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Work in 3D Design Animation Space | Adobe

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Use the intuitive toolset to help you design and composite 3D content faster and more accurately, natively in After Effects.

Work in 3D Design Animation Space

Use the intuitive toolset to help you design and composite 3D content faster and more accurately, natively in After Effects. With all the 3D manipulation controls in one space, you don't have to constantly jump back and forth between 3D applications to get a single shot.

This design space has the following features:

With the camera tools, you can always move around the scene to see where things should be, how they can be moved, and then you can use the 3D Transform Gizmo to move them accordingly.

 If you are new to working with 3D in After Effects, or if you want to learn the basics, see Work with 3D.

Open the 3D Design Space

Use the following steps to open the 3D Design Space:

Turn 3D switch on
Turn 3D switch on

  1. In the Timeline, turn on the 3D switch for all the 2D layers you want to manipulate.

 Create 3D Bins

When multiple 3D layers are placed together, you create 3D bins. They are groups of 3D layers that render together. When you place a 2D layer between two 3D layers, you creare separate bins which can cause visual changes in your project.

To learn more, see Binning indicators for 3D layers.

camera tools in toolbar
Camera tools in toolbar

2. This activates the 3D Design Space. The toolbar displays three camera controls - Orbit, Pan, and Dolly. Each of these controls contain multiple interaction points that you can use to manipulate objects in your scene in 3D space.

3. Click a 3D layer in the Timeline to use the Transform Gizmo that enables you to rotate, scale, and position a layer with a single tool.

3D Transform Gizmo
3D Transform Gizmo

Improved camera controls to navigate in 3D

Use the reimagined camera controls to quickly move around 3D space immediately after turning a 2D layer into a 3D layer. In the previous versions, they were hidden under a single control and you couldn’t directly access them which was time consuming. These improved controls are active as soon as you turn the 2D layers into 3D and you can access them from the main toolbar.

Work with the different camera controls

Each of the camera controls have multiple interaction points that you can use to view and manipulate the objects in your scene. These controls have editable default settings. If you are coming from a different 3D application, you can change these defaults and save them for later use.

Orbit controls

The default is set to Orbit Around Cursor.

Pan controls
Pan controls

The default is set to Pan Under Cursor.

Dolly controls
Dolly controls

The default is set to Dolly Toward Cursor.

1/2/3 keys are used for switching camera tools/controls (3D preferences). Use Shift-1/2/3 to cycle through each camera tools/control options.

You can also access the camera controls with the Alt (Win)/Opt (Mac) key.

Add a camera to your scene

After Effects allows you to view your layers in 3D space as soon as you start navigating. Once you are ready for a shot, add a camera to your scene by selecting View > Create Camera from 3D View. This creates a camera in your Timeline based on your current perspective. You can further add multiple cameras to your scene based on various viewpoints.

Default camera
Default camera

You can customize how different cameras move by selecting the different modes from the three camera controls. For example, if you want your camera to orbit around a scene by default, change the settings accordingly.

Use hotkeys to switch between controls

You can switch and navigate between the different camera controls seamlessly using the hotkeys (keyboard keys) - 1, 2, 3. You can edit the hotkey settings in the 3D Preference dialog.

3D Transform Gizmos

transform gizmo

Use the 3D Transform Gizmo to scale, position and rotate 3D layers within a single tool. Unlike the older transform gizmo, this tool is faster and more intuitive, and gives you all the space manipulation tools in one. It works similar to Dimension, where it allows you to transform each of the axis within the same tool. You can eliminate the need to go into separate properties like position, scale, and rotate to manipulate these.

To use it, follow the steps in the Open the 3D Design Space section.

To learn more about it, see 3D Transform Gizmos.

Real-Time 3D Draft Preview

Get real time rendering of the changes you make to your 3D designs within After Effects. Backed with the faster and more efficient Real-Time Engine (RTE), it replaces the OpenGL Fast Draft engine to give you consistent, real-time previews throughout the creative process. In motion design, the speed of iterating and experimenting is critical for making creative choices. Use the Real-time 3D Draft Preview to reduce the lag time in previewing, thus reducing the time between idea, action, and result. You can turn it on using the Draft 3D button in the composition toolbar.

3D Ground Plane

The 3D Ground Plane keeps you oriented and gives you a sense of space while you navigate in Draft Preview mode, providing a visual cue to help position your cameras, lights and 3D layers in relationship to one another. 

When Draft 3D is enabled, a new Ground Plane button in the toolbar at the bottom of the Composition panel gets enabled by default. Use it to enable or disable a ground plane in the comp’s 3D space.

For more information, see Preview changes to 3D designs real time with the Real-Time 3D Draft Preview.

Extended Viewer

The Extended Viewer allows you to view the 3D content outside the composition frame boundaries. Switch back to the standard frame view when you need to see your composition’s final look.

In the image below, use the slider to see your view in a standard frame and with Extended Viewer enabled.

Extended Viewer not enabled Extended Viewer enabled

Move the slider to see the how the content shows outside the composition frame with and without Extended Viewer

To enable the Extended Viewer:

  1. Turn on the Draft 3D button in the Composition panel toolbar, the Extended Viewer button appears on the right, next to the Ground Plane button. Use it to enable or disable the Extended Viewer. 
  2. To change the opacity of the extended view, click and hold the button, and use the slider to change the value.

Limitations

  • When Extended Viewer is enabled, effects applied to collapsed precomps may cause the layer to get cut off at the composition boundary.

Do more with your 3D animations

After Effects offers various capabilities to modify, edit, and enhance your 3D animations and 3D space. To learn more, see 3D animation settings.

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