I think you are talking about magnification factor because you cannot ZOOM unless you add a new camera to AE. The magnification factor magnifies the composition panel so you can see all the way down to the individual pixels.
You are not understanding working with 3D in After Effects AT ALL.
- Import your Illustrator file as a comp or as a merged file.
- Make the Layers 3D
- Add a camera
- The focal length does not matter now ZOOM
- A 2 node camera points the camera at a point of interest no matter where the camera is positioned
- A 1 node camera responds to orientation and x, y, and z rotation - When you learn to use a 2 node camera they are actually much easier to use for most projects
- When you add the camera, no matter what the focal length the distance between the camera and the center of the composition (z = zero) will exactly match the Zoom value of the camera and the resulting image size of layers at this distance from the camera will be equivalent to a scale value of 100% (this is important)
Now to work with your camera here are a few facts.
- The AE Camera acts exactly like a camera in the real world except that it has no lens distortion
- Camera position controls perspective, focal length (zoom value) controls framing. When you have the camera close to an object you get exaggerated perspective, when you have the camera far away from an object you get reduced perspective so things look more like they are in the same position
- Parallax, the movement of objects in relation to each other depends on camera position. If you have one object very close to the camera and 3 objects very far away from the camera but close to each other the first object will move very fast compared to the other 3 objects when you dolly, pan or move the camera in any way. Those are the laws of optics. It's the way your eye works, it's the way AE's camera works.
- Changing the focal length without moving the camera only changes the framing. The parallax and perspective with a 200mm lens is exactly the same as the parallax and perspective changes you get with a 10mm lens, you just have a wider angle of view with the wide angle lens.
Now that you have added your camera select it and press the a key twice to reveal all of the camera variables that you can animate. You will see zoom value as one of the properties. Change this and you change the framing. Reveal the transform properties and you'll see point of interest instead of anchor point for a 2 node camera. Change the point of interest and you change where the camera is pointing. If the point of interest stays at the center of the comp and has a z value of zero and you change the position the camera will always point at the center of the comp. If you move the camera closer to the center of the comp then the anchor point will not change unless you have changed the Transform properties of the camera (read about that) but the camera will move closer to the layers at the center of the comp so the framing will change.
On a real set and in a 3D app it's really difficult to move the camera and zoom and get a good shot. It is impossible in real life to get perspective changes when you zoom. The same thing happens with AE. If you watch a feature film or a high quality commercial you will hardly ever see a zoom, but you will see a lot of camera moves. I would have to have you in a couple semesters of cinematography class before you fully understood the psychology and the power of camera moves and composition. Some people just get it but can't explain it. It's my bread and butter and you have to have a good understanding of those effects to do great camera work in AE.
Experiment with moving the camera around, look at some of the community resources that talk about animating a camera by typing animate a camera in the search help field at the top right corner of AE. MOST of the YouTube videos that try and explain how to do this are authored by folks that are giving bad advice so stick with the Adobe Community Resources or fully vet your instructors so you don't get into bad habits.
There is nothing at all wrong with the way CR and CT (continuously rasterize and collapse transformations) work in AE, your first workflow was flawed and you second workflow is a perfect example of a workflow that will get you into a bunch of trouble even though it kind of works.
AE is hard enough you could spend 20 or more years learning to use all of it's functions like I have and still find things that you can do more efficiently. You can't just poke around and magically discover the most efficient workflow. Visual Effects and Motion Graphics just have too many elements. One tutorial don't make you an expert but learning how to manipulate the controls efficiently and understanding the principals of photography and motion will get you started.
Thank you and appreciate your kind and elaborate response. I am most certainly not a pro in the tool but I am learning and troubleshooting all that comes my way. This simply was a problem where importing vector artwork from Illustrator had some issues. Severall small things can become issues since there are more than thousand ways to do one thing in AE. You are right about the magnification factor, which is what I learnt while trying to solve this problem. It is different from camera zoom. But to your surprise, you shall see a lot of people in many forums still facing the same issue.
My workflow was pretty much the same as you mentioned. I imported AI file as different layers, then turned on the 'rasterize' option. But, when I added a camera outside this comp, it did not function (movement). Hence, I found out what I had missed out on was, I had to turn all layers inside my comp into 3D along with continuously rasterizing, plus I had to turn these two options on outside in the main comp as well. Then, I had all my vector working properly with camera zoom and movement.
I do not agree to when you say you can't magically discover the most efficient workflow. Ofcourse, anyone can. I could very well automate all this in seconds had I given to progamming and scripting. I did not find the 'most' efficient workflow. I just found a 'workaround' to a problem that I faced and a lot of people when I searched also faced similarly. It is something that was just missed out. I am already working as a motion graphic designer and I learn on the way by error. It is highly unlikely to sit and give time to perfecting efficiency in any tool.
I am a photographer by profession as well, have learnt the technology and have some knowledge on cinematography and camera handling. Only, I did not take that up professionally. Thank you anyway for the wonderful insight shared above