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By Rob Garrott | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to use XRefs in CINEMA 4D, and why they’re a good idea

Efficiency and flexibility are not just marketing terms, they’re what make motion graphics achievable. Creating moving images is incredibly labor intensive, and once all that labor is done, you still have to hit the render button and wait to preview the result. Being efficient is crucial to meeting deadlines.

Creating a workflow that allows you to swap and modify key elements at any point in the production process is what XRefs are all about. An XRef is a special object that points to a scene file much in the same way a print program, like Illustrator, points back to a master image and uses the original file from the hard drive for printing. Visually, the XRef appears to you as a single object, but it actually represents all the objects in the scene that it’s pointing back to. This means that you can make changes to that scene file, and any XRef that points back to it will automatically update. This also means, since R13 XRef objects allow you to reference a CINEMA 4D file as a single object, that you can manipulate an XRef from an entirely different scene, thus allowing for distributed workflows where one person is modeling while another person animates. This makes for a very flexible way to work.

In this week’s Design in Motion video, I’ll show you how to add an XRef into your animation, and I’ll show you a real-life scenario where having XRefs set up allows me to easily swap two cars in a chase scene, with two completely different cars—all without having to update my animation. If you’re new to XRefs, this tutorial quickly breaks the process down to help you get started. XRefs have made last-minute director swaps quick and easy for me many times, and they can save you, too!

The overall XRef experience has been significantly improved in CINEMA 4D R13. To learn more about those improvements, check out my full CINEMA 4D R13 New Features course on lynda.com. If you are a lynda.com member, make sure to check out chapter five, where I discuss R13 workflow additions, including a specific video on the Xrefs format rewrite.

Interested in more? • The full Design in Motion weekly series on lynda.com • All CINEMA 4D courses on lynda.com • Courses by Rob Garrott on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:CINEMA 4D R12 Essential TrainingCINEMA 4D R13 New FeaturesAfter Effects CS5 Essential TrainingCINEMA 4D: Rendering Motion Graphics for After Effects

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