How were shadows in this video done? (your thoughts)


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 7, 2014

I've been learning 3d for the past year or so (Maya, After Effects, and others). I'm finding cracks in my knowledge and trying to fill them.

I prefer Maya, but since rendering takes much longer there, I'm trying to figure out where I can use After Effects to work faster and where to stick with Maya. It seemed that I could use Element 3D to incorporate 3D models into motion graphics and have a faster workflow (faster rendering in After Effects), but recently realized that options for creating shadows in After Effects and Element 3D are limited.

Based on this, I'd love your input on whether you think shadows such as the ones in the video below can be achieved in After Effects or whether you think these shadows were achieved in a 3D app.

Here's the link:

Appreciate your input!


macrumors 6502a
Jul 27, 2010
if run into the same problem sometimes.

in the example video it's definitely a combination of 2 techniques - the shadows from the 3d-objects are pretty dark and form a clear silhouette while the ones on the 2d-objects are very soft (and often pointing into a different direction than the light on the 3d objects would suggest).

i'd guess the shadows of the 2d objects were done in the compositing app (ae raytracing ?) and the ones of the 3d objects with the 3d-program or plugin (they also interact with the models, so it's not just their silhouettes put on a 2d layer).

any idea how they did that pop-up effect on the 3d objects ? can this be done in element 3d ?

have you seen this?


macrumors regular
Sep 24, 2011
shadows on 3d objects and on the ground are probably raytraced, as they blur out on the farther point, probably a physical sun & sky with Mental Ray or similar setup.
Motion blur appears to be added in post.
The motion graphics have nice shadows, they look raytraced aswell; but if you look closely they overlap with the 3d objects. Probably done with AE raytrace engine (needs CUDA powered gpu).
I don't think you can achieve these shadows on element 3d. Realtime depthmap shadows always look sharp regardless of light distance, if you blur them, they will look unrealistic on contact points and lose a lot of detail.
Next element 3d version however brings raytraced shadow and ambient occlusion/gi, and a brand new phisically based shaders and lights, but i doubt it will be supported on mac os x (if it will it will have limitations for a while and will require at least a geforce 680MX).
Honestly you can do this fast with maya and mental ray. Cameras can easily be swapped from After effets to maya and vice-versa, you can also use the powerful 3d tracker (CS6 and above).
Rendering speed should be 1-2 minute max per frame on quad i7 sandy bridge cpu. The setup looks simple enough, model render and a renderlayer of Use Background to separate shadows. Basic materials, no AO pass.
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