Recently, Adobe released the newest iteration of their Creative Suite, CS6. As it did, millions of graphic designers, animators, filmmakers, illustrators and visual effects artist squee'd long into the night. I was mainly interested in the improvements made to After Effects in version CS6, and while many of them increase the functionality of the software behind the curtain, I thought that the new camera tracker was an awesome addition.
3D Camera Tracker
From what I've learned so far, one of the easiest ways to sell an effect is making sure that it fits in the scene. While this somewhat goes without saying, let me dig a bit deeper first. Tools like motion tracking or hand keying coordinates for effects and masks are critical for an effect to look real. After Effects already had a great camera tracker, and was packaged with Mocha for added motion tracking capability. However, all of this was limited to 2D motion tracking. For close up shots, this seemed to work well, and in most cases, if there were multiple effects, you'd just motion track the background seperately from things in the foreground. For adding 3D elements, I'd normally have to export the footage into a third party camera tracker like PFHOE, import that camera data into my 3D Software, animate, and export the stills of the 3D assets along with alpha channels back into after effects. It's a time consuming process, but it creates very good results.
After Effects CS6 now comes with a 3D Camera Tracker option, which doesn't replace all the fuctionality of a third party motion tracker, but it's a good middle ground. Using the 3D camera tracker, it was incredibly easy to add stock footage effects like flat cracks picture files, 3D lights and Optical Flares and 2D/3D text to a composition. I'm pretty sure that 3D particle emitters like Particular will work with it as well, unfortunatly, my copy isn't working correctly with Cs6.
This was taken with my iPhone 4S and literally took only minutes to set up. I'm sure with more time and attention, there will be a lot of cool things produced using the 3D camera tracker.
3D Text/Ray Tracing
Coming from a background in 3D, I was very much surprised that After Effects didn't have a 3D Text tool to start out with. Many people who needed 3D Text found new ways to pull the effect off, as many times there are logos or title sequences that need 3D effects. One of the new features of AE CS6 is 3D Text.
In my opinion, this could use some work. It's a good tool to have, but it's quite memory intensive, slowling down my computer to a halt. Also, from what I understand, there isn't anything like global illumination, that takes the lighting from the actual image to light the 3D text, rather than the artist mimicking the light themselves. That being said, i'm sure that there will be many people trying to recreate the Fringe effect with text in a bunch of new videos coming out.
There are a bunch of other features that I'm learning how to use, and I think that for the most part, they'll help in the long run. Once I've had a chance to use them, I'll write about them here.