Terrain can be created in After Effects without a 3D program and it’s not necessarily difficult but it can be involved. Here are a couple of tutorials that explain how to do it without third-party plug-ins and then a few third-party plug-ins that will help you get the job done quickly and easily. Plus, a bonus video from Andrew Kramer of Video Copilot from the Adobe booth at NAB 2018.
Make a 3D terrain with default After Effects plugins
Joe Clay from Workbench talks about how to create some 3D terrain in After Effects without 3rd party plugins. He’s using Wave World, which I can honestly say I haven’t used in years. A year or two ago at NAB, Andrew Kramer of Video Copilot presented on the Adobe stage and showed some seriously cool an interesting effects he had created with some long lost plugins that have been sitting in your plug-ins folder for years untouched. That video is below. Joe is also doing his part to revive some of these older, but not unloved, tools.
3D topographic maps in After Effects
Mike Borup explains how to make topographical terrain in After Effects with tools like turbulent noise, posterize, and Layer Controls. It’s pretty involved and you will learn a lot, even if you’re a long-time After Effects user.
Andrew Kramer at NAB 2018
All I needed to do was Google it. The second half of Andrew’s presentation deconstructs a rusty logo in After Effects, using displacement maps, curves, fractal noise, transfer modes, and so on. I think it may have been the 2017 presentation that I was thinking of but this one fits my point just as well.
More ways to create Terrain in After Effects
Getting back to terrain, if this isn’t quite what you’re looking for and you don’t use a 3D program to make your own, I might suggest Trapcode MIR.
AE: Low Poly Mountain Landscapes With Trapcode MIR
VinhSon from Creative Dojo shows you how to use Trapcode MIR for some low poly mountain terrain.
Another option is GeoLayers, where you can animate and browse maps in After Effect, and you can use Trapcode MIR with it too (or Rowbyte Plexus for some cool techy looks).
GEOlayers tutorial – 04 Trapcode MIR
Here’s a bit more about using GEOlayers and Trapcode Mir together to create terrain or landscapes.
Create a Tunnel with Trapcode Mir – Here’s another old school tutorial you may enjoy for Trapcode Mir. Aharon Rabinowitz from Red Giant explains how to shut the mesh to create a seamless wormhole in Trapcode Mir. Use it on your next time travel journey!