I make mock action movies as an excuse to test out and advance my skill at visual effects. In my next film, I want to try something out which I have never attempted before- 3D animation. I havea .3DS of the Millenium Falcon (don't ask!) which I want to incorporate into a few clips. These are
- A shot of Earth and the camera pans past the ship (should be easy)
- A shot of the ship with the sky in the background, it moves forwards, the turret moves and shoots
- A shot of the ship landing in a field shot on location, perhaps with the ramp opening
I understand roughly how 3D animation works with a virtual camera and keyframing, but I'd like advice on how to:
- Properly convert the 3DS into a file I can animate with AE
- How to get virtual lights to cast shadows on unlit parts of the model and the background clip I filmed (ie. The field it lands in)
- How to texture the 3D model correctly rather than my hit and miss Photoshop attempts (I have the textures)
- How to animate individual parts of the model, ie. The ramp or turret (if possible)
I am aware that this will most likely involve other programs such as Cinema4D which I am willing to buy if it will allow me to give the film a good look or save a lot of time! Thanks in advance for your advice!
AE isn't meant for this sort of 3D work. If you really want to use a 3D model in AE, you might consider Zaxwerks Invigorator (though I believe it requires OBJ files, not 3DS).
C4D is a nice choice, and they have a downloadable demo you can try, so you can see what you're getting yourself into before you purchase.
If you're just dipping your toe in the 3D waters, you could also try Blender -- it's free, open-source, and very capable. It's a bit quirky in terms of interface when compared to other mainstream 3D apps, but all the concepts you learn would be applicable in any 3D package.
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When it comes to AE Walter is right- not a lot to offer for animating 3d objects. For simple stuff Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro can help. The new version can allow you to import a few objects and link them to AE 3d layers. This means you can animate them using familiar AE controls. You can also apply textures and use Invigorator Lights or AE Lights.
I think for animations that do not require elaborate 3d animation ( no inverse kinematics and stuff like 3d hair or fur...)AE and Invigorator can do a decent job. Here's a project I did using the above mentioned: