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Tutorial: Creating a 3D Look with 4K Footage in Adobe After Effects CC

In this tutorial, we explore how to add depth and visual interest to your videos by applying 3D properties in Adobe After Effects and leveraging the additional pixel real estate in 4K footage used for 1080p HD projects.

In this tutorial, I'll show you hot to create a 3D look with 4K footage using Adobe After Effects CC. In the project we'll use as an example, we're creating a video that will be delivered inb 1080p HD. Because the majority of us are creating online videos in 1080p HD (1920x1080), I thought it would be interesting to use the 3840x2160 or 4096x2160 UltraHD/4K footage that many of our cameras are capable of recording, and manipulate it to add 3D-like depth to our videos. Now, I know that sounds like a lot of numbers, but the idea here is that we're playing with the extra image with which 4K recordings provide us.

Figure 1 (below) shows a preview of the final project.

Figure 1. Preview of the final project with the completed effect. Click the image to see it at full size.

Working with the 4K Clip in After Effects

We;ll start with the 4K clip loaded into After Effects. This clip was recorded with the GoPro, and we've already marked the In and Out points we want to use in our footage panel (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Our 4K GoPro footage in After Effects, with In and Out points marked. Click the image to see it at full size.

To begin, we'll Overlay Edit the clip into the After Effects timeline. The composition on the timeline has been created with 1080 settings. You can change these settings by pressing Command+K (Mac OS) or Ctrl+K (Windows) to open the Composition Settings dialog (Figure 3, below). To achieve this effect, you'll need to select one of the 1080 settings using the Preset pull-down, then click OK.

Figure 3. Make sure you've selected a 1080 preset for your composition.

Now, as you move the playhead, you'll see that the 4K clip is much larger than than the 1080 settings. Drag your footage around in the Composition panel to see how much picture you have to play with.

In order to start manipulating the clip, we need to enable the 3D options for this layer. You can do this by navigating to the Cube icon next to the layer (Figure 4, below) and selecting it for that clip.

Figure 4. Enabling 3D options for the currently selected layer.

From here, in the drop-down that appears, we can click the disclosure triangle next to Transform to open the Transform properties and start playing with the values (Figure 5, below). I like to adjust the X, Y, and Z Rotation values to the right or left to start getting some unique looks. Obviously, you could go to town here, but how much rotational skew will work will vary based on your specific project and the look you're trying to achieve.

Figure 5. Adjusting the Transform properties in the 3D options to add rotational skew to the layer.

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