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Cubic Distribution Light

Freebie allows for easy 3D distribution By Stephen Schleicher
What do you do if you need to take hundreds of layers in your After Effects composition and distribute them randomly in 3D space? If you are still using After Effects 5.5, the answer is ?manually for each and every layer. If you are using After Effects 6.0, then an included freebie Cubic Distribution Light from Digital Anarchy, is your key to moving your layers around.

First, I need to address what the free assistants from Digital Anarchy are, and what they are not. These assistants are not effects, but rather keyframe assistants designed to help you arrange layers in 3D space. Since they were designed to be used with 3D layers, you have to have layers in your After Effects Timeline designated as 3D layers.

The second item that needs to be pointed out about these assistants is where they are located. You will not find these assistants in the Effects menu (see above). They are located in the Window menu.

Finally, while these Light assistants from Digital Anarchy are good, they are still Light meaning they are not the full version. While they are quite capable of producing some amazing results, to fully appreciate the power behind the work Digital Anarchy has done, and to access some other assistants that allow you to quickly create video walls, spheres, etc., you really need to check out the EZ or Pro versions of the 3D Assistants (www.digitalanarchy.com).

Ok, with that out of the way, how does Cubic Distribution Light work?

Begin by launching After Effects 6.0 and create a New Solid (Command+Y) that is 100 x 100 pixels. Color does not matter in this example.

In the Timeline, make the Solid layer a 3D layer by turning on the 3D layer switch.

From the Window menu, select Cubic Distribution Light assistant from the pop up menu. If your Cubic Distribution Light is grayed out, it is probably because you dont have the Solid layer selected in the Timeline.

With the Cubic Distribution Light panel open, there are several options in order to help you distribute your layers.

?Wait a minute, you say, ?weve only gotone layer in our Timeline. How in the heck are we supposed to distribute multiple layers? What gives?

Fear not dear reader, all will become clear momentarily.

First you need to define the area your layers will be distributed in. X, Y, and Z axis are provided and you can define how thick each of these will be. For this example, we can use the default setting of 1000, 1000, 1000 (pixels). Remember this will create a cubic shape, however, depending on the number of layers that are created, and how close your camera is to this generated shape, you may or may not see the big cube.

Cubic distribution of 123 layers with the camera far away from the subject(s). Here you can see the overall cubic shape to the distribution.

Moving in close causes the elements to look as though they truly are random.

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