• Price: $179

  • Company: Digital Anarchy

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

3D Layer 1.0 is a plug-in for adding 3D layers to After Effects and other compatible applications. A big bonus for video editors is that it can work from within Final Cut Pro or Combustion 3.0, negating the need to purchase After Effects before taking a stab at 3D work.

3D Layer 1.0 is a plug-in for adding 3D layers to After Effects and other compatible applications. A big bonus for video editors is that it can work from within Final Cut Pro or Combustion 3.0, negating the need to purchase After Effects before taking a stab at 3D work.

Installation is a little cumbersome for anything other than After Effects. In this instance, it’s necessary to choose the relevant AE environment (choose ‘AE 5.0 and above’ if you work in OS X) and choose the relevant plug-in folder manually. It would be welcome to see a two- or three-click installation for the other host applications besides AE.

3D Layer makes extensive use of greyscale displacement maps (Greymaps in 3D Layer speak) to create its effects, although coloured displacement maps can be used too. The plug-in’s resulting mesh can be extruded, modelled, and distorted with up to five layers.

From within the interface, output resolution can be amended (with obvious implications on render times) along with all the usual geometry options such as rotation, or position in relation to the camera, lights, and material variables. The big difference as opposed to After Effects’ standard 3D layer effects is that depth is possible, allowing far greater creative possibilities – gone is the postage stamp-flatness usually found in AE 3D layers.

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It’s a shame there isn’t more product-specific literature for people who don’t have After Effects. The menu systems within Final Cut Pro, while similar, are not identical to After Effects, leaving the user with some initial ambiguity. Furthermore, the installation of a sample After Effects file is useless to an FCP user, as without After Effects you can’t open it or utilize the presets. If Digital Anarchy wants to attract new audiences, more beginner-oriented literature and samples for all applicable host programs are desperately needed.

A 3D plug-in is a welcome option for FCP users who don’t want to shell out for After Effects to achieve sophisticated 3D effects. However, although the asking price is conservative enough, it remains to be seen whether die-hard editors will invest the considerable time needed to get to grips with compositing within their application. Those editors pushed for time or without stifling budgets will continue to leave such tasks for other members of the postproduction community.

For the curious or highly adaptable editor though, 3D Layer 1.0 provides an interesting additional toolset, while the experienced compositor is sure to find the extra possibilities difficult to resist.