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This is the code needed to draw the “Beam” effect between two objects that are in After Effects 3D space:

Add “Beam” to a solid (not a Null!).

Add this expression on the Beam “Starting Point” property (replace text in “quotes” with your layer names, of course):

L = thisComp.layer("name_of_another_layer_in_the_timeline");


Add this expression on the Beam “Ending Point” property:

L = thisComp.layer("name_of_the_target_layer_in_the_timeline");

Here’s a link to more usage of the Beam effect between dynamic objects in only 2D.

While there may be other issues, the biggest one that keeps catching me when trying to import Illustrator layers to After Effects is if the person creating the artwork forgot to check “save as PDF compatible file” when they saved it.  Without that check, the preview won’t show in Finder, and the file coming into After Effects will be in one flat layer.

I needed to animate an industrial product that only existed as Solidworks. I didn’t have a direct line of communication with the CAD guy, which didn’t help. So, from him I got a solidworks file.

From my research, I found the Polytrans might be a good pipeline solution. Their product is basically intended for that conversion. (PC only)

0. If you can get the SW person to turn off what you don’t need before export (like internal parts that won’t show), this would’ve made my job easier.
1. Open the SW or .igs (IGES) file in a trial (or purchased) version of MOI (Moment of Inspiration). It’s a bit of a fringe application, but has the nice feature of being able to open a SW file.
2. Crawl my way through the MOI interface deleting parts that I didn’t need. (It was a complete unit with a thousand internal parts)
3. Export to OBJ. IMPORTANT: There’s an interface that would let me dictate how curved surfaces are tessellated. It took a bit of trial and error to get this how I liked it. I had to do multiple exports because the tesselator didn’t have adaptive adjustments. That means that tight little curves could get by with less tessellation in one export, but long sweeping curves (like the ergonomic desk) needed a higher count. This higher count was too heavy to apply to everything, hence the multiple exports.
4. Open in C4D and ungroup the polys.
5. Enjoy an afternoon of re-grouping every item into a useable hierarchy.

It was a no-cost solution, but by no means an obvious or simple workflow. In hindsight, It’d be worth a few hundred dollars if Polytrans (or other) simplified that process.

When I tried to use a PNG sequence as a texture in Cinema 4D, it only showed the first frame and didn’t animate.

Solution: When I import, it asked “Do you want to create a copy at the project location?” To this I must hit “NO”. Don’t ask me why, but saying yes prevents it from using the sequence, and only uses the first frame.

Despite this issue, don’t forget the correct methodology:
– Make a material, and load the sequence into the Color (or other) channel by selecting the Texture button within the channel.
– Choose first frame of image sequence, say “NO!” to creating a copy
– In the Animation properties, select Calculate at the bottom to load all the frames
– Back in the Material, select Editor tab and check Animate Preview to see it updated in the Viewport.

If I have a group of objects, I often want to adjust their overall visibility without seeing an “x-ray” effect, where I see all their internal structures. I want to just have a semi-transparent group of objects. To do this, I can animate their transparency with the Display Tag, but the group also needs a Compositing Tag with Seen by Transparency turned OFF.


In this image, the torus is seen behind the other transparent objects, but we don’t see the internal collisions of the other objects.

Handy for tradeshow fly-throughs

There’s a ridiculous bug in After Effects 2014.2.  (or maybe the OS I’m using?  10.10.3 Yosemite)

When I Collect Files, during the process if I move my mouse/input device the Collection will fail, leaving a partial “Footage” folder, and no AE file. 
If I use the Return key to start it and DON’T TOUCH MY MOUSE it works!

Additional bug:
When Collecting, the “Reduce Project” check-box option doesn’t seem to work in any case. However, it seems to work correctly when used outside of the Collect Files process.


Discovered the solution here:

There seems to be a bug/conflict with internal platter drives greater than 4T ,  Mac OS 10.10.3 (Yosemite) , Disk Utility, and my souped up 2010 Mac hardware. When I bought a new 4T Toshiba drive, Disk Utility incorrectly formatted it to be a Logical Volume Group drive. This works, but I noticed it was wrong because it had no S.M.A.R.T. status, and couldn’t be used as a startup disk, which was my intended use (nightly backup clone of my OS using Carbon Copy Cloner.)  Also, once I unmounted it, there was no way to re-mount it.

The fix was to use Terminal to reformat the drive.

In Terminal, type:

diskutil cs delete “Put Your Logical Volume Group UUID Here”

Don’t know your UUID? Run Disk Utility’s “Verify Disk” on the problem drive and the UUID will come up in the notes.

Or, if that doesn’t show it, go to the Apple symbol in the upper left corner of the screen > About this Mac > System Report > Hardware – Storage.  Look for the LVG UUID (not LV, or PV or just UUID)

Be careful to use the correct UUID! This will erase and format the drive in an instant!  You’ve been warned!

I need to render out a 3D image, but change out the texture content in After Effects. Time for a “ReMap UV” vs. “ft-UVPass” shootout:

ReMap UV and ft-UVPass essentially do the same thing, but for the premium price increase, ReMap UV also has some additional features that may be needed.

I was needing to control the television image on a 3D tv screen. This was super-annoying to do in Cinema 4D–and I never did figure out how to effectively get the audio working. Anyway, it wasn’t worth trying to do in C4D. Remapping the UVs in After Effects (which I was headed to for post anyway) was the way to go. Remapping allowed me to easily have a comp as my “screen source” with the bonus of making it easy for my client to dictate changes to the screen content.

Both products effectively re-map the UVs, but I ran into a problem. I was getting aliased edges on my tv-screen, when the anti-aliased UV color moved into a new object. That anti-aliasing was changing the color of the UV map on those edges, thereby designating different content. In short, it made chunky edges of the wrong color.  ReMap UV includes a couple parameters to help deal with this. One is an Edges Threshold which tries to identify and minimize these edges, and the other is MIP-mapping, which is related, but also helps control your overall image quality when it stretches away from the camera (just like you’d want to use in the 3D app with a texture map).

In short, if you need simple mapping, throw $30 at ft-UVPass on for making it possible. If you need fine-tuning control, get ReVisionFX: ReMap UV, which is around $150.