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Shadow Puppet Theater

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Jose P. Salas
Shadow Puppet Theater
on Jul 20, 2017 at 2:14:26 am

I'm new to After Effects and I'm working on a project right now that's basically a simulation of a shadow puppet theater inside AE. I am using some silhouettes(comps) with a backlight to project the shadow over a "piece of paper"(solid) so the camera can look at the sum of all shadows projected upon the paper surface from the other side.

Flow of light

And the idea to use this effect rather than ditching the paper and just showing all the solids with no backlight, is to try and recreate the blurriness of the 3D space projected onto a 2D space, so it looks more natural.
(I figured using a technique similar to Translucent Glass by Video Copilot, that achieves a similar effect, but apparently only works for texts.)

So I don't know exactly how to achieve the translucent effect onto the paper.
You can look for references on YouTube, to know how this theaters work/look so you can get my point.

Thanks in advance!

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Dave LaRonde
Re: Shadow Puppet Theater
on Jul 22, 2017 at 4:08:51 pm

I can do this totally in 2d with no lights.

Make your animated shadow in a 2d comp. Make it a little bit bigger than the main comp.
In the main comp, add the paper then add the shadow comp. Apply the displacement map effect, using the paper layer as the source. Apply one of the many blur effects. If you want a little vignetting, make it in a nested comp.
That's how I'd do it, going by your description. If you left something out of the description, it may take a different technique.

Dave LaRonde
Promotion Producer
KGAN (CBS) & KFXA (Fox) Cedar Rapids, IA

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Jose P. Salas
Re: Shadow Puppet Theater
on Jul 23, 2017 at 11:21:07 am

Hi Dave, thanks for the quick reply!

I don't know if I understood well your instructions. I applied the displacement map to the paper layer and it made the effect of moving along the paper which was nice, but I needed to make the paper way bigger than the comp so that the effect would not be noticeably cut at the edges (when playing with the Max Horizontal/Vertical values).
I also tried to apply the displacement effect to the shadows but that only screwed the fill imitating a displaced mask. (And since making the paper the source layer didn't made any effect, I figured out that it was not it)

And regarding the blur, is there a way to use an expression to emulate the effect of the silhouette approaching the paper?
I'm using the following expression to make a little opacity fade when an object comes to scene:

** a = linear(time, inPoint, inPoint +.5, 0, 100);
** b = linear(time, outPoint - .5, outPoint, 0, 100);
** a-b

Do you know how to apply the same principle to the blur? So that every time an object appears or disappears has a blur-in/blur-out effect. (to apply maybe to the radius of the blur or something)

I've made many animations in the past in Flash and later Animate, so the Comp idea seems pretty similar to the Movie Clips. (So I have several layers of nested comps to organize a little the session) But since After Effects is so good at handling the 3D environment I wanted to experiment and make crazy ideas like the shadows projecting through a paper/screen.

Either way I wanted to use a semi 3D progression in the scenes, to play with the trees distances in 3D tracking, fog effects, and others. So I would appreciate if you could think of a way for the movements to look as real as possible when they enter or exit the field of view on the paper, if you think that it'll be too difficult or painful to animate then don't worry.

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