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Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer

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Joe Moya
Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Jan 28, 2010 at 5:39:24 am

I thought this would work... but, it doesn't... or, perhaps I am doing something wrong. Here is what I tried,...

I created a 3d text in ProAnimator...

I then created solid layers as a back and floor (careful not to make the layers so far from text to loose shadow)...with 3d Layer (i.e., the box shape) turned on for created floor/back solid layers. Making certain...AcceptShadows checked in AE for solid layers. Also I created Lights in AE - Cast shadows ON. In general, it was a basic and typical AE light layer setup.

I used an AE camera for movement. And, checked - Use Comp Lights.

I then rendered a MOV file (w/alpha) of the project.

Finally, I took the rendered MOV file and placed in the AE project. Using Luma Key. I then made a matte of the text originally created with ProAnimator then converted/rendered to a MOV file.

Eventhough I created a MOV file and matted out the text with the intent to use this MOV file as the layer to produce the shadows and the ProAnimator created text with textures as the visible layer (i.e., top layer)... I still do NOT get a shadow to show against the AE solid layers (with or without 3d layer turned on).

AE light shows on solid layers and even solid layers will show shadows. But, MOV luma keyed matted does not show shadow with or without PrAnimator layer turned on or off.

What could I be doing wrong? Or... is this way to fake a shadow not going to work with an AE camera and Light using ProAnimator created text?

Is there a way to fake a shadow onto AE layers without using ProAnimator Light plus Plain combo? It seems trying to fake the shadow with a alpha matte with Luma applied doesn't work.

Joe




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Joe Moya
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Jan 28, 2010 at 6:21:19 am

I think I have a solution...

Render as a PNG animation/pictures video file (or any alpha available pic file) and matte the PNG pics to produce shadows... I haven't tried this - yet... maybe someone has tried this and tell me if it will work before I spend lots of time rendering to a PNG animated pics.

... On second thought, this may NOT work if (as in my case) I am working in 29.97 where frames are matched to specific and precise music cues... my guess (and based on past experience)... 29.97 to a 30 fps PNG videos looses sync with sound as the video progresses...Heavy sigh...


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Edward Wu
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Jan 28, 2010 at 7:12:25 pm

Hi Joe,

I'm not quite sure what you're trying to do for your project, so forgive me if this won't work for your project set up.

I'm guessing that you don't want to use the plane in ProAnimator because you need the 3D Layers as elements in After Effects, but yet you want the shadows of the 3D Text to be on the 3D Layers.

If this is the case, the "Shadow Catcher" feature in ProAnimator will help you out. This will generate only the shadows, which can overlay on your 3D Layers in After Effects. In addition, you can continue using the After Effects cameras and lights to work with your 3D Text and the shadow catcher layers.

The key to this is to create 2 large planes in ProAnimator, and have them be positioned in the same place as your 3D Layers in After Effects. Then, create a Shadow Catcher material, and apply the Shadow Catcher material onto the two planes. When you use a Shadow Catcher material, the shadows show up, but not the object/plane itself. So in this case, we won't see the 2 planes that were created in ProAnimator, but only their shadows.

Then, be sure the Lights you create in After Effects have the "Casts Shadows" enabled. Then, when you apply the setting to use "Comp Lights" and "Comp Camera" settings, you will see the shadows from the Shadow Catcher planes projected onto your 3D Layers in After Effects. You can then set up your camera movements, and the shadows will still update properly.

This way, you would not need to worry about the Luma Key.

Hope this helps.

Best,
Edward


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Joe Moya
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Jan 29, 2010 at 4:39:32 am

Yes... I tried that... and, it works with about 20% of the project.

The problem... and, trying to keep a long story short... is this...I have a pretty complex 3d text "typography-like" setup where that each letter (aprox. 16 letters) is a layer. Applying a shadow catcher to each letter/layer produces a bit of a problem with shadows cast by the letters as a group.

In hind sight, creating the each letter as a layer provided for a lot of flexibility in design, motion and effect... but, as I start to fine tune the details (such as, shadow)... I started to run into problems creating individual shadows for each letter.. and, how the shadows cast for each letter conflicted with the letters as a group.

This individual conflict of each layer of letter's and their shadow issue is why I wanted to render the entire letter/layers before I added shadows. I was hoping I could create shadows from a combined rendered video with all layers.

At least now I know I need to go back to the drawing board and start solving this problem using shadow catcher and give up on trying to create a faux shadow with a pre-rendered matte.
..........
BTW, I have another issue with regard to rendering texture layers that use a movie file. But... I might save that for another thread if I don't find a solution... Until then, let me just say... I can not seem to render into ANY compressed video file format (no matter what kind of draft, size or length of video I use) when I use a movie file as a texture. As a reult, I am looking at 16 hr. long render times for a 1 min. 20 sec long HD uncompressed video project (...and, this is without any blur, atmosphere or a few other final touches I know will lengthen the render time even moreso). I haven't determined if this is a ProAnimator issue or AE... at this point, I am thinking it is AE's render capability limitations.


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Edward Wu
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Jan 29, 2010 at 6:18:53 pm

Hi Joe,

Since each 3D Invigorator layer allows you to use up to 8 sets, depending on your project, you may be able to split up your 16 letters into 2 or more words. This means you could possibly put 8 letters in one 3D Invigorator layer, while putting the rest of the 8 letters in another layer. This could help minimize the shadow issues that you are running into.

To avoid recreating everything from scratch, you can export and import the characters, and copy the keyframe animations.

In regards to your rendering issue, I'm not sure what you meant by not being able to render any compressed video when using a movie file as a texture. If you mean that you are getting a flickering issue, you may be running into an issue with Multiprocessing. If this is the case, you can try disabling the Multiprocessing setting to see if this helps with your rendering.

Best,
Edward


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Joe Moya
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Jan 29, 2010 at 7:59:37 pm

When you export and then import the letters into a single layer within ProAnimator (I assume you mean within PA), will this combining of letters free up memory demands? And, how will this effect the textures and material used for each letter (specially with regards to mov files being used as a texture/material)?

At this point, I have made this project so complex that it appears AE can not render the project no matter what I do (including my old standbye of the "secret" preference change or using Cineform codecs). And, when I say the project does not render... I mean it "fails to render" on the first frame because of a lack of memory. I am almost certain that using 32 bit XP which limits the use of RAM memory to 3G's is my problem.

....................
As a side note, my computer is not a slacker...but, it is running 32bit XP with 6G of RAM. I am working with the fastest chipset available 3.2Ghz 7i chip on a dual quad mobo with the fastest 4 x 15k rpm hard drives in a dual stripe Raid 0 setups available (including an very fast Adaptec Raid controller). The downside (because of AE's limits) is that 32b can only use 3g of executable RAM - max.
....................

I am really struggling to figure out a way to reduce the size of RAM needed to render this HD project... heck, I even tried to render it at SD and have not been able to render the project... EVEN with Cineform codecs. Rendering with uncompressed files worked (albeit very slowly) until I added the shadows...now, I can not render at all - it "fails to render" in AE on the first frame. I have done every trick in he book that I know of to reduce the RAM demands on this project and have failed (i.e., "secret" preference option tweak, min. size background layers, taking opacity to 0 as soon the object leaves the view, not activating layers that can be rendered seperately, not using ANY blurs or color correction, etc.). It appears the RAM demands by ProAnimator "shadows" are making the render fail.

Will combining the individual layers into one layer with on shadow wall reduce the RAM needed to render? And how does this effect the materials (...specially with MOV files currently being used as materials on the letters). How does multi-processing fit into this equation... I currently have AE using max. memory available with most RAM allotted to the single processor being used.



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Edward Wu
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Feb 1, 2010 at 7:18:12 pm

Hi Joe,

Sorry, I thought you were using 3D Invigorator Pro for a second. You are able to put all 16 characters into ProAnimator, and have the movie clips used as texture maps as well. If you are mapping 16 separate movies onto each of the letter, you can consider reducing the movie size of each of these movies, especially if none of the letters are going to be close up to the camera. If you are looking at the letters from far away, you may be able to get away with small movie clips, and this will help you with your rendering.

In addition, if you are using a high value of Shadow Diffusion for your After Effects lights, this will slow down the rendering time tremendously as well. You may want to try lowering the amount of Shadow Diffusion, or try rendering a movie with only ProAnimator, lights, and shadows, and re-import the movie back into After Effects. You could then render the rest of your project out and composite the two.

Best,
Edward


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Joe Moya
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Feb 2, 2010 at 12:25:34 am

Thanks for the insight...

I am using 16 letters with 16 different MOV files as materials... all HD video source.

I think it comes down to what seems be that HD (1440x1080) and 3D are tough combos. Plus, it appears that ProAnimator doesn't take advantage of multiprocessors... or... AE's RAM dependent software is doing something to prevent multiprocessors from being used. Either way... the only solution I have found is to render in uncompressed file format and wait for what appears to be a 50+ hrs. of total render time for a 1 min. 20 sec. video. NO compressed format combination was found that would work... AE crapped out on a 32bit 3G limited capacity system.

Unfortnately, the quality of the videos being used as textures/materials are HD source and because they are very large letters taking up to at least half the video screen... the video must be of equal quality as the letters themselves. There is no cheating on the quality of the video material.

That being said, I tweaked the render time down from an original length of about 55 hrs. to about 50 hrs. by making every frame count in terms of it's use and discarding the need for any wasted computations by frames off screen. To put this into perspective, 10 frames of unneeded background or text removed saves about 50 mins. (give or take) of render time.

As for diffusion, the amount is 4 (the default) and when I get to the last portion I have yet to begin to render, I will move that down to 0 to see if there is a significant difference.

FYI, this system I use is not a wimpy system... just short of using the advantage of executable RAM in a 64 bit system... I don't see how I can speed up the project without degrading the quality of the video... and, even then... trying every compression codecs I had didn't work even if I was willing to give up on quality.

Finally, I still have one more layer to add... and that will be using Zackwerks Serpentine... is there any suggestions that might help to keep the render times down with this plug-in? At this point, I simply am going to use the plug-in to create a simple tube shaped 3d object and animate it like a fuse burning.

Thanks for your help and suggestions...


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Edward Wu
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Feb 2, 2010 at 5:55:28 pm

Hi Joe,

Your rendering time seems to be about ~48 seconds a frame, which isn't terrible considering that you're rendering in HD, Uncompressed, and with lights and shadows. ProAnimator doesn't use the Multiprocessing, but it's too bad that none of the compression settings are working for you. If you turn off the shadow diffusion on the last part, I think that will make quite a bit of difference in your rendering.

In regards to rendering with 3D Serpentine, there shouldn't be too much of an issue. 3D Serpentine works relatively fast, but again, the size of the texture maps that you apply on the Serpent body will play a role in the rendering time. Render a frame at a position that 3D Serpentine is closest to the camera, and base your texture map quality off of that. Then, try to make the texture map as small as possible but still have it look good. This will help reduce the rendering time as much as possible.

Best,
Edward


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Joe Moya
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Feb 2, 2010 at 8:27:22 pm

Excellent tips... I wish Zaxwerks would place these sort of HD rendering tips (and, any other tips and/or suggestions) somewhere on their site in a centralized place or pin it to this forum.

Well... slow rendering is all relative...48 secs. per frame may be fast but whe you thousands of frames to render... well, you get my drift.

I am on my second pass of rendering for some blur and fading... and, the new render time has dramatically jump to 2+ mins. per frame... thank goodness this blur and fade needs to be done for only 8 secs. of video (240+ frames).

There at two things I hope the next version of Zaxwerks will include...

1) ... multi-processor rendering (i.e., multi-thread).
2) ... make it work better (and easier) with non-square pixels... 1.33 or any other non-square shaped pixel sizes seems to cause problems when trying to use AE cameras. The kind of problems has to do with placement of camera's relative to where the 3D object is placed in Zaxwerks PA. Frequently, they go off the view in Zaxwerks and using Off-Line only helps but doesn't really solve the WYSIWYG issue in non-square pixels relative to AE camera positions. This can be especially true when trying to use a camera rig in AE.


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Edward Wu
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Feb 3, 2010 at 1:21:16 am

Hi Joe,

Right, the rendering time is all relative to what is going on. The more processing it requires, such as blurs, shadows, lights, and reflections, the longer it takes to render each frame.

Thanks for all the suggestions! We'll look into all the requests.

Best,
Edward


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James Retling
Re: Luma Key to fake shadows onto AE layer
on Apr 2, 2014 at 8:22:21 pm

In After Effects (I'm using CC version), in the comp timeline, select the layer you want to cast shadows. In this case, the layer with ProAnimator. Click the triangle to the left of the layer name to show the Scale, etc and you'll see The Material Options


Click the triangle next to "Material Options" to open it's properties. Change "Cast Shadows" to on.

But this is not the end of it! If there are layers "below" this layer (higher numerical value under the # column) that do NOT have the cast shadows or receive shadows set properly, then this will negate the cast shadows option I mentioned earlier.


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