The history of Softimage is interwoven with the history of 3D animation. The program goes back to the 1980s, when it became the first go-to software tool for character animation. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park? Animated in Softimage 3D. In fact, many early CG milestones used Softimage. In the mid-1990s, Microsoft purchased Softimage Co. and ported Softimage 3D to Windows. The software was then purchased by Avid Technology a few years later, where it became Softimage XSI, then sold again to Autodesk. And with every one of those changes, the software lost momentum; it never fully recovered.
Adobe has started to reveal some plans for its next generation of pro video tools. Using a prerelease version of After Effects, I’ve recorded two hours of videos for lynda.com to keep you ahead of the curve. Over the course of a few blogs, I’ll fill you in on some of the interesting features that are on tap. First up, the new integration between After Effects and CINEMA 4D.
Live 3D pipeline between After Effects and CINEMA 4D
A couple of weeks ago, Adobe and MAXON issued a press release announcing a “strategic alliance … to bring creative professionals new levels of digital media content creation.” Buried inside that release was the intriguing statement that “As part of the alliance, both companies are expected to collaborate and engineer a pipeline between Adobe After Effects software and CINEMA 4D to give users a seamless 2D/3D foundation.” Now we can finally see what they were hinting at.
Efficiency and flexibility are not just marketing terms, they’re what make motion graphics achievable. Creating moving images is incredibly labor intensive, and once all that labor is done, you still have to hit the render button and wait to preview the result. Being efficient is crucial to meeting deadlines.
Creating a workflow that allows you to swap and modify key elements at any point in the production process is what XRefs are all about. An XRef is a special object that points to a scene file much in the same way a print program, like Illustrator, points back to a master image and uses the original file from the hard drive for printing. Visually, the XRef appears to you as a single object, but it actually represents all the objects in the scene that it’s pointing back to. This means that you can make changes to that scene file, and any XRef that points back to it will automatically update. This also means, since R13 XRef objects allow you to reference a CINEMA 4D file as a single object, that you can manipulate an XRef from an entirely different scene, thus allowing for distributed workflows where one person is modeling while another person animates. This makes for a very flexible way to work.
In this week’s Design in Motion video, I’ll show you how to add an XRef into your animation, and I’ll show you a real-life scenario where having XRefs set up allows me to easily swap two cars in a chase scene, with two completely different cars—all without having to update my animation. If you’re new to XRefs, this tutorial quickly breaks the process down to help you get started. XRefs have made last-minute director swaps quick and easy for me many times, and they can save you, too!
The overall XRef experience has been significantly improved in CINEMA 4D R13. To learn more about those improvements, check out my full CINEMA 4D R13 New Features course on lynda.com. If you are a lynda.com member, make sure to check out chapter five, where I discuss R13 workflow additions, including a specific video on the Xrefs format rewrite.
Controlling how your objects look in 3D really boils down to asking yourself one important question: What is my object made of? How you answer that question becomes your guide for how you will create the materials that you apply to your objects in 3D. The Material editor in CINEMA 4D has an array of buttons that can be confusing until you start thinking of them as answers to that one most important question.
In this video I dig into the Material editor and show you how to add texture and color to your object using the Color channel, and Specular highlight. To add the distressed look, I show you how to use a Bump channel (found in the Basic tab of the Materials editor) to add in gritty noise, Diffusion to simulate light reflection, and Displacement to add physical surface indentations and deformations. Together, these properties can be manipulated to create a great looking metal material that can be applied to standard type.
Animation has a way of connecting with a viewer that is very different than a still image. The power of a still image or illustration lies in its composition and content. Animation on the other hand, adds timing and movement into the mix, and these elements are an important tool you can use to communicate with your audience.
The speed and direction that your graphic elements move in tell your viewer information that adds to the overall content and composition of your piece. If your object moves quickly and comes to a sudden stop, then, that could be combined with a dark, intense composition to communicate a sense of drama and action. Smooth, fluid movements could work well for romance, or even a somber mood. Sharp, punchy moves are great for comedy.
This kind of subtle animation is all about control. Both After Effects and CINEMA 4D have excellent graph editors that will allow you to really express emotion through your animation. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out this week’s Design in Motion tutorial titled Styling animation to communicate emotion (embedded up top), then check out my CINEMA 4D R12 Essential Training course, or After Effects Apprentice 03 by Chris and Trish Meyer. Both courses have chapters that go into detail about controlling your animation with curves.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Often times creating type is the bread and butter for motion graphics artists. But like plain old bread and butter, it can get a bit stale. When that happens, gradients are a great way to freshen up your stale type.
A gradient is simply a transition from one value to another. This can be from one color to another, or from light to dark. When used properly, gradients can be used to pump up the legibility of your type, and to make the text really leap off the screen.
Using gradients on text in CINEMA 4D boils down to understanding how textures are applied to objects. This can be a difficult concept to understand, but it’s crucial to getting control of the look and feel of your objects in 3-D. There are three main tools that help you manage the projection of textures on to the surfaces of 3-D objects: The Texture Tag, the Texture Tool, and an often overlooked command in the object manager called Fit To Object. These three elements will give you tremendous control over how your objects appear to the viewer.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
The idea of dynamic simulations has gotten a lot of attention lately. Dynamics allow an animator to create very realistic motion and collisions with objects without using key frames. Nearly every 3-D software package has some kind of module dedicated to this. That being said, dynamics can be somewhat unpredictable by nature, so they’re not entirely flawless. Similar to setting up a stack of dominoes or a Rube Goldberg machine, dynamic simulations just don’t always give you what you expected. This can make them very challenging to use in production, and it often has designers and animators asking themselves what exactly it is they can do with dynamics. With so much unpredictability, what problems can they solve?
The answer is, really, quite a lot! Dynamics can be great addition to your tool kit if you’re willing to accept a bit of unpredictability in your animations. In this short project I’ll show you how to use dynamics to animate some text being knocked over. Using key frames, this kind of animation would be very time consuming, and it would be even harder to make it look convincing. Luckily, CINEMA 4D’s dynamics engine is really easy to use, and allows you to apply these techniques to a variety of different projects.
Published by Rob Garrott | Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
Welcome back for another Design in Motion! This time around we’re going to have some fun in CINEMA 4D building a camera rig that will give you the ability to add very convincing multi-directional camera shake that is easy to control. Camera shake is an important component of animation. Just like motion blur, it adds a lot of realism to your movements.
Last week I introduced you to the idea of expressions in After Effects. CINEMA 4D also has an expression language—in fact—CINEMA 4D has three expression languages; Xpresso, Coffee, and Python. Don’t be alarmed, though—we won’t be writing code. We’re going to use the Xpresso language, which is a visual, node based way of making connections between objects and parameters.
Even though we’re building an easy to use camera rig, really, this technique is largely about the idea that you can use the Xpresso language to control objects and animation.