How to Create 3D Floating Text in After Effects (Eminem – Lucky You)

After Effects 12/01/2019 11 min read

Hi guys! Jordan with Motion Array and today we’re taking a look at Eminem’s new music video – Lucky You!  There’s a lot of cool effects in this video, but today, we’re taking a look at one of the simpler ones.  At the very beginning, there’s some credits that are made to look like they’re in the world of the actual video.  So today, we’re going to show you how to get that effect in Adobe After Effects.  So let’s jump right into it!

Okay, so here we are inside of After Effects and the first thing that we’re gonna do is take a look at this final effect that we’re gonna create. You can see that the text actually looks like it’s 3D and the reflection is actually coming off the water in a way that feels real. So let’s get right into this and start by going to our project manager here up at the top left and let’s find the piece of footage that we actually want to start with this is the piece of footage here, and you can see as we scrub through that it’s got a lot of different pieces to it but we actually just want a piece at the end here. So for right now let’s just drag and drop the whole thing into a new composition. Click and drag it over top of this new composition button to create a new composition based on the parameters of this footage. Now let’s scrub through and find the part that we actually want to use. It’s gonna be closer to the end here and I’m gonna wait until the drone pans up and stops panning till right about here. This is the piece that I actually want to use so what we’re gonna do is split it by hitting Ctrl or Command + Shift + D and delete the excess to the left. Now let’s keep going a little bit farther forwards and try to find the ending point which is right about here. It’s subjective but this is where I want to stop so again to split the clip hit Ctrl or Command + Shift + D and delete the excess again.

Now let’s move the clip all the way over to the left hand side and we’re gonna create an out point here so that we can work with just this piece of footage. So create your out point here by hitting the N key. Now we’re gonna trim the composition to just the work area by right clicking up here and hitting trim comp to work area. Now our entire work area is just made up of only the footage we actually want to work with and this is what we’ve got so far the next step is we’re gonna do a 3D camera track, so highlight the layer of footage that you want to work with and go over to the right hand side where it says “tracker” and click Track Camera. This will create a 3D camera track based on your specific footage. It may take a while to complete but once it does you can scrub through and see what’s happened. Until you actually highlight the 3D camera effect, you’re not really going to notice much different, so what you can do is go back up to the top here and either highlight the effect or click render track points. You should now see a bunch of little tracking dots all along your footage based on objects that are pretty consistent throughout your piece.

As you drag your mouse across these tracking points you should notice that there’s a little target that appears over your mouse based on a triangulation of any three tracking points that your mouse is in the middle of. If you’re having trouble interacting with these tracking points, it’s probably just because you’ve got a setting turned off go up to view and make sure that show layer controls is turned on. If it’s turned off you’re not gonna be able to interact with any of these tracking points. So if that’s your problem then this is the first place to look. Okay so now we’re actually going to make a selection of these tracking points based on where we want the actual text to stand so find where you actually want your text to be and then look anywhere around there for the nearest possible tracking points. This will help you to make sure that right off the bat you’ve got a good clean track near the area where you want your text to actually stand. So hit V to bring up your selection tool, and then click and drag around all of these tracking points here to get a nice solid track. Then right-click and create text and camera.

You might have noticed that I’m zooming in and out a lot of this footage and using the hand tool to move it around without actually moving the footage position. To quickly and easily do this, use your mouse scroll wheel to zoom in and out quickly and press and hold the space bar in order to bring up the hand tool. As soon as you release the space bar you’ll go back to your previous cursor.

So now let’s actually start working with our text. By double clicking on your text, it’ll automatically highlight and you can type in whatever you want it to say. Now we have to move it into position so the first thing that you want to do is orient it in the way that you want it to be. Highlight your layer to make sure that it’s active and then press the W key to bring up your rotate tool. Now when you click and drag over any of these axes you’ll rotate over only that one axis. Keep going until you get it roughly into the orientation you want then hit the V key to bring up your selection tool and then use it to move your text into the physical position that you want. We can now just play our footage and see how it’s actually started to track. It actually looks 3d and like it’s in the world here. There’s still a lot of things that we need to do but at least we know that we’ve got a good start.

Next up I just want to change the size of my text so that it looks a little bit more realistic over top of the water here. Changing the scale alone won’t actually change how it interacts in 3D. Now bring up your selection tool again and just move it around to the position where you actually feel like you want it to finally be. Once he finally got it, play your footage again and see if it looks like it sticks. For us this looks pretty good, it actually looks like it’s sticking exactly where we want it to be. If you’re having trouble figuring out whether or not it’s actually sticking in the position you want it to, what can really help us to draw an imaginary line and then compare it to another actual object on the same focal plane of your footage. So for example on the left-hand side here along the sidewalk there’s these light posts. If you have a particular position that you want your footage to be in, try to compare it against one of these or at least see how it looks imagining as if it was between them. Search around through your footage to see if you can find anything that you can compare it to, and what can really help is to drag your text right next to it so you can really see. From here you can make any adjustments pushing it forwards or backwards in three-dimensional space along the z-axis, but for right now ours is looking pretty nice.

But you may notice something here now is that there’s a little bit of a problem. The footage that we’ve chosen here has some artificial black bars which the text isn’t actually respecting. So just personally, for my footage what I’m going to do is I’m gonna lay down an aspect ratio preset over top of all my other layers. You likely won’t have to do this for your footage.

All right next up we’re gonna be adding a couple of more layers, so it’s time to get organized with all of our different layer names. I’m just going to start renaming things so that it’s pretty obvious what everything is. Next up here what we’re going to be doing is creating the reflection in the water from this piece of text so to do this the easiest way is to start by duplicating it with Ctrl or Command + D, then to continue keeping things organized, take this top second version and drag it beneath the original then rename it so that you can actually tell that it’s the shadow layer. Cool, so now we’re going to change it just by highlighting it and then going up to this color swatch here and changing its color to black. Once that’s done just make sure that your lair is highlighted, and then you’re gonna bring up the rotate tool with W. Then hover over the X-axis here and start to rotate it just a little bit. When you do, press and hold the shift button and then continue rotating it this will lock off your rotation to increments of 45 degrees and then once you get down to 180 degrees you know that it’s exactly a mirror image of what you started with.

So you can probably already see the effects start to take shape, just a couple little details to figure out. Press the V button to get your selection tool back up and then drag the y-axis down here a little bit so that your text pieces are separated from each other. This is giving the impression that the motion text is sitting a little bit above the water, and as we scrub through here you can see that it’s actually sticking really well and we don’t have to do any additional adjustments to the shadow layer. It’s actually more of a reflection than it is a shadow but if I use that term you know what I mean.

Okay so next up what we want to do is make it look like the shadow or reflection is actually coming off of the water. We can do that simply by drop in the opacity but if you want to go for some really great detail what I’d suggest is actually doing the following. Bring your opacity back up to 100, and then over here where it says mode you can change the blending mode use these toggle switches down here at the bottom. If you can’t see it and there’s all these different options to choose from but I’m gonna choose Soft Light. Play around and see what works best for your footage, but I’ve already played a run with all these different ones and seen that soft light works best for me. You can see that it really shows through things in a really natural way but even though we have soft light here I’m still going to decrease the opacity of the shadow layer just a little bit.

If you were in a real rush this might be enough to sell the effect for you, but what I’m going to show you next is how to make it actually look like your reflection is bouncing off of the water which is not perfectly glossy smooth. It’s actually going to take into account all of the little different ripples of the water in your actual footage. To make this effect work we need to use a very specific effect, go up to your effects panel and then search for the effect called displacement map, then drag and drop it onto your shadow layer. You should see that it doesn’t really do much of anything, but up in the top left corner here in your effects controls panel you can see that it’s pulling from a specific source. Right now it’s pulling from our third layer here but it’s not actually really doing anything, we actually need to create our own layer to tell the text how to react, so how do we do that? Well let’s go down here to our bottom footage layer, and let’s just solo it for now. Then highlight it and then duplicate it by hitting Ctrl or Command + D, pull down the second layer here and let’s rename it BW for black and white map, because we’re going to be using this to map what our shadow text does. To make it black and white, it’s really easy just searching your effects panel for black and white, and then drag and drop it onto your footage. Then search for brightness and contrast, and drag and drop that effect in as well. We’re just going to be increasing the contrast a little bit so that it’s a bit easier for our shadow to be able to tell what’s actually happening in the water, and if you need to depending on your footage you can also increase the brightness a little bit awesome.

So now that we’ve done that we can just un-solo our black and white map layer, and then we’re also gonna hide it so that it doesn’t interact with our footage in any real way. Next up with your shadow layer highlighted, go back up to your displacement map effect and then under source choose the black and white map layer we just created.  Also make sure that instead of source, your map is set to effects and masks. You still won’t notice too much different until you go to the horizontal and vertical map layers and change them from red to lightness and then from green to lightness as well.

Last up we’re just gonna be increasing each of these values from 5 to about 15. We can see that unfortunately that makes the shadow move a little bit too much off-center so we’re actually gonna dip it back down to 7 and 7. Great, so what we should see now is that our effect is actually taking shape, but you may not be able to see it properly unless we solo this layer and then turn the checkerboard on. If you look really closely here you can see that the ripples of the water are actually coming through in the shape of the text and as the footage plays through it’s changing based on the movement of the water. It’s pretty incredible isn’t it!

Okay, so next up we’re gonna make this look even more realistic by highlighting our bottom black and white map layer and then adding what’s called a Gaussian blur. Drag and drop it on to your black and white map layer, and we’re just gonna increase the blur a little bit, not too much. What this does is this blurs the black and white layer that the map is being drawn from and makes everything just a little bit smoother, with less harsh edges and less pixelation. cool so now lets un-solo our shadow layer here and let’s see how everything looks in context. It’s definitely coming together, but right now it looks a little too sharp and real, so we’re actually gonna add the same Gaussian blur effect to the shadow layer itself, and also increase it by just a small amount. your situation might vary but I’m just gonna add a value of five, and already this is smoothing it out a lot now.

Our effect is looking pretty awesome, but here’s the really great part now that we’ve actually created this effect once, if we wanted to create more text to look exactly the same we don’t even have to do this all over again. All we have to do is highlight our shadow and our text layers and then duplicate them with Ctrl or Command + D then make sure that each of these duplicate layers are stacked together for organization. Then we can double click each of these and then make them say something completely new. Once we’ve done that you can right click and rename them so that you can know at a glance which is which. Then what’s that’s done you want to highlight both of these new layers by holding shift as you click and then bring up your selection cursor with V, and then grab the blue axis and move them back in space and you can use the other axes as well to kind of position them the way that you want. And because our “Array” text is technically farther away from us, we’re gonna take these two layers and drop them below the other text just in case there’s any crossover.

Now once you’ve got it in the right position, you can actually change the scaling of these elements without changing how they react in three-dimensional space. So highlight the layers press the S button for scale, and then change the scale accordingly until you get it to roughly the size that you want, and that feels believable for the position that you’ve placed it in. And I realized here that we don’t have the shadow element named correctly, so I’m just gonna double click on this layer and rename it array. Once we’ve renamed it though, I noticed that the shadow version is sitting a little bit too far to the left, so I’m just gonna very slowly try and move it over to the right a little bit so that it lines up perfectly. And now that we’ve got it lined up, I’m just gonna solo this layer and prove to you that is still retaining all of the information from our map layer and shoving all the ripples in the water.

Now with all of that accomplished, this is what our effect looks like. This effect right now is good enough to show on its own but there’s one last piece that will actually make it look even more realistic. Because we’re adding digital text to a real world there’s a chance that your text will look a little too sharp and perfect to really be in the world of your video. So a really simple technique to use is to actually add a bit of a blur to your text, not very much at all, maybe only one two or even three units if you’re using a Gaussian blur. What this does isn’t so much blur your text, but make it a little less perfect. If we zoom in here and show you the before and after you can see how subtle of a difference this really is, but if anybody views your work in really high resolution they’ll be able to notice these subtle differences. In Eminem’s music video “Lucky You” there’s three different versions of this text effect. We’ve already gone over this one but, the great news is is that there’s actually not really a different technique to getting these other two. This version right here just simply uses a 3d tracker to make your text follow a similar trajectory to other elements within your scene, while this one here is exactly the same process that we just went over, except when you create your shadow layer you’re actually not going to be flipping it over the x-axis. You’re just gonna simply duplicate it and push it farther away from your camera’s view. Then place it a little bit off-center directly opposite from where your light source is coming from. In this scene we can see that the light source is coming from this top right section over here, so placing our shadow is simply just taking into account this and placing it on the opposite side.

But the best part of this technique that we’ve shown you is that you don’t have to use it for just water, you can actually use it for anything that you want to make a displacement map for. So take for example this shot where we have a lot of trees, you might think that it’s really hard to project a shadow over these really varying different heights in the trees, but by using the same method and just increasing the values of the horizontal and vertical, it we’re actually able to create a really believable depth map for our shadow to follow. Here’s what the shadow looks like on its own, and now here’s what the text looks like on its own, and here’s what it looks like when we incorporate the shadow. This technique is really versatile and hopefully you can find a lot of different uses for it to help make your videos come to life!

Well, that concludes this tutorial. I hope you found it helpful, if you did, please give us a thumbs up and if you’d like to see more tutorials please go ahead and subscribe because we’re making new ones all the time.  I hope you guys found it helpful.  If you did, we’ve got lots of other Premiere Pro tutorials, After Effects tutorials and filmmaking tutorials!