3D Animation in After Effects

Want to transform your photos into awesome animations? Get to grips with this powerful Adobe software.

Watch as Corey reveals the Adobe After Effects tools and techniques he used to transform Karl’s ‘Mad Hatter’ photoshoot into a mesmerising digital animation.

Though After Effects is not dedicated 3D software like Blender, it does feature tools that allow you to create the illusion of 3-dimensionality.

In the introduction, Karl and Corey discuss the goals of the animation work, some of the problems they encountered, how they solved them, and what lessons they learned from this project.

As Corey opens up After Effects, he takes you through what he calls his ‘pseudo-3D workflow’. You’ll learn how to work with multiple layers, and how to make those layers appear 3D.

You’ll cover the 3D Panel, with its three elements: Motion Blur, Adjustment Layers, and 3D Layer. You’ll learn how to use Difference mode, and how to use a null object as a parent to move the camera around.

You’ll also learn how to use the Time Vary stopwatch to create keyframes, including ‘eased’ and rotation keyframes, plus how to use the Pen Tool to make a mask, and much more.

By the end of the class, you’ll understand how to make your own original 3D animations using photographs!

In this class:

  • Creating 3D animations in Adobe After Effects
  • Using the 3D Transform Gizmo
  • How to use the Camera Orbit Tool
  • Eased keyframes and rotation keyframes
  • Difference mode and parallaxing
  • Using the Pen Tool to make masks

To see the photoshoot behind the animation, watch Splash Portrait Photography for 3D Animation.

If you enjoy this class, be sure to check out our Post-Production section.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Beautiful work. Question for Corey: instead of scaling down and repositioning the higher resolution face, eye and next groups, could you pre-comp them and scaled them down? For example, Image 1 has the high-res face and eye scaled down to say 50% and 10% respectively. Or whatever makes sense to match the full size image. Then when zooming in with the camera, the eye wouldn’t theoretically look pixelated since it’s not getting scaled beyond 100%. I’m not sure how to figure out that math (it’s like Inception-level computations ;)), but does the idea make sense?


    1. Hi Mark, thanks for your comment. That certainly seems like it could be done that way, I find there are often several ways to go about doing things in AE to achieve similar results. My first thought would be that with the method you outlined, you would have to make sure that “Collapse Transformations” is enabled to make sure that AE recognises the higher resolution of the inner contents of the precomp, otherwise it would assume the initial comps resolution and would be just as pixellated. Definitely worth a shot!

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