If, like me you regularly check in to Andrew Kramer's brilliant tutorial website Video Copilot.net
, you might have seen his most recent, creating planet Earth using the CC Sphere effect. Very cool.
It got me thinking. The CC Sphere effect is a cool effect, but it's essentially a 2D effect, so if you put a camera in there and use the orbit tool you'll end up with the Earth turning into a pancake. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to orbit the Earth in AE using a 3D camera? So, to introduce myself gently to the wonders of expression scripting, after a few hours of head scratching and frantically trying to remember trigonometry from school, I cracked it!
If you download the Zipped project from here
you can see the fruits of my labour. Use the orbit camera tool to orbit the Earth. I've added in a Sun (which has its own controls to place it in the sky where you want it - anywhere around the Earth, or limited vertically) and a starfield that also rotate accordingly. The light from the sun is also based on the physical position of the sun, rather than using the built-in shading position in CC Sphere. Finally the Earth layers are 3D so other 3D objects (like the sun here, or a satellite for example) will disappear behind it.
It's not perfect - if you use the camera dolly or track controls, it still works but you get some odd results, particularly with the sun's position! Also don't orbit too high otherwise the expressions will go wrong and it will stop working!
All the trig maths expressions are in the Maths null layer. The Zip file contains the textures (Earth and Clouds from Nasa sources, the stars I drew myself) so you'll need to unzip to a location and maybe relink the files in AE. It works in AE7 by the way.
Not sure how much use it is, but it's pretty cool what you can do in AE!
P.S. if you've any methods that might make this work better/simpler, or you can get an automatic lens flare to match the sun's position then please let me know. I've just started learning expressions so there's bound to be better ways of doing it. Cheers.