New 3D extrusions, bendable footage, and ray-tracing
Adobe has totally reworked the After Effects CS6 3D environment. Text and shape layers can now be extruded with beveled edges, and footage clips, images, and solid layers or even sub-comps can be bent in 3D space. And all 3D objects can interact with each other to cast shadows, reflections, transparency, specular and diffused light, and more. Ray-traced rendering enhances the 3D objects with much more realism than ever before, with environment mapping and light refraction through transparent materials.
While these significant 3D enhancements have been made, it’s clear that Adobe isn’t trying to compete in the 3D modeling or application space. The tools provided only generate some more realistic results without the need to rely on third-party plug-ins for basic animations and motion graphics, but you will still need something like Zaxworks to produce 3D elements featuring bump mapping and sophisticated texturing.
You can’t import 3D models with this release, nor will the Live 3D layers from Photoshop CS5.5 work with this new 3D environment: They never truly worked interactively with other 3D elements in previous versions, so no real loss there. I do wish Adobe would have included at least some simple primitive shape objects to build on.
The ray-tracer replaces the older scanline-based Classic 3D renderer, which supports refined rendering of soft shadows, light falloff, DOF, motion blur, and project through lights. The specular highlights can be intensified and focused on any object, and reflections can display focus and blur for added realism.