Post Production

After Effects Classic Course: 3D Camera Tricks

Two features that make it easier to control and animate the 3D camera.

After Effects CS4 saw a pair of updates that made it easier to manipulate and keyframe its 3D camera. The keyframing trick also made it easier to create animations that were very hard to pull off with traditional Position keyframes.

Separate XYZ

After Effects’ Position keyframes normally bundle X, Y, and Z position data – as well as how animations speed up and slow down around that keyframe – all in one little box in the timeline. However, some animators with experience in 3D programs or Apple’s Motion found this a difficult concept to grasp; they were used to dealing with X, Y, and Z position data and interpolation as individual keyframes and function curves. To work around this, some had created fancy child/parent structures to give independent access to these parameters; AE even had a Keyframe Assistant to set this up for you.

After Effects CS4 introduced an easier way to convert traditional bundled Position keyframes into separate X, Y, and Z keyframes. Not only did this make it easier to keyframe traditional camera moves such as a crane moving up and down in Y while a dolly had its own motion in X (left/right) or Z (in/out), it also allowed other tricks such as creating “bouncing ball” type animations. These concepts are demonstrated in the movie below:

Unified Camera Tool

When After Effects first added a 3D camera, you had to change tools to move the camera in the X, then Y, then Z dimensions. An incremental update to After Effects CS4 introduced the Unified Camera Tool, which allowed you to move the camera in all three dimensions using the same tool by using different buttons on a 3-button mouse. This is a much faster and more interactive way to position the camera, and is demonstrated in this movie:

These movies previously appeared on Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning. They’ve retired this course from their library, so we’re making the movies from it available publicly for free. You can either scan our page on ProVideo Coalition to see the other free movies we’ve posted over the last couple of years, or check out the Crish Design channel on YouTube.

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Chris & Trish Meyer founded Crish Design (formerly known as CyberMotion) in the very earliest days of the desktop motion graphics industry. Their design and animation work has appeared on shows and promos for CBS,…