by Rafiq Elmansy
When you think of Adobe Photoshop, you probably think of image editing and compositing. But did you know you could create 3D animation in Photoshop?
Animation in Photoshop was previously done through a companion application called Adobe ImageReady, which Adobe discontinued several years ago. This application was very similar to Photoshop in function and enabled you to animate using a timeline, which looked more like slides animation than the timeline animation you would see in other animation products such as Flash and Photoshop.
When Adobe discontinued ImageReady, the animation capabilities were integrated into Photoshop, which gave Photoshop more power and gave users a better workflow to create both graphics and animation in one application instead of two.
By adding 3D capabilities to the animation features, Adobe has significantly improved the Photoshop feature set in the last few releases.
In this article, I discuss both 3D and animation by showing you how to animate a 3D model in Photoshop in 3D space using the Animation timeline panel. This tutorial requires basic knowledge of Photoshop CS5 features, especially 3D. To follow along, download the working samples as well as the 3D model of the LCD television monitor, courtesy of the 3G Digital Arts Portal.
Photoshop enables you to work with different types of 3D content such as:
To get started, let’s import a 3D model of an LCD TV in 3DS format. To import the 3D model:
After importing the 3D model, the next step is to create the animation for the model. In this animation, we will display the 3D model while rotating it in 3D space. First we will display it as a wireframe. Then it will be transformed into a fully shaded model using the Cross Section feature in the 3D panel.
The Cross Section feature lets you display or hide parts of the model and animate the slicing plane. To create the animation in Photoshop, open the Animation panel. The 3D model layer is listed, and next to it, you can see an arrow that allows you to extend the layer properties that will be used to create the animation. Notice that the timecode that appears at the top right of the Animation panel displays the current time when you select a position with the Current Time Indicator slider. It also chooses the speed of the animation in frames per second (fps). You can change this by selecting Document Settings in the Animation panel's context-sensitive menu.
Make sure that the Current Time Indicator is placed at the beginning of the timeline. To rotate the 3D model, activate the 3D Object property by checking the Time-Vary stop watch next to this property sublayer. This will add a new keyframe at the start of the animation. Keyframes will be created automatically when you change the 3D object rotation.
To rotate the 3D object, select the 3D Rotate tool from the Tools panel. There are three ways to rotate the object. You can:
Note that you need to have a compatible graphics card with OpenGL support enabled to work with the 3D tool. You can find out if your graphics card supports 3D by visiting http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/404/kb404898.html.
You also need to enable OpenGL by choosing Photoshop > Preferences > Performance and selecting Enable OpenGL Drawing from the GPU Settings area.
To rotate the 3D object:
Figure 1. The rotation of the 3D LCD TV at frame 30.
Figure 2. The rotation of the 3D LCD TV at frame 60.
Now we’ll make the animation gradually appear from top to bottom using the Cross Section feature in the 3D panel:
Set the Cross Section properties to:
Figure 3. The animation with the Cross Section activated.
You can press the spacebar on the keyboard to preview the animation.
You have successfully created the core animation for the 3D LCD model. Now you need to create a wireframe animation that starts prior to the fully shaded model and animates before the shaded model appears.
Figure 4. The 3D Render Settings dialog box.
After finishing the animation, you need to set the Work Area that tells Photoshop the start and the end of the animation.
At the top of the timeline, you will notice two blue brackets at the start and the end of the timeline. You can use these brackets to set the part that you want Photoshop to render in the animation. Leave the Work Area Start bracket where it is, and drag the Work Area End bracket to the end of the animation at frame 60.
Figure 5 shows how the timeline should appear after you have finished the animation.
Figure 5. The timeline for the finished animation.
Before exporting the 3D animation to a video format, you need to set the model quality to ensure the best quality for the output video. In the 3D panel, you will notice that the Quality setting in the Render Settings is set to Interactive Draft (see Figure 6). This enables you to work smoothly with the animation without consuming your machine’s resources and waiting for a long time to load each step, but this choice does not ensure good quality for the output model rendering. You should use it only while working with the model.
To ensure the best smooth lines and quality for the 3D model, set the Quality setting to Ray Traced (see Figure 6).
Figure 6. The Render Settings options in the 3D panel.
After you finish the 3D animation, Photoshop gives you an extended ability to render your video and export it in different formats and settings in both video and an image sequence. The best output format depends on your project needs and the target media for your video animation.
The Location section lets you name the exported video, choose where to save it, and create a subfolder to save your video in, if desired.
In the File Options section, you can set the output format of the 3D animation. You can choose either a video format or image sequence.
You can export your animation in the following video formats:
If you choose Image Sequence, you can select one of the following formats:
The range section determines the number of frames that will be rendered in the output. The output range includes three options:
The Render Options section enables you to set the Alpha Channel options and the Frame Rate of the exported content.
For this animation, choose File > Export > Render Video, and set the following 3D animation video options:
You have successfully created and animated a 3D model in Photoshop and exported it to a video format. This tutorial is just an introduction to 3D and the animation features in Photoshop. For more in-depth tips and techniques, check out my book Photoshop 3D for Animators, which covers animation and 3D in depth with extended examples.
Rafiq Elmansy has been a creative designer for ten years. He runs his own design company, Pixel Consultations. He is an Adobe Community Professional and an Adobe Certified Expert. He is also a Friend of Icograda (the International Council of Graphic Design Associations). In addition to authoring books, Elmansy also writes articles for the Adobe Design Center and Adobe Developer Connection. His design blog is www.graphicmania.net.