After Effects tutorial: Master the basics: After Effects, Illustrator & 3D

Maya, Cinema Studio 3D, and the other big beasts are often rounded up when a 3D effect or animation is needed. However, without recourse to those programs we can create a very creditable 3D animation using After Effects.

Although we can use After Effects to rotoscope light sabres we would have difficulty using it to create battle droids. Instead, After Effects’ three-dimensional space resembles more a Victorian children’s theatre where two-dimensional figures are manipulated in three-dimensional space.

We will go though the steps of lighting and animating a TV ident that started out as a flat logo in Illustrator.

The effect will be to see the logo moving through 3D space casting shadows as it spins and tumbles towards the screen.

1. First create your logo  Illustrator now holds TV and video settings in the opening dialog box. So go to File > New. From the Document Profile drop-down menu select Video and Film; from the Size menu select PAL D1/DV. Create your logo at the largest size it will be seen on screen. Save the logo as an Illustrator CS5 file.

2. Create your composition  Create a new After Effects project and create a new composition: Pal DV1, 720 x 576 at 25fps. Import the Illustrator logo and place it directly into the timeline where it appears slightly narrower due to the different aspect ratio of broadcast pixels. Create a new solid layer and place it under the logo.

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