Lightning Fast Animation in Element 3D

4 (1 reviews total)
By Ty Audronis
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About this book

Element 3D is a plugin for Adobe After Effects, used to create basic, yet stunning 3D visual effects. Some may find 3D to be tricky and downright complex. Element 3D allows actual 3D models to be created from scratch or exported to Adobe After Effects, and rendered and composited at a high level of quality and impressive speed.

This practical guide will lift the veil of mystery around 3D animation. It will teach you everything from modeling, preparing, and exporting from various 3D programs to match-motion, texturing, and complex animations using Element 3D.

This book is a comprehensive guide to using Element 3D and is appropriate for users of all levels. It will walk you through the basics of modeling objects for Element 3D. Then, you’ll learn how to texture, light, and animate as well as optimize your scenes for quick render times.

You will discover some of the limits of Element 3D, and learn how to break through those barriers to create virtually any 3D scene imaginable. You will also learn how to take advantage of other 3D programs such as Maya and Blender to create content and create stunning abstract scenes in relatively no time, and how to composite 3D animation into motion-tracked live action scenes.

By the time you complete this book, you will have all the information you need to effectively create professional 3D graphics using Element 3D.

Publication date:
March 2014


Chapter 1. Introduction to the Element 3D Animation

So, you want to learn how to animate in Element 3D? In this chapter, we will lay the groundwork for this book. You'll need to know what 3D animation is as well as the prerequisites for this book. This book is designed to help users of every skill level gain an intimate understanding of Element 3D, and this chapter is designed to induct you into that world.


Welcome to the world of 3D animation using Element 3D

This book is designed to help you through the basics (which may be applied to any project) that can get you started with Element 3D. Whether you're new to the world of animation or are an old hand at other software, this book will get you up and running fast. However, before we get started, let's cover some fundamentals of 3D animation.


Assumptions about the reader

As this is not a book on Adobe After Effects, but rather a plugin for that software. It is assumed that you have at least a working knowledge of After Effects and its interface. You do not need to be an expert in After Effects; you just have be familiar with it.

Element 3D does not have a proper modeler within it. You must create models within another 3D package. There are free modelers available (such as Blender). Some can be quite expensive (Maya, Lightwave, 3D Studio Max, Cinema 4D, and so on). The principals shown in the modeling section of this book (Chapter 3, Your First Objects, and Chapter 4, Painting Your Geometry (Textures)) can be applied to any 3D software. They all contain the tools used in this book; just the locations of the buttons might change. Thus, it is assumed that you are familiar with the interface of the modeling software that you have chosen.


What is 3D?

It should be said that we are not referring to stereoscopic imagery. You do not need glasses or a lenticular screen to view 3D animation. In the world of animation, 3D refers to simulating depth by creating a virtual world within your workspace (as opposed to drawing on a two-dimensional sheet of paper or cell).


What is Element 3D really?

Element 3D is far more than just another 3D plugin for After Effects. It's truly a revolutionary change in the method of 3D animation that has traditionally been used. For the first time, a user can bring to bear fully animated 3D models created in virtually any modeling software from within their compositing software (After Effects). An entire book could be devoted to the principles of 3D animation. Suffice to say that from the first mainstream computer animation (Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo opening credit sequence), it's taken over 50 years and countless man-hours to get to the point of, Element 3D.

Element 3D was originally developed as an object array animator. Wow, sounds impressive, doesn't it? Well, it is. Element handles 3D objects as if they were particles, and animates them in groups. Sometimes, these are groups of one object (such as an airplane flying across the sky); sometimes, these are hundreds of objects (such as a group of dancing iPhones). What really makes Element unique is that it gives an After Effects user the ability to animate stunning 3D animations within After Effects itself!



Until recently, using 3D animation with motion graphics or live footage required compositing packages (such as After Effects, Nuke, and so on). Now, with the introduction of Element 3D, you can create animations while doing your color correction or working on motion graphics (all within After Effects). This can greatly decrease cost and increase speed. It also brings with it the ability to create stunning 3D animations on the editor level. Over 50 years of CGI evolution (combined with countless man-hours) brings us here.

In the next chapter, we'll introduce you to the Element 3D interface and prepare our directory structure for your first Element 3D project.

About the Author

  • Ty Audronis

    Ty Audronis has been called a "technology-age renaissance man." He’s a professional drone pilot, post-production specialist in the entertainment and media industries, a highly experienced interactive game developer, and an accomplished digital artist. He’s worked for companies ranging from frog Design to California Academy of Sciences in roles where he’s worn many hats.

    Ty’s been programming software and games since 1981 (when he was 8 years old) professionally. He majored in “Computer Generated Animation and Visual Effects” in college (where he won “Best Animation” for the entire CSU system – a Rosebud Award). His music and sound design have been the soundtrack on several major productions; he has also served as a visual effects supervisor on feature films and was the supervising editor and animator for award-winning science visualizations. He has been building drones since the days when sensors and components had to be torn out of cell phones and game controllers.

    Ty is also a mentor, having taught many interns his skills, and speaks regularly at venues including Interdrone. He also serves on the advisory board for the Society of Aerial Cinematographers and for Genarts (now Boris) Sapphire.

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Latest Reviews

(1 reviews total)
a little light in information. Hard to say if it was useful much.
Lightning Fast Animation in Element 3D
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