3D Text in After Effects
An updated survey of methods
By Rich Young | May 30, 2012
Creating 3D text in After Effects has long been a cottage industry, generating many workarounds and 3rd party plug-ins. Adding to the parade is one of the big new features in After Effects CS6, the extrusion and material options in the Ray-tracing renderer, which requires an Nvidia GPU. Many will benefit from beautiful renders by the new features, though many will get bogged down by requirements, render times, or inadequate features, and turn to older methods surveyed here.
Todd Kopriva collected free 3D material options project and tutorials for After Effects CS6, including the presets and tutorials from Motionworks. You may also want to read over the intro to CS6 by Chris and Trish Meyer, and their video on Targeting Properties in the new Ray-Traced 3D Engine (pictured above). Here's Todd's own introduction, Extruding 3D Text and Shapes and Modifying Geometry Options, from the free After Effects CS6 New Features Workshop from Video2brain:
Render times for ray-tracing might be painful without serious GPU power, which could change if, after snagging the low-hanging fruit, there's longer-term behind-the-scenes development similar to what's begun in Photoshop CS6. The issue of hardware requirements and speed was discussed adeptly by Stu Maschwitz in Ray Tracing in After Effects CS6, who "ordered out" some nice renders like this:
Element 3D, new After Effects plug-in, has since been released and produces excellent results quite quickly. Here's Andrew Kramer on text and shape extrusion:
There are a number of other approaches for creating 3D and faux 3D text (and shapes) in After Effects with native and 3rd party tools. It's rather easier to list them than to demonstrate them, especially since there are a number insightful options for solving deficiencies in the popular, inexpensive approaches (duplicate layers and the Shatter effect). For example, without ray-tracing things like reflections (resources) need to be done by hand or with filter assistance, as discussed in the Motionworks' interview with Zax Dow of Zaxwerks.
A summary of the main older methods can be found in the 3-part tutorial for Extruding 3D Text & Shapes in After Effects by Andrew Devis (who also had an intro series on 3D in AE). Devis' summary covered layer duplication, Shatter, and Zaxwerks & 3D applications and Repousse from Photoshop (Repoussee is no longer available). As usual, Devis has surveyed some tutorials and saves you time by offering a best practice.
So, here's a nearly complete list of all of the approaches available (are there more?), along with example tutorial links:
- stacking layers close together in Z-space (numerous)
- the Shatter effect built into AE (numerous; recent 1, 2)
- the Vegas effect built into AE
- fake 3D volumetric light with Shine or Lightburst
- Photoshop text as 3D volume (in CS6, 3D> New mesh from layer> Volume)
- the Repousse 3D (Photoshop CS5 Extended, not in CS6)
- 3D models imported through Photoshop 5 (AE Help; not in CS6)
- 3D renders from Photoshop CS6 timeline (tutorial example 2)
- integrate renders from 3D programs (several examples)
- particle-generated 3D text with Trapcode Particular
- stylized 3D text with Trapcode Form
- 3D Extruder by Ben Rollason, DistributeLayers, and other 3D scripts at AE Scripts. For a review, see Script of the Week: 3D Extruder by Mark Christiansen
- CE ShapeExtruder, a CustomEffect by Maltaannon
- PlaneSpace is used in Red Giant QuickTip #3 - 3D Text
- Zaxwerks Invigorator, ProAnimator, 3D Serpentine (ray-tracing coming soon)
- Boris FX 3D Objects filters (numerous)
- Shapeshifter AE or Freeform (plug-ins from Mettle; more on Shapeshifter bevels)
- Video Copilot Element (forthcoming June 2012) is said to have an impressive way to create and extrude text and mask shapes.
As a final example, here's one of the more entertaining efforts from recent years, How to make 3D Text and use 3D Stroke in After Effects - Live Tutorial from Greyscale Gorilla (based on the Graymachine 3D preset to create 3D extruded text):
Get articles like this in your inbox: Sign Up
artadams - Thu, May 23 2013 - 9:46 pm
Adam Wilt and I are giving a talk on the 4K-enabled FS700 at CineGear. Saturday, Sherry Lansing Theater. Details to follow.
artadams - Thu, May 23 2013 - 9:44 pm
Just moved my business to #Google Apps for Enterprise. They have freakin' amazing customer support. Highly highly highly recommended.