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Create a spinning video cube
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Posted on September 22nd, 2005
Adobe After Effects
So you want to create a videocube.. and you came here to learn it. good.
Before we begin, there are a few things that you need to prepare. Here the list of things needed

  • 4 different videos (mpeg or avi)

  • 2 pics for the top and bottom view

  • a nice soundtrack

If you don't have all this things, then don't freak out, you can still follow my tutorial by downloading this files HERE
"be aware that I didn't included the soundtrack on the zip file due to copyright agreements"

After effects has the capability of the 3rd dimension for each independent layer, that's what we will going to use for our project.

I assume that you will download my footage files for this tutorial, so I will refer to those sizes, be aware that if you use other videos, you will need to fix around some of the values I've used.

Step 1:

To start off as always create a new composition this time with a size of 720x576 the PAL D1 Preset and a total length of 10 seconds. "you can use the size you want, but keep in mind that the values will not match anymore."

Now let us import our 4 videos into our project, this can be done by doing a right-click on the Project Window or by pressing CTRL+I.

Do you have it? Ok, now let's make a new composition for each of our movies. there is an easy way to do that,
First off select all 4 videos in your Project Window and drag them over to the "create a new composition" button.
Step 1

A new dialog window will popup and ask you, if you want to create a single or multiple compositions, we will select the multiple comps.
Step 1.1
You will see that now you have 4 complete new compositions done in 3seconds :)

Step 2:

Good, now let's drag this 4 new comps to our main composition we created at the beginning.
"I've renamed it to MAIN for better overview on the project, you can do that by opening your composition and do a right-click on the window and selecting composition settings.

Tick the 3D cube box on all layers to activate the 3d mode on them.

Now that we have our comps packed inside of our maincomp, let us open a new monitor window, to overview the whole project, this can be easily done by going to VIEW - NEW VIEW or by pressing ALT+SHIFT+N. On the bottom of that window you will see a button named "active camera" if you click on that you will find another bunch of camera views, what we need now is the TOP view.
Step 2

We just see a thin line in the middle of our video window.. that are all our videos placed automatically in the absolute middle.
Step 2.2

Step 3:

Let us separate thos 4 "grey lines" to see what we have, so select all 4 layers and press the P key and then press also SHIFT+R to show the position values of each layer and also the rotation values. Deselect all layers again and give each layer this position values:

1: 366 . 288 . -50
2: 366 . 288 . 0
3: 366 . 288 . 50
4: 366 . 288 . 100

now you should see 4 grey lines on your window, you can also switch between the cameras to get a clear overview of your workspace.
Step 3

Now I presume you already know what we're doing here, what we need to do now is move those lines to form a square. I will not go much into the detail abou that. I will rather give you the values I've used for it.

  • Layer 1: Position: 194 . 288 . 0 // Y-Rotation: +90

  • Layer 2: Position: 360 . 288 . 176 // Y-Rotation: +180

  • Layer 3: Position: 525 . 288 . 0 // Y-Rotation: -90

  • Layer 4: Position: 360 . 288 . -176 // Y-Rotation: 0

As you can see on my next picture, you will now have your perfect square.
Step 3.1

If you switch your camera to custom view 1 you will see our cube with a hole on the top and bottom, we will fix that later.
Step 3.2

Step 4:

If you try to spin or move one side of the cube you will notice that the other will not stick to it, in other words, if you want to move, scale or whatever you would need to do that for each side of the cube.. that's just too time expensive.. There is a solution for it. and the name is NULL OBJECT.

Create a new Null-Object by right-clicking the timeline and selecting New -> Null Object. you will get a red square in the middle of the comp, this will not be rendered or show in the final product, this is just a helper object, so let us put the object in the middle of the comp, by moving the anchor point to the coordinates (50, 50) and tick the 3d cube on the null object layer to give it the 3d capability.

Now select all 4 layers and link them to the null object by clicking on the parent button and selecting NULL 1 as a parent. This means that everything you change on the Null Object will be followed by the the 4 layers.
Step 4

Now if you select the null object and play around with the rotation settings you will see that the whole cube will follow your settings, isn't it cool? :)

Step 5:

If you just do a render now, you will not have the perspective view of the monitor window, after effects always renders the movie from the active camera view.. this means we have to create our own new camera to get a nice 3d view of the project. I will show you quickly how to create a camera and how to position it on the right place. for more informations about handling cameras please read the helpfile by pressing F1 ;)

Have you read the Help file? no? oh ok, then le'ts create one quickly..
Do a right-click on your timeline and go to New -> Camera, I've chosen a 24mm camera
"for this tutorial, it doesn't really matter what you take"

Here the values I've used for the camera positioning:
Step 5

If you switch back to custom view 1, you will see our camera displayed as a red box:
Step 5.1

Step 6:

Time to let the cube spin..

Go to our Null-Object and create a keyframe at position 00:00 for the Y-Rotation, and then go to position 10:00 and create a new keyframe by giving a value of 1x+0.0 (one full rotation) on the Y-axis.

And here is what you get! I've just rendered 5 seconds of the whole animation, you should render the whole 10 sec to see the movies running.

I've chosen this camera view to show you that the cube is hollow and the 4 small movies are viewable from the innerside of the cube..

I didn't showed you how to put the bottom and top caps.. that's now your part of the job.. have fun with it :)

Tiago Dias aka. Funkysoul
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