Many 3D artists and animators spend countless hours on their creation through modeling, applying materials & textures, getting the lighting just right, and finally spending hours, days, or even weeks on the final render. Then what do they do? They zip it up and send it to a client or post it on youtube to show off their work as-is. But there’s an added step that can turn a great animation into one that’s amazing. That extra step is the addition of special effects such as animated titles, sound, lighting, particles, and video composition. Adding some or all of these elements will add “wow” factor to your final product.
After Effects, as the name implies, is excellent for adding special effects to a rendered animation. It is particularly good at light and particle based effects such as lightning, glowing orbs, light & dust trails, and other effects of that nature.
The above ball of light effect was created by the gurus at VideoCopilot.net who offer a tutorial on how to recreate this effect yourself. Not only does After Effects have the ability to create the ball of light shown, but it also tracks the camera and casts light on the road in the scene as well. Pretty cool stuff. There are hundreds of other effects possible as well, many built-in natively to the software, and others possible through 3rd party addons.
Professional Quality Motion Graphics
After Effects also excels in the design and application of professional quality motion graphics such as those used during intro animations, titles, and graphic overlays. The layout and animation tools are specifically designed for this sort of work and the results look much more professional than a simple static title created in photoshop with an alpha channel background. There are tons of animation sequences/effects that can be applied to the text/graphics using built-in tools, and it is relatively easy to modify these or create your own.
The above snapshot is an example of motion graphics overlaid on video created by usmanrafi at videohive.com. This particular example is worthy of a professional news broadcast, however simpler graphics could be used for such things as captions or narratives.
This one is an example of using motion graphics in After Effects to create a TRON style movie opening/title. There is a tutorial for creating this particular intro at aetuts+.
After effects has a very powerful particles system that can be used to create many different kinds of visual effects. One of the most common is the creation of video backdrops. This produces an interesting effect while not distracting from the main content. Particles can also be used for explosion effects, string, light rays, and even smoke.
Particles can also be used to create smoke in After Effects, much the same way as in 3D rendering software. This above example, also from a tutorial by Andrew Kramer, shows how realistic smoke trails can be made.
Camera tracking is a technique used to combine real video footage with rendered material, and have the computer generated objects move and cast shadows realistically in the scene as the camera is moved. The best way to understand is through example.
Lighting & Compositing
Raw video and 3D renders can often look quite dull without adding special effects through compositing such as motion blur, lens flare, etc. or by adjusting the default lighting. After Effects includes tools to do these sorts of things and much more. Compositing is also used for example to combine footage that was shot in front of a green screen with another background.
The above forrest scene was created by Harry Frank, a well known and respected graphics professional. He has created a tutorial for this scene, which uses various After Effects lighting effects, blur, dust, and some other tricks to create this beautiful scene. Compositing can take an otherwise ordinary clip and turn it into something fantastic, much like color correction can produce amazing results from still photography.
After Effects is not designed to be a fully featured sound effects platform, however it does offer some rudimentary tools for adding music, voice, or other sound effects to your video. It is astonishing how simply adding a quiet background music track to a video can enhance its appeal. The tools are basic and essentially consist of a mixer, bass/treble, reverb, modulator, etc.
- Adobe After Effects Official Website
- Wikipedia: Adobe After Effects
- Video CoPilot AE Tutorials
- Aetuts+ Tutorials