Cinema 4D Top 5 Advancement Recap Update 2009 Part 2 of 17

No longer do I have my routinely standard nightmares about homeless people dressed as clowns doing dental work on me at the bottom of the ocean while being chased by radioactive super sharks. No folks, they have been replaced by nightmares of what I’m doing in Cinema 4D! Wait, maybe nightmare isn’t the right word. Maybe I mean dream, yeah, dream is the happy one, right? Sorry to potentially mislead you with the whole nightmare thing. I’m actually having decently pleasant dreams about my future in the 3rd dimension. For those of you who possibly read my first post on getting started with Cinema 4D without any previous morsels of knowledge of any 3D program, this is simply a followup of some of the progress I’ve made, and whether or not I’m on my way to be working on Pixar’s next one-word-titled movie, or if I failed horribly resulting in an enormous amount of embarrassment causing irreversible damage to my relationships of my family and friends.

So as the title obviously states, here is an update of my top 5 recaps of advancements I made in Cinema 4D during 2009. This is part 2 of 17 posts I will periodically make throughout my life time. Part 17 will come on my deathbed, and will focus on trying to do a pre-visualization of my upcoming funeral. I expect my last words before I die to be something in the area of “god damn these splines!”

5. Turning a Real Life Object Into a Cinema 4D Object
So after all my initial messing around in the program, I realized that a standard practice that I would probably need to do for jobs would be to turn an object in real life into a 3D computerized object. I’m cool with creating random stuff from scratch, no one has any expectation on what an imaginary object should truly look like. But creating a replica of something requires, well obviously, that it look just like it…

So I thought I’d start simple and just try and recreate a product box. Going into it I figured the first thing I’d have to do is create the shape of the box. So out of what appeared to be logical thinking, I got a ruler and measured the Tiffen UV Protector box I decided to make, resulting in some dimensions of each side in inches. But there aren’t any places to input inches into Cinema 4D… So I just plugged the inches into new photoshop documents for each side of the box, converted the inches to points, and hooray!, I can input points into the dimensions of the box in C4D.

Then I just scanned the sides of the box at high quality, and put them into the photoshop sides I created and imported them as materials. Cool beans! I have a 3D version of a box I’m holding in my hand! Slap on a camera zoom with motion blur, and I now have a product box animation. I know it’s just a box (big deal, right?), but it was still cool at my amateur level of expertise. If I keep trying to recreate things, I’ll be well on my way to making a surrogate to clean my house in the near future.

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4. Being Able to Actually Render Stuff

One of the biggest problems I was having when I initially started learning C4D was that I was able to do some neat stuff, but I didn’t know what to do with it after I created it! I was very happy to finally learn how to render and output things, so that I can actually use them. They don’t make it very obvious to someone unfamiliar with the program how to do something as simple as export a quicktime movie. I was definitely doing it wrong initially, while trying to figure it out. I was just doing a “Make Preview” quicktime.

Then output it as a decent quality preview, and when it finishes I just do a “Save As…” in quicktime and I have a new, incorrectly outputted movie. I guess it worked for saving a quicktime of the project, but it wasn’t of the highest possible quality, and would probably be scoffed at if I attempted to use it for anything real. So then I finally figured out that you have to set all of your settings before you even consider rendering in the Render Settings, such as dimensions (I did an entire animation in the wrong dimensions, and tried to change it after the fact, yeah, I had to re-do almost the entire thing, OOPS, lesson learned), and which format of quicktime you’d like, where to save it, as well as how many frames and whether you’d like motion blur, etc. You could spend a good several minutes just going through the settings before you render each project.

After all of that it’s actually extremely simple to make a quicktime movie, because once all of your settings are set, you just click on “Render in Picture Viewer”. That title doesn’t make sense to me for making quicktime videos, but well, that’s exactly what it will do. In full resolution.

And in reference to my first post on this subject, I wasn’t able to make a quicktime of the crappy slap animation I created on my first day of messing around in Cinema 4D, but now I’m able to! Here it is in all its crappy glory!

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3. Creating Abstract Still Photo Art
In addition to making neat animations, I was happy to learn a little about how to make cool still images as well. Photoshop is one of my favorite programs to mess around in, and it was fun to learn how to insert 3D objects correctly into still images using camera mapping, which seems similar to doing Vanishing Point in ‘shop. This just gives me another option to do cool things with still images that I might have trouble doing in Photoshop. Like making a client’s logo hang out in the desert for some reason, or giving a family on a picnic a pair of pet cubes.

2. Being Able to Bring in an Illustrator File and Animate it
One thing I was excited about was being able to bring in Illustrator vector images and play around with them in 3D. It’s more complicated (or annoying) than it would initially appear, but it makes sense how it works. For instance you can’t just flat out import a complex Illustrator logo and expect it to work perfectly. You have to separate the layers first, then re-assemble them in Cinema 4D, followed by creating and adding materials to give it some colors. There is a great tutorial I watched early on (located here) on Creative Cow on how to go about separating Illustrator files correctly and doing basic camera moves. I took the logo of our friends over at CBH Video, and jazzed it all up 3D-style. I surprised them with it and their reaction was “This is pretty cool, but I’m on a conference call, so please stop yelling in my ear…”

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1. Moving Cameras on a Spline and Creating a Scene With Stage Objects
Splines are frustrating to me. I’ve tried to draw them freehand and then straighten them out by making them B-Splines, but that only works to a certain degree. It’s hard to get them perfect. But I do realize that it’s even harder to just smoothly freehand animate a camera movement. It’s nice to have a visual line representing where the camera is heading.

Then having another camera starting at the end of the first movement and continuing in a new direction by using a stage object adds another dimension of animation. I’ve never really been that good at After Effects (I get lost somewhere when expressions come into play, then it’s like freshman year math class all over again) but I was amazed at the ease of using cameras in Cinema 4D.

In my opinion it just seems more fluid and intuitive than using cameras in AE. But I was just happy that I pretty much grasped the concepts of a basic animated scene, which points in good directions for the future of scene making. It’s harder than it looks to pull it off smoothly. Or I guess it’s easy if you’re good at C4D and you want to be a jerk about it…

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The Suite Take

I’m still learning, I’m not all around that great at Cinema 4D yet, but I’m looking forward at getting better! I know one sure sign that I’m not that great is when I go to the C4D Forums over at Creative Cow, and the way they talk about stuff makes it seem like they aren’t even using the same program that I’m using. Then I realized I was in the MAYA forums. But then I went back to the C4D forums and it was still relatively confusing. But I tend to understand more of it in each passing week.

I’ll let you know what I do next in part 3 of 17, which will be written entirely while skydiving! (Note: part 3 may only be two sentences long and full of typos).

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