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Creating a pyramid in After Effects from simple planes By Ko Maruyama
While a regular 4-sided tetrahedron could be considered a pyramid, a 5-sided square pyramid is more common, and relatively simple if you have a basic working knowledge of 3D layers in Adobe After Effects.  Unfortunately, After Effects 7 doesn't have as much control or success with solid geometry as a true 3D application, but for some rigid bodies, you can create a model that passes.  Here's how to set up a pyramid in After Effects.

I'm going to make a polyhedron: a common pyramid.  Four (4) triangles and one (1) square base.  This is the basic shape many people imagine when asked to think of a 'pyramid'.   In some ways a regular tetrahedron (4-sided, all triangles) is easier to create, but both follow the same concept.

We'll need two 3D solids to start, one will be the base which we won't need to edit.  Make both solids (100x100 px), and make sure they are set to 3D Layers.

1. Create a triangle.  A triangle is not too difficult to make in AE by hand.  With one of the new square solids (100x100), create a mask shape that goes from each bottom corner up to the top center, creating a triangle, masked shape.

click on each image for a larger view

2. Move the anchor point of this triangle layer to the bottom of the triangle layer.  Because our layer is 100x100, the anchor at the bottom would be 50,100, 0.

3. (You can skip this step if you want, but it makes things a little more obvious)  To see where these are going, set the orientation of the layers so they stand perpendicular to the base layer. 

4. Position each of these layers so they line up with the edges of the base.  Although the base is a 3D layer, you only need to address the edges.  The position of those edges will depend  on the size of your composition.  My comp is 320x240, the layer is 100x100, so the resulting position values work. (Note: I modified the orientation so all of the "normals" for each layer are pointing outward)

5. Orient each of the triangle layers toward the center.  In this capture below, the comp window is looking at the FRONT VIEW.  These triangles happen to share a 60 tilt, enough to bring them together at a point.

6.  The last thing left to do is PARENT all of the pyramid's side layer to the BASE.  When you move the base around, the pyramid sides will follow.

I've added a floor (3D Layer) as well a spot light with shadows so you can see a little more of the pyramid... they're kinda hard to see in Ae.

Well I hope this helped.  If you want the file, let me know in the DMN/After Effects forum and I'll shoot it out to you. (AE7)

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:tutorial, Adobe After Effects, 3D Layers, solid geometry, AE pyramid


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