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Realistic drop shadows?

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Scott MorrisonRealistic drop shadows?
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 5:40:13 pm

Hello everyone.

I am trying to get a realistic shadow from a layer. Let's say the layer is a 3D model, brought in as a Tif sequence with an alpha channel from Maya. Behind the model, I have a wall as a layer and a ground layer below. I would like the shadow from the model to lay horizontal along the ground, and then vertical up the wall.

I've tried adding lights and casting shadows and even an ordinary drop shadow, but since AE treats the 3D model layer as 2D, the shadow is predictably flat and doesn't follow the ground layer and then the wall layer.

I have BCC and am using CS4. Any help much appreciated.

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Greg RobbinsRe: alistic drop shadows?
by on Feb 15, 2010 at 5:34:08 am

What I do is render the shadow in the 3d app. I\'m not sure how to do it in maya but in 3ds max you\'d create a camera and assign your desired background shot as the background and then quickly create planes where the ground is and then one for the wall. So pretty much recreating your shot in a 3d world. Then apply a \"matte/shadow\" material to the planes to allow the shadow to fall on them and renders only the shadows not the planes. Again that is for 3ds max but I\'m sure maya is similar. Plus if your background footage is moving then you will need to matchmove it in pftrack or similar tracking program and import the data into maya. Maya also has maya live which is a built in tracking function as well. Hope this helps.

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craig whitRe: alistic drop shadows?
by on Feb 15, 2010 at 1:28:01 pm

Listen to Greg's advice. I just completed a similar shot in Maya (a locked down shot however) and I created stand-in geometry in Maya to catch the shadows cast by the object. Make sure that in Maya, you match the camera data to that of your live action cam. You can get camera stats at

Good luck!

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Greg RobbinsRe: Realistic drop shadows?
by on Feb 15, 2010 at 2:30:24 pm

If you really want to do it in after effects you can use pretty much the same method I stated but in after effects. You would create 3d layers and lights and a camera. Andrew Kramer has several tutorials on 3d layers and shadows here and here But doing this will not give you an accurate shadow being that the 3d model is now a flat video card instead of true 3d. Creating a realistic shadow needs to be done in the 3d program you modeled it in. You would not want to use 'drop shadow' blending option.

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Scott MorrisonRe: Realistic drop shadows?
by on Feb 15, 2010 at 10:25:25 pm

Thank you everyone...very kind of you to respond. I kinda figured I'd have to render actual 3D shadows and then import them, but was looking for an easy way out. Just shows to go ya...there aren't many shortcuts to quality.

Thanks again!

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Greg RobbinsRe: alistic drop shadows?
by on Feb 16, 2010 at 7:33:23 pm

Also when I render out a shadow in a 3d app I usually render the objects and the shadow seperatly. That way you have direct control over the shadows opacity and darkness ect.

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