Kevin Schires
© 2012


3D Made Elementary

Elementary has become a full-featured panel to help you work with 3D in After Effects. Make sure you go through the different sections of this help page to make sure you make the most of the script.

The script is available on AEScripts and CGriver


The file Elementary.jsxbin should be placed in the Support Files\Scripts\ScriptUI Panels folder of your After Effects installation folder.

C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects CSx\Support Files\Scripts\ScriptUI Panels

Applications/After Effects CSx/Scripts/ScriptUI Panels


The Live option is an experimental feature that shows which button can be used depending on the selected layers and the keyboard modifiers pressed.

However, it is recommended to enable it only to check the different functions of the buttons, and keep it disabled otherwise.

Thanks to

Klaus Brandenburg • Dave Howard • Gary BirdDave Tunnell • Elliott Schires • Lloyd AlvarezChris BobotisAharon RabinowitzPeder NorrbyPeter McAuley


Supported Plugins

With Camera Cut-Off Support
Without Camera Cut-Off Support

Lens flare

* Rendering may be slowed down significantly with these plugins. When creating shadows for point lights, some compositions will be created disabled for you to enable only the ones required. It is also recommended to convert text layers to masked solids if you're not using text animation.



Elementary relies on robust expressions to create copies of plugins and layers linked to the original ones. This is what makes shadows, reflections and the other features of Elementary special: the script precomposes copies of your plugins along with a camera and lights in order to create accurate effects.

The linkage can be either Full or Minimal:
You can update the linkage of any layer or composition created by Elementary. Select the layers or composition and click the Make Min button to link only the expressions necessary. Shift-click the button to switch to a Full linkage.



Creating Anchors

Anchors are Null Objects able to control the position, rotation and scale of 3D objects. To create an anchor, select a single layer with one of the supportde effects applied and click the Create button.

  • For multi-groups plugins such as Element 3D and Plexus, a popup window will allow you to choose which group(s) the new anchor should control
  • For Plexus, you must first create a Transform Effector for the group you would like to attach to an anchor

The position of the Null Object now controls the position of your 3D object, and its scale controls the different scaling factors of the 3D plugins.
Anchors can be parented to other layers, including other anchors, which allows you to chain 3D objects together.

Pivot Point

The anchor point of the Null Object represents the pivot of your 3D object. There are three ways of positioning the Null Object's anchor point without affecting its position:
  1. Use the Pan Behind Tool using the orthographic views of After Effects (Top, Front, Left, etc).
  2. Click the Static/Free button to transform the Arrow tool into a 3D Pan Behind Tool. Note that the layer quality of the Null Object is now set to Wireframe.
    Click again on Static/Free once you're done.
  3. Shift-click the Static/Free button and manually change the X, Y, Z coordinates of the Null Object's anchor point. Note that the layer quality of the Null Object is now set to Draft.
    Shift-click again on Static/Free once you're done.

Deleting Anchors

Do not delete the Null Object manually.
Select the anchor(s) to be deleted and click the Delete button.


Coming Soon ...

Animation Tutorials


Creating Pins



Creating Shadows

Shadows are created by placing a small shadow caster very close to a light. Select a layer with one of the supported effects and a light, then click the Shadow button.

Note: To be able to change some parameters in your original layer and see these changes update in the shadow, some parameters are linked between compositions. However, some Trapcode plugins seem to render very slowly if many parameters are linked.

The Shadow Doesn't Appear?

Shadow casters are 3D layers, so they should be placed below any 2D layer (in After Effects 2D layers "break" 3D).

As the shadow caster is placed very close to the light, it is recommended to use a Shadow Diffusion of 0 for the lights. Should you need a large Shadow Diffusion, increase the value of the Distance slider to move the shadow caster away from the light until the shadow reappears.

Adding Depth to Shadows

Use the Shadow Fade and Shadow Vanish sliders to limit the shadows to a certain distance from the light, or have the objects closer to the light have more impact on the lighting.

To create shadows that become sharper as a model gets closer to a wall, enable the Depth of Field of the camera in the shadow composition and link its Focus Distance to the position of the wall.

Note: For details on expressions for the depth of field, see Dan Ebberts tutorial on

Deleting Shadows

Shadows created by the script are stored in the "Shadows" folder of the project. Delete the shadow composition directly from the folder.


Coming soon ...


Creating Reflections

Select a layer with one of the supported effects and on or several 3D layers, then click the Reflection button button.
Renaming the composition created will prevent you from using the Refl. Matte feature.

Note: To be able to change some parameters in your original layer and see these changes update in the reflection, some parameters are linked between compositions. However, the Trapcode plugins seem to render very slowly if parameters are linked.

The Reflection Doesn't Appear?

By default the reflection composition has a blending mode set to Multiply. If your 3D object is white or if your background is dark, the reflection will not appear properly. Solo the layer to check the reflection is correct, then change its blending mode

Reflection Rolloff

The reflection rolloff is created from a Z-Pass. Unfortunately, this means that the rolloff will depend on the placement of the camera.
Keyframe the Reflection Rollof and Rolloff Offset sliders to tweak the look of the reflection for the different positions of your camera.

Reflection Matte

To limit the reflection to the 3D layer that represents the mirror, select the relfection composition and click the Reflect. Matte button.

Note: To take into account other 3D layers in the matte, place a copy of these 3D layers in the matte composition and tint them in black.

Deleting Reflections

Reflections created by the script are stored in the "Reflections" folder of the project. Delete the reflection composition directly from the folder.


Coming soon ...



Cel-Shading helps integrating 3D objects with drawings. The edges are exaggerated and drawn in black, and colors are limited to only a few tones. Simply click the Cel-Shading button and the script creates an adjustment layer at the top of the composition.

Dragan Effect

This is yet another Dragan-like effect. Details are sharpened, the contrast is enhanced and colors are desaturated. Simply click the Dragan button and the script creates an adjustment layer at the top of the composition.


Coming soon ...

Lens Flares

Obscuration Layer

This greatly simplifies the setup of lens flares with Optical Flares or Adobe's Lens Flares effect. Select the layers that should obscure the lens flare, a copy of these layers is then placed in a composition set as foreground layer of the lens flare effect. The original layers are kept in the main composition, but are disabled.


The camera and lights of the new composition are linked to those of your original composition to preserve interacticity. The parameters of Element 3D or Plexus are also linked between compositions.


Coming soon ...

Element 3D

Custom Layers

Select a layer with Element 3D and any other layer to automatically add these as Custom Path and Textures of Element 3D. Text layers and layers with masks will be used as custom paths for extrusion, while any other layer will be used as custom texture.
To reset the custom layers, select only a layer with Element 3D when clicking the Use Layers button.



Preparing the scene

The Disintegration effect is for Element 3D only and requires Particular to create the particles.

A plane with a Matte Shadow material needs to be placed in one of the groups of the Element 3D layer. Create an Anchor for this group, select the anchor and click on the Disintegrate button.

Tutorial by Dave Howard