Join Chris Meyer for an in-depth discussion in this video C4D Lite user interface overview, part of After Effects Apprentice: 17 Video Walls in Cinema 4D Lite.
- After you add a Cinema 4D layer to your After Effects project, you'll be introduced to this perhaps foreign world, the Cinema 4D Lite. And if you switch back to After Effects, you'll see the Cineware effect has been added to that layer, and it show you a simplified view of your Cinema 4D world. For the sake of this course, I'm going to assume that you are familiar with using After Effects. However, I'm also going to assume that you're not familiar with using Cinema 4D. So let's spend some time in getting comfortable with its user interface, because it is quite different than After Effects.
The first thing that you need to know is that you will not be using your normal operating system menu along the top. Cinema 4D has a set of its own menus, including this main menu along the top, and various submenus assigned to each panel or frame inside Cinema. So it's very important to pay attention to which menu is being used. For example, the File menu over here, is entirely different than the main File menu. Let's go ahead and use this File menu to open up the file version of the Cinema project you're going to be creating.
So we have something to look at as we check out the various user interface items. Along the left and top left are what's known as the command palettes. These are tools that come in very handy when you're creating models inside Cinema 4D. Since we're not going to be doing very advanced modeling in Cinema, we're not going to be using too many of these icons. But what you are going to be using are these sets of icons The render icons, and what's called the command groups or command icons. The render icons are fairly straightforward. You can render your current view.
You'll see Cinema uses what's called a tile renderer where each core of my computer is rendering a small part of the final result. It also has something referred to as a Picture Viewer, which can save snapshots and render settings. Whenever you see a little black triangle in the lower right corner of any of these icons, that means there's more than just one option underneath it. The tool tip shows the default option, but if you click and hold on those tools, you'll see additional options, such as the ability to render just a small portion of your screen, and to render separate preview out to disk.
Likewise, these tools have fairly innocuous tool tips. But since they have a black triangle at the bottom of each, they actually open up much deeper menus and tools you can use. Different perimeter objects you can create, splines you can create, important tools like extrusion, creating lights and cameras, et cetera. I tend to use these icons, however, they also exist under the Create menu along the top of the program. Underneath these icons is what's referred to as the view port.
This is the equivalent of your composition panel in After Effects, where you get to see your 3D stage. It has its own local menu. For example the Panel menu allows you to select different views. See four views at once, a very common 3D layout, or focus on one specific view such as what the camera sees. There's also alternate arrangements that you can take advantage of to give one view more space than the other views. Also important here is the Cameras submenu. It decides which camera of multiple cameras in a project that you're viewing.
Right now it's using the My Projects Camera, but I can also use a Default Camera that allows me to move around a scene without messing up my camera animation. There are a set of handy icons in the top right of the view port that allow you to pan your display, zoom in and out, or ritter rotate around it. And also switch between views. And I'll go back to my camera view. But you'll find it very useful to learn the keyboard shortcuts for these.
Pressing and holding a one on the main portion of the keyboard, not the numeric keypad, gives you the equivalent of the pan or track XY tool. Pressing two while clicking and dragging allows you to zoom, which is like track Z in After Effects. Pressing and holding three is the orbit tool. I highly recommend learning at least those shortcuts because it'll make it far easier to navigate inside Cinema. Once you get past the view port, you'll have a series of different managers that you'll be working in. The object manager is kind of the equivalent of your timeline in After Effects.
These are the equivalent of your After Effects layers, they're all the objects in your 3D scene. As you select various objects, the attributes manager below will change to show you the properties that that particular object has. Cinema 4D is a very deep program, so an individual object tend to have multiple tabs of different attributes that you can look at for that object. So the workflow commonly is select an object in the object manager, move down to the attribute manager, click on the required tab, and then edit parameters there.
These two panels also has some alternate views. You'll see this tab along the right that says Objects, underneath it is the Content Browser that allows you to load files, load presets, et cetera, but most of the time, you'll leave this in Objects. Likewise you see this Attributes tab, and there's an alternate tab called Layers. This allows you to group different objects in Cinema into their own little render groups, kind of like, but not exactly like pre-com snap effects. We will not be taking imaginative layers inside this project, but we will in a future Cinema 4D Lite project.
I'll go back to Attributes. Down here is what's known as your coordinate manager. It shows you the current position of your selected object. You can numerically edit the parameters down here, click Apply, and then they'll be saved. Making changes down here mean nothing until you actually click that Apply button. To the left of it is the material manager. Materials are the colors and textures you'll be applying to the surfaces of your objects. Whenever you create a new one, it becomes an object down here to go ahead and drag onto your various objects.
You can also create new ones. Finally, there's a timeline, just like After Effects, with the current time indicator that you can scrub. I'm going to switch my camera back to my camera I used in this project, so you can see my animation. You'll also have the equivalent of preview controls. This is called the animation toolbar. You'll notice that the Play Forwards has a different keyboard shortcut than After Effects. F8 is the key that you use to play a preview in Cinema 4D Lite.
This is different than the space bar or numpad zero that you're used to using in After Effects. Indeed, if you press the space bar, you just start going through different panels over here in the attributes manager. This will get you every time. Don't use the space bar, use F8 or this button to play a preview. Just like After Effects, you can rearrange the layout of these panels and save them. There's also numerous preset layouts you can choose from. These are just like work spaces in After Effects.
We are going to be using the startup layout throughout this course. And I recommend you set some of this into as well that your display matches ours. The final thing to know is you must always save you project in Cinema before returning to After Effects. That's the only way that After Effects will see any changes you've made. Fortunately it's the familiar command on Mac or control on Windows to save. And that's the review of user interface in Cinema 4D Lite. Again, the nice thing inside Cinema is once you've downloaded the documentation, you can right click on any parameter, say show me the help file, and it will load this lovely, very detailed help file for each parameter inside Cinema 4D.
So let's close up this Cinema project since we don't need it. That's the final project. Go back to After Effects. Delete our temporary layer that we were learning with. Go back to the project panel. Delete that footage item as well. And now you're ready to get started building your video wall. But first you need to coordinate your project settings between After Effects and Cinema 4D. And that's what we'll tackle in the next chapter.
These courses are designed for users who are familiar with 3D space in After Effects, but who have never used CINEMA 4D. This course includes an overview of the C4D Lite user interface, as well as setup information you need to know whenever you use live C4D layers in After Effects. A bonus chapter shows how to set up a C4D Lite and After Effects scene to maximize production efficiency—and minimize render times.
Look for the upcoming courses After Effects Apprentice 18 and 19 for more C4D Lite projects.
- Setting up your After Effects and C4D Lite projects
- Creating a rectangular spline for the video wall
- Using texture and lighting presets
- Creating a simple 3D camera move
- Creating 3D text in After Effects
- Converting a parametric object to polygons
- Compositing video walls