As I threatened, I took my rendered cyberdeck and threw it into After Effects. Three times.

After Effects (AE) is designed for video compositing as well as motion graphics, but there’s no native way to get 3D models into AE out of the box. AE ships with Cinema 4D Lite, which is…I’m actually not sure what C4D’s role in the creative world is. I think it’s a 3D modeling app, but tailored specifically for video production. Ideally, it would be what I’d use to maybe both create a model, texture it, and send it over to AE, but A) I obviously don’t know anything about C4D, and B) Blender is free and C4D costs a minimum of $60 per month, paid 12 months in advance. Even Substance Painter is only $20 per month, billed monthly. To bridge the gap, I bought VideoCopilot’s Element 3D which specifically aims to bring completed 3D models into After Effects.

Element 3D

I’d like to say that “this was the easy part”, but it kind of wasn’t. Since my model was completely custom, I don’t know if I modeled it “correctly”, which is to say “optimized for this kind of pipeline”. I had texture issues in Element, and then scale issues in Element, and eventually placement issues not entirely because of Element, but I can’t imagine that Element didn’t have a part to play in that situation.

I used my Osmo Pocket to get some moving footage around my desk where I wanted the cyberdeck to sit, but only recorded at 1080p/30. In order to minimize the bumpiness of the recording process (i.e. me, moving around, holding a camera) I attached the Osmo to a tripod, and set the tripod up on a rolling chair to create a makeshift dolly. The chair kind of sucked, so I half rolled, half dragged the chair around the desk, and you can hear the scraping in the video.

Once I managed to get a decent video of my work area all tracked and situated, and the model imported and linked to the tracking, I then had to deal with the fact that my model looked too fake. Recorded video, even high def video, has artifacts about it, and I have struggled in the past with trying to make models look as crappy as the video I am incorporating them into. I found a video on Vimeo this morning that covered just this thing, although the creator’s video was much better shot and had no movement, whereas mine has crappy artificial lighting and motion. Still, I think I managed to get in a fairly decent amount of jank that doesn’t leave the 3d model looking completely fake. In fact, there are elements that I am very happy with, like how the reflection of the lights and the background panorama are reflected on the surface of the deck.

After Effects

Overall, I am pleased with the result, but I also immediately started enumerating things that needed fixing, like the shadows which aren’t placed all that well, and the fact that the display screen at the top of the drive doesn’t “glow”. I might go back and update these, but with the addition of Element 3D and other processing effects, this short, 18 second video takes a long time to work with, so I will have to see how eager I am to fix the issues at hand.


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