Seriously - we cannot know. The caloric value of your post is close to zero. We do not know what operating system, comp settings, footage/ layer types and so on. Really, you need to provide much, much more info and screenshots. Nobody can solve such issues based on vague descriptions.
this difference is very subtle but distinct. when i activate 3d the text becomes slightly blurred. AE version 5.5, Mac 10.6.8. I enlarged this comp to 2380x1339 so that i would have room when moving it around in the sequence I nested it in. square pixels, 29.97.
Thanks for your help.
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You have enabled motion blur preview, so if your camera moves or the layer has any keyframes it could easily explain the issue. Naturally, a 2D layer would simply ignore the 3D cam's motion blur stuff...
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If your camera is in the default position and the text layer is in the default position (comp center and z=0) then there should be no difference in the apparent sharpness between 2D and 3D. This is because the pixels in the 2D text layer are exactly lined up with the pixels that the camera sees in the 3D layer.
If you move your camera or move your text layer at all then the pixels need to be reinterpreted and detail around edges will start to soften. The same thing happens if you move a 2D layer a fraction of a pixel in any direction. Take a look at this shot. The same 1 pixel by 100 pixel white solid is used yet half of the lines appear to be gray. You can clearly see the sub-pixel sampling in the view on the right. Anti-aliasing works by adjusting the alpha channel of the interpreted pixels. When a pixel lines up with a pixel the alpha is 255 which is opaque. The left diagonal line is exactly at 45º so the alpha values of the pixels to the left and right are equal giving the view at 100% the appearance of being white, while the vertical solid on the left appears as a light gray and a dark gray line of pixels because the alphas are different for the left and right columns. You can imagine how this thin line would flicker if it were to move slowly across the screen a fractional pixel at a time.
Text has a bunch of curves and isn't always exactly an even number of pixels high or wide so the edges are always a bit soft. If you move the text slightly, especially when it's thin and small, it will appear to soften as it reaches the half way point between maximum apparent sharpness and maximum softness. The top Test text layer is 2D and nice and sharp. The second is 3D in the exact same position as the 2D layer only 10 pixels lower. The camera is at it's default position. The third text layer is moved .5 pixels to the left. At 100% scale the bottom text row is appears to be just slightly softer than the other layers. It's also a little less white. If the text was bold or bigger, the difference would be far less noticeable.
So there you have it. Back in the bad old days of SD television and disclaimers on commercials we had to be very careful to match font size to exactly 20 pixels in height so that the disclaimer was barely readable. I always did this by creating a 20 X 20 pixel solid, changing the magnification level to 800%, then adjusting the font size and baseline shift so that the text was exactly 20 pixels high. Only then did it look good.
Funny thing about your question. I was up working on an article on visual effects when I saw your post. I just happened to be working on the part about sub-pixel sampling.
Sooooo, you're saying there's a chance.
Thanks for the great reply, Rick. Much appreciated. Is there a workaround for this? Some titles are sharp and some less sharp, and getting worse under web compression.
The only work around is in the design. Thin fonts don't work well on video and can be a nightmare if they move.
Also, remember that motion is your friend most of the time. Slow motion cam be problematic, but fast motion hides a multitude of sins. Don't ever judge the quality of a render by looking at a single frame. You're not working on a print add here, you're working on a video.
As a last resort you can add an unsharp mask to try and crisp up edges. That's a great effect to get in trouble with though. Just a bit of over sharpening can make motion unwatchable.
One last word on compression. Don't compress with AE. Use the Adobe Media Encoder at least and enable multi pass rendering. Use the highest data rates your delivery system can sustain. Compression is the enemy.
You're the best, Rick. Thanks again for your help.
I already follow many of these principles. What I've also done is cloned the text layer and switched off 3D. When the text comes to rest, I punch in to the 2D clone. Annoying, yes, but the result is sharper when it needs to be. It would be nice if after effects recognized a layer in stasis and switched to a sharp version of it but maybe that's asking too much. Next I'll want it to make me some lunch.
The problem isn't that the 3D layer is inherently softer than the 2D layer. The problem is that the positioning of the 3D layer is just slightly different than the 2D layer. If the distance between the camera and the layer is exactly the same as the zoom value when the layer comes to rest then it will be just as sharp as at 2D layer with the text in the same X, Y position. If there is any difference, even by a 1/10 of a pixel or 1/10º, the text will be softer on a 3D layer. See the Test text examples. Everything is at the default except the bottom example.
Here's a factoid to throw in the back of your bonnet: When the distance between a 3D layer and the Camera Position is equal to the Zoom value and the layer's center is exactly perpendicular to the camera center and square with the camera orientation, the pixels are exactly the same as a 2D layer at 100% scale and at the center of the composition. You can keep a layer exactly perpendicular to the camera when it's anchor point is exactly on the centerline (point of interest line) by selecting Layer>Transform>Auto Orient>Orient (Alt/Option + Cmnd/Ctrl + o) towards camera (Alt/Option + Cmnd/Ctrl + o). Shift the layer in any direction away from the center line and it will no longer be perpendicular to the camera. You can use this information to adjust the scale of a 3D layer so that it always remains the same size as the camera moves through a scene.
I've worked with some mighty picky clients in the past on some very high budget projects and I've never done what you're doing. The most important part of making a living doing this is learning how to stop fussing with a shot. You can work it to death.
I just talked to a friend that has put more than 100 hours into a 2 minute animation tweaking every movement so that it hits just perfectly on the beat of the waveform. He asked me to take a look at the render and tell him what I thought. I thought that almost every cut was early and every move was late. When you step through the project a frame at a time and match up the waveform every keyframe is right on the peak, but it has no feel. I then looked at his first cut, which was made only 40 hours into the project. Only two of the cuts looked slightly off. The first cut was made by feel, the last cut was made by fussing with each detail to the point of actually fouling up the whole project.
Fortunately for my friend the fix was implemented by sliding the audio track about 4 frames to the right and fixing about 3 cuts. Unfortunately for my friend, this project only had a budget of $600 That's less than minimum wage. If it were my project I would have given myself a maximum of 10 hours to complete the project and it would have been just fine.
I appreciate your attention to detail, but just make sure that you aren't spending hours doing things that just don't need to be done.
That was a very ambitious project. I liked the design for the most part but there were some text boxes, some fine lines, and some colors that I would worry about falling apart when projected and that just wouldn't work broadcast on cable to a standard definition TV or to an HD TV on a non HD channel. It's also very hard to watch on a mobile device. This is especially important when you are trying to reach a large audience.
Make sure that you design for those contingencies. Make sure you test on the system with the lowest performance where the project may be displayed.
Very nice work. I hope you take the criticism as constructive.