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3D ray-tracing in After Effects CS6

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06 Although I haven’t used it in this project, another neat new feature in After Effects CS6 is the ability to add an ‘Environment’ layer. In basic terms, you can tell After Effects to wrap a layer into a 3D sphere around the scene so it can be used to create reflections within your objects – that’s pretty handy.

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07 You should have now built a small scene, so let’s add a camera. Select Layer>New>Camera and the Camera Settings dialog will open. To make things easier for this tutorial, I’ve selected the 28mm preset from the drop-down menu.

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08 Let’s make a little camera swoop. You can animate the camera just like any other layer. Click the stopwatch icon to create a keyframe under the position heading at the start of the composition. Next, go to the end of the timeline and move the camera to make another keyframe.

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09 When you’ve finished the camera work it’s good to add some subtle effects to try and bed it all together. I’ve added a couple of Adjustment layers (Layer>New>Adjustment Layer) for Noise and Photo Filter and a subtle vignette to finish it off.

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10 Remember when I mentioned changing the ray-tracing settings before rendering? Now is that time. After some trial and error I found that Ray-tracing Quality: 12 and Anti-Aliasing Filter: Cubic was a good mixture of speed and quality. If your shadows look ‘bitty’, you may need to increase the ray-tracing quality.