While some may claim that the After Effects CS6-era Ray-traced 3D renderer is a minor feature that you can ignore, it’s still a strong option for basic motion graphics with realistic reflections and refractions, and very fast if you have an Nvidia CUDA GPU. If you’re not committed one way or another, you may want to check out an integrated in-depth resource from Eran Stern that compares major alternatives for creating 3D type.
There’s a ton of ways to create 3d-ish text inside AE; see the roundup 3D text in After Effects: an updated survey of methods for a compete survey. This article looks at updates for a few of the more complicated methods.
There are downsides of course, and most of them are listed in a sometimes annoying reminder dialog that pops up when you enable ray-tracing. And fast CUDA rendering in Adobe Media Encoder, Premiere Pro using Dynamic Link, and other background rendering is not supported. An unsupported workaround involving preference file editing can be found in Faster raytracing in CS6 while rendering in the background… YMMV by Danny Princz. But it might be faster in the end to just render in the main app, as recommended by Adobe’s Todd Kopriva:
If you are rendering heavy compositions that require GPU processing and/or the Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously multiprocessing, then the recommended workflow is to render and export a losslessly encoded master file from After Effects and have Adobe Media Encoder pick that up from a watch folder to encode into your various delivery formats.
There’s more detailed information on Raytraced 3D, CUDA, and OpenGL in these articles:
- GPU (CUDA, OpenGL) features in After Effects CS6 and After Effects CC
- After Effects Help / GPU (CUDA, OpenGL) features
- GPU changes (for CUDA and OpenGL) in After Effects CC (12.1)
- more advice from Todd Kopriva, Roland Kahlenberg, and others in the roundup The Ray-traced 3D renderer in After Effects
So sure, the Ray-traced 3D renderer may be a lame duck but it’s still easy, produces nice looks, and, if you have a recent vintage Nvidia card, fast too. If you’re not convinced, or tied to AMD GPUs (and don’t mind also missing acceleration for plug-ins and other apps), you can consider the many alternatives for 3D text found in 3D text in After Effects: an updated survey of methods.
That survey is wide-ranging but doesn’t go into depth on any technique. Recently though, Eran Stern posted an in-depth 5-hour course at Lynda.com, 3D Typography in After Effects. Eran covers major solutions and compares details too, even picking his favorite (considering only basic features) from the Ray-traced 3D renderer, Cinema 4D Lite, Element 3D, Invigorator, Mettle Shapeshifter, and Boris BCC 3D objects.
If you don’t have a Lynda.com membership Eran has a free 7-day trial. Here’s a sample from the course:
There’s more to 3D than just 3D type, and we don’t how much Eran’s summary will need to be tweaked in the coming months as 3D tech in After Effects develops. Perhaps we might at least read tea leaves for Video Copilot’s Element 3D version 2 from pictures said to be rendered with it, including the MotionPulse trailer.