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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
So, I now have objects added in After Effects casting shadows, apparently on my 3D scene. But what they're really being cast on are just those shadow catcher layers that I've created with a combination of the 3D program and solids in After Effects. Let's tweak this out a little a bit. Okay, the shadows are quite dark. There's a few ways of fixing that. One, each light, I'll double click one, has a Shadow Darkness parameter.
So if you had a particular light that you thought was casting a particularly dark shadow, first I'd isolate which light is causing me the grief, like that one right in the middle I don't like so much. Double click it, decrease its Shadow Darkness to, say, 50 and now its shadow has much less effect. You can also type AA, reveal it in the timeline and interactively scrub it. That - or like that. And by the way, the Shadow Diffusion parameter for each light affects how soft the shadow is.
So, I can soften up those shadows to create something blurry, or go down to 0 and keep them sharp. By the way, Shadow Diffusion does really add to your render time, so use it judiciously. Another approach is to take the layer receiving the shadow, the shadow catcher and reduce its opacity, so there's less shadow to add in. In this case, the back wall's at issue. I'll press T to reveal its opacity and scrub it down, basically fading out the shadows on the back wall.
You see, I haven't touched the window yet, so it's 100%. There's the back wall. Okay, somewhere in there, maybe I'll leave it a little bit different just so I accentuate this difference between falling on the window and falling on the back wall. The third way to affect this and it's not really the right way, but it is another approach, is to select your layer casting the shadows. Again, type AA to reveal its parameters and play around this Light Transmission parameter. What Light Transmission says is, "Is it 0?" The shadow is black.
At 100, the shadow is the color of the layer casting the shadow. So, you can modify, or colorize, or alter your shadows by playing with this parameter as well, but normally you will leave that at 0 to get dark shadows. Now, I want to emphasize that this is completely interactive. This is a 3D layer in After Effects. It reacts to the camera move and the shadows move as the rest of the scene changes. I could even add animation to that text and it would be reflected in these shadows.
For example, if I were to open up my Animation Presets, go down to Text and go down to 3D Text, I can have a lot of fun applying one of these different effects. For example, I know that Flutter is a particularly fun animation, so I'm going to double click it. It's applied to the Text layer. I'm going to go ahead and hit 0 on the numeric keypad to RAM preview. As it starts to render, we'll see this big shadows as the text flies or flutters down into position.
Isn't that cool how it's going on these different surfaces including the floor in addition to the back wall and then as the text settles into position, the shadows create the normal pattern that we had when the text is at rest. Last character falls into place there. I press the Spacebar and let's see that in real time. Kind of fun! I'm going to press Command+Z or Control+Z on Windows to undo and try a different one.
For example, I know this one on Path down here that we can also have a lot of fun with. Press 0 to RAM Preview and as the text starts to flutter in, you'll see it casted shadows on the back wall and floor, while it also forms a line along this path in my window, and it's almost done forming here. And that's a lot of fun as it moves across the window here.
And you see how, particularly this A breaks up depending on when it hits the window, which is further forward, or the back wall. And again, I want to emphasize these are fully interactive layers, that's the reason you're breaking up your workload this way, Text>Path options and I can go ahead and scoot along the First Margin, so it goes further along the line, or just go ahead and pick up the whole layer and scrub its position over an X to more artfully position it against the wall. Press End and the animation will end up here.
So, that's pretty cool! Now I have gone ahead and done a couple of modifications to this project. I've gone ahead and move the last keyframe from moving along the path down to 5 seconds and eased into it, couple of other tweaks, and here's a RAM Preview of the final animation, a lot of fun! And during the RAM preview, I'm noticing little things like the text could be a little smoother here in the shadows. There's ways of fixing that. For example, if you open the Composition Settings, go to the Advanced Tab, look underneath the Advanced 3D, Rendering Plug-in, click on Options.
If you make the Shadow buffer larger, such as maybe 1500, it will slow down your render, but it will sharpen up your shadows. You see how much cleaner they are and you get less shattering and there you go. That's the last piece of the puzzle to get really good Integration between CINEMA 4D and After Effects.