Some of the following is based on the trascript of the Custom 3D Book video tutorial. Note that template instructions can also be found inside the three custom book templates, in the "Instructions" comp and in layer marker notes.
The Custom 3D Book refers to three customizable After Effects templates for CS5 and all later versions. There is a 3D Fairy Tale Storybook, a 3D Wedding Album, and a 3D Bible. These templates include a 3-D book which can be animated and customized to include any content. Multiple 3D rooms are included to allow users to choose an appropriate setting for their book. Multiple camera movements are available so users can choose unique views of their book. Also, a large library of artwork and images are included with each template to give the user plenty of design options when filling their pages. The book can be animated and manipulated in 3D space using convenient slider controls.
Customization of the 3-D Book template is broken down into four basic steps. There is a folder for each step in the Project panel inside the template.
In Step 1, you can choose a 3D environment (scene) to place your book in. In the Project panel, open the Step 1 folder. The selection of scenes in this folder vary depending on which book template you purchased. The Custom 3D Fairytale Storybook template includes a library, a sunroom, and a castle. Both the Custom 3D Wedding Album and the Custom 3D Bible templates include a sunroom and and a church. If you like the default scene in the Main Comp then you can skip this first step. Otherwise, open any of the comps in the Step 1 folder to preview a scene. With the Camera Orbit tool (shortcut = C Key), you can click and drag inside the scene to move around the room. If you like the room, you simply need to copy the scene layers into your Main Comp. But first, open the Main Comp (in the Project panel, near the top) and scroll to the bottom. The yellow layers are the scene layers. Select all of the yellow layers and delete them. Next, go back to your scene comp that you chose, select all of the yellow layers (not the red camera layer), copy them, go back to the Main Comp, and paste them. When you paste them, they will automatically be placed at the top of the layer order (or directly above any layer that you have selected). With all the scene layers still selected, drag them down to the bottom where the original scene layers were. Proceed to Step 2.
Step 2 is choosing a camera motion. Again, if you like the default camera motion in the Main Comp, you can skip this step and go to Step 3. Open the Camera Options comp. Inside, you'll see there are just enough scene elements to get a feel for the camera movement. You can read what each camera motion does in the marker note of each Cameralayer. Quickly preview a camera motion by unhiding any camera layer (click the eye icon for the layer) and drag your playhead through the timeline. Only one camera layer should be unhidden at a time. To use one of the camera motions in your Main Comp, copy and paste the layer into your main comp. Place it at the top next to the comp's original Camera layer. You'll notice your new camera layer was automatically renamed to "Camera 2". The layer must be renamed to "Camera". After renaming the new camera layer, you can delete the original Cameralayer.
Step 3 is animating your 3D book (making the book open and the pages turn automatically). You may want to do this at the same time as you do Step 4 (adding content to your pages). However, animating the page-turns in the Main Comp will be smoother and faster if there is no content on the pages to slow the comp down.
Open the Main Comp. You'll see a layer at the top called "CONTROL LAYER". Select the Control Layer, and then in your Effect Controlspanel, you will see dozens of slider controls for customizing your book and scene. If you do not see the Effect Controls panel, go to the Window menu, and choose "Effect Controls". There are several sections of controls in the Control Layer, separated with the all-caps title controls. To animate your page-turns, you will use the top section of controls (titled "Page-Turn Controls"). There's a slider control for the book's cover and each individual sheet. A value of zero translates to a fully closed page and a value of 100 is fully open (turned 180 degrees).
Just like a real book, you will need to turn the pages in order. For example, if you want to open to the middle of the book in your animation, you need to animate all the previous pages to open first. To open a page or the cover, set a keyframe on your Page-Turn control at the time you want the page-turn to start. Go forward a second in your timeline, and change the Page-Turn control value to 100 to set a new keyframe. This will create an animated page-turn for that page. You can then copy and paste those two keyframes into other Page-Turn controls to duplicate the action. For added realism, use the Graph Editor to make your page turn start out slow, then increase in speed.
The final step is filling your pages with content. In the Project panel, inside the Images folder, you'll find a variety of artwork and design elements to help you fill your pages. The theme and subject of the images depends on which Custom 3D Book you purchased. Each template includes cover and paper textures, vintage design elements from the public domain, and some original artwork that matches the book's theme.
In the Sample Designs folder, you'll find multiple pre-made designs which use the included images. These designs are fully customizable. To put your content on a page, open the page's comp, found inside the "Precomps (Insert Your Content)" folder. Drag any image from the Images folder into your timeline. For more details on how to add content to your pages, watch the "Adding Page Content" video tutorial on the Custom 3D Book page.
In your Main Comp, with the CONTROL LAYER selected, look in your Effect Controls panel to view over 40 customization controls. All-caps "title" controls separate each category of controls.
Page Turn Controls: Use these slider controls to turn the cover and pages of your book. An un-turned page (fully closed) has a Page-Turn control value of 0. A turned paged (fully open) has a value of 100. Keyframe these controls to animate your page-turns.
Book Transform Controls: In this section, you have all the basic transform properties for positioning and scaling your book. These controls affect the properties of the CONTROL LAYER, to which all book layers are parented to.
Changing Book Dimensions: One way you can change the dimensions of your book is to use the Scale controls. However, this will stretch or squeeze your page and cover content. More than likely, the better way of changing the dimensions is to change the comp dimensions for each cover, spine, and page precomp.
Warning About Rotation: If the book is open, use the rotation controls sparingly. The higher the rotation, the more it will ruin the illusion of page-bending, created by a Bezier Warp effect on the pages. Since the amount of page-bending is connected to the camera's position, a better method of rotating the book is to orbit the camera around the book, which will maintain the correct perspective.
Book Anchor Point: The anchor point, by default, is in the center of the book when it is fully open. If you want to rotate or scale the book while it is closed, you may want to move the anchor point to the middle of the closed book. Unhide the CONTROL LAYER to see its anchor point. Use the Top and Front composition views to accurately position the anchor point.
Light and Shadow Controls: Some of the basic properties of the Light layers can be controlled here. In order to change the position of the lights, you will need to edit the Light layers directly. You can also duplicate either of the light layers as needed for your scene, and the duplicates will receive the Light and Shadow Controls on the CONTROL LAYER.
TIP: To make individual layers darker or lighter without changing the brightness of the lights, you can select the layer and hit the "A" key two times quickly, revealing the Material Options for the layer. Increase or decrease the Ambient property to change how much the layer reacts to light.
Page Bend Controls:The Page Bend effect is an illusion created by curving the edges of the pages inward or outward, using the Bezier Warp effect. The amount and direction of the curving is connected to the camera's position using expressions, allowing for a realistic page-bend effect that updates as you move your camera. You can turn off the page-bend effect and make your pages rigid by un-checking the Turn on Page Bend Controls checkbox. You can also convert your hardcover book to a paperback by un-checking the Turn on Hardcover checkbox. To get a realistic paperback look, you may also want to change the comp sizes of the cover and spine precomps, so that they match the size of the pages.
The Curve Amount and Curve Height controls work together to give you the bend that you want. To see how they affect the bend, try a low value on one and higher value on the other, then vice versa.
Note that the Bend Placement control has a warping/distorting effect on your page content. If your content is people's faces or something that shouldn't be squeezed, you may want a Bend Placement value that is closer to zero.
Page Placement Controls: You can use these controls to adjust the spacing between pages, as well as their rotation value while the cover is turned (open), but while the pages are not turned. The Variation controls will add random adjustments to the position and rotation values of the pages. Refrain from using too much variation, since you may get pages that overlap or occupy the same space, which causes ugly stripes or line patterns on your pages. These patterns can occur even if pages are too close to each other, so keep enough space between them. If you aren't pleased with the results of the random variation, try a different Random Seed value.
Adding Pages: There are 20 pages (10 sheets) in the book by default. To add a sheet, simply duplicate the layers titled "Page 19" and "Page 20". Put the duplicates at the bottom of the page order (below the original layers), and rename them with new page numbers. Be sure that the layer that says "TOP" is above the layer that says "BOTTOM". If you will be adding unique page content to your two new pages, you will need to create two new precomps, and connect them to the two new layers. See the video tutorial or the layer marker notes for more detailed instructions. The Page-Turn controls for the new pages are found on the "TOP" layer, rather than the CONTROL LAYER. You can repeat the process and duplicate pages as many times as needed for your book. The more pages you create, however, the slower the comp will run. You may need to increase the Spine Width on the CONTROL LAYER to accommodate the extra pages.
Changing Book Dimensions: The pages of the 3D Storybook and 3D Bible use a default aspect ratio of 8.5x11. The 3D Wedding Album uses a square aspect ratio. The easiest way to change the ratio is by using the Scale controls on the CONTROL LAYER. However, this distorts the content of your pages and cover. Another way is by changing the comp sizes of each individual page and cover precomp. With a comp opened, go to the Composition menu, then Composition Settings, and enter the new width or height. You can edit the book thickness (Spine Width) using the CONTROL LAYER.
Adding Camera Motion: Some users will want a unique camera movement through their scene. To animate the camera, you will need to keyframe the camera's Position property, and possibly the Position property of the Camera Focal Point layer as well as the Point of Interest property on the Camera layer.
Auto Orientation is turned on for the camera by default, meaning it will automatically point to the Point of Interest. This may cause unwanted tilting or rotation when you're animating. To turn off Auto Orientation, select the Camera layer, go to the Layer menu, go to Transform, and select Auto Orient. Be sure to smooth out your temporal and spatial curves for a smooth animation.
Camera layers in After Effects can be difficult to work with. Tutorial training is widely available online.
IMPORTANT - Always Check Expressions: You may get an error message when you move, delete, or change something. Or, you may not get an error message at all, but something just doesn't look right, or doesn't work as you would expect. Your first action should always be to check your expressions. The majority of issues stem from a broken link in one or more expressions. To reveal expression errors, select all the layers, right-click on a layer, and choose "Reveal Expression Errors". If there are any broken expressions, they will appear with a yellow exclamation mark icon next to them. Turn each expression back on by clicking the equal sign icon next to the expression. You may have to undo your last action, or the expression will continue to give you errors when you turn it back on.
Striped Patterns on 3D Layers: If you are seeing lines or an ugly pattern on your pages, it may just be an issue in the Composition view, and not in the final render. Try changing your comp resolution to Full, and you will probably see that it's no longer an issue. If the pattern is still there even at Full resolution, it may be because two or more pages are overlapping, or occupying the same 3D space. This pattern can occur even when pages are too close to each other, but not touching. Use the Page Spacing or Rotation controls to keep pages spaced apart from each other. Make sure the Variation controls are not set too high.
You might also encounter sections of 3D layers inexplicably disappearing momentarily as your camera moves or as pages turn. To fix this, you must turn off Depth of Field on the Camera layer. Double-click the Camera layer, and uncheck Depth of Field.