After Effects tutorial: Make the most of After Effects CS6’s new 3D engine

Creation and rendering of raytraced objects in After Effects CS6 positively screams with NVIDIA technology

After Effects CS6 has a brand new raytraced 3D rendering engine built on NVIDIA OptiX technology. The engine lets you conjure up fantastic imagery that you would otherwise need expensive plug-ins or dedicated 3D applications to create, and on workstations with NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards it delivers GPU-accelerated previews and renders of extruded text, shapes and more at incredible speed.

The raytrace engine can be further accelerated by combining a Quadro board with an NVIDIA Tesla companion card to create an NVIDIA Maximus solution.

With Maximus, you’ll see stunningly accurate previews much more speedily – NVIDIA’s solutions enable you to create previews up to 27 times faster than even a 12-core workstation can if relying on its CPUs alone (see graph, bottom right).


For the highest level of GPU acceleration, install a certified NVIDIA Quadro card and the latest WHQL driver. To check that After Effects will render using the GPU or CPU, go to Edit > Preferences > Previews and click the GPU Information button.


Now to work on a new composition. We set its size to the HDTV 1080p 25 preset to match some footage that this will be edited with later.


Click the Options button to set the quality of the raytracing, which is governed by a number that is basically how many rays a pixel can fire. There’s no ideal value; use trial and error to find the number that gives you the result you want in the shortest possible time.

The more powerful your Quadro card, the more you can push this value – and with a Maximus set-up you’ll be able to raise it even further without seeing a performance drop.


Let’s create some 3D objects, beginning with some text. Select the Text tool (Cmd/Ctrl + T), click in the comp window and type in some text – we went for ‘CS6’ (natch). To make this a 3D layer, click the 3D layer switch in the timeline.


Go to Layer > New > Camera. Keep the default options and click OK. Also select Layer > New > Light and choose a Point Light.

Select the Camera tool (C), click in your Comp window and drag to move the camera. Now that you can see the text from the side, the extrusion is finally visible. You can move the light with the Selection tool and view the difference this makes.


Navigation of scenes, especially complex ones, is noticeably speedier on a system that taps the power of NVIDIA’s Quadro and Tesla GPUs, and you can alter the Fast Previews settings to improve things further. Experiment to find what best suits your needs.


Let’s try altering the colour and material. Select the text layer, go to the character panel (Window > Character) and change the colour to something yellowish. Return to the Geometry Options and adjust the bevel parameters to match those shown above.


Next we’ll add reflections and a floor. Make sure the timeline is selected and go to Layer > New > Solid. Choose a nice medium blue, click ’Make Comp Size’ and click OK. The result is a solid covering the whole comp.


Select the solid and make it 3D by clicking the 3D layer switch as before. Hit R to access the rotation parameters in the timeline and rotate the solid 90° about the x-axis. You’ll now see something like what appears above.

The floor cuts off the letters, so use the Selection tool to drag it down. Double-tap A and change the Reflection Value to 50%.


The floor cuts off the letters, so use the Selection tool to drag it down. Double-tap A and change the Reflection Value to 50%.


Now let’s give the text more of a golden look. Select it, double-tap A and enter the values shown.


For a final touch, select the Solid layer and duplicate it (Ctrl/Cmd + D). Select the new Solid in the timeline and press R to reveal the rotation values. Set the X rotation to 0. Push it backward using the blue arrow controller.


Using a workstation augmented with NVIDIA Maximus technology you have the power to create motion graphics, VFX and animation more quickly and accurately than ever before. Offering a combination of GPU-based acceleration from both NVIDIA’s Quadro graphics cards and Tesla companion boards, a Maximus technology-based workstation delivers performance that’s just not possible in software alone.

Edit in real time with more layers, and combine complex effects without having to settle for low-resolution previews – with Maximus you can see your work exactly as it will appear when output. Compared to a workstation that’s just using its CPUs, you’ll get over 8x the price/performance when editing in Adobe Premiere Pro* – and up to 27x ray-traced 3D rendering in Adobe After Effects**.

The Maximus technology enables you to spend more time being creative, and less watching crawling progress bars or guessing how an effect will be rendered. All this allows you to produce better work and hit tight deadlines with room to breathe.

To learn more about how Maximus can help take your workstation to the next level, visit


Adobe After Effects CS6 introduces an amazing new 3D raytraced rendering engine.  This is accessible as a new option in the ‘Advanced’ Composition Settings. It also gets a huge boost from NVIDIA’s OptiX technology, which greatly increases raytracing speeds on NVIDIA GPUs using the CUDA GPU computing architecture.

You can now work with geometric text and shapes in 3D space, including vector-based images from other Creative Suite applications, without the need to move back and forth between 3rd party tools. With NVIDIA acceleration, the new raytracing delivers final rendered frames at much higher quality, and with far greater speed than with a high performance CPU alone.

Adobe After Effects CS6 is part Creative Suite 6 Production Premium and Creative Suite 6 Master Collection, as well as being available separately.

For more details visit