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Objects moving on 3D landscape

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Vlajko Kokorajko
Objects moving on 3D landscape
on Apr 11, 2018 at 9:37:48 am

Can this be done using After Effects + any plugins (Trapcode MIR, Geolayers, etc)? If you can please watch the video where I marked the time, and some 10-15 seconds onward:





I'm not looking to make gamey battles per se, but it would be great if someone could help me in pinning down which software is needed to create a scene like the one I linked.

Apologies if this is not related to After Effects, I'm just hoping that the many talented people here can point me in the right direction.

Thank you


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Steve Bentley
Re: Objects moving on 3D landscape
on Apr 11, 2018 at 10:08:45 am

Yes, and yes with difficulty.
The 3D aspect of the plane and the army elements are relatively easy - every layer can be turned into 3D but that layer is simply a plane or a plane with a mask that you can use a camera in AE to move around. So you could make a 3D battlefield and populate it with an army that stands up on that plane.

To get the curved elements like the shields you can either use something like Element 3D which brings 3D object functionality to AE or cheat by using CC cylinder or sphere to add a curve to the flat 3D objects.

The other issue is that the 3D layers in AE are flat so as you move your camera about (say, on the spears) unless the spears are also rotating, at some point you are going to see their edges and they will disappear (a plane has no Z dimension - Imagine arcing the camera down from an overhead shot on the battlefield. When you get to the ground level the plane of the battlefield will be edge-on and virtually invisible.)
You can use expressions to keep these elements facing camera so it gives the illusion that they have volume.

The last issue is the infinite world - because the battlefield will be a rectangle and a plane, the back edge will be visible at some point at low angles because it can't go on forever. You can use soft masks back there and some haze to let aerial perspective to its thing and wash out the seam between ground and sky - its how the world works anyway. You can thank water vapour in the air for that. Or do what they did in your example and not have a a ground plane, but I find the static BG fights with the illusion.



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Steve Bentley
Re: Objects moving on 3D landscape
on Apr 11, 2018 at 10:19:04 am

You could do all what was in the video with no plug ins whatsoever - but it might be easier with a cloner script (available at aescripts.com - there a bunch of them) That way you don't have to make every animated shield - make one and then arrange their clones in a grid for each legion.

Mir or Form (trapcode) might be helpful in making a 3D landscape to play on but again not vital (or even part of that video as it has no ground plane)

Just keep in mind that while you can do a huge amount of 3D animation inside AE, its never truly 3D (we call it 2.5D) So many effects need to be cheated. Element 3D gets the closest to a true 3D environment for AE, and would work very well here (it even has a built in cloner!) but its not needed to get the example you posted to work.



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Vlajko Kokorajko
Re: Objects moving on 3D landscape
on Apr 11, 2018 at 1:11:06 pm

"Yes, and yes with difficulty.
The 3D aspect of the plane and the army elements are relatively easy - every layer can be turned into 3D but that layer is simply a plane or a plane with a mask that you can use a camera in AE to move around. So you could make a 3D battlefield and populate it with an army that stands up on that plane."
This is where I run into the first obstacle. Namely, I'd have no problem using a height map to create 3D terrain. The problem is how do I, a) make the upright units move along a 3D path without sinking into or floating above the terrain, and b) how do I make the blue-flat infantry symbol move relative to the terrain, auto-orient on the path, rotate in 3d space relative to the terrain and bend to stay glued to the terrain (kind of like formations in Rome Total War), curving alongside the surface as it moves without sinking or floating above the terrain? Basically kind of like moving a blue square in 2D auto-oriented along a path, but here it would need to move in 3D (2.5D) space along a path, without clipping. Any advice or tutorials you might know of?

"To get the curved elements like the shields you can either use something like Element 3D which brings 3D object functionality to AE or cheat by using CC cylinder or sphere to add a curve to the flat 3D objects."
Yeah this wouldn't be too much of a problem with Element 3D.

"The other issue is that the 3D layers in AE are flat so as you move your camera about (say, on the spears) unless the spears are also rotating, at some point you are going to see their edges and they will disappear (a plane has no Z dimension - Imagine arcing the camera down from an overhead shot on the battlefield. When you get to the ground level the plane of the battlefield will be edge-on and virtually invisible.)
You can use expressions to keep these elements facing camera so it gives the illusion that they have volume."
I think I have som solutions for this, but I've yet to come to that.

"The last issue is the infinite world - because the battlefield will be a rectangle and a plane, the back edge will be visible at some point at low angles because it can't go on forever. You can use soft masks back there and some haze to let aerial perspective to its thing and wash out the seam between ground and sky - its how the world works anyway. You can thank water vapour in the air for that. Or do what they did in your example and not have a a ground plane, but I find the static BG fights with the illusion."
Yeah, some sort of fade out, fog, etc. would be needed, understandably.

I'll be sure to check out the cloner script.

Thank you very much for the help thus far!


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Steve Bentley
Re: Objects moving on 3D landscape
on Apr 11, 2018 at 1:46:48 pm

It depends on how you want to generate the terrain. Using Element might be the easiest because with its cloner you can clone on a surface and then offset the position so the clone(s) will move up and down to keep in contact with the surface as they change position on that surface.
Some of the auto orient is built into Element but you could get around any other issues with expressions or follow path or orient to path etc.

I don't think there is way to do with this up and down hill thing with Mir. While you should be able to extract position info for each "point" in the field array, i've not played with this so I don't know if the expressions can see this level of data. But in theory you could link path data (in AE2017 and above) to the Mir data so that you could then use orient to path and follow path to make this work.

This seems like a project that might be better executed in a 3D package. What usually happens is, as you get deep into it, you want to add one more feature (like wheels turning correctly as they rumble over uneven terrain) and then you will wish you had started in 3D. But if you can plan ahead for all requirements it is doable in 2.5D.



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