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  1. 3D & Motion Graphics
  2. Motion Graphics

Create an Underwater Scene

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This post is part of a series called Logo Reveals.
Create A Techie Math Animation
Create a Radar Screen Logo Reveal

We try to provide tutorials for users at all levels of After Effects. In this tutorial you will learn some good fundamentals on how to create a type reveal with an interesting background and environment. You will learn how to use all built-in tools and plugins to create a faux underwater scene complete with a bubbly type reveal. Simple.

Update: For those of you who prefer watching instead of reading, Aetuts+ Regular Richard Williams (aka Rev65) created a video tutorial based on Eddie's written instructions below. Thanks Richard!

Step 1

Start by creating a new composition. You can make whatever size you want, I used 720p@25fps. Also you can change the resolution but I suggest leaving it at Half because we’re going to work with stuff that requires lots of resources. Duration should be at least 15 seconds.


Step 2

Next, look at the preview and analyze it a bit. The scene itself consists of 3 different elements – background, bubble particles and light rays.
So let’s make those by creating 3 solids, I made them black but again, you can use whatever color you want. After that rename them as you like. I gave them label colors too.


Step 3

Start with the background layer and apply a Ramp by Effects>Generate>Ramp
Because you are creating an underwater scene you need it to look like one so set the Start Color to bright blue and End Color to dark blue as shown.
Then, to make it a bit more balanced, pull the Y value of Start of Ramp up to around -180.0


Step 4

Next one is the Bubbles layer. Apply Effect>Simulation>CC Particle World
At once you can increase the Birth rate to 110 and Longevity to 20 seconds depending on the length of your composition. Save. Then scrub through the timeline and you should see this:


Step 5

Go to Physics and set Velocity to 0 since we don’t want any particle to move on her own.
We need them to float slowly so set Gravity to -0.001.
Move on to Particle drop-down. There set the Particle Type to Faded Sphere (later you can try out other options.)
Set Birth Size to 0.070 and Death Size to 0.030. Also set the colors for Birth and Death (I went with #0099CB and #62A8FF.) Save.
The result should look like this:


Step 6

Carry on to the Producer (its Radius) which we want to be so big that he produces particles that fills the whole sight. For Y you don’t need much, only to cover view but for X and Z it must be far so you can zoom/pan around freely. To test this, create a new camera with default settings – New>Camera.
(I won’t be showing any camera animations in this tutorial but you can create one by yourself.)
So I chose those values: Radius X – 4.7, Radius Y – 0.9 and Radius Z – 4.5.
You can also bring down emitter’s position by increasing Position Y to 1.0 so in the upper side there would be lesser particles.
At last, turn off the grid. Save.


Step 7

Last thing you need to do is open the Options tab. Then go to Rendering and check Fade under Depth Cue and enter 2.5 for Distance. This one, I guess, is self explanatory.
You’re finished with Bubbles layer. Save.


Step 8

For light rays, we’re not going to use Fractal noise as some of you maybe were thinking.
Again, apply CC Particle World. Effect>Generate>CC Particle World
Basicly, what we’re going to do is use blur to make 3d volumetric lights (I want to thank Andrew Kramer who inspired me with his Ancient Titles tutorial.)
So, first of all set the Birth Rate to around 60 and Longevity to 1.6.
Go to Physics and lower Velocity to 0.14 and Gravity to 0.


Step 9

Next open the Particle submenu. Set Particle Type to Darken&Faded Sphere.
Change Birth and Death Color to pure white.
Go to Producer. Again, you need Radius X to fill the width of your comp. Set it to 1. And of course, since you need them 3d as you zoom through, make Radius Z to at least 4.5 (same as the Bubbles layer.)
Next move the emitter to the top of your comp by changing Position Y to -0.30.
Do the same thing as in Step 7. Options>Rendering>Depth Cue – Fade – 2.5 Distance.
Turn off the grid. Save.


Step 10

Apply CC Radial Blur on the same layer. Effect>Blur & Sharpen>CC Radial Blur.
Change the Type to Fading Zoom and the Amount to 200 depending on how you want them to look.
At the end, change Center point by moving it as you feel necessary (my values were 100.0, -148.0.)
Try zooming in and out with your camera. Whoala... now you have volumetric lights that work in 3d space.
Before saving, highlight both Bubbles and Light Rays layers and move them in the timeline so they are in a position where at 0 seconds their particles are in the right place as you see below. Your scene is ready. Save.


Filling the scene

Step 11

It is time to create a text layer. The color is the thing you can always adjust later but I like to set something other than white or black at once. To have easier control over your text later, precompose it. Layer>Pre-Compose…


Step 12

The next thing you need to make the text somehow interact with water (giving some depth to composition). I did some thinking and came up with an idea to have it look like it diffuses light coming from rays and then highlights those small things that floats around in water.
So make new solid (I called him Reflection_map) and apply Fractal Noise. Effects>Noise & Grain>Fractal Noise.
Set Fractal Type to Terrain and Noise Type to Spline.
Bring down Contrast to 50 and Brightness to -25.
Now we have to get him moving – open Sub Settings and Add Expression on Sub Offset (Alt+click on stopwatch), Type in [0,time*-150] This tells Sub Offset to stay at 0 on X axis but go certain units on Y. Scrub through timeline and see what happens.
Add Expression for Evolution only this time type in time*500.


Step 13

Now we have to make this map interact with things.
Make new Adjustment Layer (call it Reflection_CONTROL), put it under Reflection_map, open its Track Matte drop-down and choose Luma Matte “Reflection Map”
Now this adjustment layer uses Fractal Noise’s luminance to adjust stuff beneath it.
See it yourself by applying CC Radial Blur to it. Do similar changes that you did on Step 10.
Just see that Center point stays inside the comp or else you’ll start getting some nasty artifacts.
To get more watery look, apply Fast Blur with Blurriness around 10. Don’t forget to tick  Repeat Edge Pixels. Save.


Step 14

What this water lacks is the actual displacement which you see under water so let’s add one.
Create new solid and Pre-Comp it, name it - displacement map as it will be one, and open the composition.
Select the layer and for the third time, apply CC Particle World.
Set Birth Rate to 1, Longevity to 19.
Go to Physics and change Velocity to 0.01, Gravity to -0.010.
Open Particle submenu and set Particle Type to Faded Sphere, Birth Size to 1.8, Death Size to 0.82, Max Opacity to 100%, Birth Color to White and Death Color to Black.


Step 15

Now go to Producer.
Set Position Y to 0.90, Radius X to 1.6, Radius Y to 0.4 and Radius Z to 1.3.
Turn off the Grid.
Offset layer position in timeline again so at 0 seconds particles would be in right position.
Save and return to Main_comp.


Step 16

Turn off the visibility of Displacement_map and bring it below the rest of layers or make it Shy so it wouldn’t distract you as you won’t need it anymore.
Make new adjustment layer and call it Displacement_CONTROL.
Now apply Displacement Map to it. Effect>Distort>Displacement Map.
Change Displacement Map Layer to Displacement_map.
Set both Max Displacement values to 15. Tick Wrap Pixels Around.
You’ll now see some bad stuff around edges. Don’t worry, it’s because of background layer (BG). Select it and change scale to around 102% and it will disappear.


Step 17

Now it’s time to get our hands on animating the text. Open TITLE composition.
Make new Solid, Pre-Compose it (name It Bubble_distortion), open the comp and guess what… apply CC Particle World, for the last time, I promise.
Here are the setting you need to use:
Birth Rate – 1.0, Longevity – 19,
Position Y – 0.88, Position Z – 1.73, Radius X – 1.6, Radius Y – 0.4
Velocity – 0.01, Gravity - -0.010
Particle Type – Faded Sphere, Birth Size – 1, Death Size – 1, Size Variation – 0%,
Max Opacity – 100%, Birth and Death Color – White
Turn the Grid off and, again, offset the layer as necessary.


Step 18

Go back to TITLE comp and hide Bubble_distortion.

Before carrying on, select your text layer and apply Bevel&Emboss layer style to it.
Layer Styles>Bevel and Emboss.
It’s not obligatory but it makes your text look nicer.
My settings were:
Depth – 220%, Size – 4, Altitude – 50%

Now, apply CC Blobbylize bt Effect>Distort>CC Blobbylize.
Open Blobbiness submenu and change Blob Layer to Bubble_distortion.


Step 19

Move your timeline marker to 01:00 (1 second) and open Blobbiness submenu. Now, set keyframes for both Softness (at value 25) and Cut Away (at value 100) and at once go to 09:00. Do the same thing there. Easy Ease all created keyframes.
Go to 02:15 and apply Softness keyframe with value 30
Go to 03:15 and apply Softness keyframe with value 30
Go to 05:00 and apply Softness keyframe with value 100 and Cut Away keyframe with value 0
Go to 07:00 and apply Softness keyframe with value 100 and Cut Away keyframe with value 0
You’re done. Save.


Step 20

To make your text look more cooler do this:
Duplicate TITLE layer. Select the one below and apply Fast Blur to it. Set it to around 20.
Now, Duplicate your BG layer and put it above upper TITLE layer. Select your upper TITLE layer and open Track-Matte drop-down and select Luma Matte “BG 2”


Step 21

At last, we have reached the last step - Color Correction.
Go to Main_comp and apply new Adjustment layer above all the other layers. Name it CC.
Apply Curves to it. Effect>Color Correction>Curves.
Draw an S curve for RGB channel (you’ll have to do it on your own since there is are values).
You can also add Exposure for Light rays layer and set it to 1.
Congrats, You’re done!


Step 22

Use your imagination!

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