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.