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- How the CINEMA 4D render engine works
- Adjusting the render settings
- Rendering still images and animation
- Setting up multipass rendering
- Understanding the linear workflow
- Rendering and importing elements from After Effects
Skill Level Beginner
The render engine converts the objects and lights and textures that you have in your scene file into pixels, and those pixels have to be saved into a file format that can be used by another application. All of the documentation about what file format, how big the render is supposed to be, how many frames you're going to render, all of that information is stored in something called the render settings. Every scene file that you create, when you go to render it out, you have to be very precise about your render settings in order to control what it is you're going to be sending out. I've got a simple scene file of a fish swimming past this render settings type and you got a little bit of motion on the camera to give it sort of a floaty underwater feel.
I'm going to click the Render in Active View button to render this scene. The button I just clicked, the Render in Active View button is there for testing purposes. It is not an actual render that you can save out of Cinema 4D. It's there so you can just get a preview of how things are going to look when you do actually render. The actual Render button is the one right next to it and that's the Render to Picture Viewer button. Before you click on this, you have to be very specific about your render settings so that you know what type of image you're going to be saving out.
The Render Settings button is the one right next to that which is this icon right here. Let's go ahead and click that to bring up the Render Settings window. The Render Settings window is divided into two parts. On the left, we have the settings categories, and then on the right we have the actual categories themselves. So for example, as I click on each of these words on the left, Output, Save, Multi-Pass, you'll see the settings on the right-hand side change and it shows me the contents of each of these main categories. At the very top of the left-hand side is a Renderer pull-down.
If I click on that, I've got some choices about what type of render engine I can use. Standard is the default and that's going to be working great for most of things that you do. There's a brand new render engine if you have the Broadcast or Studio versions of Cinema 4D, called the Physical render engine. The Physical render engine makes the Camera object and the render settings themselves behave in a slightly more physically correct way. The Software Renderer allows you to render exactly what you'd see inside the Editor window. For example, if I wanted to get a shaded view, I could render out a Software Render.
A Hardware Render gives me the same view except with the little words Perspective and the directional indicator down here at the bottom-left. The CineMan render setting is an advanced setting that allows you to render to a third party render engine. For the purposes of this course, we're going to be staying primarily with the Standard and the Physical Renderer. So those are the two that you want to concentrate your efforts on understanding. I'm going to leave the Renderer set on Standard for now and talk about the Output settings. The output settings are where you control the size of your rendering and the aspect ratio of your rendering, and also how many frames you're going to be rendering.
So you can see we've got three basic sections here. We've got the Width and Height section, we've got the Aspect Ratio section and we've got the Frame Range section. So Width and Height is how many pixels or centimeters or millimeters or inches. I always render to pixels though. This is how many pixels across and up and down you're going to be rendering. Cinema 4D, just like all other image-based programs, renders to a rectangular format. No matter what type of image you render to it, has to be some sort of rectangle. The Lock Ratio button allows you to lock that ratio.
So for example, if I'm going to render to a 16x9 aspect ratio, I'm going to change my Width to 1280 and then I'll hit the Tab key over and I'll hit the Tab twice to get to the Height, and I'll type in 720 and when I do that, that changes the Film Aspect. The Film Aspect Ratio is determined by the ratio of the width to the height. In this case, our ratio is 16x9. When you're working with a camera in Cinema 4D, the very first thing you should do is come to the render settings and set your aspect ratio, and then lock the ratio off so that you can't accidentally change it.
Now no matter what I change these values to, I'll always have the same aspect ratio, which is going to determine my field of view or what the camera sees when it renders. Now if I change my Width and Height, let's say I'd make it 640, I'm going to get 360 as the Height, that's a great little button there and I always turn it on for my projects. The Film Aspect section shows you the ratio of the width to the height, and 1.778 is the numeric way of expressing 16x9 aspect ratio. There are some other pull-downs here. Generally speaking, I always render to 16x9, so I don't use any of these others.
So I'm going to leave it alone at 16x9. The Pixel Aspect Ratio should always be one square. In the early days of television and 3D animation for that matter, there were a lot of times where people used to have to render something called D1 Aspect Ratio, and that was 0.9 aspect ratio, and this aspect ratio was implemented to compensate for how images were compressed onto a television screen. Thankfully, modern televisions that display HD signals, all display in a square aspect ratio, so most of the time you're not going to have to worry about that.
So let's leave that alone at one. The Frame Rate is how many frames per second you're going to be rendering. For most of your purposes, you're going to render at 30. There are some times where you may want to render 24, but this will be specified for you ahead of time, depending on the type of project that you're working on. The Frame Range allows you to select how many frames of the image you're going to render. In this case, I'm going to render the current frame which is frame 50. As you can see when I move the Time slider, the numbers in the fields here will change to match the Time slider. I can also render a Frame Range by putting in a Manual Frame Range and I can tell it to render from zero to say 29. That'll give me 30 frames.
You can see it calculates the number of frames for you down here. The Fields pull-down should almost always be left off. This is another hold out to the old days of television and thankfully, the whole idea of Fields is starting to go away. So for most of the things you will be working on, you'll leave the Fields pull-down alone. The Annotations window allows you to leave notes for people based on these render settings. The next most important window is the Save dialog. This is where you tell Cinema 4D what format and where to put it. These are all the different formats that Cinema 4D can write out.
Normally though, I render to Photoshop sequences, or still frames, or I'll render to a QuickTime Movie, right down here. The Bit Depth, you can render all the way up to 32 bit. If you're doing an image that has a lot of gradients in it, you may want to render out to 16 bit. 8 bit will suffice for most of the things that you'll be doing though. The Name format, I generally leave this alone and I typically have the same sort of name. And then the Image Color Profile is something that's very important to the linear workflow.
We're going to talk about that later on in this course. Alpha Channel is specified with this button in a Straight or a Separate Alpha. Generally speaking, you don't ever render Separate Alpha anymore, but there maybe a time you would want to do that. And then the Compositing Project File fields are very, very important. These are where you determine your interaction with the compositing program that you're working with. Now I work with After Effects and so I'm going to leave my pull-down set for After Effects, but you can also write out Nuke or Final Cut or Motion or Shake files as well. Later on in this course we'll talk more specifically about these buttons.
The Multi-Pass render settings are going to come into play later on in this course. So I'll skip over them for now and talk about the Anti-Aliasing. Anti-Aliasing is a concept that allows software to smooth out the transitions between blocks of color on your monitor, and it's a very important render setting. It determines how smooth your images look. Typically speaking, for a lot of things you'll do, the geometry and Cubic (Still Image) settings will be okay, but if you start to notice blocky behavior, you're going to want to come to your Anti-Aliasing and change it from Geometry to Best.
The Stereoscopic option allows you to create true 3D stereoscopic images right here in Cinema 4D. It's definitely a more advanced feature and we're going to skip over it for now. Down at the very bottom here we have a render setting, it's called My Render Setting. You can actually have multiple render settings and just like on the Camera object, this little white icon indicates what it is that you'll be rendering out. Now I could add a new render setting by clicking here and going New and I can name that render setting and calling it New Render Setting. And this new Render Setting is now active, you can see that it's active because of that white box.
If I want to switch back to the old render setting, I can click on that and you'll see it'll change. And in this new render setting, the default Output is set to 800x600, so you can see that my field of view is going to change when I click on it. So if I make the new render setting active, you'll see that the field of view will change for the image. When I make it the My Render Setting active, it goes back to the 16x9 aspect ratio that it was set there. Now that you have a basic understanding for the Render Settings window, let's put them to use in some concrete examples.