3D set extension / VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT tutorial (After Effects)Feb 23, 2022
How much of this shot do you think we actually filmed for real? The answer is that it was just me and everything else was added later. It's Steve from Unexplored Films here and today we're going to create a 3D stage
environmentto add to a moving shot. Today's video is sponsored by our friends at ProductionCrate, a fantastic all-in-one asset center for your movies, so stick around to see how they helped us tremendously with this video. Now a great way to add value to your production is to extend the sets or locations you have available using other items, and we've covered this in our previous videos on creating digital matte paintings and also in our video on setting
extensions for thumbnails. , so be sure to check them out as well.
But today we're going to take those techniques a step further by trying to create what looks like a 3D
environmentfor a moving character to explore. And all we used to do this was Adobe After Effects and ProductionCrate. So, as usual, we're trying to do a lot with a little and show that you don't always need a big budget to get some really creative cinematic
effects. you will see lots and lots more. So, since we wanted to test this concept with a moving shot, we first needed the shot of our character walking forward while always keeping the same distance from the camera.
We could have shot this outside, but we wanted to shoot it in front of a green screen. So how would we make it look like the character was walking? The answer was simply to set up a treadmill in front of the green screen. We faced it straight ahead because this was about the only angle where you couldn't see the front of the treadmill because the top was at the front. Then we could set this to the slowest speed possible and I could pretty much stay in the same spot while looking like I was walking forward. So the challenge was simply to imagine that you were walking through a strange environment that you hadn't experienced before, rather than just walking on the spot in a room.
But the nice thing about this technique was that it meant our lighting could stay constant, the distance from the camera could stay constant, and we didn't have to have someone following me with a green screen outside. So it was a nice quick take this time. And once we had to take, we were satisfied that we could start editing. So now we need to find some items to create our
virtualscenery, and these can be hard to find and time consuming to cut. So instead of trying to build these assets ourselves, we headed over to our sponsor ProductionCrate, where they have an amazing library of assets you can use to create your own virtual environments and digital set extensions for your movies.
You will have seen their
effectsused in some of our previous videos and they are a very useful production resource for us with our DIY Hollywood effects videos. They have a huge library of pre-made visual effects assets, as well as sound effects and music, and it's all under one affordable subscription. And they also offer many free options. If you just want to create a basic account with them. And if you sign up using our link under this video, they'll know we sent you and that helps us out a bit too. So we took a look at the various categories on ProductionCrate to try and find some items that we thought would be a good base for this test.
In the end we decided to create a sort of desolate looking landscape with some destroyed buildings and rubble and also found a nice mountainous landscape and sky for the background and some smaller details like overgrown cables, hanging wires, barbed wire and barbed wire. barbed cable. They do have all sorts of different categories though, so you can easily create just about anything you want. We download the high-res versions of all these clips that you can get with professional access, and then you can start arranging them into a nice composition, either in After Effects or Photoshop. We actually made ours in Photoshop because we were doing a bit more cloning, duplicating, and moving things around and decided to do it there first.
But wherever you do this, you may still be using that filmmaker's brain to try to come up with a really nice composition as if you were shooting this for real. So when we're done, we basically end up with something like this. We had our sky in the back and then our hills and then our ground and then some chimneys on these walls and the rubble and then near the front we had some hanging wires and then in the front we had this kind of brick door that I thought. that it would be fun for our character to step up.
Now we can bring our layers into After Effects and start animating them. Now we haven't done much with 3D layers before in these videos, it tends to be just the X axis and Y axis, moving up and down and side to side, but if we enable the 3D settings we now get access to the third dimension that Americans and most people call the 'Zee' axis. But us Brits would probably say 'Zed' axis. And in this latest version of After Effects, Adobe has added some new camera navigation tools for 3D layers. But before we look at them, we can right-click and create a new camera.
And this virtual camera is what will allow us to move through the 3D scenario. You can actually change all of this information like the focal length, but we actually left it at 50 because it was pretty similar to what we had shot and the effect. that camera is simply created as a separate layer and can be placed on top of all other layers. So next we want to see this scene in 3D space so we can try to separate some of these layers and to do this we can click this Orbit Around tool. We can now view the scene in 3D space, and as you can see, all the layers are glued together.
So what we can do now is start moving some of these layers back and forth using the Z access control. And we can use these little colored arrows on this thing called a widget to push and pull the layers in the different directions in which we want them. You can do this with keyframes as well, but if you're more visual you might prefer to organize things by simply pulling the arrows. Since the sky is going to be further away, we can start by moving that all the way back and this will of course make the layers that are further back now appear smaller.
So we can compensate for that by making them bigger, using the scale control. Now we can move these other elements further back, like the chimneys, the fence, and the broken walls, and as we move it around in 3D space, you can see that it's basically starting to look like a theater set. Which is, of course, more or less what we're going to use it for. You could even try rotating some elements 90 degrees like the ground, which we're trying here, although you might not see much and this might be more of an experiment. If you find the orbit tool a bit disorienting.
If you click the tab that says one view, you can choose one of the other options, such as two horizontal views or two vertical views. This will show what your camera is seeing on one side and another view on the same scene on the other side. This here shows what the same scene looks like from the right and each of the vertical lines represents a different layer and as I move them back and forth you can see the same thing happening based on what our camera sees. So this is another way to not get confused when working in this 3D space.
So now we can open our camera layer and set a keyframe for the position at the beginning and end of the shot. We left the end keyframe where it was and moved the start keyframe forward. So now we've basically created what looks like a simple cartwheel backwards through our digital stage. We're also working with some very high-res stills from ProductionCrate so these pixelated details won't show up when we do the final rendering. So now we were ready to drop our character filmed on the treadmill and we removed the background using Keylight and if you want to learn how to do it in more detail check out our video on how to add yourself to movies and with a little bit of adjusting the speed of movement of the camera, we already have something that looks pretty good for the speed at which the figure is supposed to walk.
We're also trying to time the moment the character walks through this brick arch with the moment I look up and at the ceiling as if I'm actually walking under something. So when you do your filming, it might be an idea to have an idea of which scenery is going to belong where in the frame and that way you can pretend to look at it. So now we need all of these layers to look a bit more consistent, like they belong in the same frame because they all have different brightness and contrast. We can then place our Lumetri color effect on any of the layers that need it and start making some minor adjustments.
And we mainly lowered the exposure on these to darken them a little bit and also lowered the contrast. Now, it's around this point that you're probably thinking that there's something wrong with the sky and the reason is, of course, that the sky doesn't have to get smaller. It can stay the same size all the time. So we can turn off the 3D layer for the sky and the mountains, because they're far enough away that they don't need to get bigger and smaller. But to add a bit more movement, we can simply pan the sky from left to right so it looks like the clouds are moving over the mountains as the camera shake occurs.
So this is starting to look good, but all the elements still look a bit static, like they might be still images because of course they are. So we can go back to ProductionCrate and try to find some finishing touches. Now they have a cool animal section here and in it we found a flock of birds flying, so we thought it might be something moving that distracts from the fact that a lot of these things don't move. There are also a few things we can add to the foreground, like maybe use some of these dust or smoke elements to add a bit of a haze and atmosphere to the whole shot, and again do all the layers, including the character I'm interpreting. it seems that they all belong to the same environment.
And remember that if you're adding layers of video, set the frame rate to the same as your sequence for the smoothest motion. Finally, if we want to style this further, we can put an adjustment layer on top of everything and again and color Lumetri to that and do any other color correction to this layer that will affect all the layers below it. Then, if we want, we can precompose all these layers into a new composition and use the Expression Motion tool just to add a little bit of camera movement to the whole shot. Finally, we did our sound design, and once again, ProductionCrate had everything we needed to make it sound like this character was actually in the environment (birdsong) (footstep pattern).
This is how we took the footage of our character on the treadmill, just in front of a green screen and built a completely new virtual environment using a 3D digital set extension. So guys if you liked it please subscribe to the channel and you will see much more effects and
tutorials. I've been Steve for Unexplored Films and I'll see them next time.
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