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Feb
13
2010

Testing Blender+After Effects

I have always dabbled in animation, even doing a few semi-pro jobs in my youth. So I love how you can use technology to bring your art to life in new ways. This is a very rough test to create an elaborate multiplane shot for a friends trailer for his comic.

The goal is to create a Multiplane shot. A shot where a virtual camera moves through flat layers of artwork to create the illusion that were moving through a 3D world. The multiplane camera was first conceaved at the Disney studio for use in Snow White where it shoots through multiple layers of paintings on glass to create depth. For me the classic examples of these shots are in the movie Pinocchio.

Here is how the Multiplane works in it’s old school form. You can see the actual camera at the Walk Disney Family Museum in San Francisco CA.

Now, if the virtual animation was simply moving straight ahead though layers of flat artwork with no camera rotations it would work fine.

This is a test I did in 2007. Yep, been experimenting for some time now.

But I wanted to first a single shot where the camera would move straight down through the clouds and then turn to move across a landscape, the problem is that when the camera rotates you can see the scene is made up of 2D elements. The only way to make this work would be to have full CGI elements that would hide the transitions of camera moves.

I had tried the free open-source program (version 2.49b) before, Blender 3D, but found it hard to use. The interface is confusing and hardly user friendly, but that changed with a couple of recent things. First off I finally upgraded from version 5.5 to CS4 in After Effects. No more having issues syncing sound, plus lots of cool new features. But also motion graphics artist Paolo Ciccone came out with two tutorials on using Blender 3D for motion graphics and with After Effects. In fact he created a way to export data from Blender into After Effects. Both of the tutorials are very cool and I highly recommend them.

Blender survival guide, part 1: http://library.creativecow.net/articles/ciccone_paolo/blender-survival-guide-1.php Explains the basics of Blender for folks who want to use it more with other media for motion graphics.

His plug-in to bring in 3D info into After Effects with tottorial: http://library.creativecow.net/articles/ciccone_paolo/ae-exporter-blender.php

For my test, I started by working on the area the camera would change direction which would be an area of river. The model was made from a grid that I used Blenders ‘sculpt’ tool to build up as hills and then ‘projected’ an image top of it of the river, dirt and rocks using a Camera Map. I found THIS tutorial helpful.

River model.

I then next added some flat rectangles to represent trees and rocks and stuff. at the end I added some hills using the same technique as the riverbed.

Here is the in program set up, some textures are not shown.

I added a camera moving through and made sure it was rendering out all I expected it too. I rendered a movie with those flat planes turned off and then I also exported the data for the camera and flat blank planes into After Effects.

Following the instructions (see link above) to bring in the 3D data and animation, I could then replace the blank shapes with trees, clouds and people and stuff and render out a movie with both together. I can also add more elements and change things on top of the final footage. This technique means that you can do the hard 3D stuff and then drop in new 2D elements later on.

Here is my final test.

What do you think?

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