Indiana University
People  |    

Jim Krause | Classes | P354 Program Graphics & Animation

Week 10 - NOTE: IU extended Spring Break into this week.

The assignments were skipped, but students should still work through and know the content (lights, shadows, and working in 3D space).


  • 3D (Cont.)
  • Lights (Part 1)
  • Review Week 9 homework

Notes from viewing midterm projects and your homework:

  • Remember to focus on making good designs. You ought to be able to accurately describe how you put most of the principles of CRAP to work- or how your piece contains strong elements of graphic design. If you can't do that it's time to add 1/2 cup more of visual design and stir rapidly....
  • Projects should take advantage of the AE environment
  • You should be focused on making strong additions to your portfolios

Review: P354 Week 9

Cameras in AE only interact with 3D layers. They see regular layers- but they simply don’t have any 3D characteristics.

It’s fine to have stationary cameras and move 3D layers. It’s also fine to have stationary 3D layers and to move the camera. But if you move both camera and layers, things can get really complicated. This is best left up to those with a great deal of practice working in 3D space.

3D Modes & Lights

After Effects can work in several 3D modes:

  • Classic
  • Cinema 4D
  • Ray Traced

To access these modes go to Composition Settings (Command-K) and click the 3D Renderer tab.

Classic 3D provides the quickest 3D effects. Cinema 4D and Ray Traced allow for extuded text and shape layers but tasks the CPU and slows down responsveness. You also lose acess to belending modes. Toggling betwen the modes also changes how cameras and shadows operate.

3D Lights (Meyer Chapter 15)

In Week 9 we looked at manipulating 3D layers and cameras. This week we'll add lighting.

Lighting can be used to create effects that are impossible to get through any other means. Through lighting we can establish a mood and present our elements in a unique way. Those who learn to manipulate and control lighting will be able to bring their work up to an even higher level.

The downside is that lighting takes time and patience, and also bogs down previewing and rendering times. Shadows in particular take a long time to render.

Be sure to have your comps set to at least half resolution and be selective about setting your work area.

How lighting works in AE

Without any lights, AE will light a 2D or 3D layer at its full visible value. This is AE’s “default light.”

When you add a light, the default light is overridden, and only the light(s) will illuminate the comp’s 3D layers you place. 2D layers will remain unaffected.

It’s possible to add 4 different types of lights in AE:

  • Parallel
  • Spot
  • Point
  • Ambient

With each of these 4 types of lights you can change and keyframe the color and intensity. It’s not possible to change from one type of light to another- though you can fade one up and one down instead.

And just like in most film and video, most scenes call for more than one light. (Key plus fill for example.)

Spotlight – This is the most dramatic light in AE. You can modify the cone angle (think spot or flood) and the cone feather (the falloff near the edges).

Point light – This is like a bare bulb in space. While you can’t adjust the cone angle, you can adjust the feather. SInce the rays are parallel to each other, this type of light only casts sharp shadows.

Parallel light – This is like a point light, but all of the rays point the same direction.

Ambient light is the only type of light that doesn’t cast shadows. It works well as a fill light.

Miscellaneous notes:

All lights can have intensity (T) set to above 100%.
Lights can be used to tint a layer a little. It’s not a great idea to try to make drastic color changes with lights. You can manage some very creative effects with colors- you just need to think like a lighting designer.
Be aware that you can turn off all lights, shadows and depth of field controls by pressing the Draft 3D switch. This provides a quick way to look at your 3D layers.


As you’ve discovered, only 3D layers can react to lights. There are a number of ways you can adjust how a layer interacts with lights.

Select a 3D-enabled layer and press AA to reveal the Material Options. Note the following parameters:

Casts Shadows – can be set on or off (no key framing)
Light Transmission refers to the ability to block light.  Can be key framed from 0 – 100.
Accepts Shadows & Accepts Lights can be on or off (no key framing)
Ambient refers to how sensitive a layer is to ambient light.
Diffuse and Specular affect the falloff and hotspot of a light.
Shininess refers to how small or focused the hotspot is
Metal refers to if the hotspot reflects the light.

In-class lighting & 3D "Shadow" exercise: In this exercise you'll get comfortable working in 3D space, adding lights, and casting shadows. NOTE: If you want to work in Cinema 4D or Ray Traced mode I suggest starting in Classic 3D, and then switching to a different mode once everything is setup.

  • Start off with a 10-15 second HD comp (either 1920x1080 or 1280x720)
  • Create a couple of solids and make a "wall" and a floor" (as 3D layers)
  • Create another 3D layer to cast a shadow (text or piece of artwork)
  • Add at least 1 spotlight
  • Position or size the layers so that one casts a tasteful/interesting shadow on the other
  • Create a nicely-designed name or logo ID animation that could be used at the start of a film (or anything else)
  • Animate the layer casting the shadow, the light or the camera move to create a pleasing effect.
  • When you are finished, output a square pixel Apple ProRes 422, MP4, or H.264 version called "shadow"
  • Turn it in to the approriate Canvas assignment.

Good lighting tutorial

Thursday -------------------------------

Point of Interests & Intro to Expressions

Some of you have experimented with parenting in AE. You can parent a light's POI using the pick whip to another layer's position. This is the perfect time to use a Null Object layer.

This technique is a great way to control a follow spot, a camera, or both. (Check out "follow me" example.)

Using an Expression to connect a light or camera's POI (point of interest) to the position of another layer:

Expressions let you connect the parameter of a layer to that of another layer. NOTE You must connect a parameter (such as position) to another parameter of another layer (E.g. scale).

  • Reveal the POI parameter of the light or camera
  • Turn on the Expression comand for its parameter (Press: Shift Option = or Alt/Option click the Stopwatch)
  • Reveal the position of a 3D object (E.g. Null object)
  • Drag the pick whip control from the light or camera to the position parameter of the null object.
  • Voila! You can now control the POI of the light or camera by moving the null object

Cookies (Cucoloris)

Cookies (in lighting) are patterns or cutouts placed between the light source and an illuminated object or wall. The purpose is to create interesting and sometimes suggestive patterns of light (jail house, Venetian blinds, branches, etc.) In After Effects you can use many different kinds of footage to create shadows. The main thing you want is something with an interesting cutout or alpha channel. Here is a Photoshop file with some examples you can play with.

In-class Cookie Exercise

Create a short (E.g. 10-second) 16:9 corporate or station identifier or logo (your name for example) for TV, which employs two specific types of lighting effects:

  • Have a spotlight tracking either a null object or another layer
  • Make an animated cookie (animate either the light or the cookie)

Make sure you have a few 3D layers (E.g. a background and a bottom/floor) so you have something to cast shadows onto.

Save it as (square pixel, Apple ProRes 422, mp4, or H.264)
Turn it in to the appropriate Canvas assignment.


  • Read Chapter 17 of the CMG book (Parenting) & Chapter 29 (Motion Stablization)
  • Bring in some video to motion stabilize (you can shoot something on your phone)
  • Make a 15 - 30-second 16x9 animated company/corporate/group image branding spot for HDTV (or 4K if you're feeling bold).It can be for a real or fictitous organization. It must have
    • Nice design (remember CRAP!)
    • at least 2 message elements (E.g. Tekgenix logo, name and "building a better tomorrow" slogan)
    • audio (sound effects,  music or both)
    • At least 1 camera
    • 2 (or more) 3D layers
    • At least 2 lights interacting with at least 1 of your layers
    • An animated gobo/cookie
    • Turn in a full-size, sqare pixel Apple ProRes 422, MP4, or H.264 version.
    • Be sure to note what you did with your 3D camera, lights and layer in the accompanying critique form.
  • For next Thursday: bring in some video that you can motion track

Back to the P354 Home page