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Chris Meyer—a long-time user of both programs—explains how to move 3D worlds from Maxon's CINEMA 4D into Adobe's After Effects and add additional 3D elements that blend perfectly. Chris shows how to transfer 3D cameras, lights, and position data from CINEMA 4D to After Effects; create track mattes to composite new elements into the middle of a scene; and take advantage of multi-pass rendering to quickly remix and even recolor lights, shadows, reflections, and more. Paced comfortably for beginners, this course also reveals numerous advanced tricks and techniques, such as the use of blending modes and how to cast shadows from new 3D layers in After Effects onto rendered 3D elements from CINEMA 4D. Exercise files accompany this course.
- Locating objects for export from CINEMA 4D
- Adding layers to a composition after importing into After Effects
- Separating lights in CINEMA 4D and remixing in After Effects
- Understanding the problems with shadows during integration
- Refining 3D shadows in After Effects
Skill Level Intermediate
I'm back here in After Effects. If you've downloaded the project files that came with this training, go ahead and do Command+O or Ctrl+O to open. Go up to Chapter 3 folder/After Effects/videowall composite3_starter. Open up and that brings in the same two video sources we had earlier to play with. Now, I want to import my multi- pass render and again, it's important. You don't do O to Open, but you do Command+I or Ctrl+I to Import a Cinema .aec file.
Command+I, I'm going to go to my multipass renders folder. There is my .aec file. You see all of these other layers. Videowall.mov is my normal render but there is the ambient, diffuse, object buffer, reflection, rgb, which is redundant to the whole render, shadow and specular. So, I'm going to go ahead and import just the aec and it will bring in all of those other special passes for me. Here is my videowall object. There is my normal render. Here is the RGB render, but also inside the videowall folder, I have my ambient, diffuse, reflection, shadow and specular properties.
Let's open up this comp and see what's all in here. Here is my Camera and lights, as I expected. This particular project in Cinema, I used a null object instead of a solid to note where the videowall's face is. That's why that looks a little bit different. Here's these individual properties. Let's solo them. Reflections, you see a little bit down here in the bottom. Ambient, just that self-illumination on the wall or around the text edges. Shadow, normally a white render, the black with the shadows are supposed to be factored in.
Specular, that hot spot, and all these are factored on top of Diffuse, the flat, overall lighting of the scene. What's really instructive is to click on Toggle Switches / modes, again, F4 is a shortcut and see the Blending modes used to create this composite. Reflections are typically done in Add mode. If you find the reflections are too strong, you can try something weaker like Screen but Add tends to work better for things like this. Ambient is also added. It's another form of illumination, which is added into the scene.
Shadow is Multiplied. It actually darkens the scene. That's why it was mostly white. When you multiply white, you have no change, but when you multiply black, it darkens the underlying composite. Specular highlights are also added onto the underlying footage and there is our Diffuse down at the bottom. Now the really cool thing about this is not only can I change the modes, I can change the transparency of these layers to change how they're blended. I'll Type T for Opacity.
Let's say that I want less Reflection. That's too much reflection. Let's go ahead and reduce its Opacity to reduce the amount of reflection in the scene. No reflection, just to hint, full strength reflection. Ambient light, where I got some self- illumination on that wall, if I find the wall a bit too flat, I want something more dramatic on in or if I want to use my lighting inside this scene to help boost it, I can pull out the Ambient lighting, or just factor it back in as much as I like, maybe around there.
Shadows, same thing. Here are my Shadows. If that's too strong, I can go ahead and pull them back out of the scene. There is no Shadows present or just a hint of a shadow. And same thing with the Specular highlight, a little hot spot on the wall I can reduce, or put back in. Now the problem with Opacity, and with this approach in general, is that they all come at 100% and you can't go greater than 100. However, there are things you can do to heighten these effects.
If you're already inside After Effects, you can pick something like the Specular highlight, duplicate the layer and now you've got double the Specular effect. Type T for your duplicate and decide just how much extra specular do you want to match in. So, there I have gone basically to 100 plus 16 or 116% Specular, versus what came out of Cinema. So, I can do that to over-amp the Specular. Let's say in the case of the Shadow. The shadow wasn't dark enough. I can do the same thing. I can duplicate it to darken my shadows or keep the one original layer.
Let's say that I don't like black as my shadow. Well if I wanted to, I could even colorize my shadow, just to add more of a surreal look to the scene. In that case, I would use something like Effect>Color Correct>Tint. Leave White at White, but Map Black To a different color, so just say something in a more of an Amber sort of look here. Let's go ahead and go a little darker, pull it back down on that sort of look. Now I've got a tinted shadow in the scene rather than my normal straight black shadow.
In the case of reflections, they default to being perfectly sharp. Let's say I want a blurry reflection. I will go ahead and pick my Reflection Pass and go Effect>Blur & Sharpen. Pick something like Box Blur, which is very flexible. I can either increase that go get a boxy sort of blur on my reflection or maybe increase the Iterations a little bit to get a smoother blur to the reflection. But now I've got that classic blurred reflection look, rather than a perfectly clear sharp reflection. Now, this is very cool because I'm doing all this mixing and matching after the fact, inside After Effects.
I'm not having to go back into the 3D program and re-render. Again, this is a fantastic way to accommodate client changes. Indeed, if I know I'm going to be working this way in the future, what I might do is go back to my Cinema project, in CINEMA 4D and over-amp some of these properties. For example, let's go ahead and go to my key light, open up its properties, look at Shadow and I might even make the Shadow Density say more than 100% inside Cinema because I can always cut the Opacity back inside After Effects.
Same thing for Reflections, I've got my Texture on my white flooring. Open up the Texture Settings, go to Reflection and increase the Mix Strength for my floor or do other things to go ahead and really amp up the look of this project. I can always back it down in After Effects far easier than I can duplicate and mix in more of an effect in After Effects. So, I might purposely overplay things in 3D, just so I can pull them back later or keep them hot, if that's what the client wants.
Now, this approach, of just doing a Multi-Pass on Ambient, Diffuse, Specular, Reflection, Shadow alone gives you a lot more flexibility, whether you're doing motion graphics or visual effects, but you can take this to the next level and even control the individual intensity of each light and the color of each light. I will show that one next.