How to Use 3D Cameras in After Effects

Updated on: September 22, 2022

When it comes to offering 3D effects tools After Effects has several professional options that can enhance your compositions. However, the result of your animations will also depend on the files you work with.

Let's say you want to animate an illustration so that the viewer feels as if they are stepping into it. Well, to generate the desired effect, you will need two requirements: a file that includes layers and learning how to use 3D cameras in After Effects.

Animating Illustrator files in After Effects

If you usually work with Illustrator, you know that this other Adobe product also works with layers: a fundamental feature when working with 3D effects. Since it is possible to import .ai files into After Effects, we recommend you save your artwork with all its layers visible so you can animate every detail with the 3D camera and enhance your composition.

  1. Open your illustration in Adobe Illustrator or download one from an image bank.
  2. Go to the Layers panel in Illustrator, and expand the layer group by clicking on the arrow next to the label. This way you will see each of the layers that make up the illustration separately. 
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  1. Save your illustration with the layers separated as a .ai file.

Using a 3D camera on a layered illustration

Import the Illustrator layered file into your Project panel and drag it onto the Timeline. Then double-click on your Composition to display all the layers of your footage, and make sure each element of your illustration has a layer assigned to it on your Timeline. 

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Remember that to use 3D tools on your layers you must convert them. Activate the option that looks like a Rubik's cube on all your layers to go from 2D to 3D.

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To generate a 3D effect in which you slowly zoom in on your composition, you must create a Camera Layer. To do this:

  1.  Go to the main menu and click on Layer.
  2.  Select New and then hit Camera.
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  1. When a new window appears with a camera in, click OK. That will create a camera layer that will affect the way you see all the other layers.
  2. Open the properties of the camera layer by pulling down the tab.
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  1. Tap the stopwatch next to the Position property to start the Zoom effect and locate it with the Time Indicator the second you want it to stop. To determine the zoom level, edit the values highlighted in blue.
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  1. Make sure to leave enough space between the Position keyframes so that the movement is not too abrupt.

By following these steps, you will have created the illusion of zooming in on your illustration. However, this is not the only way to do it.

There are techniques we will explain in future tutorials that will help you to enhance this effect, such as establishing spaces and dimensions between layers to create a 3D effect in each one of them.

Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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