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By Chris Meyer | Friday, April 05, 2013

After Effects technology preview: Part 1

Adobe has started to reveal some plans for its next generation of pro video tools. Using a prerelease version of After Effects, I’ve recorded two hours of videos for lynda.com to keep you ahead of the curve. Over the course of a few blogs, I’ll fill you in on some of the interesting features that are on tap. First up, the new integration between After Effects and CINEMA 4D.

Live 3D pipeline between After Effects and CINEMA 4D

A couple of weeks ago, Adobe and MAXON issued a press release announcing a “strategic alliance … to bring creative professionals new levels of digital media content creation.” Buried inside that release was the intriguing statement that “As part of the alliance, both companies are expected to collaborate and engineer a pipeline between Adobe After Effects software and CINEMA 4D to give users a seamless 2D/3D foundation.” Now we can finally see what they were hinting at.

Cineware plug-in In short, you will be able to import a .C4D project file directly into After Effects, which will treat it as a footage item. Once you add this .C4D footage item to a composition, a new CINEWARE plug-in will automatically be added to that layer, which will render requested frames from the .C4D project on demand inside After Effects, without the need to render the whole project ahead of time in CINEMA.

You may think this sounds similar to Dynamic Link integration with Adobe Premiere Pro. However this Live 3D Pipeline between AE and C4D offers significantly more functionality. For example, you can tell CINEWARE to render the C4D scene using either a selected camera from the C4D project or an After Effects camera. You can also insert an After Effects camera back into the C4D project from inside CINEWARE.

Additionally, you can extract scene data from the C4D project, including its cameras, lights, and layers with External Compositing Tags. This is similar to the current capability of exporting scene data from inside CINEMA in the form of an .AEC file that After Effects can then import (which I demonstrate in my course CINEMA 4D and After Effects Integration)-but it’s more immediate.

Of even more interest to a motion graphics compositor like me, you can separate your imported C4D project file into a “multipass render” directly inside the After Effects. This creates a separate layer inside your AE timeline for either a preset selection of properties (such as Diffuse, Specular, Shadow, Ambient, Caustics, etc.), or those you’ve set up inside the C4D project including Compositing Tags to create luma mattes to isolate specific 3D layers. (Alas, currently there’s no easy way for CINEWARE to break out the contributions of each light, but now we’re getting greedy…) Again, this is something you can do currently from inside CINEMA 4D, but it requires an intermediate render before you can import the results into After Effects, as well as generating a corresponding .AEC file to glue everyone together. With this new Live 3D Pipeline arrangement, there is no intermediate render, and no re-render if you change something in the scene.

Speaking of changing something in the scene: After Effects will come bundled with a Lite version of CINEMA 4D! You will be able to select the imported .C4D layer inside After Effects and type the customary Command (Control) + E to Edit Original. As a result, the underlying project file will open either in a full copy of CINEMA you have installed on your computer, or the bundled “Lite” (but still rather well-endowed) version of CINEMA.

Cinema 4D Lite

In short, this is the massive-overkill answer for users who have complained that After Effects’ built-in 3D tools weren’t sophisticated enough-but who haven’t made the leap to owning a dedicated 3D animation package. Learning the powerful CINEMA 4D is no small task (made much easier by Rob Garrott’s numerous CINEMA courses on lynda.com), but something I suspect you will find rewarding. Users currently taking advantage of the nicely integrated workflow between After Effects and CINEMA 4D may want to move some of their projects over to this new Live 3D Pipeline workflow, especially if they expect to be bouncing back and forth between the two programs.

For a demonstration of this Live 3D Pipeline in action, see my new course After Effects Technology Preview. I’ll discuss other new features covered in that course in future blogs.

Interested in more?

• The full After Effects technology preview series • Courses by Chris Meyer on lynda.com • All lynda.com After Effects courses • Start a free trial membership at lynda.com

Adobe and After Effects are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries. MAXON and CINEMA 4D are registered trademarks of MAXON Computer GmbH.

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