your headset

Choose the viewing option from the following options:

  • Theater Mode (Rectilinear): Previews the composition as a flat rectangle in an empty room, simulating the view of looking at a movie screen. 
  • 360 Monoscopic: Previews the composition as a monoscopic 360-degree field of view image.
  • 360 Over/Under: Previews the composition as a stereoscopic 360-degree field of view image. Assumes over/under layout in the composition.
  • 360 Side-by-Side: Previews the composition as a stereoscopic 360-degree field of view image. Assumes side-by-side layout in the composition.
  • 180 Over/Under: Previews the composition as a stereoscopic 180-degree field of view image. Assumes over/under layout in the composition.
  • 180 Side-by-Side: Previews the composition as a stereoscopic 180-degree field of view image. Assumes side-by-side layout in the composition.

The Video Preview Preferences options allows you to configure your preferences. To turn off preview to your HMD, disable Adobe Immersive Environment in Preferences > Video Preview.


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