The most important part of producing 3D video is the study and planning that goes into the project before you start doing anything. I did my first 3D project a very long time ago using my friend Chris Condon's Stereo Vision setup on a 35mm film camera about 30 years ago. I did some development work on using AE to produce James Cameron's Ghosts of the Abyss. Both of these projects were way before we had 3D TV's or VR headsets. I learned very quickly that planning before production and setup on the set was the most important part of production. It's nearly impossible to fix something that you screwed up when you shot the footage.
There is a lot more written on 3D production now than there was then. I suggest that you read some books and study up as much as you can. The techniques that work are not software specific. Just concentrating on production techniques in AE isn't going to give you the skills you need to be really good at producing 3D effects.
Some friends of mine were early pioneers in the 3D video game and they had the best success in post using a separate 3D monitor but - and here's the key to productivity - more than 90% of the time in post is spent working with just one side of the 3D image. Most of the time in post should be spent looking at the left eye part of the composition. When they first started out everything, even setting type, was done in the 3D mode. Production was painfully slow. It didn't take them long to learn that the only time that you should be spending looking at a 3D image is the few minutes that it takes to run a preview and make adjustments as needed to the parallax and convergence point in the 3D comp. My friends who jumped on the 3D band wagon early and spent a ton of investors money on gear and projects have abandoned their efforts in 3D and moved on to greener pastures. but it was fun for them while it lasted.
Thank you Rick, great insights on stereoscopic 3D. Those are great projects that you worked on. Especially Ghosts of the Abyss. I'll keep your tips in mind. But I also need some specific advice from someone who worked on smaller projects, maybe on individual ones. I'm thinking of using a 3D TV as 2nd monitor and open up an After Effects composition window in that to be able to preview the output. Because as I learned, Nvidia 3D Vision monitors and glasses does not work with After Effects.
When I worked on 3D stuff in AE I followed exactly what I said - most of the time working on left eye side of the comp, then to a second 3D monitor and check out the 3D. A second 3D monitor is a nice addition to the editing suite if you are doing 3D work but it's not a requirement. More about the use of a 3D monitor layer.
When you create your comp, if you have 2 streams of footage you generally put the left eye footage in the main comp as a 2D layer, do all of your animation, then create your stereo rig. When you have gone as far as you can with the composite and it's time to do the Stereo 3D part you turn off the 2D footage layer in the main comp and add your left eye footage to the bottom of the left eye comp and your right eye footage to the right comp. Then you manipulate the 3D rig in the Stereo 3D rig. That's the only time you really need a second 3D monitor or to be waring the funky Reg Blue glasses to adjust your convergence. You choose the left eye footage for your master setup because most of the people in the world are right eye dominant. That doesn't sound like it makes sense until you start looking at your scene in 3D and start fine tuning the convergence and finalizing the position of your elements. If you happen to be left eye dominant then you might want to choose the right eye to set up the scene. You may be more accurate the first time through.
Here's a typical 3D setup looking at the main comp:
There's a fairly complete explanation of the 3D workflow in the AE help files. Read up here: Understanding Stereoscopic 3D in After Effects
There is actually very little time spent in most Stereo 3D compositing work where you are working on convergence so most of your work will be done in the main comp looking at a 2D image. Only the last part of the process requires you to view the stereo image. I should also point out that the distance you are from the monitor also makes a difference. It's awfully hard to judge 3D footage if your field of vision does't match the field of vision of your standard viewer. IOW if you if you have a fairly small desk and your big 3D monitor is filling most of your field of view but your audience is going to be watching a tv from across the room then they will have a different experience than you are having because their field of view only has a small screen at the center of their attention. The opposite is true if you are working on a project for theatrical release. If your 40 inch monitor is on a wall 10 feet from the desk the 3D experience you are having is going to be much different than someone sitting in the 10th row of a theater with a 60 foot screen because something that kind of jumps out of the screen when it's only covering 20% of your viewing area at the editing studio is going to feel like it's right in the lap of someone in a theater where the screen fills 80% of their viewing area. I think that's why a lot of 3D films that work great in the theater are much less effective as a 3D viewing experience at home on a 3D TV. I also think that's why the sales and the marketing of 3D TV's has almost completely dried up.
Good luck with your project. Let us know how it goes.
I should also mention that Roto can get very complicated when you have to create masks for foreground elements in the original footage. You may need separate masks for both the left and right eye footage. There is no magic button for that problem. It just takes a lot of manual positioning. 3D gets compositing gets very complicated very quickly.
Thank you Rick,
I won't be using any 3D camera footage, So there won't be any Roto. I'll just create the scenes from scratch, maybe layering some photos, adding Text, using Maya and C4D renders, adding particles etc... I decided to use a TV to check the convergence before rendering my files and I'll keep your tips about viewing distance in my mind and place the TV accordingly. I think I'll also use the following script which make it easier to adjust the convergence and setting up the 3D cameras in AE, Maya and Cinema 4D: Stereo 3D Toolkit 2 - aescripts + aeplugins - aescripts.com
Again, thank you for the tips.
I'll let you know how it all goes.