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Andrew Devis has a 3-part tutorial for Extruding 3D Text & Shapes in After Effects. He's covering duplication, Shatter, and [later] Zaxwerks & 3D applications and Repousse from Photoshop. As usual, he has surveyed some tutorials and saves you time by offering a best practice.
Of course, there are a number of approaches for creating 3D and faux 3D text (and shapes) in After Effects with native and 3rd party tools. It's rather easier to list them than to demonstrate them, especially since there are a number insightful options for solving deficiencies in the popular, inexpensive approaches (duplicate layers and the Shatter effect).
Here's some of the approaches found at AE Portal:
- stacking layers close together in Z-space (numerous)
- the Shatter effect built into AE (numerous; recent 1, 2)
- the Vegas effect built into AE
- the Repousse 3D feature from Photoshop CS5 Extended
- Photoshop text as 3D volume
- fake 3D volumetric light with Shine or Lightburst
- 3D models imported through Photoshop (AE Help)
- integrate renders from 3D programs (several examples)
- particle-generated 3D text with Trapcode Particular
- stylized 3D text with Trapcode Form
- Zaxwerks Invigorator, ProAnimator, 3D Serpentine (numerous; recent)
- Boris FX 3D Objects Filters (numerous)
- Shapeshifter AE (in beta from Mettle)
- CE ShapeExtruder, a CustomEffect by Maltaannon
- DistributeLayers and other scripts at AE Scripts
We can't embed Creative Cow material, so here's one of the more entertaining efforts from recent years, How to make 3D Text and use 3D Stroke in After Effects – Live Tutorial from Grayscale Gorilla (it leans on Harry Frank who posted a free Graymachine preset):