How to make 3D Text and use 3D Stroke in After Effects – Live Tutorial

December 31, 2009

Check out the very first Live GSG Tutorial on how to make 3D Text and how to Make 3D Stroke from Trapcode go around objects. This tutorial was made live on Ustream where people could interact and ask questions about the process of making this scene.

I want to start doing live tutorials because I think so may tutorials out there are too scripted. I wanted to capture the process of problem solving more than just a step by step on how to do something. Following a step by step tutorial may show you HOW to do an effect, but they don’t show you WHY. I hope that this format will show more about the process of Motion Design and not just technique. Sure, there are some mistakes and wrong moves in here, but problem solving is what Design is all about. Let me know what you think of this live format. I hope to be doing more of these in the future.

Mentioned in the Video
Check out Graymachine’s Retro Graphics tutorial, that I accidentally ripped off by memory during the Live Tut (Sorry Harry). He also has a 3D type preset that will help build this type of text in AE without all the tedium. Also, if you want more 80s vintage magic, check out Graymachine’s Video Rock.

Tutorial Focus:  ,

  • Started watching this earlier on ustream. A very nice tutorial, when you do stuff live it always contains that little human magic. I’ll see if I can catch the whole thing now that it is in HQ, just gotta do some work here first 🙂

    Happy new year!!

  • Nice Nick,

    Was watching the live tutorial. Definitely think some more live ones are the way to go, and i definitely think that WHY you do it a certain way is much better for learning that just HOW to do it.

  • Loved it

  • Nice work on the first live tutorial. A little tedious though. I find it much easier to use Trapcodes Echo Space for making all the duplicate text

  • Missed the live tut, but great job. More interaction with viewers. I can’t wait for more.

    I noticed that it was unreadable in livestream. As a suggestion, I would lower the resolution even more (900px or less) because livestream has such a low resolution that it scales the video which will blend the pixels. Add the compression then everything looks blurred especially texts. Also your upload speed is another factor too. Your workspace will be cramped, but it will be readable to the live viewers.

    I’ve seen others that stream tutorials and their workspace is really small (maybe 800×600) but it’s viewable.

    Can’t wait for your GSG/MCS show in Chicago!!

  • Best tutorial process ever. The whole idea of ‘live’ is perfect.

  • Hey Nick! That 3D Stroke tutorial was just what I needed… Thank you so much man!
    I retrieved my faith on the product 😛

  • lovely!
    what font is that you’re hooked on? it’s absolutely adorable.
    keep it up!

  • Hi, i’ve just looked the recorded version of this live, much to improve but great concept very interesting.
    BUT : Where are infos about these live sessions (when, how to watch etc) ? Because i’m often visiting this site and never see anything about that ??? I just discovered today this recorded live …
    Anyone to tell me how these guys where informed about the event to come ? Thanx.

  • Haven’t watched it yet just got to say that live turorials is an awsome idea!

  • regular tuts are good to learn from,but usually do not leave any insight as to why a particular method was used.This is the best way to learn imo. I truly hope you continue to do these live stream captures.

  • excellent tut. thank you.
    love the million dollar hair cut and clothes :p

  • Thanks very good your idea, is very useful to see the process of how to solve problems,thanks

  • Love the (possibly) new format. Solving problems on the fly is real. It’s a skill more valuable than knowledge of any single plugin or effect. The best part was hearing 3 or 4 solutions to the same problem offered by the audience. There’s always more than one way to get from A to B. Keep up the great work, Nick! Nice keyboard in the background. You compose as well?

  • It was very nice to see that other people also have a “Not so smooth” work flow some times. When watching scripted tutorials it appears like everybody else, always knows exactly how to do everything…

    This way it becomes more “Teamwork’ish” and that is cool.

    I watched the recorded version, but it still worked for me.

    Having said that, I think both ways (Live and scripted tutorials) have their advantages.
    If every tutorial on the web was live, I would die of old age, before I got through 4 of them ;o)

  • Hi Nick, great Tutorial and what happened to your hair? I must say i liked it more the way it used to be.

  • Loved it!

    Look forward to seeing more

  • Thanks Nick, I really enjoyed watching this and seeing you encounter and solve problems on the fly. I watched the recorded version but enjoyed the community vibe and as mentioned above i thought it had much more of natural teamworkish feel than usual tutorials. Great job!

  • Hay im having a bit of trouble having the chat room

    • Hi, Robert. The chat room was only during the live event. I will definitely do more Live tutorials. Stay tuned here or follow me on twitter @nickvegas to see when the next Live Tut will be. Cheers!

  • Hey Nick,
    I liked the live tut. I’ve been a fan of the format since watching, “Happy After Effecting with Maltaannon.” Unfortunately I didn’t catch the tutorial live. I could have helped with the 3D stroke part since I noticed right away that you hadn’t checked the “use comp camera” box. That’s one of those parameters that ahould already be checked as a default in my humble opinion. When I use z clip or near and far vanish on the faux 3D filters, I find it easiest to see what’s happening in the “top camera” mode. There are also several ways to create 3D text in AE. You can use the Shatter filter, or enable the 3D text and use the z scale to extrude it as well as the method you showed in the tut. All these methods have their draw backs. A real 3D program or plug in from Zaxwerks like Invigorator or Proanimator is still the best route for great looking 3D text. Thanks for all the hard work you put in and I’ll be there for the next tutorial – LIVE.

  • Jean-Sébastien Dussault January 4, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Really liked this.

    It becomes all about process rather than regular how-to, and tells us trial and error is part of it.

    Feeling less unpro painting myself into an undo corner. 🙂

  • great nick, I liked it!

    I tryed to do the stroke with particle world and a null object.. but it didnt work that well


  • Hey Nick, great session – thanks for doing this. I like the format and like the others am sad I missed the live version. If you’re looking for stuff to tute on, how about doing the cinema to AE thing (I know you already covered this part very well), then some AE stuff, and then showing how you’d take that back (AE camera stuff + nulls if possible) to cinema further along in the comp? Anyway – Great Job!

  • Yo Nick,

    Thanks a lot for the effort. I gotta tell you though, that for my money, scripted tuts are way better than this “real-life-problem-solving” approach, simply because I don’t see how anyone can “learn” problem-solving from a video tut. The only way to learn it is to experience it. Trying to achieve something – running into problems – and solving them. By yourself. Practice, practice, practice. So to me, this ends up to be a waste of time. To me it seems that any designer who’s already working and has a busy schedule, is more likely to prefer tuts that simply demonstrate new concepts and techniques in a concise, to the point manner, packaged as a short video tutorial.

    Again, I appreciate your effort and love your work.

    • Good point, Rami. I can see how these types of exercises can be frustrating if all you want it the answer.

      Maybe the live tuts should be more about showing people how to solve problems than actually doing an effect.

      Thanks for your comment. It got me thinking.

  • Loved it! The problem solving thing really worked for me. Thanks!

  • Great tut!

    I have mixed emotions on this format, I like to see the process of solving problems but it can generate a very long tut.
    Maybe a scripted tut that shows your first approach and why it didn’t work and then what you did to make it work. This would make for a little shorter version.
    Just a thought and whatever you decide is fine with me!
    Love the site!


    • Thanks, Peter,

      I’m still figuring out this format too. It can get a bit long and wandering at times. I think though that with so many fast scripted tuts out there, I want to present a more realistic picture to people learning about how to do this stuff.

  • Nick

    Love what you’re doing man! First live one was pretty rough around the edges, but love the idea behind it.

    In the trenches. Figuring stuff out like we all do. Love it! Keep it up!


  • I use expression to move the layers back in z space – basically i have the layer look at the layer above it and the move back from that.

    • I also use an expression for this:
      Make a layer and duplicate it, on the position of this duplicate I put the following expression:

      Z = thisComp.layer(index-1).transform.position[2];
      [position[0], position[1], Z-1];

      Index-1 means “the layer above”
      and the -1 at the end of the script is the distance (in this case in Z space) from “the layer above”
      So any duplicate moves back 1px!

      Hope this is usefull for someone and thanks so much Nick for all your tips and tricks!

  • please do not make anymore live tutorial.
    you make a hell lot of mistakes.
    well… you know what. maybe, when you have to do repeating stuff. cut that out!!

    • Sorry they are so long, I’m working on that. However, I think it’s important to see a workflow and how to solve problems, don’t you? Aren’t there enough step by step tutorials out there already? Besides, this is how people actually work. Not in a step by step fashion, but by trial and error. Following a step by step tutorial only teaches a “trick”. I’m trying to show a bit more than that. I’m trying to show problem solving techniques.

    • well. i have to agree. how about this – cut it short by eliminating the repetitive process out of the video. And why not show the “trial and error” process in words. i believe that is a very good way to get your “showing problem solving techniques” to the people. 🙂

      i.e – Problems that was encountered during the making of this video : 1. blah blah blah.
      1.1 why it happened
      1.2 it was solved by clicking on the alpha
      channel (example)

    • Nick, don’t you understand that the best problem solving technique is not pressing all the keys on the keybord trying to solve the problem, BUT READING THE HELP for the software you are working with. )

    • wow i wish you’de just shutup cause this tutorial was not content rich per say but i loved watching the gorilla problem solve!

  • I like this way, showing process and mistakes and seeing one of the ways to do an effect.

    Iit’s good to see you don’t do an effect in 10 minutes but in one hour, it’s very important for beginners I think, each scene in after effects needs time.

    Thanks a lot for all I learned with your tuts,
    a little video for the new year, a bit of c4d and AE,


  • Nick,

    Thanks for doing these. I’m really digging the live feel. I am surprised 3D Stroke doesn’t have a Z Obscure function ala Particular. I recent did a similar effect using an emitter with Z Obscure pointing at my text layer. Works perfectly and you can move the camera all you want!

    Anyway, thanks for continuing to feed our brains!

  • thanx nick, thats really helpfull stuff.
    i love it as it is, even if its a little bit long – that is the only way to underdtand how things are actually happends

    waiting for the next tut

    great week

  • Hey, Nick.
    You screwed again.. 🙂
    Instead of deleting the bevel effect on each layer separately you should select all the layers, press E (Effect) and then select all the Bevel effects and delete them at once.
    Good luck, man! 🙂

    • Ooops, sorry Nick. My fault.
      Missed the right window. I was watching your first live tut and my comments are for that show.

  • you need to check the shatter effects for the 3d text in AE

  • Nick, seriously dude, even though I missed the actual live broadcast the lengthy video wasn’t an issue at all. I think this is a brilliant concept, cause as you said, design is about problem solving, and I couldn’t think of a better form than with a group of like-minded AE wizz’s!

    Would be cool to see a small live feed of the users comments aswell, although a cluttered window could be an issue…?

    PS: Just checked that link to Graymachines Vintage package, looks amazing!

  • I loved that thick soft 3D effect! Thanks for showing.

  • Nick thank you very much for your tutorials and time which you spend for us! Great staff

  • Guys who knows a good designer chat room?Tell me please

  • Hey Gorilla!

    Great job, awesome Tutorial. – Will the AE-Project be available for download?

    thanks for the Inspiration!

    Raphael, Switzerland

  • dear Gorilla!

    thank you for your inspiring job. – You mentioned on the video, that you would post the AE project. – Will you do that for me? – Would help me alot.

    Raphael, Switzerland

  • Hi Nick.
    Just found your live Tutorial.
    Although I liked the idea of it beeing live very much it is strange to try to use them later. Having to find out where to stop to listen and and where to pick up again, after you corrected your error.
    But then again this is the way to learn.
    Keep em coming.

  • i loved this tutorial. see you struggle thinking about several possibilitys to solve a problem was very helpful. probably more helpful than a 20min runthrough.
    i also like your colourcorrections and “make it fancy” techniques.
    so, thanks for this great tutorial. there where definetly some great things going on.

    btw with Effect > Simulation > shatter
    you can also extrude a layer to let it look like its 3d.

    kindest regards

  • Great work i m real thankful i was searching for so many days for these 2 tutorials one 3d text and the other bbc opener… i realy appreaicate ur help

  • nice tutorial! a very simple expression to do when extruding the text is:

    z = (index-1)*1;

    i used that for this little test video

  • Thanks man you are the best

  • that’s amazing thank you for the videos your really a nice guy doing the tutorials for free. I’m from Kuwait and currently studying Graphic Design at the American University of Kuwait and your tutorials helped me a lot to understand the software. Thank you, all the best and keep on doing great work

  • hai friend this is raju ,iam using c4d 11. and i saw that in ur c4d defalt lights are there and ur inter face is differ .i want same inter face.will u plz help me how to change it plz plz….

  • Best you should make changes to the blog name title How to make 3D Text and use 3D Stroke in After Effects – Live Tutorial | greyscalegorilla/blog to something more catching for your subject you make. I enjoyed the blog post yet.

  • you r expert nick,
    thanks we r waiting for more inventions.

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