3D Extruded Title Design with After Effects: Lighting and Creating Reflective Materials

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Instructor Nick Harauz

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  • Duration: 11:20
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Work with After Effects lights and environment layers to further enhance the design of our text.

While we were able to extrude and color the various faces of our text in the last video, it really didn't show us the design potential for our text. To enhance our composition, we'll work with After Effects' lights as well as use an HDRI image to produce reflections on a floor and on our text.



In the last movie, we enabled the Cinema 4D Renderer in order to get 3D extruded text and shapes inside of After Effects. In this movie, we're going to add some lights and some reflection to our scene in order to create some more life in it. Something similar to the end-result I'm showing you right here. So let's get started. The first thing that we're going to do is add a few lights into our Cinema 4D scene. So what I'm going to do is go to my Layer menu. In fact, I'm actually on my Text tool right now. I'm going to press V to go back to my default selection tool and from the Layer menu, I'm going to choose a new light. Now, After Effects has several lights to choose from, but the first one that we're going to start with is a couple point lights. So I'm going to choose a point light and I like to add a little bit of color to my lights so I'm going to make that color just a little bit yellow. I'm thinking for this one in particular, the intensity be somewhere around 90 and I want to enable this to be the key light. So with that 90% intensity, this is looking pretty good and right now I don't want that light to cast any shadows although I could enable that. Depending on your default settings, this might look a lot different. So I'm going to press OK, and we should see an immediate improvement in our scene. But because of the nature of this point light, a little bit of the detail, especially in the extrusion of the top here, has disappeared. So, first off, let's re-position our light so that this indeed key light is a little bit more back and a little bit more up here on our scene. To do this, what I'm going to do is review this scene from a few different perspectives or what we can call orthographic views. So I'm going to move to a two-view horizontal display, and on my right, I have my active camera and here on the left, I have a top camera. I can always select a view and from down here, chose one of several orthographic views to choose from or introduce perspective with a custom view. Now let me select this point light. This is a 360-degree light bulb, and simply, I'm just going to move it on its X-axis just a little bit over to the side and I'm also going to zoom it out. In order to do that, I need to select some of my camera tools which I can toggle through using the C key, so you can see the different camera tools here. I'm going to press C and see a couple times just to get my Dolly out, or Orbit out tool and in my top view, I'm just going to kind of orbit out of the scene so I have a lot more real estate. And with that all set up, I'll go V back to my default selection tool and just push that light back a little bit. So it's just illuminating the scene a little bit more. Another thing I'd like to do is actually duplicate this light and have it on a different angle as well or illuminating this side of the text as well. So to do that, I'm going to select the key light inside my composition. I'm going to press CMD+D to duplicate it. I'm going to actually name the additional light instead of Key, Fill, and with that fill light now named, I'm just going to take it and drag it all the way over to the right-hand side and maybe a little bit up. So in order to just introduce a few different colors, what I'm going to do is actually double-click the fill light because I think it's a little too intense, and I want to just take its value and make it 60. And just to introduce a little bit of an offset color, I'm going to change its color to a subtle blue. So just that subtle blue there just to interact with the scene. And Anytime, you can double click your light to make some changes to it. So I'm going to press OK. Now that, that's added to the scene. Now, just so that we can see our scene overall, I've actually added a background to this project automatically so you can see here there is a Shape layer. If you turn it on, I'm just going to press R to reveal the rotation. It's actually rotated by approximately 90 degrees. But because of the lack of lighting here on the scene, we're not really able to see it. It is a little bit dull in color and just to show this to you, I'm going to turn off my lights temporarily. In order to illuminate this, I'm going to add another light to the scene, and this time, I'm going to go to the Layer, New Light menu. And instead of a point light, I'm going to choose a spotlight. And a spotlight is essentially a light with a point of interest or a target. So, we'll call it spotlight just to differentiate it between our key and fill light here in our scene. And for this color, I'm going to, again, just make it a very subtle yellow and I'm going to crank up its intensity quite a bit. So I'm going to make it a value of, let's say, about 130 to start with. The cone angle and cone feather, I'm going to leave at the defaults that I have here and I'm going to choose OK. What we're going to see is that we indeed have a spotlight but it is basically being pointed at the text or are what we can call our shape layer, which is in the center of our world. What I'm going to do is take the point of interest for the light. It's kind of like the lights anchor point. And I'm just going to kind of point it a little bit towards the floor or a little bit in front of the actual Illustrator file. And once that's set up, I'm going to start to move the light. And a cool trick to do that in either your active camera view or any view where you move the light without moving the point of interest is to use the CMD key. So I'm going to CMD, click the Y arrow, and notice that as I do, I'm able to move that light up without moving its point of interest. So the light is now staring at that point of interest. We would have something similar if we adjusted the position values of our light in the layers area. So I'm just now going to grab its Z value. And I'm going to hold down CMD and then just drag this out quite a bit so that we have a much more of an illumination there on the scene. That's looking pretty good. I'm going to double-click my light, just the spotlight once again. I'm just going to increase that intensity value even more, 160. So at any time, if I wanted to, I could, of course, take this point of interest and just make sure it's pivoted to the right location. So I, in fact, moved that light without holding down the CMD key in that example. So everything's looking pretty good. But I'd like to add some overall illumination to my scene. Just before I do, I'll move my spotlight here to the top of the layer stack. I'll go back to the Layer menu and we'll choose a new light. But this time, we're just going to choose a ambient light. I want to make sure that its color is indeed a full white and I'm going to change its name to "Ambient" and I'll make sure the intensity value is around a 55. With that done, it's going to overall illuminate our scene. So this has really added some value to our scene, and now looking at this, we can see that the actual floor, or in fact, our background, is kind of coming into contact with our text layer. In order to change that, I'm going to just select the text layer and actually select my AE outlines and just hit the arrow key a couple times to move it so that it is definitely above the floor. What I'd like to do is introduce some reflections. The first thing I'd like to do is have some reflections here on the floor. One way that we can do that is on the background layer itself. So if I select the background layer and press AA, I'm going to reveal its geometry options as well as its material options. And one of the material options we have available is the idea of reflection intensity currently set to a value of zero. If I increase that to a value of, say, 100 what we're going to see is that we now have a full-on reflection here on our floor. If we wanted to kind of get a little bit of that floor back, I can decrease the reflection intensity. I'm going to make it actually a value of something like 60. You'll notice that this reflection is ultra-sharp. If I wanted to have it a little bit blurry, I could decrease that sharpness value to, say, 70. Now, sometimes what we can do is actually have what we'll call environments also cause reflections on our scene in After Effects. And the way we do this is with Environment Layers. Essentially, any layer inside our composition can become an Environment Layer, but ideally, what we would like to have is what's referred to as a high-dynamic-range image. We can do a Google search and try to find a royalty content image to be a environment layer or an image that is essentially equirectangular. These images are meant to be wrapped around our sphere. And to give you a visualization, essentially, pretend that this text as well as this floor is wrapped inside of a sphere and that that sphere is of a sky or of a parking lot and it's picking up the reflections of the environment that it's in. What we're going to do is actually go into the Enviro Layer Folder section where I have a image. I'll have to get you to get your own just because I'm unable to license this to you. I can only use this for showing in this project. And I'm simply just going to add it here into our scene. And right away, what I'm going to do is just select it. Go into the Layer menu, choosing Environment Layer. Immediately, what we'll see is a globe right next to the layer itself. That layer is then going to disappear and you'll notice that it is indeed being picked up in reflections. Now it doesn't necessarily match the size of our composition settings, so a little bit of scaling beforehand and potentially pre-composing this could add a little bit of value in this case of the particular environment layer that I selected. If I go back and select the background and press AA, decrease the reflection intensity even more to a value of 40, because I don't want it to be picked up so much in the floor and bring back some of the color that's there. But I do want the reflection to also be picked up in my text. So I'm going to go over to my Text Layer which is the clock right here and I'm just going to press AA, and there in the Material Options, I'll go down to Reflection Intensity and crank that up to a value of 60 just to see how that's going to look. So I'm just going to take the reflection sharpness and add a value of about 70. And if we want to play around with the lighting even further, keep in mind that all of your layers are made of material options and you have values such as Specular Intensity and Shineness as well as a metal value which mimics essentially how much light this layer absorbs. So by playing with this Metal Value and bringing it to a value of 80 or even lower, we can play around and kind of create or try to mimic real-world materials. With that said, After Effects really only allows you to color your text with a gradient or essentially, just a solid color. One great thing about Cinema 4D Lite is your ability to work with real-world materials such as sand or stone or paint, and basically, there's a ton of presets in Cinema 4D Lite which would allow you to take your text even further. So something to keep in mind. So there you have it, a basic breakdown of how lighting as well as adding reflections can breathe life into our scene. As a final step here, I'd like to encourage you to go to the Clock Outlines Layer and add some reflection intensity to that to give it a reflection as well and I'll see you in the next movie where we're going to animate our text as well as learn how to control the quality of the Cinema 4D Renderer.
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