Video Copilot is a invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn After Effects. While host and effects guru Andrew Kramer likes to focus on “fun, guy-stuff” like making explosions, effects for the new Star Trek movie, and teleportation, the techniques he shows you can be applied to any workflow or project that you might be working on.
In addition to over 100 free tutorials on the site, VC also makes a collection of stock footage, effects, and recently, AE plug-ins. Optical Flares was the first real game changer that they released, as it is a high-end, fully customizable lens flare creation studio that exceeds industry veterans like Knoll Light Factory at a fraction of the cost. Their most recent creation, released over a year ago, is Element 3D. Element 3D is essentially a particle creation system that allows you to work with true 3D objects inside of After Effects. While it doesn’t have all the capabilities of a full on 3D program like Cinema 4D or 3DSMax (for example, there are no physics simulations, and it doesn’t produce true ray traced images) you can still to a ton of awesome things, create beautiful renders, and do it all with a fraction of the normal render time.
I’ve only just gotten my hands on it; I’ve watched a few tutorials, and then just jumped in. Below is my first render using Element. While it’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, I think it looks pretty darn good considering:
-Total build time from 2D image on the internet to textured, lit, and animated 3D object – 1hr 15 minutes
-Total render time, including Ambient Occlusion, motion blur, and Depth of Field – 6 min 46 seconds