Lightning Fast Animation in Element 3D (2014)
Appendix A. Final Thoughts
Well, you've done it! You're now at the end of your journey. We've learned modeling techniques, how to prepare objects for Element 3D, texturing, animating, overcoming some of the limitations of Element using workarounds, and some other advanced features. You're ready to take your first solo steps. In this appendix, we're going to discuss some other resources and techniques that you may wish to learn for the potential future features of Element 3D.
Using the right tool for the right job
Element 3D is a great tool for basic 3D. Flying logos, basic special effects, 3D text, and object arrays—these are all great things for Element 3D. Remember, it's still in its 1.x generation. With no physics, ray tracing, fluids, and the severe limitations on object counts, you won't be making "Finding Nemo" anytime soon. Just like a carpenter wouldn't use a skill saw to screw a deck screw in, you shouldn't delude yourself into thinking that now you can make an animated feature movie with a tool for basic, quick 3D.
That said, Element 3D is a quantum leap forward in 3D for compositing software. It allows great-looking (albeit somewhat simple) animations for logos and VFX without having to send your projects to 30 different people. Advertising, television news, sporting events, and indie films/shorts are all great applications for Element 3D. However, now that you have a foundation in animation and modeling, you can make the jump to a full-fledged 3D program fairly quickly (for example, Maya and 3DSmax; remember that Blender is free).
Okay, so Element 3D is still in its 1.x generation. What's to come? Excellent question! One can only guess. However, some good guesses would probably include integration with After Effects' shadow engine (much like the integration with the lights), reflections, true refractions, and other ray tracing effects (maybe radiosity).
Some other features that would be cool are ones that have more of z-buffering. Closer integration with the AEX 3D engine, which would include better compositing for other 3D layers flying between objects (without the need for generating world position maps), would be an excellent addition to Element 3D.
More particle features (such as gravity and collision detection) will also undoubtedly come into play. Maybe through additional interfaces to particular, we can replace those particles with objects?
However, these are all just wild thoughts, and all of these come with a price. Render times will go up exponentially with all of these features. Let's be real here. Element 3D is still essentially for motion graphics. So, although all of these features would be welcome, who really knows where it's going?
Anything more to learn?
Yes! If you can, get a hold of a full 3D program. The more you learn about how 3D really works, the better you'll be at figuring out workarounds for pseudo 3D plugins such as Element. For instance, Element has the capability of importing sequential 3D object files exported from real 3D software. (You could animate a very complex scene in Maya and export the geometry for the whole scene frame by frame from Maya for use in Element 3D.) We didn't cover this for two very simple reasons—this is not a book on how to animate in Maya (remember how long just the modeling section was), and it can be bug a bit (for example, normal flipping out). Also, there is no potential for motion blur. In effect, the best you can hope for is a stop-motion look (without a vector motion blur plugin).
This can be answered with one simple sentence: Google, YouTube, and Video Copilot's website are all excellent resources on additional methodologies and discussions on Element 3D. With the foundation you've learned here, the information freely available on the Web can answer just about any question you could possibly have.
Final message from the author
First of all, thank you for taking the time to go on this journey with me. Hopefully, this book has done its job and taught you about Element 3D, the methodologies and thought processes, and its applications. As more people learn 3D and more companies (such as Video Copilot) develop 3D applications, the market evolves and grows. You have just made the community one person larger. Help! Teach others, post your new techniques and tricks on message boards, and continue this ever-evolving synergy of the 3D community.
As a parting piece of advice, I'll give you the same line my original mentor (Rick Vertolli at CSU Chico) gave me, "Don't ever create a story around an effect; create your effect for the story!". Seems obvious, but as we learn new techniques and tricks, we have to resist the urge to throw them in for no good reason on a project. If it contributes to the "big idea" of a project, go for it! If it doesn't, store it, guard it; keep it like a child until it's ready to be unleashed on the world. Else, you'll just be known as a one trick pony. Don't stop learning, and happy 3Deity-ing!