OCTOBER 20, 2003
Light Sweep
Organic 3D strokes of light in Adobe After Effects
by Ko Maruyama and Mason Yi

While After Effects allows for layers and even a camera to move in 3D space, there is no provision for moving or rotating spline depth without the 3D Stroke plugin from Trapcode. Artist Mason Yi has been using this plugin since its introduction, and today we explore a technique in which he combined 3D Stroke with Trapcode's Shine on a project for MountainDew.com to produce animated, organic-looking threads of light.

For the MountainDew.com teaser that Mason Yi created, only a few masks were needed to create the illusion of 3D lights and threads. Here are the six broad steps needed to duplicate this look.[an error occurred while processing this directive]Step 1: Creating a Mask
Make a new composition at 720 x 486 with the duration of seven seconds. Then make a new solid with the same comp. Once you’ve made the solid, double click its layer in the timeline. With the pen tool, make a shape. It is a good idea to make the mask shape larger than the size of the layer. A mask that is double in size is a good start.

Step 2: 3D Stroke
3D Stroke from Trapcode allows the user to manipulate a mask shape in X, Y and Z for both rotation and position. You can also distort the shape and control the appearance of the stroke along the mask.

Apply the effect called 3D Stroke (under Trapcode) to the solid. Although 3D Stroke allows you to select individual masks (or all and option to stroke sequentially), Mason only uses one mask per layer, so we'll stick with "Use All Masks." Because the effect will animate, we need to set some keyframable parameters. Click the stopwatch for Offset, Z Position, X Rotation, Y Rotation and Z Rotation to set keyframes for each. Make sure that "Use Layer Time" is selected.

Step 3: Green Shine
Shine is another effect from Trapcode. Shine takes the information from color or alpha channels or brightness/luminance levels and applies rays of light, allowing the user to tint the rays separately from the original color of the layer. Shine also allows for additive light to be applied to its center mass (boost).

Mason uses a relatively short Ray Length (0.5) and an array of green color through a 3-Color Gradient.

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