A look at using 3D application’s models in After Effects from Laurie Knapp where she uses them live by way of Photoshop. Photoshop has the ability to open and use popular 3D model formats including OBJ.
Laurie Knapp says “This tutorials covers a LOT of things… and a lot of applications, including After Effects, Autodesk Maya, Blender, Illustrator and Photoshop! Basic requirements to play along are: After Effects, Photoshop, and a 3D modeling software (but you can get Blender for free! see below).”
Here’s the summary from Laurie Knapp:
After Effects is not a true “3D” program so it doesn’t recognize 3D objects, but all hope is not lost! In this tutorial, I explain the process of importing a 3D object into AE by going through Photoshop and creating a Live 3D Photoshop Layer in AE.
In order to demonstrate this process, I work through the creation of a 3D text logo using both Maya, a professional 3D modeling/animation application from Autodesk (usa.autodesk.com/?maya/?), and Blender, which is a fully featured and totally FREE open source 3D modeler you can download here (blender.org).
Note: the process works the same for all 3D modeling programs that can export objs or equivalents, such as 3ds files).
FOR THE MAYA PORTION
I create a text logo in Adobe Illustrator (the same technique can be used with any vector image), import it as an .ai object into Maya, and demonstrate my favorite techniques for using planar surface trimming and extrusion to create 3D out of 2D.
FOR THE BLENDER PORTION
I take you through the very simple process of creating text within Blender and extruding it.
In both portions, I then export .obj files into Photoshop, save them as .psd files, and then bring them into AE as live Photoshop 3D layer compositions.
Note: They will retain the 3D geometry, however do not interact with AE lights. There is no other way to do this in AE as far as I know. If you can get away with it, I recommend doing all your lighting and animation in your true 3D program and then importing your finished animation into AE as an image sequence.