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3D Model Import - NEW v2 FAQ and Documentation

Adobe Employee ,
Aug 09, 2023 Aug 09, 2023

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3D model import was originally released to After Effects Beta in October 2022. So much has changed in the past 10 months! Since new features are being released today, we thought this would be a good time to recap the entire feature set and provide a new FAQ.

 

This document reflects the state of 3D model import and rendering features as of After Effects Beta build 24.0x23, released on August 9, 2023. Where possible, we have linked to existing documentation already offered at helpx.adobe.com, which will be the eventual home for all of this.

 

Overview 

3D model import in After Effects Beta allows you to import 3D model files in OBJ, GLTF, and GLB format and render them in the same 3D space as native After Effects cameras, lights, and other 3D layers. A new high-quality, performance-oriented composition renderer, Mercury 3D, enables this rendering. Environment lights, a new type of 3D light layer available in the Mercury 3D renderer, add realistic image-based lighting and shadows. 

 

System Requirements 

The Mercury 3D renderer requires a GPU with at least 4GB of VRAM. On Windows, the GPU must support Direct 3D feature level 11.1 or higher. 

 

Mercury 3D composition renderer 

The Mercury 3D composition renderer is a high-quality, performance-oriented 3D renderer. The underlying rendering engine is shared with other Adobe and Substance products, and uses Adobe Standard Material properties for physically-based rendering. 

 

In After Effects Beta, the Mercury 3D renderer is the only renderer capable of rendering 3D models. It will also render other 3D layers, such as extruded text and shape layers, cameras, lights, and “2.5D” plane layers, all in the same 3D space. 

 

The Mercury 3D renderer lights 3D layers in the comp using a default environment light. This light is disabled when there is at least one active light layer on the current frame, or can be customized by creating a new environment light layer. The default environment light does not cast shadows. 

 

Renderer quality and environment layer shadows can be controlled in the Renderer Options dialog, which you can open from either Composition Settings > 3D Renderer or in the 3D Renderer drop-down menu at the bottom of the Composition panel. 

 

Importing 3D model files 

3D model files can be imported from your local disk, or from your Creative Cloud Libraries. 

 

On import, a new folder with the model's name is created in the project for the 3D model file. If the 3D model file has dependent files (texture image files and BIN for GLTF or MTL and MDL for OBJ), they are also placed inside this folder. This ensures that collecting the project (File > Dependencies > Collect Files) captures all dependent files. 

 

Supported 3D file formats: 

  • OBJ (Wavefront Object)OBJ is one of the most commonly used 3D model file formats and was developed several decades ago by Wavefront Technologies. 
  • GLTF and GLB (graphics language transmission format and graphics language transmission format binary):  GLTF is a newer, royalty-free specification for the efficient transmission and loading of 3D scenes which is developed and maintained as an open standard by the Khronos Group. GLTF, and its binary package format GLB, has a wider variety of features than OBJ, including scene cameras and lights, data compression, and model animation. 

 

GLB is the preferred file format for most uses in After Effects because it is a single-file package that includes all dependent resource and texture data. GLTF and OBJ both rely on additional files which, while not inherently problematic, require additional file tracking by the project. 

 

3D Cache 

After Effects Beta creates a 3D Cache folder in the same location as the disk cache. You can set the disk cache location in Preferences > Media &Disk Cache > Disk Cache. 

 

The most significant use of the 3D cache is that OBJ files are converted on import to a GLB file stored in the cache. GLB provides a more robust reference for the Mercury 3D renderer. The project will continue to reference the source OBJ file on disk; the cached GLB is only for rendering reference. 

 

The 3D cache can be emptied by doing any of the following: 

  • Click the Empty 3D Cache button in Preferences > 3D. 
  • Choose Edit > Purge > All 3D Cache or Edit > Purge > All Cache. 

 

Important: Emptying the 3D cache does not remove cached files for 3D models in use by the open project. To remove all 3D cache files, close the open project first. 

After Effects Beta will recreate any necessary cache files when a project is opened. 

 

Using 3D models in a composition 

When you add a 3D model to a comp for the first time: 

  • The composition renderer is set to Mercury 3D. 
  • The Model Settings dialog appears. This dialog allows you to adjust the scale and axis properties of the model. 

 

The Model Settings dialog can be opened at any time by selecting the model in the Project, Timeline, or Composition panels and choosing Layer > Model Settings. 

 

Once 3D models are in your comp, you can use all the existing 3D tools in After Effects to help you create and navigate your comp: 

 

Extract cameras and lights from 3D models 

Animated cameras and lights saved in a GLTF or GLB file can be converted into native After Effects cameras and lights: https://helpx.adobe.com/after-effects/using/work-in-3D-space.html#extract-cameras-and-lights-from-3d... 

 

Using 3D model layers as effect inputs 

While effects cannot be applied to 3D model layers, you can use 3D model layers as the input for effects that use a layer as input. This capability opens a universe of creative possibilities. 

 

The basic workflow is outlined here: https://community.adobe.com/t5/after-effects-beta-discussions/feature-focus-reference-3d-model-layer... 

 

Environment Lights 

Environment lights create realistic lighting, reflections, and shadows on 3D layers by surrounding the scene with an image-based environment map. Environment lights are a new feature exclusive to the Mercury 3D renderer in After Effects Beta. 

 

To add an environment light, choose Layer > New > Light, and set the Light Type to Environment. 

Environment lights use a default environment map. This can be changed to use an HDR or HDRI format image layer as an environment map: 

  1. Import an HDR (Radiance HDR) file into your project. 
  2. Add the HDR file to a comp with an environment light. 
  3. Twirl open the environment light’s properties in the Timeline panel.
  4. Set the light’s Source property to the HDR layer. 

 

The HDR layer’s visibility will be disabled when it is chosen as an environment map. You can re-enable this if you wish, however this will continue to be a 2D render of the layer. To simulate the HDR layer as a background scene layer, apply the CC Environment effect to a solid layer the same dimensions as the comp. 

 

Note: The existing Layer > Environment Layer switch does not work with the Mercury 3D renderer. This option works only with the Cinema 4D renderer.

 

There are many HDR and HDRI environment maps available to download on the internet, including from Adobe Stock, or you can create your own using Substance 3D Sampler. 

 

While environment lights only accept HDR format files as environment maps, you can easily convert other image file formats to HDR using Photoshop: 

  1. Open the image file in Photoshop. 
  2. Choose Image > Mode > 32 Bits/Channel. (Radiance format requires 32 bits per channel.) 
  3. Choose File > Save As or Save a Copy. 
  4. Set the Format to Radiance. 

 

You can also export a Radiance HDR file from After Effects comp: choose Composition > Save Frame As > File, then open Output Module settings and set the Format to Radiance. 

 

Environment maps must be single HDR frame layers, not sequences. Effects and animation applied to the environment map are ignored. 

 

Environment light shadows 

When the Light Options > Casts Shadows option is enabled for an environment light, all 3D layers in the scene will cast voxel shadows. 

 

Note that the default environment light does not cast shadows. You must add an environment light layer to cast shadows. 

 

Voxel shadows are memory intensive. The shadow settings are controlled in the Renderer Options dialog, which you can open from either Composition Settings > 3D Renderer or in the 3D Renderer drop-down menu at the bottom of the Composition panel. 

  • Anti-aliasing: Adjust how blocky the shadows look. Higher values can use extremely large amounts of memory. 
  • Smoothness: Reduce or increase the amount noise in the shadows. Default is 3. There is an inverse relationship between Smoothness and Render Quality. When Render Quality is set lower, you will want a higher Smoothness value, and vice-versa. 
  • Casting Box Size and Casting Box Center: To limit memory use, voxel shadows are only cast inside a limited box in the scene. Making the box larger spreads the voxel resolution across a bigger area, causing shadows to get softer. While the Mercury 3D Render Options dialog is open, the cube is represented in the comp by a magenta outline. 

 

More improvements are planned for visualizing the voxel shadow box. 

 

Scripting access to environment layer light type 

Using scripting to read the lightType property of a LightLayer object will return  LightType.ENVIRONMENT for an environment light. 

  

Known Issues 

In general, please be aware that rendering and shadow quality is a work in progress. Expect changes in future builds. Below are some of the most significant, currently-known issues: 

  • Ambient lights in the same comp as an environment light are brighter than expected. 
  • Spot, Point, and Parallel light intensities are dimmer than expected. 
  • Voxel shadows ignore transparent areas in layers that cast shadows. 
  • Models from Adobe Stock that use ASM properties don’t currently render in After Effects Beta. 
  • Limitations: the Mercury 3D renderer does not support the following: 
    • Depth of field 
    • Motion blur 
    • Non-environment lights do not enable Cast Shadows, Shadow Darkness, Shadow Diffusion 
    • 3D layers do not enable Accepts Lights, Casts Shadows, Appears in Reflections, Reflection Intensity, Reflection Sharpness, Transparency Coefficient, Transparency Rolloff, Index of Refraction, Light Transmission, Accepts Shadows 

 

FAQ 

 

Importing 3D models 

  • Will more 3D model formats be supported? USDZ, FBX, Alembic, etc. 
    • We intend to enable more 3D model formats in the future, once the core 3D model import and rendering features are complete. 
  • Where can I get 3D models? 
    • Anywhere you can find them! Adobe Stock is a great place to start. 
  • How can I get a 3D model from Substance? 
    • The easiest path is to import your model into Stager. Select the model, go to File > Export > Selected models, and choose either GLTF, GLB, or OBJ to export. 
  • Can I import Substance materials and lights? 
    • Using materials and lights generated by the Substance family of products is on our road map for the future. 
  • How can I get a 3D model from Illustrator? 
    • You can export the files in OBJ format from the Asset Export panel in Illustrator. These can be imported directly into After Effects or use Substance to apply materials first. 
  • Why don’t my 3D model’s textures get imported and rendered? 
    • Currently only JPEG and PNG format images are supported for textures. Texture files in other formats will be ignored. 
  • What should I do if my 3D model is imported incorrectly? 
    • We tested many models but are interested in seeing what models you may be working with that are not importing correctly. Tell us about what you ran into. 

 

Working with 3D models 

  • Why can’t I apply effects to model layers? 
    • We haven’t yet figured out what it means to apply a 2D effect directly to a 3D model. For now, you can use a 3D model layer as the input for effects that reference layers. 
  • Why doesn’t the Properties panel show properties for 3D models, cameras, or lights? 
    • We’re working on adding this for the future. The current priority for After Effects Beta is to import and render models with quality. 
  • When will depth of field and motion blur be supported? 
    • These are on our roadmap for the future. 
  • Can I edit 3D models inside of After Effects? 
    • General 3D modeling is not the goal of these features. 
  • Can I access the rigging of 3D models? 
    • Internal rigging / bones / joints are not accessible. However, you can use parenting and expressions to connect 3D objects as you have always been able to in After Effects. 
  • Can I access arbitrary output variables (AOV) for my models or scene?  
  • Can I export my comp as a 3D scene to use in another application? 
  • Can I use expressions or scripting with 3D models? 
    • Existing scripting and expression API’s work with 3D model layers and environment light. We’re planning to extend scripting and expression support to the new properties of 3D model layers in the future. Scripting access to the lightType property of environment lights is currently available, as described above. 
  • Can I curve or warp 2D layers in 3D?  
    • 2D plane layers (solids, footage, pre-comps, etc.) can be curved in 3D space. Enable the 3D layer switch for the layer, then twirl open the layer properties > Geometry Options. There is no option or effect to warp layers in 3D, currently. 

 

Working with materials 

  • Can I edit material properties inside of After Effects? 
    • Not right now. We’re working on workflows for materials inside of After Effects Beta. 
  • Why doesn’t my 3D model render Redshift materials? 
    • Material definitions other than Adobe Standard Materials (ASM) will not render. ASM includes mapping for common PBR material parameters produced by 3D modeling applications. For more information, please refer to the ASM standard specification. 

 

Environment Lights 

  • Why can I only use HDR files for environment maps? Can I use other image files, or a pre-comp? 
    • The renderer requires a 32-bpc, HDR format image for image-based lighting. Creating a pipeline for arbitrary layer support is on our roadmap. 
  • Why is the Layer > Environment Layer option disabled? 
    • This option was developed for a different workflow that did not include image-based lighting. The new environment light type provides a more complete solution for 3D environments, and we’re investigating improvements for the future. 
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Community Expert ,
Aug 12, 2023 Aug 12, 2023

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The New Environment Lights with HDR looks amazing 

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Explorer ,
Aug 17, 2023 Aug 17, 2023

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I can't seem to add HDR's to my environment light. There is no dropdown menu next to SOURCE in my environment light's options, despite having multiple HDR file in my comp.

 

Beta 24.0.0 build 28

 

 Screenshot 2023-08-17 100949.jpg

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Explorer ,
Aug 17, 2023 Aug 17, 2023

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update - Hitting F4 to expand the layer switches solved the issue...duh. Dunno if the dropdown is supposed to be visible in both layer toggles or not.

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New Here ,
Sep 06, 2023 Sep 06, 2023

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Looking for a full workflow that describes how to bring a .glb file (my model is exported from Revit into Blender and saved as a glb)

1.png

From there I:

- Open AAE and bring in my drone footage into the scene
1.png

- Apply 3D Camera Tracker effect and solve

- Slide the red target around to choose the best triangulation and setting Ground Plane/Origin

1.png

- Drag my .glb model into the scene

What happens is the model comes in in perspective bu looking very close to your eye. When I adjust the location to look more in place it doesn't track well at all to the scene/video.

Any advice? Thanks in advance.

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Explorer ,
Sep 27, 2023 Sep 27, 2023

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Hi,

 

I'm experiencing some trouble with the 3d import. I only get a bounding box of my models. This happens also when I use a model from the Adobe Stock library. I'm using Beta version 24.1.0.30. I tried changing the render engine but that didn't work. I'm using the latest Nvidia Driver. Any thoughts?Screenshot 2023-09-27 151618.png

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New Here ,
Oct 03, 2023 Oct 03, 2023

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Hi there! I'm on an M2 Max MBP. Am I correct in assuming that Mercury 3D is unsupported on Apple Silicon? I can't seem to find that definitive answer anywhere, but am on the latest beta and no Mercury 3D anywhere, though Advanced 3D still seems to be working and OBJ/GLB import are working as well...

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