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Faking 3D with 2D layers in After Effects By Stephen Schleicher
Having a swarm of particles flying around in your After Effects composition is one way to add a great deal of depth to a complex animation. However great Particle Playground may be, it is still a 2D generator. You cant fly a camera around or through the emitter without the flatness becoming apparent. One alternative might be to create hundreds and hundreds of layers and position and animate them in 3D space. The drawback is that this is going to take a great deal of time. In the first of this three part exercise, well lay the groundwork for creating a rotating cloud of particles that can either orbit another layer, or rotate around an AE camera creating an interesting swarm of particles.

Sample of our final project.

Here is the problem suppose you want to create a 3D composition in After Effects and want a camera to orbit around something spherical say the planet Jupiter. Even if you take an image, mask it, and turn it into a 3D layer, the moment you move the camera around to the side of the object, the illusion falls apart.

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