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Tutorial: Recreate Earth in After Effects

Have you ever wanted to create a realistic looking earth?  Well I have a treat for you today.  It’s all about recreating our pale blue dot into a bright blue earth. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Create a “Main” composition and a black solid layer to go with it. This will act as your background. Any size will do.

Step 2: Download the supplied zip file with all the texture maps OR search online using the search term “earth textures” to download the individual texture maps yourself.

Step 3: Back in After Effects, drag your new texture maps into the project. You can rename or organize the files as you wish.

Step 4: Drag the Earth colour map onto the “create new composition” icon, then drag the new Earth composition onto your Main composition.

Step 5: Add the effect CCShpere to the Earth composition (CCSphere is found under the effects > perspective). That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind! ~ Cheese

Step 6: We are going to repeat steps 5 and 6 for both the Clouds texture map and Mask texture map, however, we are also going to add a blending mode “screen” to each of them.

Step 7: What you’re going to obviously notice is the water no longer looks like water. That’s because it is taking on the white colour in the mask texture map. So make your way into the Mask composition and drag the Earth texture map (not the Earth composition) onto the timeline and drop it underneath the Mask texture map. We’re going to make this a “Luma Matte”. If you don’t see the option to change the track matte (TrkMat), press F4. You should now see a drop down menu. Change the menu to “Luma Matte” on the Earth texture map. This should now have fixed your Mask composition.

So now for the reason behind the Mask composition. What the Mask composition is going to do is act as your Sun layer. It will create that nice little Sun reflection spot on your Earth. However, because the land doesn’t reflect nearly the same amount of light as the water, we use the mask to mask out the land. Cool stuff! So continue into the CCSphere effects controls and under the shading tab decrease the Ambient and Metal to 0. You can play around with Diffuse and Specular to get the look you want. For the tutorial sake, my Diffuse is set at 59 and Specular at 65. I’ve also decreased my Light Height to 0 and Light Intensity to 85.

Step 8: There still seems to be something lacking, so the next thing we’re going to do is add in an Atmoshpere layer. Add in a light blue solid layer and name it “Atmosphere”. Like the others, add the effect CCSphere and change the blending mode to Screen. To get the nice glow of the Earth, we’re going to add the effect fast blur under effects > blur and sharpen > fast blur. Crank up the bluriness to 35.

Still doesn’t look right though. So we’re going to tweak some of our CCSphere settings on the Atmoshpere layer. In here is where you can make some interesting lighting tweaks. In fact, in my finished product, I changed all of my CCSpheres to create a more realistic colour (hint: the sun doesn’t produce a white light). Anyway, in regard to the Atmosphere layer, under the shading drop down, change Metal, Specular and Ambient to 0. Then drop the light intensity under the light tab to about 65, also change the light height to around 15.

Step 9: You can now add in a star field to your background. I downloaded one off google.

You’ve now recreated the earth. It’s time to play around and make what you want with it.

For an additional challenge, try adding in the night lights on the dark side of the earth.

Beau Costoff

Beau Costoff builds things on the web. You want CSS3 dropdowns, or jQeury sliders, or any other fancy new web things, he's your guy. You can follow him on twitter @BeauCostoff where you will have a glimpse of his StarGazing-Marxist-Gaming-BeatJunking-PhilosophyStudying-CartoonLoving-WannaBeArtist-NatureIntrigued-PhysicsExploring-Activist Mind.... or visit his Google+ Profile.

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