Creating metallic text is a common motion graphics request. But it used to be difficult to get professional results natively in After Effects. Not anymore.
While it has been possible for a while to get 3D text in After Effects thanks to Video Copilot’s Element 3D, it has been impossible to do it in After Effects without some sort of third-party support.
Now, however, there is a way. As Nick Campbell over at Greyscalegorilla shows us, it is now possible to get some really sleek 3D text in After Effects natively using the Cinema 4D render engine for your 3D compositions.
I have to admit, until the more recent greyscalegorilla tutorials about this very subject, I didn’t even know that there was now a Cinema 4D render engine built natively into After Effects. This is a huge addition that I’m sure will bring quite a bit more functionality to After Effects over the years.
The days of duplicating layers and shifting each one a little bit further back in z-space to fake a 3D look are over! Now, with a 3D object and the Cinema 4D render engine turned on, all it takes is a little extrusion and some lighting, and you’re good to go.
What’s even better is that you can now get really great simulated studio lighting using HDRI maps as your environment within After Effects as well. This is definitely quite a game changer for those of us who don’t always want to open up an entirely different piece of software to create some convincing 3D environments.
Convert Your Logo/Text to 3D
Another tip I got from this video was that you can take a vector object and convert it to shape layers with a single click. This is extremely useful for a lot of things. Just right-click your vector layer (.ai or .eps file) and select “Create Shapes from Vector Layer.” Cool tip.
Once you have your logo file or text layer converted to a single shape layer, you can start building your 3D scene.
First, you need to open your composition settings and change the renderer from classic 3D to CINEMA 4D.
This will now give you some new geometry options on your shape layer (after you’ve toggled the switch to make the layer a 3D object). Clicking the dropdown for the layer now reveals the “Geometry Options” section.
Using the Geometry Options parameters, you can now extrude your text, add bevels (there are a few different types, but Campbell uses concave), and customize the actual 3D look of your element.
Creating Lighting and Environment
Even though you now have a 3D object, it might not look like much. That’s because now you need to customize the lighting and the environment of your object and give it good reflections.
Another cool tip that I was not previously aware of is that you can now use HDRI maps in After Effects. Campbell graciously includes an HDRI map in the project file download so you can follow along.
Just import the .exr file and drop it into your composition, and right-click the layer it creates and select “Environment Layer.” This will now influence the lighting of your 3D object. You can also customize the light by rotating the environment layer.
Animate And Create Background
Once you get the lighting how you like it in the main 3D comp, you can create a nice background for it and customize colors and effects.
In his example, Campbell throws some nice blurred shape layers in front of and behind the text to create a nice vignetted stage.
Then you can customize things like adding a bit of a glow effect and using various curves and color correction options to get the look that you want.
Top Image via Greyscalegorilla.