Element 3D Help Version 1.6 Update Version 1.5 Update Troubleshooting Compatibility 3D User Interface (Scene Setup) 3D Object Groups Relinking lost or missing files Exporting 3D Models & Materials Working with Materials The Animation Engine Text Bevel Scaling FAQ Linking Expressions with Element Render Settings Optimizing Performance & Rendering
Element 3D Help
The following tutorials are a great starting point for learning what Element 3D is all about.
Version 1.6 Update
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Version 1.5 Update
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Importing OBJ Sequences:In the Element Scene interface you can go to File/Import 3D Sequence and you can navigate to where your sequence is saved. Select the first obj in the sequence and select open. The whole sequence should be import and the amount of frames that will play is indicated by the number next to the model name. You can control the in and out points with the Start Frame and End Frame Option. Use the Frame offset to shift the animation forward or backward in time. Increase or decrease the speed at which the animation plays at with the Playback Speed, slower speeds may play choppy due to lack of model data to interpolate.
Baked animation options in the Element effects panelLoop mode: Options for how the animation plays back -Loop: Animation plays back continuously from beginning to end repeatedly
-Random Loop: Picks random point in time to start from and play from beginning to end continuously
-Freeze at end: Plays animation once
-Mirror: Plays forward then reverse continuously
GlowSelect Enable to turn on
Glow From Illumination: Glows from an illumination map and settings from the scene interface.
Glow From Luminance: Adds glow to all bright parts of the image Chromatic Diffraction: Creates an additional a glow with some color bleed similar to chromatic aberration. Material setting: Glow Amount: choose how much this material reacts to the main glow settings.
Custom Anchor point PositionOn the viewpoint options bar check the Show Grid which will show where the anchor point is located.
If you click on the Model name, the model options will show up and you can use the Anchor Offset options to manually adjust the anchor point position. Fog Taper: Create a thinner fog radius for a scan-like look. (screen shot also has model set to wireframe)
Ambient OcclusionAmbient Occlusion Weighting
AO amount: choose how much this material reacts to the main ambient occlusion settings.
Render ModesFull Render: All user defined setting are kept at what they are set to and at final quality
Preview: Turns off some of the more intensive render settings so it is at a more comfortable temporary working performance speed.
Draft: Turns off many features for fast temporary previews for animating.
Group OpacityForce Opacity: Control a single group's forced opacity.
UI Functionality/Hotkeys:Solo Material: Hold alt and click on the material button. Switch Object Group Number: Hold Alt and click on the group the number and this will switch the to the selected group number rather than selecting two. Auto normalize scale tab: Uncheck to turn off normalize scale for future models.
Replicator ShapeLayer Grid: This will use a layer shape to use as a particle replicator shape. Under Shape Options you can choose in the custom Layer dropdown what layer to use as the shape the particles will fill in.
TextSpike filter: If your text is having issues with undesirable spiking geometry, sometimes this is an issue with how the font is drawn. In some cases you can try increasing Spike Filer value and it will try to rid those spikes on the extrusion. You may also want to play with the path expand, possible adjusting it to a negative value in some cases, and this may get your extrusions looking nicer. Separate Objects: Allows each character or mask segment to be a separate object when using the multi-object feature. This is on by default.
Separation ModesBy Bounding Box: This separates each piece by the mask's bound box. This mode is faster, but less accurate. Sometimes if two characters are too close to each other, they will be grouped as one object.
By Geometry: If it is the case that your characters are too close together to use the By Bounding Box option, you can use this and it will make sure that your pieces are separated by separate geometry. More accurate than By Bounding Box, but can be a little slower.
Particle ReplicatorParticle Order: Choose how you particles are laid out in a particular replicator shape
Random: Randomly orders how the particle's positions are laid out
Forward: Loops the particle order sequentially (as relating to the order from top to bottom in the scene interface)
Backward: Loops the particle order sequentially in reverse (as relating to the order from bottom to top in the scene interface)
Mirror: Loops the particle order forward then backward Particle repeat: Choose the amount that each particle will repeat
ISSUES WITH ELEMENT CRASHING/LOCKING UP:
Is your video card compatible? Check Here
Update your graphics card:
ATI Cards: http://support.amd.com/us/Pages/AMDSupportHub.aspx
Nvidia Cards: http://www.geforce.com/drivers
Update After Effects.
Mac OS 10.6.8 minimum required.
Include the following in your email:Please provide your system information from within the plug-in. Please check out the screenshot on where to find these details. If the crash happens before you can access it, like a crash as soon as you apply Element or after licensing, please turn Caps Lock on before applying Element, that should allow you to proceed without crashes.
Operating System:Windows XP SP3, Vista and 7, 32bit and 64bit supported.
OS X 10.6.8 and later
After Effects Version:Element supports Adobe After Effects CS3, CS4, CS5, CS5.5 and CS6
Supported Graphics Cards:A 512 MB Graphics card, and 1GB or more is recommended for large scenes.
Geforce 8800 or better. Including Quadro 4000 or better and ATI Radeon 3870 or better.
NOTE: Be sure to keep your graphics card drivers up to date for best performance.
Element 3D User Interface (Scene Setup)The element Scene Setup features a custom user interface that allows you to assign 3D Objects into an output group. Object groups are like layers, giving users the ability to animate or control 3D objects independently through the Plug-in Effects Controls. This is useful when you want multiple Objects to animate or interact in the same scene with independent controls. The user interface also serves to extrude Shapes and create custom materials.
Editing the User Interface Layout:Each window inside element can be moved and repositioned for your screen preference. By dragging the window name bar (such as “Preview”), the window highlights the new position on release. You can also place the cursor between windows to stretch or shrink them. Drag windows around until you have found a suitable layout and Element will retain these settings for future use.
IMPORTANT: If the User Interface is not opening, hold down SHIFT and click “Scene Setup”, in the Element effects control panel, to reset the window position.
Importing 3D Models (2 Ways):
Element 3D Model Folder Location:Windows: Documents/VideoCopilot/Models Mac: Documents/VideoCopilot/Models
Model Browser:The model browser shows available 3D models that are ready to use with a single click. The model browser is helpful at organizing and finding models quickly without having to open them individually.
Atom particleWhen this icon is selected, it uses the 3d model as the particle type for your scene. It will use this particle to fill up a pre-defined Replicator Shape.
Replicator ArrayWhen this icon is selected, it uses the 3d model as the structure for the particle array. See 3D Object Groups for more information on the use of Replicator Arrays.
Renaming Objects and MaterialsDouble click the object or material NAME to input a new one. Or right click and choose RENAME.
Environment Map:Element uses an environment map to fake reflections and refractions for your scene. You can choose from the built-in images or import your own Spherical map. You can also adjust the Gamma, Contrast, Saturation, UV Repeat and UV Offset from inside the plug-in.
If you set an after effects layer from the Environment drop down it will override the Environment Map from the plug-in. This allows you to use an animated map, or a file format other than png or jpeg, for the environment map.
Extrude Objects:Element can extrude Text layers and layers with Masks using the Extrude Object. First set a text layer to Custom Layers drop-down on the plug-in side and then open the Scene Setup. Then click on the Extrude button at the top and the object will be extruded. Watch tutorial on working with extruded objects.
Applying Materials:Element includes several preset materials inside Material Browser. The presets can be applied to Material Slots on your model and each model has UV texture controls to adjust the size and position of texture maps. See Working with Materials.
Preview Options:The preview window allows you to view your 3D models and view material looks.
Preview window shortcuts:
The preview lighting modes allow you to see your models in various pre-made lighting setups but inside After Effects, models will use your scene lighting instead. You can also choose to show the Environment in the background or select a color.
Draft Textures affects the preview window only and allows models and materials to be opened faster by loading lower resolution textures. However, After Effects will load the full resolution textures when the UI is closed.
The wing arrow for the preview window also includes additional options and viewing modes such as wireframe and show model info. You can also reset the viewer to the default.
3D Object Groups
3D Object Groups:Element features 5 independent 3D groups that allow you individual control over the replicator setting and the 3D models you specify. Once a model is added inside the scene setup, you have the ability to select an output channel. For example you might put a 3D logo into Group 1 and a concrete floor model on Group 2 so you can animate the parts individually.
Particle Replicator:The Particle array allows you to replicate particles into the shape of a pre-defined object structure. The entire replicator array can also be moved around using the position controls. There are also controls for the size of the array shape, but keep in mind these are separate from the actual Particle properties. If multiple 3D objects are set to the same group inside the Scene Setup, these objects will be replicated randomly in your array.
Using a 3D model as my Replicator Shape:Inside the User Interface you can choose a 3D model and select the icon for the Replicator and set the channel you want to use. Then when you choose the 3D model mode from the replicator shape, the particles will form that structure. The array uses the vertex positions from the 3D model so be careful when using objects that have too much detail so your particle count is not overloaded.
Particle Look:Element uses 3D models as particles and these particles can be modified together from the Particle Look settings. Control things like Size Color tint, and rotation. To change the position of the object in 3D space, use the Particle replicator position.
Multi-Object Particle Settings:Element can bring in objects that contain multiple pieces of geometry. Although the object appears as a single particle, the multi-object control allows you to animate the position of these pieces independently to create things like shattering or dispersion. You can even use these settings to take a model of an engine and then break it apart in 3D space then animate it back together. This feature
3D Particle Look:After you assign a 3D object to a group from inside the Scene Setup, you can control how it looks, such as Size, Rotation, and Color. The randomization will affect multiple particles that are set inside the Replicator such Size and Rotation random.
Randomize Angle:The randomize Angle feature allows you to generate a random angle for each particle based on a specific multiplier. For example if you were creating a city using multiple buildings that need to stay at a right angle, a value of 90 degrees will allow buildings to stay perpendicular but hide apparent repeating.
Copy Paste & Reset Groups:Each group has special buttons that allow you to copy the settings and paste them to another group or reset an entire group back to default. This can be handy for copying many settings to another group as a starting point.
Exporting 3D Models & Materials for Element 3DElement supports both OBJ and C4D file formats. Multiple material channels, UV coordinates, smoothing groups and 3D files with multiple objects as separate parts. Objects imported into Element that contain textures will need to be rebuilt by assigning the texture images to the material slots.
Supported 3D Formats:
Multiple Material Slots:Once imported into Element, each object in your scene displays the Material slots for each of the materials saved in original 3D model. If you want to access multiple materials on a single object in Element, you must first apply multiple materials to your object inside your 3D program then re-save the model to allow Element to register the multiple material slots.
Supported Texture Image Formats:PNG (8-bit or 16-bit)
NOTE: If you need to load a different file format: Import the file into the After Effects timeline and select it as a Custom Layer.
Exporting from Cinema 4D:Cinema 4D users do not need to export OBJ files but instead save C4D files natively. However, in order to preserve complex geometry you must allow the additional polygon data to be available by turning on the “Melange Export” from the Cinema 4D file Preferences.
Exporting an OBJ from 3D Max, Maya or Blender:Select a model and choose Export and select the OBJ file format. It may be necessary to export as Triangles instead of Quads for complex Geometry since Element only renders triangles, the automatic conversion from polygons to triangles may not be as accurate.
Working with MaterialsElement 3D offers many useful features for creating, saving and editing materials in your scene. Once an object is imported into Element 3D, the material slots from the original model becomes available to edit and add textures. You can select the material to edit, or replace it with a material preset from the library.
Element creates material slots based on what is saved in the 3D model, but it can be useful to separate parts of a model to create separate looking surfaces. See: Creating Multiple Material slots from inside your 3D program
Applying Material Presets:You can drag a Material Preset from the library onto any material slot of a 3D object in your scene. An instance of this preset will be added to the editable SCENE MATERIALS window. Using a preset material is a good way to learn how materials are constructed and also great starting points for speeding up your work.
Scene Materials:Scene materials represent the materials used or imported into the current scene. If a scene material is applied to multiple material slots, the changes made to this one material will affect all instances as one. You can also click on the side arrow to “Remove Unused Materials” that are no longer needed in your scene.
Duplicating Materials:You can right click and duplicate a material to create a unique copy. Duplicate and replace, will duplicate the material and replace the current one with the copy.
Saving a Material Preset:If you would like to reuse a material in future projects you can RIGHT CLICK on the material thumbnail and choose “Save Material Preset”. This preset will be available in your preset library. It is a good idea to first copy any image maps to the Element Material folder so they will stay linked up.
Material Settings:Element 3D Offers many familiar settings for creating a variety of surfaces such as concrete, metal, plastic and more. Texture slots are also available when you need to use images on your shader instead of solid colors.
Custom Texture Maps:You can select a layer from your composition to be used as texture map in Element. Select the layer you would like to use, in the Custom Texture Maps Layer parameter. In the scene interface click on the desired texture slot, and click the wing next to where it says load texture. Then select the Custom Layer that you loaded your layer into. One useful way of using this is adding video to objects that would have screens (cell phones, tvs, ect).
Force Opacity:Using the openGL standard we are not able to generate true opacity for objects but we have built in way to lower the opacity of materials to create a fake glass effect. The order of elements behind the glass may not always be accurate so use under controlled scenes.
Matte Shadow:The matte shadow option is available for all materials so that you can turn any object invisible to the camera but still receive ambient occlusion shading.
Matte Shadow Obscuration:You can also use the matte shadow option to obscure 3D objects for compositing in After Effects. This would work similar to a layer obscuration.
The Animation Engine
Using the Animation Engine:The animation engine allows you to intelligently blend, or interpolate the “STATE” of objects in one group into the “STATE” of objects in another Group. For example if the objects in Group 1 form a ring and the objects in Group 2 form a box, the animation engine will animate the position from the ring to the box.
Blending Properties: (What stuff will interpolate?):
Group Selection:Use the group selection allows you to choose what 2 group channels you want to animate between. The particle count will automatically be set to the Start Group amount since the animation engine requires the particle count to be the same for both groups.
Animation Type:In addition to using the Blend amount you can also use the Smoothness and Randomness to refine the speed of the particles.
Dual Animation Mode:This mode allows particles to start animating with a specific Blend mode like Radial but finish using a different sequence like Direction. You can also use the dual sequence mode with directional to have 2 separate blending directions for outgoing and incoming particles.
Time Delay Options:The time delay option allows you to retime certain properties so that they are achieved at a different time than the other properties. For example, you could make it so the material blending happens first and then the position of the particles interpolates next.
Text Bevel Scaling
Here is how to have your preset bevels work when you have longer text.
Apply a Bevel preset to the extruded text. Make the look you want.
Edit the text inside AE to be longer.
As you can see, once the text is edited to be longer in characters the scale of the preset is now a bit larger than what you'd expect.
All you need to do is uncheck the "Auto preset scale" checkbox.
Now what you want to do is adjust the "bevel scale" to the desired size.
Now your longer text has the correct bevels associated with it.
Does Element Cast Shadows from lights?:Not yet but we have this on our road map!
Does Element allow animated 3D Objects?:Not yet... Since OBJ files are very slow to load, an animated sequence would cause memory and performance issues so we decided to test more intelligent formats for bringing animation into Element that is faster and more robust.
Does Element have a physics system:Not exactly. Element is an array based plug-in that works by having an absolute particle count and positions. Our unique Animation Engine is able to do amazing things when it knows exactly where particles are at no matter what. This system can be used to achieve many creative animations without sacrificing the control as in simulation based systems. Since we do not have a traditional particle emitter, particles do not automatically animate over time
Why are my shapes looking squished?Turn your aspect ratio in your composition settings to square pixel
Why is my Element looking flat and not 3D?Make sure the layer that your Element 3D is applied to DOES NOT have the 3D switch on.
Why can't I rotate around my objects?Go to your Camera Settings and make sure that it is set to a Two-Node Camera and NOT a one-node camera. This will allow you to rotate around a "point of interest"
Also make sure that you have "live update" on in your comp
Why aren't all my objects in my scene?Element groups work in two ways: Either a group is controlling one single object, or an array of objects. For example, if you have 3 objects set to a group, but your particle number is only set to 1; you will only have one object in your scene. If you have 3 objects and a particle number of 5; you will have an array of 5 randomly generated objects in one single group.
If you have two objects and would like to control them independently, you must designate one of them for group 1 and the other for group 2,3,4, or 5.
Why aren't my textures being imported into Element?Element does not import texture maps. It imports material slots for you to rebuild your materials and textures in Element. You can right click your model to save a model preset in Element so you do not have to rebuild them again for future projects.
How do I get objects to relfect each other?Element does not support "ray-traced" reflections. So objects cannot reflect each other. This is for sake of speed on the GPU. It is possible for this to be "faked" in certain scenarios. (ie text being duplicated, rotated, and blured to appear to be reflecting the on the ground)
Why is my model gray and not mapping textures correctly?
Why can I see through some polygons?Make sure that your model doesn't have any backwards polygon normals
You can also go to your material options, and turn on the "draw backfaces" switch, and this will render the backsides of polygon normals
Lighting:By default all lights have infinite falloff but you can use the falloff setting to give lighting a more natural look when lights are farther away from your objects.
Motion Blur:To enable motion blur for Element turn on the layer switch for motion blur and then toggle the motion blur switch on the timeline. The motion blur samples will smooth out fast motion but take longer to render.
Fog:The Fog render effect adds depth to large scenes and create unique lighting effects. You can control the START DISTANCE of the Fog and the RANGE which controls the falloff. You can have a negative Start Distance and Range to create interesting lighting effects.
Depth of Field:Element features several modes for generating Depth of field and one mode that visualizes the focus plane with a red highlight.
Ambient Occlusion (SSAO):Ambient Occlusion is used to simulate soft shading without casting shadows. Controlling the radius and intensity will help you achieve a specific look but there are many advanced settings for refining the shadow look.
Samples: Controls how many samples are calculated per pixel.
Radius: Controls the search distance to calculate the shading and makes the shading tighter or broader.
Depth Influence: The ambient occlusion works in screen space but the depth influence varies the shading radius so that objects far away that get smaller do not get lost.
Fog Influence: This controls how intense the ambient occlusion is when fog is enabled.
Illumination Influences: This controls how much the ambient occlusion affects illuminated materials.
Adaptive Blur: The adaptive blur settings allow you to smooth out the samples based on the direction of polygons in order to keep the shading consistent.
Output Settings:Element features several advanced image processing settings that balance performance and quality.
Sampling and Aliasing
Optimizing Performance & RenderingElement uses all the tricks in the book for rendering and optimizing, but when scene complexity increases it is important to know
Update GPU Drivers:Check for updated drivers before using Element, there are many stability and performance changes in these GPU drivers from Nvidia you don’t want to be without!
CPU rendering VS GPU Rendering:On the CPU a more complicated scene will just take longer to render, but on the GPU, if the scene or memory requirements are too high, the GPU will crash so it is important to manage your GPU’s resources by closing unnecessary GPU programs and watching texture memory usage. A graphics card with 2GBs of VRAM will allow you to create more complex scenes compared to a card with only 512MBs.
GPU Resources:Many programs such as Photoshop and 3D games use GPU resources so it is a good idea to close unnecessary programs to get the most out of Element.
Memory Management:Image textures will fill up your graphics card memory fast if you are not careful. Using fewer texture maps and lower resolution files will help keep memory available for rendering.
Motion Blur & Depth of Field:Multi-Pass depth of field can be slow to render in complex scenes. Using motion blur with depth of field will make the scene 8 times slower to render. When working you may want to toggle Depth of Field off until final rendering to keep the responsiveness of the Plug-in.
Closing or limiting GPU based FX:Since computers and software often take advantage of the GPU you may want to limit unnecessary usage to improve your Element performance so try to close programs like Photoshop when not using them to preserve memory consumption. The Element UI show the memory used and memory available on the GPU but this is not the memory Element is using but the total memory the card is using altogether.
Lower Multi-Sampling:The multi-sampling mode can improve memory performance on older or less powered cards by using less memory to render. If you are using extremely large comps it may be the only way to render them on the GPU due to memory limitations.
Restarting is always a good idea:If your GPU is overloaded or you want to freshen it up, just restart the computer. It can help!
Keep the texture memory down:If you do not have a lot of memory on your graphics card or you have a complex scene with many texture maps, try to avoid Custom and Animated Maps. Load still images directly into Element so they are only cached once.