After Effects tips [part 1: “3D” objects in AE cs5.5]

I plan on doing a few posts based on After Effects tips I learned while working on this multimedia project. In this post I want to talk about  how to import and work with 3D objects in After Effects.

3d in AE 5.5:

Alright, so this trick doesn’t work in CS6. So, if you’re rolling with the latest and greatest, don’t bother reading this post.

FREE 3D Models: The green Arleigh Burke destroyer that moves onto the green map at :36 is a 3D model that I got for free from the Google Sketchup Warehouse.  My homie Marine Staff Sgt. Jason Fudge ( first turned me on to Sketchup Warehouse. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out; it’s an amazing FREE resource.  I just typed “US Navy Destroyer” into the Sketchup search bar, and this model by TOBY and APA-168 popped up.

With Sketchup Warehouse, you can download a .SKP file or a zipped .DAE file. I downloaded the .DEA and unzipped it.  Then, I open the .DAE in Photoshop 5.5 (it’s actually 5.1, but it came w/ CS5.5). Next, I saved the file as a .PSD.  Once the object is a .PSD, it can be imported into After Effects.



Trouble Shooting: If you open the .DAE in Photoshop and don't see anything, open the 3D Scene window and find a setting that works in the "Render Settings" dropdown menu.

Trouble Shooting: If you open the .DAE in Photoshop and don’t see anything, open the 3D Scene window and find a setting that works in the “Render Settings” dropdown menu.

Trouble Shooting: O.K., so sometimes, it’s not that easy. This destroyer model was one of those times. When I opened the .DAE in Photoshop, I couldn’t see it. So, this is what I did.  In Photoshop, I highlighted the “Window” dropdown menu, and chose “3D.” This brings up the “3D Scene” window. In this window, the “Render Settings” dropdown menu has a bunch of different options to try. For this particular model, I chose the “Normals” render setting to end up with this funky neon destroyer. The colors here don’t really matter because I can desaturate it or adjust the hue in After Effects. At this point, I just save as a .PSD and move on to After Effects.



… the ability to import Live Photoshop 3D is what changed between CS5.5 and CS6. For whatever reason, CS6 got rid of this option …


AE import dialog box.




Importing Into AE: Import the .PSD into the After Effects project as a “Composition,” not as footage. A second dialog pops up after you hit OK. In this dialog box, make sure you’re still importing as a composition with editable layer styles. The most important thing here is to make sure the “Live Photoshop 3D” option is checked. The ability to import Live Photoshop 3D is what changed between CS5.5 and CS6. For whatever reason, CS6 got rid of this option.





Animating the Object in AE:  Once the “3D” object is in AE, you end up with a Composition and a folder with the Layers for that Comp.  Inside that Comp, there is a “Layer,” a “Layer Controller,” and a “Camera.”  Inside this Comp is where you’ll animate any motion you want the object to perform, because inside this Comp is the only place where the object will be 3D. The Layer Controller and the Camera position is what you’ll use to animate. If you look at the screen shot below, you’ll see that for this particular animation, I used the Camera position to create the “pull back/zoom out” that starts the animation, and then I used the Layer Controller’s “Y Rotation” to make the 90 degree rotation at the end of the animation.

01 controller n cam

Finishing Up:  When the core animation was done, I just dropped this Comp into another Comp and started building the greenish effect that I ended up with. I’m not going to get into the details about how I made the greenish look, but if you type “Night Vision” into the “Effects and Presets” tab, you’ll be off and running. I want to repeat the fact that I drop this Comp into another Comp BEFORE I start putting effects onto it.  Trust me on this one, if you work this way, it’ll be a lot easier to make changes later on.  I’ll cover “project organization” in another post.



About MilC digital

I'm Brett Cote. I'm an MC1 with 13 years in the Navy. I was a legacy JO, but now I'm a full-fledged MC. In addition to JO "A" school, I've attended Video Production and Documentation "C" school. I've also attended the Military Advanced Motion Media program at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications. I'm currently stationed at Fleet Combat Camera Pacific. My past commands include Defense Media Activity, a previous tour at Com Cam, and NAS Meridian, Miss. .....facebook: cote brett brett.patrick.cote@gmail View all posts by MilC digital

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