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August 6, 2013
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Basic Cinema 4D Integration in Adobe After Effects CC

The new Cinema 4D integration in Adobe After Effects CC provides a powerful, but simple, 3D workflow. We’ll show you how to get started!

After Effects Cinema 4DFor video editors and power AE users who’ve been too intimidated to attempt their hand at 3D in the past, now’s the time. Cinema 4D Lite, now included with After Effects Creative Cloud,  is a great introduction into powerful animation and 3D tools. These days it’s not enough to just be a video editor or motion designer. To be successful you need to have a good understanding of both.

In this tutorial we’ll go over a few basics for integrating Cinema 4D into your After Effects projects. This roundtrip workflow makes it simple to include Cinema 4D files in AE. Highlights of the tutorial include:

  • Prepping and stabilizing footage with the Warp Stabilizer in AE (see our previous tutorial for more details on stabilization in After Effects)
  • Using the 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects
  • Basics of Creating Extruded Text in Cinema 4D
  • Adding a Cinema 4D Object into After Effects
  • Set Ground Plane and Origin in After Effects

Are you using a Cinema4D and After Effects CC workflow?
Share your thoughts and advice in the comments below!

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This is Evan Abrams for I’m going to show you really quickly, how in Adobe CC you can stabilize, track, and then put in 3D geometry from Cinema 4D Light. These are brand new features and really simplify 3D work-flow. So, inside of After Effects the first thing I’m going to do is import the footage that we want to use. So here I’ve just called it “footage” and it’s footage of the patio outside of my building. So I’m going to take this and I’m going to drag it onto a new composition. It’ll create a composition of the same frame rate and frame size and duration as that original clip.

Now, when I pan through here I want to find the segment that I’ve made specifically for this, and then I’m going to hit ‘B’ to set my work area, and then I’m going to move ahead for this example, hit ‘N’ to set the of the work area, and then I’m going to trim the composition to the work area. Because we’re going to be using a lot of automated processes, we don’t want to be having the software rendering and analyzing unneeded frames. So, you want to trim it off to the size you need.

Now, you’ll notice here it thinks frame zero is frame 356, so I’m just going to go in here, change the composition settings, and one of the things I want to change is changing it from the start frame to being start frame zero; and it’s still 91 frames of duration. And then, instead of 23 I want to have that to be an even 24. And we’re going to find out why when we move into Cinema 4D, but it’s just because for now we’re using this because it’s a round number. You could keep it at 23.976 if you want; but then we’re going to be doing a lot of copying and pasting. So I’m just going to move it to 24 because it’s not that noticeable a difference, and hit okay.

Now, this is set up to be smoothed out; even though I’ve done as good a job as I could out in the field shooting on a SLR camera using hand-held motion is going to have a lot of shaky jerky parts. So we’re going to use the warp stabilizer VFX, which is new to Adobe CC. The warp stabilizer was around in CS6, but this is an updated version. So I’m going to drag that out and it’s already going to start analyzing.While it’s doing that I’m just going to briefly describe what we’re looking at. So, we’re going to have the result here, which can either be smooth motion or no motion, which will lock it off. You can change the smoothness, and I think 50% is too much. I’m just going to have 5% smoothness, meaning it’s going to be 5% smoother than it was before. The method can be only position, position scale rotation, perspective, or the sub-space warp. And the sub-space warp changes things inside, so these are all linear, so this is just the position; this is position scale and rotation, and perspective starts to pinch and widen the top and bottom.But sub-space warp creates a much smoother look, but it’s not always the look you want. Sometimes sub-space warp makes a lot of mistakes. If you find it’s making a lot of mistakes, you just move up until you get something that looks good. Borders here, basically because it has to expand this a little bit what it’s going to be doing is, if we move to stabilize only, you can see there’s going to be a little bit of black bar, because it is having to move the comp around. So if you do a stabilizing crop, then it is cropping it down to be the aspect ratio, and then stabilize crop and auto scale is going to fit it to there. And then if you use synthesize edges it’s going to make up information to fill in those regions. But that’s only for times when you really cannot withstand scaling. For us, auto scale puts it at 104.3%, and that is within tolerable bounds for me. Basically 110 and higher is too much; 110 and lower is just fine, so that’s kind of our break-even point.And then there are a lot of additional things you can do here in the advanced, such as working out the reduction of the rolling shutter, which happens on SLR cameras. You can change its objective kind of thing here, and all sorts of advanced things. But for most of your work you’ll never have to touch those. You can just bring it on, say how smooth, and then define everything outside of the advanced. So, while I’ve been talking it’s been stabilizing and it’s done a pretty good job of smoothing things out. So now what we’re going to do is go back to our project here and change the title of this from being footage to stabilize, because this is the stabilized footage. We’re going to take that and drag it onto a new comp, and that comp we will be calling camera solve. The reason that we break these things up into multiple comps is because you can’t effectively apply a stabilization and a 3D track to the same comp, because it has to read the pixels off one to make the other; and stacking them is just not an effective way to do that. So it’s best to pre-comp it, so all of the pixel changes it’s making here to stabilize we can then make use of here in the tracking.So, we pull up the 3D camera tracker, and pull that onto the stabilized within the camera solve, and already it’s going to start working. So there are a lot of things you want to tell it to make this easier, and the first is, is this a fixed angle of view, or is it a variable zoom? I used a prime lens, so it’s a fixed angle. And within the advanced you can tell it things like what type of movement are you doing. So if it’s stuck on a tripod and you’re moving it around you should tell it that so it doesn’t assume otherwise. I’m going to say typical because this is hand-held moving around, nothing’s really set. So sometimes this will fail, and when it does fail you want to hit “reset” and just have it give another go. So it’s not that onerous for it to try again, and sometimes it makes mistakes when you start changing settings before it’s done.So, what are some other things in here? We’ve got method used; once it sorts itself out. And then it’ll tell you the average error, and that is how far off or how confident it is that it’s got this thing locked down. And then by tweaking all of your settings you’re going to improve its average error. So basically you want the average error to be as close to zero as possible, but there are areas of tolerance you can put up with just because nothing’s really perfect..So now it’s going to try to solve the camera, and it has put all of these little dots everywhere, and you can see when you mouse over it starts to make a target. And we know this is a good track, because when we put the target out there it seems to align with the ground. So when you scrub through you can see the points are very much stuck to things in the scene, and we’re looking at an average error of .23 pixels, which is pretty good. That’s going to be almost indistinguishable. Ideally you want this to be as low or as close to zero as possible. So, that’s really just the big thing.

Now we’re going to add a Cinema 4D object to this scene. So what we’re going to do next is we’re going to go layer new max-on Cinema 4D file. And again, this is new in Adobe CC, but this is how easy it is to just add in a Cinema 4D project. You can import Cinema 4D projects as well if you’d like, but we’re just going to create a new one from scratch. I’m just going to call this ‘titles’, and then it’s going to open up Cinema 4D light right out of the application. So in here you can make some basic things, and I’d encourage you to learn from other tutorials how to make things in Cinema 4D Light, but I was going to show you really quick how to make text. So you go to spline, pull up some text, and then you type into its properties over here, something like; click outside, and you’ve created these splines. And you’re going to create an extrude [nerves], put the text here inside the extrude [nerds] like this, and then it creates this extrusion. Now you’ll save your work here, and then when you go back into After Effects it’s stuck it in here. S\

So we’re back in After Effects and the bulk of this tutorial is about After Effects. So the first thing you want to do is make sure that this sticks into your scene. And in order to do that you need to have a camera. And we make a camera by hitting ‘create camera off the 3D tracker’ so it creates a camera that matches the camera we already made. But one thing I’ll show you real quick is that when I hit ‘create camera’ and then we go into the Cinema 4D here and we say, use the comp’s camera, it doesn’t look correct at all; it’s kind of like our 3D thing is floating off over here where it shouldn’t be. And that’s because we have not defined where the origin of the scene is. And the origin is, if we go back into Cinema 4D here, this point here where new objects are created it’s 000 on the [Cartesian] plane; it is at the ground at .0 and that’s where things come in. So right now that’s where this is, and that’s where it expects to be, but we haven’t defined in this scene where that is. So delete that camera, because it was wrong. Go back to our 3D camera tracker and then we’re going to select a bunch of points, and then we’re going to right click. I’m going to say, set ground plane and origin. So it’s going to say, use these points to say where the ground is, and from that we are going to then put a point on there that is the origin. So we say, define that; good. That’s done; now create a camera; perfect. And now is stuck down there on the ground. So that works out pretty well.

And it’s actually done a good job of sticking it in there. So it’s pretty firmly where it ought to be. There are a few things that you’ll want to do just to improve how this looks. And one of those is going to be to go into your titles here, go to project, the thing you’ve created, and make sure that its frame rate matches the frame rate of your composition. So go to interpret footage main, and you’re going to want to conform its frame rate to, we said, 24 and then hit return. So now this 24 frames a second comp is matching the number of frames here. And if we go into Cinema 4D again, or Cinema 4D Light, you can see that it’s 0 to 90 frames by default, but if you go edit project settings, you can see it thinks it’s 30 frames a second, so change that to be 24. And then we’ll just change its frames to be 91, just like the comp. Hit save, and we go back here and everything is now lining up, so if you animate something you can count out the frames in the Cinema 4D file and then if you change some things in this project it’ll
line up for that number of frames.

So that’s basically it for the basics of putting Cinema 4D things into After Effects using the new Adobe CC tools. We’ve stabilized footage; we’ve [solved] for the camera, and then we’ve brought in the Cinema 4D file. If you want to get deeper into Cinema 4D though I would totally recommend that you check out other tips and tutorials on It’s a great resource for all sorts of applications; Cinema 4D included. This is really just the basic overview about how to get things into Adobe After Effects, and to work with them in there. The big thing though, and I’m going to just stress this again, is make sure you’re frame rates and durations match, and also make sure that you’re using the correct cameras and that you set the origin and told the computer where the things are. A lot of frustration in the 3D integration comes from not setting the origin, because the computer can’t know until you tell it.Anyway, I’m Evan Abrams. Thank you so much for watching. Hopefully this has been helpful with getting you started into the Adobe CC and some of the new tools. If you want to learn more about Adobe After Effects and other applications stop by and check out the blog for those. And of course, come to Premiumbeat for all of your royalty-free music and sound effects needs. I’m Evan Abrams; thanks again for watching, and I’ll see you around the Internet. 

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