Compositing animated objects from 3dsMax in After Effects

Getting object data from various 3d packages into After Effects for compositing has always been a little mystical, especially in 3dsMax. I never really have took the time to find a simple reliable method but found one today. The method is several years old (showing how important it was for me to figure this out) but works great and is very simple.

cbaristo over on Simply CG had this post explaining the method: MAX object position to AE layer position using RPF files Thanks, cbaristo!

Here’s the method:

  1. From 3dsMax, render out to RPF format your main scene camera with Z-Depth as one of the data options checked in order to get camera information into AE. Take a note of your camera focal settings as you’ll need to match them in AE.
  2. Create another camera in 3dsMax and parent it to the object you wish to track so it will inherit all it’s transformation and rotation animation data. You could center the camera at the object’s pivot or place it on a face if you want to composite an image onto that surface.
  3. For this second camera’s render, hide and turn off everything except the camera (turn off all the lights, GI, raytracing, etc.) and set the render dimensions to 1×1. All we need is the camera data. Again render to RPF with Z-Depth checked. All done with 3dsMax
  4. In After Effects, import both sequences and place as layers in a composition.
  5. Select the main render sequence and then go to Animation | Keyframe Assistant | RPF Camera Import. A new camera gets created. This will be your scene camera. You may want to rename it so you don’t get it confused with the next camera we create. Open the properties for this camera and set them to match the camera properties in 3dsMax. This is important to match the perspective.
  6. Select the secondary camera sequence (1×1 pixel render) and do the same thing. Delete the secondary camera sequence since we don’t need it anymore.
  7. Create a new null. Copy all the keyframe data from the second RPF camera that was created and paste it into the null. Delete the secondary RPF camera.
  8. Turn your null into a 3d object and parent any other layers to it in order to composite them with the 3d object.

That’s it! You could do this with any number of objects quite easily.

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