the effect you want to achieve would require a more complex compositing setup then what you planned.
adjustment layers are affecting the composite of all the layers below. they are like a "window" through which you see the effect applied on the composite of all the layers underneath. so when you distort it - no matter if it's 2d or 3d distortion - you are only changing the window through which you see the effect composited together. you are not distorting the effect, just the window. hope that makes sense.
to create the composite you are after you will need to use a displacement map. you can create your effect on a black and white (or other colors - depending what channel you want to get the information from) and set it inside a precomp and on the master comp use an adjustment layer with the displacement map effect set to get the information from this effect layer. I will try to break it down for you, there could be more elegant ways to do this but I think it's pretty decent:
1. this is my 3d scene. I have tracked the camera and created a 3d solid that correspondences with the floor
2. this will be my effect layer for the ripple. I will create a precomp from this layer - leave all attributes. this will be my 2d layer with a 2d effect.
I can use this type of setup to create my ripple.
now I got this in my master comp:
now I will precomp the 2d effect again. this time - move all attributes. this will be my displacement map layer. I will also click on the collapse switch so that my camera could interact with the 3d layer when it's in a precomp.
a bit of masking in the precomp:
now In the master comp will add an adjustment layer and apply the displacement map effect and use the effect layer as my displacement map. I also added a tile effect because the layer is cutting off scene. you may not need to do that.
now I got this:
Wow you really put some work in to try and help with this! Much much appreciated, thank you! I will try my best to give this a go when I return from work. Im still getting a tad confused with pre comp and master comp but will research them in a few hours. Like I said.. a proper rookie haha.
Many thanks Roei !
Your workflow and you understanding of adjustment layers is flawed. As I understand your setup you have Camera Tracked (no such thing as 3D Tracking in AE) the scene, hopefully added an origin and ground plane, then added a reference solid where you talent on a separate layer lands. I'm assuming that you shot the talent on green screen or in some other way cut out the talent. To make the talent stick to the ground you probably also made the talent layer a 3D layer and your camera angles match closely enough that this part of the shot works.
Now you want to apply an adjustment layer to the original footage so the ripple effect matches the perspective of the shot. This means that the footage layer must also be 3D. The only workaround for this is a bit complex. If you duplicate the footage, trim the footage just to the frames that the ripple effect will cover, then rotate the duplicate footage into position you will end up with distorted footage.
The easiest solution is to do projection mapping. Another solution is to use corner pin to distort the copy of the footage that you rotate into position. Let me see if I can talk you through the corner pin solution first. It might be the easiest to do and fastest to render. Let's say this is your shot and this short duplicated section is where you want the ripple to be, you have successfully camera tracked the scene and placed a reference solid that is big enough to cover the ripple in the scene. I just pulled the sample footage from Adobe Stock.
The first step is to mask the trimmed copy of your shot so it just covers the reference grid:
Copy that mask and paste it to the original footage layer (we'll use it later).
Now you pre-compose this layer (let's rename the layer Ripple just to keep things straight) making sure that you move all attributes to the new composition, trim the comp to the right length and open the new comp.
Here comes the trick that makes corner pin easier to use and the composite easier to make. First press the f key to reveal the mask feather and set it to a value of about 10 pixels. Next, set a Region of interest that just covers the masked area and the feather and crop comp to the region of interest.
Move back into the main comp. Your Ripple comp will be out of position. Set the blend mode to difference to help you position the Ripple comp precisely over the original footage. You should see nothing but black. You are lining this layer up just to help you position the guides .
Now Enable the rulers (Ctrl/Cmnd + r) and drag out guides that precisely line up on the Ripple layer. Turning off the original footage may help. You also can turn off the reference layer.
Now set the blend mode back to normal, make the ripple layer 3D. Here's trick number 1. Hold down the shift key and parent the Ripple layer to the reference layer. This will match the position and rotation of the Ripple layer to the guide layer.
Now add the corner pin effect and to the Ripple layer and drag the corners to the intersection of the guides like this: I turned off the bottom layer to make things easier to see.
You should have precisely lined up the 3D layer with the original footage. Turn back on the footage layer and make sure that you don't see any jump when you preview the transition between the shots. To make this preview quicker reset the work area to just cover the part of the shot you are working on.
We're almost there. Turn off the mask on the bottom layer, Turn off the Reference layer and add the Ripple effect to the Ripple layer and make adjustments and animate the effect:
You may want to add a track matte or do some other color corrections to emphasize the ripple, but that's how it's done with corner pin.
There are several other options including using CC Power Pin, Corner pin tracking in Mocha, Projection Mapping. The most efficient method depends entirely on the shot.
I hope this points you in the right direction.
See there's more than one way to skin a cat.