After Effects is often referred to as being a "2.5 d" program. The reasoning behind this is because the application has had a 3d workspace since AE5, but all AE layers are 'flat', like little pieces of paper floating in space. To be specific, the native application hasn't been able to extrude or deform in the 3d worldspace.
Enter Zaxwerks, one of my favourite plugin companies. Many of you are already aware of 3d Invigorator and ProAnimator from Zaxwerks, both of which effectively address the "extrusion" limitations inherent to After Effects. And now (or rather, 'soon'), you'll be able to "deform" in AE, too. Still in beta, I've had the opportunity to play around with two new plugins soon to be released by Zaxwerks, "3d Layer Warp" and "3d Grid Warp".
Now a few of you old-timers might remember a plugin for After Effects called "Freeform". It's kind of hard to determine whether it's still a viable product, but posts on the COW Freeform board seem to suggest that it does work in AE7 and is still being sold. Zaxwerks takes the concept of warping in After Effects much further.
Click HERE for a Quicktime tutorial offering a look at the basics of Layer Warp and Grid Warp.
The pluses are pretty obvious: Warp and distort directly in After Effects. Use comp cameras & lights. Use precomps as your warp sources. I've identified two areas that will hopefully be addressed soon: 1) Intersections with AE 3d space. I'm anticipating that this is not an intractable issue, and that eventually a workaround can be developed. The fact that it is possible to create third party renderers offers some hope. 2) Sliders, sliders and more sliders! The GUI elements available to plugin developers are pretty slim, so you either have to use 'em as-is, or develop your own external GUI (like Zaxwerks did for Invigorator/ ProAnimator). I'm hoping that future releases of 3d Layer Warp will include some sort of gestural/ interactive warping capabilites, much like Freeform's control points and tangents offered.
I had the chance to use Layer Warp in this project a little while ago, and one sharp-eyed reader sent me a note asking, "how did you manage to warp the photos"? Now you all know :)
Monday, April 02, 2007
Posted by Alan Shisko at 4/02/2007 01:58:00 PM