Making It Look Great 6: Design and Production Techniques for CINEMA 4D and After Effects produced by Motionworks is the sixth video tutorial in the "Making it Look Great" series but the first one to include CINEMA 4D. The tutorials are by Tim Clapham well know for his many cool animations at HypaTV.com
Total duration of the videos is approximately 8 1/4 hours. CINEMA 4D content is just over 6 hours and Adobe After Effects content is just over 2 hours.
The set of videos cost US $89 and come in a single zip download of 1.27Gb. I had no problems downloading the file. The videos themselves are Quicktime H.264 format at 1024 x 768 resolution. This is a little bit small by today´s standards but wasn´t really an issue as this isn´t really a modelling tutorial series where a higher resolution would have been advantageous. Audio quality was excellent and Tim speaks very clearly and is a native English speaker. Below are some stills from the final animation.
Stills from the final animation
Video 0 - 2 min
This is the introduction video where the final animation is played throughout the video while Tim briefly introduces and explains the video tutorial course. The final animation is a superb animation and this really whetted my appetite to get started. Check this video out at the link below.
Video 1 - 42 min
Before getting into the tutorial proper, Tim shows how to customize C4D´s interface by adding toolbar buttons and moving various panels around. In the videos Tim uses a custom layout which is supplied with the scene files and textures. You are then shown how to load and save this layout.
Video 2 - 44 min
This video is about creating the orbiting text. Tim starts by optimizing the scene to make viewport navigation quicker by lowering the viewport LOD (level of detail). This is too extreme and Tim shows that by using a Display tag we can have much better LOD control. It´s tips like this throughout the videos that set this video tutorial series apart from others. Also throughout the videos Tim promotes good work practices like doing regular saves and incremental saves.
Tim jumps into Adobe Illustrator where he has created some text. He explains how to set the text up so that it can be imported successfully and correctly into C4D as it can be brought in wrong. Tim shows how to merge the Illustrator spline using the Merge Object command in the Object Manager (something I had never done before and had never noticed this option. I had always used the Merge command in the file menu). Once in C4D he connects the spline so that we have the word "Top" as one connected spline and the word "Stories" as another connected spline. Tim shows centering the axis for each connected spline as the axis is still at world centre rather than in the middle of the spline. The Illustrator file by the way is supplied so if you´re like me and don´t have Illustrator you can still follow the tutorial. Once in C4D the splines are extruded with ExtrudeNURBS objects and Tim shows how to use the hierarchical option along with creating filleted caps.
Next up a MoGraph Fracture Object is used with the text. Rather than just carry on with the tutorial Tim takes a moment to explain and show using different Fracture Object options. Good stuff.
The Text / ExtrudeNURBS objects are made to orbit the globe by the use of Spline Effectors. Tim shows how to create circle splines and how to use the reverse option to correctly orientate the splines so that the text reads left to right rather than being the wrong way around. In the video there´s a jump where Tim must have paused the recording and missed the step where he duplicated the Circle Splines and Spline Effectors. Nothing wrong with that but the video missed out saying what Y axis heights the splines need to be. Not a big deal as I opened the final scene file and looked up these heights. A beginner however may have been left scratching their head as to what just happened.
Tim moves on to animating the words rotating around the globe. To cut down on key framing he uses "Set driven keys" where one parameter is used to drive another parameter. This is a quick way to create an XPresso relationship but without having to go near the XPresso editor. Tim shows that an XPresso tag was created automatically and contains a simple expression. The problem now is that the 2 words "Latest" and "Sports" both have the same offset. Tim shows a neat little trick of rotating the spline that´s used for the Latest Effector which makes the word rotate around to the left. Tim also pauses to show how to modify the Range Mapper so that the output data can easily be reversed so that as one word rotates one way the other letter rotates the other way.
To make the text look a bit more interesting it is banked by placing the circle splines under null objects. The null objects are then banked. The Object Manager is starting to get a bit cluttered now so Tim shows how to set up Object Manager layers and use the Layer Browser to better organize the scene. He also shows docking the Layer Browser into the layout and saving the layout. Again good work practice as MoGraph scenes have a habit of getting very busy in the Object Manager. Tim shows a few tips when working with the Layer Browser and demonstrates what some of the options are.
Video 3 - 25min
Video 3 covers working with a Camera and creating a camera rig. Tim begins with a new scene and shows how to create a triple null hierarchy with the Camera as the last child. The idea is to control the camera rotations with User Data sliders. We are first shown how to create the sliders and then the connections to the Null hierarchy using simple XPresso. A demonstration on how to animate the camera is shown before copying this camera rig into our Globe scene.
The camera rig is then brought into the Globe scene and Tim walks us through animating it. A further Adobe Illustrator spline is brought in and extruded. Tim shows us the document settings so that we have the right number of frames for the 6 second animation. The camera animation is a bit jerky. We are shown how to correct this by editing the F-Curve in the Timeline to create smooth curves and therefore a smooth animation. At this stage the camera animation is what Tim refers to as being blocked out i.e. a draft animation that can be fine tuned later on.
Video 4 - 30min
This video is about animating the globe rotating and the text rotating around the globe. This is straight forward animating and Tim shows how to bank the globe by using a parent null object. This keeps the rotation of the globe itself zeroed out and we can then animate the heading without getting into any speed wobbles. The "Top Stories" text is then animated to spin around the globe and we have to zip into the F-curve editor to fix up some overshooting.
Next sees a Plain Effector being used. Tim explains that users with earlier versions of C4D can use a Shader Effector to achieve the same result as the Plain Effector came in with 10.5. The Plain Effector is used to scale the rotating text and Tim shows using fall-off for the effector to get the result that we are after so that as the text rotates it increases in size.
In Video 4, CINEMA 4D Release 11 animation layers were used to add secondary animation to the already animated globe. This is really great and shows off some of the excellent animation capabilities that C4D has.
Video 4a - 5min
In Video 4 Release 11 animation layers were used. Video 4a is a short video that shows an alternative method of working with animation without using animation layers. This is for the benefit of users of earlier versions of CINEMA 4D.
Video 5 - 31min
This video is about creating a simple soccer ball, applying some materials then baking out a texture map. The texture map can then be used in conjunction with a Shader Effector at a later stage on the ball. This method means the soccer ball didn´t need to be highly detailed. Tim shows creating a simple soccer ball and then cleverly reflecting the material onto a Sphere primitive. It is the Sphere primitive that gets the texture baked.
Tim first gives a basic overview of baking using the Bake Texture tag and moves on to bake the soccer ball texture which is being reflected onto the Sphere primitive by the low res modelled soccer ball. This is really great information and Tim also quickly explains how you can create HDRI´s using the Sky Manager object and baking.
To finish this video, Tim shows how to transition between the globe texture map and the soccer ball texture map. This creates the effect of the small cylinders changing from the land masses and into the pattern of the soccer ball. All very clever and a perfect example of why C4D is so good for motion graphics.
Video 6 - 29 minutes
This video is all about creating materials to apply to the objects in the scene. Like other videos everything is explained extremely well even if Tim can´t pronounce "Fresnel" correctly!! Rather than creating simple materials that anyone could create Tim shows how to create more complex materials. This was excellent and showed some techniques that I didn´t know were possible like animating individual gradient knots and colour correcting HDRI´s using the filter shader. Top notch stuff.
Video 7 - 37min
Video 7 is all about adding lights to the scene and setting them up. Tim shows some excellent tips when using lights such as how to remove the specular highlight. Again excellent stuff.
Video 8 - 41min
This video is all about making streaks of light. These are created with MoGraph Matrix and Tracer objects.Tim starts by showing how to quickly select all objects of a certain type using the "Select Tool". For example, enabling Lights in the Select Tool allows you to select only the Lights in a scene without including any other objects. Also demonstrated is the use of Viewport Filters to keep the work space uncluttered. The streaks of light are made using MoGraph tracer objects and using MoGraph Matrix objects.
Video 8a - 5min
This is a bonus video that explains the difference between Matrix objects and Cloner Objects. Tim briefly discussed this in the previous video but this is a bonus video outside of the tutorial where he demonstrates how you can use a Bend deformer on a Matrix object to bend the shape of a structure and then referencing the Matrix object with a Cloner. The result being that the clones aren´t deformed by the bend deformer but the structure itself is deformed to follow the shape of the deformer. (We demonstrate this technique in the Cafe MoGraph Review here.) Again this is all excellent information and just adds even further value to this course.
Video 9 - 29min
This video is about adding a few extra things to the animation. Tim starts off by explaining the various cloning modes e.g. cluster and blend using a simple scene before getting back into the main project. Although Tim is going to be using the Cloner Blending mode in this video, he takes time out to explain the other Cloner modes available. Tim gets back into the main project and puts into practice what´s he´s just been demonstrating by adding a ring of blended objects around the globe. Once he adjusts the Offset variation the result looks really cool. Tim creates some more Fresnel type materials and applies those to the ring of objects. The ring is made to rotate around the globe by using Set Driven Keys where the sphere rotation drives the offset of the Ring Cloner object.
To further enhance the scene the Ring just created is duplicated. The values are tweaked a bit then those Cloners are dropped under another Cloner. This Cloner is then set up to blend the cloned groups that are child objects. The effect so far is 10 rings of clones starting with a small ring of clones and finishing with a bigger ring of clones. A Random Effector is added and Tim shows the Modify Clone option can be used to randomize the blend. All very impressive.
Video 10 - 51min
This lengthy video is about preparing the animation for rendering. Tim starts by creating a material using the tile shader in the alpha channel and applies this to the globe. He then moves on to animate the globe material transitioning from one material to another using a layer shader in the alpha channel.
Next up Tim starts adding some compositing tags in preparation of rendering the animation and working on it in Adobe After Effects. He explains using compositing tags to create object buffers for objects and groups of objects so those objects can be isolated using alpha maps. To export the Camera, Lights and Null object animations in a format which After Effects can recognize, Tim explains by showing the use of external compositing tags. The animation is rendered out with Multi-pass rendering.
Video 11 - 58 Minutes
Another long video but it´s all very clever. This video is about refining the animation in Adobe After Effects. Prior to this Tim first copies one of the items from the animation and renders it out as a separate animation. The animation is rendered out with Multi-pass rendering. I had heard that CINEMA 4D integrated really well with After Effects but seeing it action was a real eye opener.
Video 12 - 66 minutes
The longest and last video in this excellent series carries on from the previous video working in After Effects to add some extra zing to the animation. The video ends with the final animation being played. You can view the final animation in the introductory video at the following link below.
In addition to the 15 videos you get all the supporting files required to complete the project. This includes C4D scene files, rendered movies, Adobe Illustrator files and After Effects files. You also get C4D layout files for both R10 and R11.
After watching the first introduction video and the final animation video I knew that I was in for a treat. The videos are beautifully presented and explanations are thorough. Tim goes beyond just saying do this and do that, he explains frequently what and how various object properties work. Even though I know a bit about MoGraph I still had plenty of "Ah, I didn´t know that" moments, so even if you are somewhat familiar with MoGraph this video series is still worth buying.
Although the title says CINEMA 4D and After Effects, 10 out of the 12 videos (i.e. just over 6 hours out of the 8 1/4 hours) are using CINEMA 4D so even if you don´t have After Effects the videos are top notch for anyone wanting to learn Motion Graphics using the MoGraph module. Throughout the videos Tim demonstrates good work practices such as regular scene saving, the use of object layers and resolution of objects while working.
One thing you will need is a reasonably powerful computer although Tim shows ways to reduce the load on your CPU. I actually worked through the first 4-5 videos on my Core 2 Duo laptop and that coped pretty well with things.
At $89 US the price is standard for a training video. The content represents excellent value for money. You get immediate on-line delivery and the presentation quality and content is top notch. I have to say that If you´re totally new to MoGraph and want to get into Motion Graphics then buy this video tutorial series, you won´t be sorry.
Review by 3DKiwi / Nigel Doyle