Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video 039 Glowing "sci-fi" text in C4D and After Effects, part of Design in Motion.
Hi! Rob Garrott here and welcome to Design in Motion. The weekly series where we explore important fundamentals in the world of motion graphics. I am a huge fan of the movie Tron. Both the original and the remake spark my imagination in a huge way. Now what I really like the most about them is the look and feel. Glowing lines on the dark environment really draw you into the scene. Now that look is pretty simple to create in CINEMA 4D and After Effects. Let's take a look. Okay, so I am here in QuickTime Player and I have got this pre-rendered movie, let's hit Play here, and you can see I have got this really cool SILICON glowing type on a reflective floor and if I back up to the beginning here, we can see close, I have got this really great striated pattern with these glowing edges here.
Now the glowing edges are going to happen inside of After Effects but the setup for this process happens inside of Cinema 4D. So let's move over to CINEMA 4D and start that process. So here is the START file and I have got the type and the camera move already set up and I have a got a reflective floor set up here. If I hit Command+R or Ctrl+R on the keyboard you can see that I've got just a perfectly reflective floor in a black environment. So the first step in this process is to create a material for the sides of the type, and I am going to double-click in the material manager to create a new material, and let's call that SIDES.
And the SIDES material, let's raise that up. The only thing I care about is the Luminance channel for now. Go to the Basic Properties and turn off Color, turn on Luminance, and turn off Specular, and now I have got just this white ball. In the Luminance channel let's add-in Tiles shader. So I will click on the Texture pulldown, go to Surfaces and go to Tiles, and that makes for this interesting checkerboard pattern. Now this is not what we are going to end up with, it is just a starting point. We are going to change some settings on that, but for now it's really good, it's really helpful. So let's take this SIDES material and apply it to the Extrude NURB.
When we do that, I will hit Command+R or Ctrl+R on the keyboard. You can see that I now have the material bunched up on the sides but not showing it all on the front, and that's the normal behavior for the Extrude NURB. So we want to change that behavior and the way we do that is by clicking on the Tag, and under the Tag properties we are going to change the Projection method from UVW Mapping to Cubic. And when we do that, you see instantly now we can see that checkerboard pattern showing up everywhere. I'll hit Command+R or Ctrl+R again to render that.
Next we want to change the Tag properties so that this material is rotated and that is not going to make much of a difference right now, but it's a very important step for aligning the material correctly on the object. We want to have those lines traveling down the sides of the type, but along the Z axis and this rotation is going to help us. So what we want to do is go to the Tag again and go to the Coordinate properties, and in the Pitch Rotation we are going to change it to be 90 degrees. Now it doesn't look like much has happened here but the whole material has rotated around this axis here and it is now pointing essentially this way.
Next we want to stretch this material so that it's aligned and stretched across the entire object. So to do that we select the Tag here, and go to the Tag menu and tell it to Fit to Object. When I do that, it is going to ask me, do you want the sub-objects included? Yes I do. Now you can see that we have got everything stretched across the face and then bunched up tightly on the sides, and that's exactly what we want. If we hit Command+R or Ctrl+R you can see what's going on there. So now let's hit A on the keyboard to redraw that frame back to the shaded view and now we can focus on the material.
So in the SIDES material, in the Luminance property, I am going to click on the swatch here for the tiles, and that takes me into the Tiles property. And the first thing we want to do is change the Pattern. The Pattern is set for Squares right now and we want to set it to be Lines 1. And the lines right now are traveling vertically along this way and what we want to do is change the Orientation, and if I hit Command+R on the keyboard you can see that they are traveling vertically up that way. What I want to do is change the Orientation U to Orientation V, and now you can see that I have these lines traveling along the Z axis of the type and traveling down the sides.
But they are way too big, so now what I can do is to change the scale of those, and so in the Shader again, I can go to the Global Scale, and change that Global Scale to be about 10%, and that 10 % really tightens up that pattern. Now we don't need that red color anymore and let's change that color to be white. So I will go to the Tile Color red, click on the Swatch, and in the Color Picker, set it to be white and then hit OK. Now I am just about where I need to be for this pattern. If I hit Command+R you can see that I have got it showing up on the sides just the way I want to. We're a little bit far away to see that, so if I back up in time and then go right in there, you can see that I have got those great horizontal lines on there.
So let's back up just a bit, so we can see the whole word, and now what we want to focus on is the transparency of this. So if we go into the SIDES material again and go to the Basic Properties and turn on Transparency, the entire word becomes transparent. You can see that the material goes away, and if I hit Command+R or Ctrl+R, then the whole word is gone. So that's because in the Transparency, the default option is fully transparent. Let's resize that window a bit. And so now what we want to do is to add in a gradient. What we want to have happen is we want that gradient to travel along Z axis.
So let's start off by adding the gradient. So I go to the Texture pulldown, in the Transparency channel, and go to Gradient, and that gives me a gradient in the Transparency channel. If I hit Command+R or Ctrl+R, you can see that the gradient is causing the transparency to be fully opaque down here and then transparent down here. The first thing I want to do is to change the way that gradient is facing and so to do that I need to reverse the gradient. So I will click on the Gradient swatch and in here I am going to take the black and drag it down here. I take the white and drag it over here, and you see that flips the knot around.
Then what I want to do is to take the middle point of the gradient and move it down here to tighten that up a bit. That gives me a really long transition in the gray. Now I can take the Type and change it from 2D-U to 2D-V. Right now it's going to be all bunched up on this side now, so I want to change that to 2D-V and now when I look at that, you will see that I have this great fade off here on the edges; it's more opaque here and less opaque down here. It's a little bit confusing because we are seeing stuff on the fronts of the letters and let's fix that right now.
So the next step in this process is to make a new material for the front, and so I will double-click here to make in a material. Let's call it Front, and that Front material under the Basic Properties, I will leave Color on and I am going to turn on Transparency. When I do that my object becomes completely transparent except for the Specular highlight, and I don't really need that so I will turn that off. Then I want to go to the Transparency option. Let's bring that down to about 96% or so. And you can see I have got a very faint ball here and a very faint preview down here, and I want to apply this to the type now.
So let's take that and apply it to the Extrude NURB. And when I do that it's going to completely overwrite. If I hit Command+R or Ctrl+R again, then I have got this sort of faded type, and that's not really what I want. I only want that to show up on the front face. So in the Tag properties, I am going to go to the Selection and type this in. It's case-sensitive; capital C and the number 1. When I do that, that limits the material to only showing up on the front face, and so when I render now, you can see that I now have much less information on here.
I want to repeat that process for the back. So let's take the Front material, hold down the Ctrl key and drag a copy of it over to the right, and call it Back and then the Back material, let's apply that to the Extrude NURB, and in the Selection property again, we are going to type in capital C and the number 2, and that means the backside. So 1 is the front, 2 is the back. And now when we render, you can see that I now have much more prominent sides and the faces are a little bit more transparent. Now I want to have the back be slightly more transparent than the front, so under the Back property I am going to change that to be, in the Transparency about 98%, there we go.
Now when I render, you can see that the front is much more prominent than the back. So the last step now is to address the edges of the type and I am going to make another new material and call that material Edges. In that Edges material, only thing I care about is the Luminance channel. Don't need Color, just Luminance, no Specular, and I will leave it at a 100%. And what I'm going to do is take the edges and apply it to the Extrude NURB. Now that's going to change the entire word white, but I am going to use the same Selection property again to change it to only show up on the edges, and the information I will type in here is capital R and the number 1.
That stands for rounding one and that means the bevels. Now I'll hit Command+R or Ctrl+R again. You can see now I have got this great type, I have got a faded edge there and I've got a faded face and a faded back, and I'm going to create one more new material for the edges. You see I can see the striate pattern going on, on the back edge, and that's because I need to put a material in there on the back edge, and that striated pattern is showing up in the back edge. So I will hold down the Ctrl key and drag the edges over and I will call this Back edge. And in the Back Edge material, I am going to add in Transparency because I don't want the back edges to be as bright as the front edge.
So in the Back Edge material, I'll take the Transparency and bring it down to about 96% or so. I'll take that Back Edge and I'll apply it to the Extrude NURB, and in the Selection property, again, I am going to type in this time R2, and that stands for Rounding 2, it's the back side. So let's back up a little bit from this type so we can see it at an angle and hit Command+R or Ctrl+R. You can see now I have got this great looking define type, and if I zoom in to the first part of the animation and render there, I have got these great edges going on.
So that's pretty much all there is to prepping this file in C4D. The render settings are very important. Let's hit Command+B or Ctrl+B on the keyboard, and talk about how I have these Render Settings set up. Now you can see I've got them set up already, and the most important part is that I'm doing Multi-Pass rendering. I'm rendering out the RGBA Image. Ambient, which relates to the Luminance channel, the Reflection Pass, which is going to give me the floor that I need, and an Object Buffer, and that Object Buffer is just the type. And I don't think I'm going to end up using it, but a lot of times I'll put an Object Buffer in here anyway, just in case. Better to have it than not have it.
And you can see in the Compositing Tag on the Extrude NURB, I've got the Object Buffer set for number 1, and that number matches here. I'm rendering this out at 640x360 in just 90 frames of animation. So I've already got this rendered out and you notice also, let's go into the Save options that I've got the Compositing Project File options all turned on. And so I've already rendered this out. Let's go over to After Effects and import that project file. So I'm going to double-click here in the Project Window. Now I'm in the exercise files on the Desktop, and I'm going to go to 3D RENDERS and import SILICON.aec.
Now if your AEC import is not working or the AEC file is grayed out, that means you do not have the correct After Effects Import plug-in installed from CINEMA 4D inside your After Effects plug-ins folder. Now you can get this from Maxon's web site in the Downloads section or from the Exchange Plug-ins folder in your CINEMA 4D installation. For more information on this technique watch the chapters on working with After Effects in CINEMA 4D, in the CINEMA 4D Essentials Training course, or inside of the After Effects Apprentice series. And when I do that, I get these two folders here.
I'll take the Special Passes and drag it in there and twirl that open, and now I've got my SILICON composition. Let's drag that out here so it's floating loose and let's go into that. So what we end up with inside of After Effects, let's move this over just a bit, and scrub forward, and you see we've got this really cool looking type. Now to get the glow looking just the way we want it, we're going to need to do some things. Now if I solo these layers out, the Ambient Pass is just the edges in the parts that have the Luminance channel in them.
That's going to great as the basis for our glow. So let's unsolo that. I'm going to use this Ambient Pass in a couple of different ways. The first thing I want to do is to use the Ambient Pass to isolate just the white lines, and the way I'll do that is by making a new solid layer, Command+Y or Ctrl+Y on the keyboard, and let's make that the same as the Comp Size, but let's make the color of the Solid layer white, and I'll hit OK. And now what I want to do is I want to duplicate this Ambient layer, Command+D or Ctrl+D and let's take that and put that up here above that.
We're going to use that as a Track Matte. Now if your Track Mattes aren't showing, you can click the Switches/Modes button down there. And so I'm going to set that to use Luma Matte for the SILICON_ambient movie. And what that does, if I solo out this White Solid layer is that you can see the transparency. I now have just those lines over transparent, and that gives me a lot more control than just using the Ambient Pass by itself. The next thing I want to do is, let's unsolo that, take the Ambient Pass, and I can take both of these layers and just drag them down below the camera. It's a good form to keep your camera at the top of the layer stack. I'm going to take this Ambient Pass and move it up here, and on the Ambient Pass we're going to apply the very cool Starglow filter.
Now if I go to the Effects, and I'm going to go to Trapcode and I'll add Starglow. Now when you first add Starglow it's going to make this crazy disco pattern. And what we want to do next is to adjust some of the settings. So the first thing we want to is we want the Source Opacity to be 0, because we only want to focus on the Starglow itself, and I'm going to solo this layer, and then adjust the Source Opacity down to 0. You can see that now we're only seeing the glow. Now I can unsolo this.
I just soloed it just so you guys could see what would happen when I did that. So I'll unsolo that, and now with that un-soloed, I'm back to where I was before. Now it seems like nothing has changed, except now we have total control over this glow. So the first thing I want to do is go to the Colormap, and actually I can twirl-open the individual colors. You can do all kinds of great things here, but I want to go to Colormap A and instead of having it be a 3-Color Gradient, I'm going to set that to be One Color. And that just isolates just that middle color. In Colormap B, I don't need to be a 3-Color Gradient either. I'll set that to be One Color as well.
And that one color we're going to use is going to be a really nice kind of cyany kind of blue. So let's click on that swatch and then pick a nice blue color, and that's feeling pretty good, right about there, and I'll do the same thing for this pattern here. In fact, I'll just use the Color Picker here and grab that color. You can see it gives us this really great looking blue color. And now the streaks are too long, so I can take the Streak Length and dial it way down. There we go, and let's zoom in a bit to the beginning of the animation.
I want to have it spread out a little bit across the surface of the logo. So what I'll do is go to the Pre- Process and adjust the Threshold downward. And as I do that, that opens the glow up to showing up on more of the type. You can see as I get down into the 50 or 60 range, I'll bring it down to about 30 or so, and I think that' s going to look really nice. Now I can bring the Streak Length down even more than that. Let's bring it to 1, there we go. You can see now I've got this great looking glow happening here, and I think that's pretty good for the Starglow.
Now what I want to do is address the Reflection, and for the Reflection the first thing I want to do is dial it down in Intensity. You'll notice that the color doesn't match now. We've got this blue color here and gray here, and we're going to have to fix that. But first let's dial down the Intensity. So hit the letter T on the keyboard to bring up the Opacity and bring that down. Before I do anything else, I'm going to bring up a new solid layer, Command+Y or Ctrl+Y. Let's make a black Solid and put it down at the very bottom of the layer stack, and I do that a lot of times rather than just turning off the Transparency because it affects how blending modes behave.
So I'm going to raise it up and take the black Solid and bring it right down here at the bottom, and that's going to give me a very solid color for everything to sit on top of. Now what I can do is just adjust that Opacity down for the Reflection, and bring that down into the 10% or 15% range. Cool! Now let's change the color so that it matches. So I'll go to SILICON_refl, go to Effects > Color Correction > CC Toner. And for the Midtones on this, I'm going to pick that cyan color that I had before, so I can either pull it as part of the Color Picker, I think that will do.
That gives me a great match up for that. Now what I want to do is to blur it out. I don't want my reflection to be very sharp like that. I want it to have a nice blurry feel. So I go to Effects > Blur & Sharpen and now I'll do just a regular little Gaussian Blur. I think that will work just fine. And in the Blurriness, I'll just adjust that up until it feels nice and soft, and there we go. That's pretty much all there is to it. This gives us a great-looking sci-fi feel type with these fantastic glowing edges.
Capturing this look is all about using the idea of contrast. The visual difference between the glowing lines in the surfaces that they're on allows you to define the shapes of your objects while at the same time allowing your imagination to fill in all the blanks that aren't there, and it's your imagination that really draws you into the scene. That's it for this edition of Design in Motion, keep it moving, and I'll see you next time.
- Communicating emotion using color correction
- Using expressions to control animation
- Rendering type in a seamless environment
- Doing more with less in the After Effects render queue
- Creating bouncing animated type using dynamics
- Creating realism with Global illumination
- Working with Xrefs to simplify the workflow