How to Render Still Images and Animation in CINEMA 4D
Rendering still images and animation
There are going to be many times in your design process where you're going to want to render both still images and animation out of your project. For example, you might be working on storyboards and you need a still image for Photoshop to create a version of the logo and still form that the client can approve. Then once the project is approved, you may need to go and animate that and then render out that animation for After Effects. One of the great things about C4D's render settings is that you can have multiple render settings inside of a single project. What we're going to do is start off by setting up our still image rendering and then come back and create an animation in the same project.
What I've got is a simple file here that is just a logo flying over the camera and settling into position and then rotating gently. What I want to do is to create a still image of the logo for the client to approve. And the frame that I want to render is somewhere is around here right around 39 or so. The logo is nice to straight on, easy for them to see. Let's hit Command+R or Ctrl+R so we can see what we're going to actually be rendering. So we've got a very simple logo and it's got a nice gradient on there, and some reflections, and it looks pretty nice.
Now I need to render that still for Photoshop so I can get that into a format that the client can approve. So let's go to the render settings. You click on this last icon right here, that's the Edit Render Settings button, you can also hit Command+B or Ctrl+B on the keyboard. When we do that the Render Settings pop up here. Now over here on the left-hand side, we've got a Render Settings categories. On the right-hand side, we see the contents of those categories. I've got my output already to set to 640x360. I did that when I started working with the Actual Camera Object. The very first thing I do in any project when I add a camera is to set the aspect ratio so that I know what it is I'm going to be looking through.
So I've got that already set but I know for my still image I need a little bit more resolution, so what I'm going to do is disregard the aspect ratio for the still and render out a much larger image. So I'm going to go to the Width and change that to be, let's call it 1,000. So I'm going to change the Width to 1,000 and I'm going to leave the Height alone. That gives me a very interesting aspect ratio but you can see that my logo fits nicely inside this rectangle and it should give me enough resolution to work with inside of Photoshop. Now that I've got my render settings set correctly, I want to make sure that I'm always going to be rendering out the correct frame.
Right now, the Frame Range is defaulted to current frame but I know that I want to probably render frame 39. Its one frame earlier and I know that the logo is just a little bit more straight on to the camera. So rather than leave it to chance that I might accidentally move that slider, I'm going to change the Frame Range to Manual and change it to be 39 by 39. I'll leave the Fields alone and now I need to tell it what file format I want to save out. So let's go to the Save dialog and then in the Save we're going to tell it first where to go and in order to do that we'll Click the Save Image button down here.
When we click that and we're going to navigate to our Desktop > Exercise Files > rendering folder, and in the C4D-Renders folder, we're going to leave it loose here. I'm going to call that file Logo-STILL, now hit Save, and you can see that Cinema 4D now has the actual file path already highlighted here, and that file path shows us where the file is going. Now to change the format, we're going to go to the Format pulldown and we will select Photoshop (PSD).
So we've told it where to go. We told it what file format to save. We know that our logo right now, if I hit Command+R or Ctrl+R, it's rendering over black. I want to be able to lift it off of this black so I can put it in a new environment. So I need to add an Alpha Channel and I need to turn on Straight Alpha. The Straight Alpha option will give me a slight bleed around the edges of my logo and that's going to give me a much cleaner composite inside of Photoshop. I've covered all of the big important options. I've told it how big our frame to render, I've told it which frame to render, I've told it where to put that frame and what format to put it in, and I've told it to have an Alpha Channel.
I think we're good to go there with the render settings. Let's Save this file before we go any further, I'm going to go to the File menu and do a Save As and on the rendering folder, on the Desktop, in the exercise files, let's call this one Still-image- animation and then WORKING. Now that we've saved we can go ahead and render. It's always a good idea to save before you render. Cinema 4D is a very stable program but accidents happen. So you'll always want to save before you do something important like rendering. To render for real we need to do something called a Render to Picture Viewer.
The icon for that is right next to the Render and Active View button, so this is Render and Active View and this is the Render to Picture Viewer, and you can see the shortcut is Shift+R. Now when I click and hold on that button you see that we have a bunch of options there but it's really the Render to Picture Viewer that we want to do. So when we click that Icon, the Picture Viewer pops up in our image renders. It renders pretty quick because it's a simple scene and you can see that my logo looks like it's getting chopped off a bit, but if I just click and drag left to right I can slide my image over. We're actually looking at it at 100% so it's not quite fitting in the open frame that we have.
If we navigate out to the Finder and we go to the C4D-Renders folder in the rendering subfolder, you can see there's our still image, PSD. If we open that in Photoshop, you can see that we'd have a logo with an alpha channel burned in and we'd be in great shape. Let's go back to Cinema 4D. Here in the Picture Viewer inside of Cinema 4D, one of the things you may have notice is that we have a very crunchy edge around the logo that we rendered, and that's the Straight Alpha. The Straight Alpha bleeds it around and it doesn't need to worry about actually making that bleed pretty.
It just needs to make sure that it's bled. I can check my alpha channel by going to the Layer options and then clicking on the Single-Pass button. If I click on Alpha after that you can see that my Alpha is nice and clean. If I go back to the background, you can see that it's just a little bit larger than the alpha and it's got this crunchy bleed all the way around, and that's the Straight Alpha Channel. Let's go ahead and Save, Command+S or Ctrl+S, and now that we've got our still image rendered, let's render an animation. The process for rendering animation is really pretty straight forward. Just like the still image we want to make sure that we tell it how big, where to put it, what format, plus one additional setting which is the Frame Range.
So let's go ahead and close up to Picture Viewer and let's go back to Render Settings. If yours aren't already open hit Command+B or Ctrl+B. I'm going to use these render settings as a starting point for my next render settings. So what I can do is hold down the Ctrl key and Ctrl+Drag a copy of the render settings down, and I'm going to make the one I just copied Still Image, and then I'll make the one that is remaining, we'll call this one, Animation. Now I can tell the Animation render setting is active by looking at which icon is white and you can see the icon is white next to the word Animation.
So I know that this is the render setting that will get used when it comes time to render. Now in this render setting, the first thing we want to change is under the Output and the Width. So let's go back to our size of 640, so 640, that's going to give us our 16 by 9 aspect ratio and then we're going to change the Frame Range. And I'm going to render all the frames in the animation. You can see that animation goes up to frame 89 basically and so we're going to go render from 0 to 89.
We'll leave the Frame Step at 1. We'll leave the Fields alone. Now we can go back and tell it to put it in a new place. Let's go back to the Save Image dialog and let's put it in the C4D-Renders folder but let's put it in its own subfolder. We don't want to put it loose in here because we'd end up with the whole bunch of individual PSD files. One for each frame of our rendering. So let's change this from Logo- STILL to Logo-ANIM, A-N-I-M. So I made a little mistake here after telling you how important it was to have the stuff in its subfolder, I forgot to make that subfolder.
You can see that it's going to go right loose in the C4D-Renders folder, so let's go back to this dialog, and in the C4D-Renders let's make a new folder and call that one Animation and let's hit Save. Now it's going to go to the right location. We still want our Alpha; we still want our Straight Alpha. One thing I want to verify before I render an animation is the Anti-Aliasing settings. Let's click on Anti-Aliasing. You can see that I've already set them for Best and then the filter is set for Gauss or Animation. That's going to give me much cleaner lines and the Animation Filter is going to just soften the image just a little bit, and that's going to help smooth out so they don't get any kind of buzzing on the lines that become too small.
Let's go back to the Save Dialog and we've told it where to put it, we've told it what format which is a PSD sequence. And then we're going to tell it also to save out the After Effects project file and we're going to turn all four these buttons On and that's going to give us an After Effects composition that we can import into After Effects. And that camera that we import in will match our C4D camera exactly and that's really valuable technique for motion graphics, being able to take 2D elements from After Effects and have them match your 3D camera moves and Cinema 4D is a really powerful way to work.
So let's just review, we've told it what size to render the image. We told it how many frames to render. We've told it where to put those frames now I think we're just about ready to render. Let's go ahead and Save. Command+S or Ctrl+S on the PC and let's hit Shift+R on the keyboard. We can click on the Render and Active View button, we'll use the keyboard shortcut this time, Shift+R and that brings up the Picture Viewer, and you'll see the Picture Viewer will start to crunch through those frames. This is going to take a little bit of time so we'll speed up this animation and go right to the end. The rendering is done and so now we can scrub through the rendering here. We can actually see our animation. We can hit Play and preview it here in the Picture Viewer.
Let's navigate to the Finder and see what actually rendered out. So here in the C4D-Renders folder, in the Animation subfolder is our animation sequence. You can see there's all the individual frames in the animation plus this little file called Logo-ANIM-aec, and this is the After Effects composition file that was saved out by Cinema 4D. This is the file that we'd import in the After Effects to work with. We're going to talk about that in more detail in the chapter on Workflow. The important thing to remember about this process is that you can have multiple render settings in Cinema 4D.
A big gotcha is to make sure and check which render setting is active by looking at the active Render Setting icon. Let's go back to Cinema 4D and I'll show you that. I'm going to close up the Picture Viewer and here in the Render Settings window we've got Animation and Still Image. Right now, the Animation render setting is active, and I want to activate the Still Image render setting, and you can see that I can go back and forth between those two. It's very important for you to look at the active Render Setting icon. That will determine which render setting you're actually using. The highlighted render setting is the one that you're currently looking at or working in.
So be very careful about those two different settings. In the next movie, we'll talk a little bit more about a more advanced technique called multi-pass rendering.
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