Learn how to create and work with 3D in compositions.

Understand renderers

Learn about the different renderers available in After Effects.


What you learned: Choose between renderers 

Different renderers offer different options for how 3D elements appear in a composition. Compositions can contain both 2D and 3D layers.

  • To change a layer from 2D to 3D space, in the timeline enable the 3D Layer switch to the right of the layer.
  • To change from the Classic 3D renderer to the Cinema 4D renderer, click the blue text Change Renderer in the timeline.  Then, in the Composition Settings dialog box, change the drop-down menu from Classic 3D to Cinema 4D and press OK.

Differences between 3D options with the Classic 3D and Cinema 4D renderers:

  • Classic 3D Renderer
    • Compositions can contain layer blend modes and track mattes
  • Cinema 4D Renderer
    • Compositions can contain layers with true 3D geometry and depth
    • Illustrator Layers can bend in 3D space
    • Text layers and Shape layers can be converted to 3D objects

Position 2D layers in 3D space

Enable 3D on a layer to position 2D layers in 3D space.


What you learned: Position 2D layers in 3D space

  • To enable 3D on a layer, in the timeline use the Switches/Modes toggle to view the switches, and enable the 3D Layer switch to the right of the layer.
  • Enabling 3D on a layer opens options to reposition the layer in 3D space, as well as materials options for how that layer appears within the composition.
  • To position a 3D layer in space, use the axis handles in the Composition panel or scrub parameter values in the timeline. 
  • Click the Renderer button in the upper right corner of the composition panel if you want to change renderers.

Add lights to a 3D scene

Add lights to a composition containing 3D layers.


What you learned: Add lights to a composition

Add lights to a scene to create more perspective. Lights affect only layers that have 3D enabled.

  1. Choose Layer > New > Light to add a light into a composition.
  2. Choose a type of light from the Light Type menu in the Light Settings dialog box. There are four kinds of lights in After Effects: 
    • Parallel light has a continuous direction, without any spread, like a laser.
    • Spot light is a directional light with spread, softness, and falloff like a stage spotlight.
    • Point light is an omnidirectional light with softness and falloff like a bare lightbulb.
    • Ambient light is a light with no position or falloff that controls the overall brightness of a scene, so it cannot cast shadows.
  3. With a light layer selected in the timeline, press the A key on your keyboard quickly twice (AA) to open the light options for that layer. Experiment with light settings such as Intensity, Radius, and Cone Angle.
    Lights work in conjunction with the material options of 3D layers to control the appearance of the layers they illuminate and the appearance of shadows between the layers.
  4. With one or more 3D layers selected, press the A key quickly twice (AA) to open Material options for the selected layers. Enable the Casts Shadows option. Then select a light layer and adjust its Position option to affect the shadow.

Fly through a scene with a camera

Add a camera to a composition.


What you learned: Add a camera to a composition to fly through a scene

Add a camera to a scene to create animation. Only layers with 3D enabled will move as a camera moves.

  1. To add a camera to a composition choose Layer > New > Camera.
  2. Choose a camera type from the Type menu in the Camera Settings dialog box. There are two kinds of cameras: 
    One-Node Camera moves like a hand-held camera.
    Two-Node Camera
    always points at the point of interest; so choose it if you want to animate a camera to orbit around an object.
  3. Choose 2 Views from the View Layout drop-down menu at the bottom right of the Composition panel to view the scene from multiple angles.
  4. Record multiple keyframes for camera position to create a motion path for its animation. Drag out the handles on the motion path to create an arc to the animation of the camera. 

Create 3D type with the Cinema 4D Renderer

Use the Cinema 4D Renderer to extrude 3D type.


What you learned: Create an extruded 3D logo with type in a composition

The Cinema 4D renderer must be used to create geometry with 3D depth.

  1. Click the blue words Change Renderer in the timeline of a 3D layer to open the Composition Settings dialog box. 
  2. Change the Render drop-down menu to Cinema 4D and click OK. Geometry options are now available.
    • Illustrator layers can contain curvature in the Cinema 4D renderer. With an Illustrator layer selected in the timeline, adjust Curvature in its Geometry options.
    • You can extrude true 3D data from a shape layer. To create a shape layer from one or more Illustrator layers that contain text or objects, select the Illustrator layers in the timeline and choose Layer > Create Shapes from Vector Layer. Then adjust Extrusion Depth in the shape layer’s Geometry options to create 3D geometry. 
  3. Choose Layer > New > Light to add a light to the composition to make the extrusion appear more dimensional.
  4. To set render options for the Cinema 4D renderer, click the wrench icon at the top right of the Composition panel. In the Cinema 4D Renderer Options dialog box, drag the top slider to the right until the Anti-Aliasing setting changes to Best, and click OK.


Back to: Select and animate layers | Up next: Render your work



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