After Effects’ 3D Future

It’s dead to us. We’re putting our 3D efforts into integration w/ Maxon Cinema 4D & supporting 3D plug-in makers.

In today’s #Mochat discussion about new features in After Effects Creative Cloud 2014 on Twitter, Adobe’s Todd Kopriva was asked about the future of ray-traced 3D in After Effects and his response was surprising but not entirely unexpected. Todd was asked if development will continue on ray-traced 3d and responded with a resounding no, explaining that “it’s dead to us” and that future efforts will be on integration with Maxon Cinema 4D and 3D plug-ins. Raytraced-3D will remain in After Effects until there’s a suitable replacement, but will no longer be developed.

There were mixed feelings in the After Effects community about raytraced-3D when it was introduced due to it’s heavy dependence on the NVIDIA GPU and CUDA. If you had the right GPU it worked and looked great, if you didn’t it was virtually unusable. Either way that’s irrelevant now as Adobe looks to the future of 3D in After Effects.

How do you feel about ray-traced 3D being fazed out? Do you support further development of Cinema 4D and 3D plug-in support? I’m keen to know your thoughts.

  1. Bastiaan van Oorde

    I will miss it, I don’t use the 3d options really, but it helped a lot with a card animation which caused all kind of glitches with the classic renderer due to overlapping planes, but worked without any issues with the new one. And doing it in C4D would only slow me down. You can see what I mean on the NIJS film here

  2. Grum

    Great news that they are focussing on integrating pro 3D software into. AE doesn’t have to be a one stop shop.

    I wish the Photoshop team would get the hint…

  3. Mike Griggs

    To be honest this creates more questions, as all of a sudden Adobe is dependant on external companies for improvements in its 3D toolset, which when compared to a programme like NUKE with a fully integrated native 3D object pipeline. Regarding CINEWARE, there are going to have to be some major improvements in speed (which seem solely dependant on Maxon) as for anything complex its achingly slow…

  4. Dan Conrad

    Never used it.

    • Steve McSteve

      Thank you for your valuable insight. Please expound further upon how you have no relation or interest to this particular article. I find your lack of wits to be most entertaining.

      • Scottgfx


        I never used it because it was useless. It was simply a checkmark box on a list of features. It couldn’t be precomped, you lost a great amount of functionality just by turning it on. I’ve never seen it used on any paid work where I live. I’m glad to see it is going away.

      • Steve McRepetitive

        The guy said he never used it, so he isn’t going to miss the feature. He wasn’t trying to be witty, it was a statement.

        Did you hear it Steve McSteve Steve? That was the internet flying over your head.

  5. Rich Young

    Does Adobe even develop 3D for AE or plug-ins? It seems since Video Copilot Element 3D is high-profile that bug fixes might constitute support, but there’s no sign of development, or more people would have heard of the AtomKraft rendering engine after 2 years.

    While we couldn’t hope to compete with Nuke, parity with Hitfilm in 3D doesn’t seem an extreme goal.

    • Alessandro

      The integration Cinema 4d / AE really(cineware) got me interested, and I think is a good way to introduce 3D into AE. But if element 3d were able to cast shadows… that would be a big game changer in terms of 3d inside AE.

      • Jim

        Check this out:

        I haven’t used it, but it’s supposed to add shadows and reflections to 3D plug-ins.

      • Torsten Maekler

        Well, looks like V2 of Element will have exactly this … and more – evan a RayTrace Option 🙂

  6. Greg

    As a regular C4D user I think it’s good that their focusing on C4D more. I tried many times to use it but on many of the computers I’ve worked on once I tried to switch to using ray trace AE would go super slow or just through an error in my face. I never really tried to use it for more then 3D text and in the end I wound up either using C4D by itself, with Cineware, or BCC extrude text. I’ve even gone old fashion and just stacked layers in 3D Z space. I just hope they improve the speed working with C4D since cineware is a bit slow depending on what you are working on.

  7. John Begg

    Make C4D part of Adobe CC and I’d be a happy camper.

    • Jason

      Oh man that would be awesome, but as Cinema 4D studio costs more than all of adobe’s software combined, I doubt it.

  8. Brian Klein

    I used the ray-traced 3d, and it worked well, until I didn’t have a cuda card to work on with it. It would be nice if they added openCL to the render engine for it (I’m not sure that’s possible??), but I would rather that they focus on integrating 3D with Cinema 4D. Cineware works but it has a long ways to go. I actually rarely use it because I feel it’s a bit too clumsy to work with yet. If they could get that to work better, I think it’s a bigger win for them. I also think it would also be nice if they had better integration tools with Maya and other 3D apps, but I’m guessing that won’t happen, unless a 3rd party develops it. Adding a “lite” version of the Zaxwerks plugin might be nice offering for those who just want to be able to do some simple 3D. But you can already do that with C4D lite. It just has a bit more of a learning curve.

    When you say they are fazing out the ray tracer, do you meant they are going to take it out of AE? I would think that they would just leave it as it without further development. I may have just read your post incorrectly.

  9. EJ Hassenfratz

    Raytracing in AE was dead the moment Element came out, which came out before AE’s 3D “solution”. Cineware has largely been untouched since it’s initial release and it’s been quiet on both fronts as far as the future of Cineware. Right now, Cineware feels more like it’s in beta more than a final product. I’m not even sure if Maxon does most of the grunt work as far as having it integrate with AE. It’s got a long way to go. When it first game out I said it’ll be pretty awesome in a couple years…and one year went by and it’s stayed the same so I don’t know what to think of it. The thing that annoys me the most about After Effects is that the best features are created by 3rd parties. 3D motion blur? 3rd party. Lens flares? 3rd party. Color correction? 3rd party. How much quality production 3D work could you actually get done with just the standard AE plug-ins?

  10. Patricio Veloso

    Please Adobe buy Maxon ASAP!

    • Kevin Snyder

      I see people post often that they want Adobe to buy Maxon. Why on earth would anyone want that? Maxon makes great 3d software, let them keep doing it. If Adobe were so good at 3d they would have a good solution by now. I hope Adobe never buys Maxon. I love Adobe products, but I don’t want them developing C4D.

  11. illd

    I second EJ Hasenfratz´ comment:
    Cineware feels like a Beta Software. Nothing improved over a year. Also It´s sad tha AE can´t use Cuda technology at all – at least the AE Raytracer should have benefit from it. Adobe and 3D is a sad story so far…I guess the next big 3D-thing for AE will be the octane plugin.

  12. Mark Shingleton

    I attempted to use raytracing a couple of times but found it to be so slow that I quickly dismissed it. As soon as Element3D came out I never touched it again. It certainly wont be missed by me. Having the Cinema4D integration for complex 3d work, and Element3D for blazing fast 3d certainly fills any holes left behind and then some.

  13. Jason Nelson (@JasonANelson)

    Our team has been reviewing and demoing Octane Render for the past 3 months. It takes full advantage of our Titans and is blazing fast. We’re definitely going to buy it for our C4D work, but will probably hold out until September when they release a plugin for After Effects.

  14. Mike Griggs

    Looking at the responses to the thread, and thinking about this some more, After Effects can have all the renderer’s it wants, but Adobe depending on 3rd parties for 3D integration means that the core issues with how AE handles 3D will be ignored. The two key things AE needs before 3D plugins will be anything other than a hack (including CINEWARE) is native 3D object importing into the timeline and a decent 3D camera system, until either of these things happens, which I doubt they will now, I am going to look to NUKE to handle my CG comp work

  15. Mikey Borup

    Well, Ray Traced does have some advantages over E3D, BUT I hear v2.0 will solve all of that. Like extruding shape layers, shadows and reflections. Rumor also going around about deforming models and a better character rigging solution. But again, just rumors 🙂

  16. Eran Stern

    I was sad to hear that Adobe is about to forsake it. I’m one of the fans of Ray Tracer engine even with its limitations. I tend to use it quite often, and must say, that for me, it is faster than other workflows. My hardware (iMac and MBP) supports it nicely and in most cases, results are faster (and cleaner) compared to CINEWARE and other 3rd party plugins. When it comes to creating 3D text and shape extrusion it has the fastest and easiest approach, it works inside Ae, supports text animations, scripts and expressions – and it is free. Recently I did a case study experiment, which was based on heavy 3D text extrusions and I got the best results out of the Ray Tracer engine compared to all 6 alternatives. As long as it is there, I’ll continue to use it. FWIW: I’m going to show and prove my point at After Effects World in Sept

    • Raymond Montemayor

      I also use AE’s Ray Tracer quite a bit. It gives great results with a straightforward native interface. I agree that it can be slow to work with, but I found that working in Fast Draft mode addresses this issue for the most part. I only go to full quality to spot check certain frames, fine tune my materials options, and for final rendering. When I don’t need true ray tracing, I normally go with Element 3D for speed, but in some cases ray tracing gives me the look I want, and AE’s ray tracer fits the bill in many cases. I’ll continue to use it as long as it’s available.

  17. Ricardo

    Raytracing is dead. Element 3D killed it.

  18. vamparazzi

    I tried the raytracing in AE but it was way too slow for me and I couldn’t do custom shapes and bevels.I’ve use Zaxwerks ProAnimator and I couldn’t be happier. Definitely the way of the future.

  19. Steve Oakley

    never touched element 3D. ProAnimator and the BCC 3D plugins had done my 3D work very well. that said I have been using the AE 3D on CUDA and turned out several title sequences for a couple of shows rather nicely. a decent CUDA card is cheap enough that its just not an excuse. if they move what the ray tracer in CUDA / OPTIX currently does to C4D and its at least as fast, thats great. however I have no real plans to EVER open C4D because its just not something I ever plan to deal with. I have enough apps to stay current on and adding a full 3D app just isn’t going to happen… which is where I go back to ProAnimator and BCC 3D plugs which work just fine for turning out money paying work.

  20. thierry

    Most of the problem is : Adobe guys never understand what is 3D, they never be able to make a real 3D environnement, never be able to make a real 3d navigation interface…
    (just look at Hit film and 3dmax or so…)
    the use of ray tracing is all about shadows (element3D have no shadow.. until the V2 i guess) and of course shadow is very expensive.
    (hit film have use 3d objects and their shadow slow down everything)
    But when i see Brigade engine, i can imagine what a pathtracing like that would do with a simple AE scene.
    i am not skillful in programming, so…just hope the AE guys will be 🙂
    (they never been able to make a real curve editor, so i don’t hope about anything)

  21. thierry

    Hey guys, OCTANE arrives impressively in AE !

    (so the ray tracing question looks obsolete…:)

  22. Spiritman

    How utterly narrow-minded and Microsoftesque of them. They clearly don’t know their userbase. There must be hundreds (thousands?) of people in my position: I’m 47 and I don’t have the time, inclination, or commercial need to learn a new 3D software application. Why learn something that far exceeds my needs in my work? I produce animated infomercials and training videos for internal use by my employer, a global manufacturing company. At my age, learning something entirely new is a huge undertaking, and if I do manage to do it, they’re not going to pay me more just because I know something they don’t need me to know. Am I ready for the scrapheap already? So soon? This is sad news indeed.

    • Grum

      The way of working with raytracing was an entirely new thing that you would have had to learn. It was also clunky and slow to work with, and the time you will save by dropping it will be more than enough for you to look at a video tutorial on how to do the new supported method.

      Also this article about them ditching it is two years old, I was surprised to get an email notification. Do you actually know what you are complaining about?

      • Spiritman

        With respect, it’s a piece of cake to draw some coloured shapes and a text line or two, extrude them, and add a couple of lights and a camera. Set a few keyframes and you’ve got a basic animation. I like the simplicity of it, so I don’t want to have to learn about polygons, materials, textures, ambient occlusion and a whole bunch of other complex stuff that I just won’t have the time to use anyway. I knock out some videos in a day, not weeks – I don’t have that luxury. Also, whilst I was a quick learner in my 20s and 30s, I don’t have the same capacity these days. If you’re young, you might not understand this. Lucky you. 🙂

      • John Dickinson

        Hey guys, Raytracing may be dead in Ae (although it’s still there right now in the latest version) but that doesn’t mean 3D is dead in Ae.

  23. patfish

    After 5 years we still have no real 3D environment/pipeline inside of AE 😀 …it’s a real shame! …3D Elements is now untouched since years the links between AE and C4D is still mediocre… But I have the feeling that Adobe slowly starts to realise that in 2019 even motion graphics tools needs to have a real 3D environment … so they started to buy a lot of 3D technology …I think at least in 2021 we will see something new inside of AE

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