Join Chris Meyer for an in-depth discussion in this video Locating objects, part of CINEMA 4D and After Effects Integration.
We are going to start in Cinema 4D. If you have downloaded the files that came with this project, Open, inside the Chapter 1 folder, Cinema 4D folder, the file, videowall_1_starter. This is the same scene as you saw in the introduction. I will go ahead and render this scene. You'll notice first that this wall's face is about 50% gray and that was done on purpose. When we go composite video on to the face of this wall inside After Effects, it's actually very useful if this wall is roughly 50% gray, as opposed to white, black, or any other color.
By doing that, we'll be able to use Blending Modes to factor in how light changes across the face of this wall, from a little bit brighter here, to a little bit darker here, some shadow here. So, before we even got to this point, I spent some time with the texture on this wall's face, so that it would render at about 50% gray. Okay, we need to know where the face of this wall is and I have actually created a null object called 'box group' that holds all of these different components of the box.
Now I have put the null for this box group down at the base of this wall. I did that to make it easier to position this box group to sit right on my floor. In reality, when it comes time to export the position of an object into After Effects, it's far better if that group's null is the one in the corners or dead-center in the face. Note, however, that these axis arrows are flush with the face of this box. It's crucial that these axis arrows for this layer are flushed with exactly where we want to our video to be added in After Effects.
If you want to move it, you select the appropriate Axis tool and you can go ahead and move your axis arrows to where they need to be. But I am actually going to leave them here at the bottom just to show you how to correct for issues like this later on in After Effects. With box group selected, I can do one of two things. The old fashioned manual way is to go down to position coordinates and look at the X, Y, and Z position and transcribe them, and also transcribe any rotational offset for this box group. However, since we are using Cinema 4D and After Effects, we don't need to do this manually.
We can have Cinema 4D save a solid or a null object for us that remembers these coordinates. To do that, I select the box group and go underneath Tags>Cinema 4D Tags>External Compositing. That's the tag you add to say "In another program, I need to know where this object is." Select External Compositing and down here, underneath Attributes>Tag>Tag Properties, I have got a few options.
Now by default, this will create a null object inside After Effects. A new little wrinkle they've added in recent versions of Cinema is that you can save it as a Solid instead and you can even set with the X and Y size of that Solid is. Now I am going to be replacing this solid with a video layer from After Effects, so the size does not matter so much. But I know when I built this wall face that I made it roughly the size of a square pixel and to see video. So, I am just going to enter those numbers here.
Color doesn't matter unless you want to color code your objects. I am going to go ahead and make it 50% gray just to remind myself that that is the color of the wall face itself. Now notice too that you have Anchor Point choices here. This allows you to choose whether to place the anchor point of your null object, or your solid, in the center of that new layer or in one of the corners as I mentioned. I am going to leave it in the center for now, and fix my little offset later on in After Effects. Now these two other properties, Children and Cache, really have to do with whether or not you have created a grouped object, and whether or not you are using something like particle systems or a Cloner or some other system that makes multiple objects or merges objects together.
If I wanted to create a solid of null object for every item inside my box group, I would check the Children option. But I only want it for the face, so I am going to leave that unchecked. Cache comes into whether or not to calculate all the particles that might have been created, the cloned objects that might have been created. Again, I don't have that situation, so I am going to leave that off for now. By the way, if there is ever a property in Cinema you are unsure off, right-click on it, select Show Help and it will open the online help for Cinema to the page that describes what that parameter is.
It's one of my favorite parts of Cinema 4D. Okay, we have added a tag that's going to remember where this box group face is and next thing I need to do is include that in the After Effects project Cinema is going to create. I am going to discuss this in more detail later, but let's quickly go through the motions. I am going to go open my Render Settings, choose the Save panel and twirl down the Compositing Project File option. Inside there, I am going to make sure I have enabled Save the compositing file and most importantly, include the 3D Data.
The 3D Data is going to include things such as my camera movement, my lights and these additional nulls or solids I have been creating with tags inside Cinema. You also pick your target application. In addition to After Effects, other programs are supported as well. Obviously, we are using After Effects here. You can manually save a project file, which comes in handy if you change something after the fact. But whenever you do a render, this project file will also get saved for you automatically. So you don't need to remember how to do this, and that's the position of the wall face.
Now let's move on to how do you create a matte that indicates just where that face is?
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