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Thread: Advanced 3D Solar System - After Effects

  1. #1

    Default Advanced 3D Solar System - After Effects

    Hey all - I've created a series of composition to create a 3D solar system in After Effects. I've animated my camera, added lights, etc, and I must say I'm very impressed with the result. The only thing missing is a brilliant array of stars in the background!

    So - On my new solid, I used fractal noise to create a realistic, random starfield. (reduce size to 3 or so, play with contrast - thanks Andrew Kramer!) Originally, I left this new star layer as a 2D layer, moved it to the bottom of the stack. Looks great, really! But then, when I previewed, I realized that the stars were not moving as my camera animated through the solar system. Being a 2D layer in the background, the stars remained static as the camera flew past the planets, rotating and changing its orientation.

    So, I turned the starfield into a 3D layer, moved it back about 20,000 points (yes, a value of -20,000 on the z-axis) and then made it large enough to fill the comp. This looked pretty good, so I copy/pasted until all the areas that the animated camera "sees" during its animation would have this starry sky in the background. (A brief explanation of why I put these layers so far away from the rest of the comp - the distance to the nearest stars are so great, that when traveling through space they really would appear to be static. They should never appear to be getting closer, and shouldn't have any 3D depth. It should always appear that you are inside a huge sphere whose interior is speckled with stars. So, Star Trek actually did it right. ) So, as my camera is looking left and right, the stars appear to move appropriately. Only one problem - even at a distance of -20,000 on the z-axis, it is apparent that the camera is moving closer to the starfield, as the stars appear to be increasing in size even though they are very, very far away.

    My next option was to make the starfield a 2d layer once again - I then linked the horizontal "offset" property of fractal noise to the y-rotation value of the camera. In theory, this should have caused the stars to rotate left and right appropriately as the camera rotated. However, this movement is so exaggerated that the stars now fly by in the background as though they were in warp speed.

    Certainly this is something that has been accomplished before - I mean, a background of stars that appears to stay in one place, at a constant distance - surely there must be a way to create this effect?

    Any ideas are very welcome! Thanks in advance, folks.

  2. #2
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    have you tried creating a 'box' wher each side of the box is a star field and have you composition sit nicely within it. As you pan all you'll do is see another part of the box. Or maybe add more sides to your box.

    oh, and I'd like to see what you;ve got so far. I'm picturing something liek one of the exercises from the Meyer After Effects books. Is it anything like that?

  3. #3

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    Alan - you are right on track with your thinking, and the way you described your idea actually led me to the solution! I've taken some stills and videos from various steps in the process that I used, and I'll be posting them soon. In the mean time....

    After reading your post, I attempted again to make a "box" of sorts, one that would surround my entire composition. Problem was, as the camera moved towards and away from the "walls" of stars that created this 4-wall "room", the illusion of the starfield was ruined. This was because the size of the stars and the distance between them grew larger as the camera moved even a small distance towards these walls of stars (hope that makes sense). I knew that in order to really sell the illusion, the stars needed to appear as though they were not moving or getting closer as the camera moved - and then, it hit me like a ton of bricks:

    I've been describing how my room'o'stars needs to appear to be the same distance from the camera at all times, thus creating the illusion that they are extremely far away - so, I simply parented my four walls of stars to the camera, and made my four walls HUGE (large enough to enclose the entire composition regardless of where the camera travelled). Now, when my camera travels forward 1,000 pixels and to the left 1,000 pixels, all four walls move exactly the same way. I must say, the effect is exactly what I'd had in mind, and it really looks fantastic. thanks for helping me talk through this, and I hope you enjoy the final video. Now, I've just got to get better at animating that camera....

    P.S. Creating Fractal Noise walls that are 10,000+ wide on the edges of a multi-nested comp involving multiple massive 3D spheres with lights and camera animations.. not highly recommended. I thought my PC was going to burst into flames on several occassions.

  4. #4

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    You cant move it further out than 20,000 pixels? try 200,000?? heh

    Is the system as small as it can be? make it smaller so your camera has to move less distance?

    Im curious to know how you finally fix this.. so, let us know.

  5. #5
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    Og course, if you could map a 2d image of a star field to the inside of a sphere then all youprobelms would go away. Off hand though, I don;t knwo how to do that in AE - sorry.

    Previously though, when I said 'box' i didn;t just mean a six sided thing. Try more side to make it more spherical.

  6. #6

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    So - I still haven't uploaded the final vid, but in the interest of helping the next person to try this and replying to the last two comments:

    1. One of the reasons I struggled with the large scale of the whole system is because of the level of detail I desired in the models of the planets; keeping reasonable detail on the tiny Pluto requires that Jupiter be MASSIVE proportionally. (Damn, the solar system is huge!)

    2. Alan - I thought of trying to create a Sphere with an interior starfield pattern on it - but like you, I don't know how to do that in AE. Thankfully, my cube of 6 star field images accomplishes the effect just fine. There's no way to distinguish the corners (or the varying distances of the box's interior) because the whole box moves with the camera in x,y,z.

    I still have every intention of posting more info and pictures - and I thank you guys again for all your help!

  7. #7
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    OK last attempt here for me...

    Create your star field image (or composition) so that it is large and twice as wide as it is high. Make sure your have stars on top of analpha channel.

    Drag and drop CC Sphere effect onto it which will wrpa the 'image' onto a sphere. make sure your composition background is black and you should now be able to see your spherical starfield from anywhere inside the sphere with your 3d camera.

  8. #8

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    Alan - brilliant idea. I'd imagine that the CC Sphere will be easier to manage, too. I'll give it a shot!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by guitarfaces View Post
    Alan - brilliant idea. I'd imagine that the CC Sphere will be easier to manage, too. I'll give it a shot!
    Just thinking aloud so let me know if it actually works ok? I can then start thinking about what consultancy fee to charge you

  10. #10

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    You could create a solid and drop a particle system onto it, then your camera Set your particles to no movement and all the same size. These particles will be in 3D space, so as your camera moves, it will fly through the stars.
    Russ

    Dutch Films

    Canon HV30 | RODE VideoMic | Adobe Premiere Pro CS4.

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