Tag Archives: 3D

Review: Maxon Cinema 4D R19 — an editor’s perspective

By Brady Betzel

It’s time for my yearly review of Maxon’s Cinema 4D. Currently in Release 19, Cinema 4D comes with a good amount of under-the-hood updates. I am an editor, first and foremost, so while I dabble in Cinema 4D, I am not an expert. There are a few things in the latest release, however, that directly correlate to editors like me.

Maxon offers five versions of Cinema 4D, not including BodyPaint 3D. There is the Cinema 4D Lite, which comes free with Adobe After Effects. It is really an amazing tool for discovering the world of 3D without having to invest a bunch of money. But, if you want all the goodies that come packed into Cinema 4D you will have to pay the piper and purchase one of the other four versions. The other versions include Prime, Broadcast, Visualize and Studio.

Cinema 4D Prime is the first version that includes features like lighting, cameras and animation. Cinema 4D Broadcast includes all of Cinema 4D Prime’s features as well as the beloved MoGraph tools and the Broadcast Library, which offers pre-built objects and cameras that will work with motion graphics. Cinema 4D Visualize includes Cinema 4D Prime features as well, but is geared more toward architects and designers. It includes Sketch and Toon, as well as an architecturally focused library of objects and presets. Cinema 4D Studio includes everything in the other versions plus unlimited Team Render nodes, a hair system, a motion/object tracker and much more. If you want to see a side-by-side comparison you can check out Maxon’s website.

What’s New
As usual, there are a bunch of new updates to Cinema 4D Release 19, but I am going to focus on my top three, which relate to the workflows and processes I might use as an editor: New Media Core, Scene Reconstruction and the Spherical Camera. Obviously, there are a lot more updates — including the incredible new OpenGL Previews and the cross-platform ProRender, which adds the ability to use AMD or Nvidia graphics cards — but to keep this review under 30 pages I am focusing on the three that directly impact my work.

New Media Core
Buckle up! You can now import animated GIFs into Cinema 4D. So, yes, you can import animated GIFs into Cinema 4D Release 19, but that is just one tiny aspect of this update. The really big addition is the QuickTime-free support of MP4 videos. Now MP4s can be imported and used as textures, as well as exported with different compression settings, directly from within Cinema 4D’s  interface — all of this without the need to have QuickTime installed. What is cool about this is that you no longer need to export image-based file sequences to get your movie inside of Cinema 4D. The only slowdown will be how long it takes Cinema 4D R19 to cache your MP4 so that you will have realtime playback… if possible.

In my experience, it doesn’t take that much time, but that will be dependent on your system performance. While this is a big under-the-hood type of update, it is great for those quick exports of a scene for approval. No need to take your export into Adobe Media Encoder, or something else, to squeeze out an MP4.

Scene Reconstruction
First off, for any new Cinema 4D users out there, Scene Reconstruction is convoluted and a little thick to wade through. However, if you work with footage and want to add motion graphics work to a scene, you will want to learn this. You can check out this Cineversity.com video for an eight-minute overview.

Cinema 4D’s Scene Reconstruction works by tracking your footage to generate point clouds, and then after you go back and enable Scene Reconstruction, it creates a mesh from the resulting scene calculation that Cinema 4D computes. In the end, depending on how compatible your footage is with Scene Detection (i.e. contrasting textures and good lighting will help) you will get a camera view with matching scene vertices that are then fully animatable. I, unfortunately, do not have enough time to recreate a set or scene inside of Cinema 4D R19, however, it feels like Maxon is getting very close to fully automated scene reconstruction, which would be very, very interesting.

I’ve seen a lot of ideas from pros on Twitter and YouTube that really blow my mind, like 3D scanning with a prosumer camera to recreate objects inside of Cinema 4D. Scene Reconstruction could be a game-changing update, especially if it becomes more automated as it would allow base users like me to recreate a set in Cinema 4D without having to physically rebuild a set. A pretty incredible motion graphics-compositing future is really starting to emerge from Cinema 4D.

In addition, the Motion Tracker has received some updates, including manual tracking on R, G, B, or custom channel — viewed as Tracker View — and the tracker can now work with a circular tracking pattern.

Spherical Camera
Finally, the last update, which seems incredible, is the new Spherical Camera. It’s probably because I have been testing and using a lot more 360 video, but the ability to render your scene using a Spherical Camera is here. You can now create a scene, add a camera and enable Spherical mapping, including equirectangular, cubic string, cubic cross or even Facebook’s 360 video 3×2 cubic format. In addition, there is now support for Stereo VR as well as dome projection.

Other Updates
In addition to the three top updates I’ve covered, there are numerous others updates that are just as important, if not more so to those who use Cinema 4D in other ways. In my opinion, the rendering updates take the cake. Also, as mentioned before, there is support for both Nvidia and AMD GPUs, multi-GPU support, incredible viewport enhancements with Physical Rendering and interactive Preview Renders in the viewport.

Under MoGraph, there is an improved Voronoi Fracture system (ability to destroy an object quickly) including improved performance for high polygon counts and detailing to give the fracture a more realistic look. There is also a New Sound Effector to allow for interactive MoGraph creation to the beat of the music. One final note: the new Modern Modelling Kernel has been introduced. The new kernel gives more ability to things like polygon reduction and levels of detail.

In the end, Cinema 4D Release 19 is a huge under-the-hood update that will please legacy users but will also attract new users with AMD-based GPUs. Moreover, Maxon seems to be slowly morphing Cinema 4D into a total 2D and 3D modeling and motion graphics powerhouse, much like the way Blackmagic’s Resolve is for colorists, video editors, VFX creators and audio mixers.

Summing Up
With updates like Scene Recreation and improved motion tracking, Maxon gives users like me the ability to work way above their pay grade to composite 3D objects onto our 2D footage. If any of this sounds interesting to you and you are a paying Adobe Creative Cloud user, download and open up Cinema 4D Lite along with After Effects, then run over to Cineversity and brush up on the basics. Cinema 4D Release 19 is an immensely powerful 3D application that is blurring the boundaries between 3D and 2D compositing. With Cinema 4D Release 19’s large library of objects, preset scenes and lighting setups you can be experimenting in no time, and I didn’t even touch on the modeling and sculpting power!


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Combining 3D and 360 VR for The Cabiri: Anubis film

Whether you are using 360 VR or 3D, both allow audiences to feel in on the action and emotion of a film narrative or performance, but combine the two together and you can create a highly immersive experience that brings the audience directly into the “reality” of the scenes.

This is exactly what film producers and directors Fred Beahm and Bogdan Darev have done in The Cabiri: Anubis, a 3D/360VR performance art film showing at the Seattle International Film Festival’s (SIFF) VR Zone on May 18 through June 10.

The Cabiri is a Seattle-based performance art group that creates stylistic and athletic dance and entertainment routines at theater venues throughout North America. The 3D/360VR film can now be streamed from the Pixvana app to the new Oculus Go headset, which is specifically designed for 3D and 360 streaming and viewing.

“As a director working in cinema to create worlds where reality is presented in highly stylized stories, VR seemed the perfect medium to explore. What took me by complete surprise was the emotional impact, the intimacy and immediacy the immersive experience allows,” says Darev. “VR is truly a medium that highlights our collective responsibility to create original and diverse content through the power of emerging technologies that foster curiosity and the imagination.”

“Other than a live show, 3D/360VR is the ideal medium for viewers to experience the rhythmic movement in The Cabiri’s performances. Because they have the feeling of being within the scene, the viewers become so engaged in the experience that they feel the emotional and dramatic impact,” explains Beahm, who is also the cinematographer, editor and post talent for The Cabiri film.

Beahm has a long list of credits to his name, and a strong affinity for the post process that requires a keen sense of the look and feel a director or producer is striving to achieve in a film. “The artistic and technical functions of the post process take a film from raw footage to a good result, and with the right post artist and software tools to a great film,” he says. “This is why I put a strong emphasis on the post process, because along with a great story and cinematography, it’s a key component of creating a noteworthy film. VR and 3D require several complex steps, and you want to use tools that simplify the process so you can save time, create high-quality results and stay within budget.”

For The Cabiri film, he used the Kandao Obsidian S camera, filming in 6K 3D360, then SGO’s Mistika VR for their stereo 3D optical-flow stitching. He edited in Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC 2018 and finished in Assimilate’s Scratch VR, using their 3D/360VR painting, tracking and color grading tools. He then delivered in 4K 3D360 to Pixvana’s Spin Studio.”

“Scratch VR is fast. For example, with the VR transform-and-vector paint tools I can quickly paint out the nadir, or easily delete unwanted artifacts like portions of a camera rig and wires, or even a person. It’s also easy to add in graphics and visual effects with the built-in tracker and compositing tools. It’s also the only software I use that renders content in the background while you continue working on your project. Another advantage is that Scratch VR will automatically connect to an Oculus headset for viewing 3D and 360,” he continues. “During our color grading session, Bogdan would wear an Oculus Rift headset and give me suggestions about changes I should make, such as saturation and hues, and I could quickly do these on the fly and save the versions for comparison.”

Quick Chat: FOM’s Adam Espinoza on DirecTV graphics campaign

By Randi Altman

Denver-based creative brand firm Friends of Mine (FOM) recently completed a graphics package for DirecTV Latin America that they had been working on for almost a year. The campaign, which first aired at the start of the 2017/2018 soccer season in August, has been airing on DirecTV’s Latin American network since then.

In addition to providing the graphics packages that ran on DirecTV Sports throughout the European Football League seasons (in Spain, England and France), FOM is currently creating graphics that will promote the World Cup games, set to take place between June 14 and July 15 in Russia.

Adam Espinoza

We reached out to FOM’s co-founder and creative director, Adam Espinoza, to find out more.

How early did you get involved in the piece? How much input did you have?
We were invited to the RFP process two months before the season started. We fully developed the look and concept from their written creative brief and objectives. We had complete input on the direction and execution.

What was it the client wanted to accomplish, and what did you suggest? 
The client wanted to convey the excitement of soccer throughout the season. There were two objectives: highlight the exclusive benefits of DirectTV for its subscribers while at the same time showing footage of goals and celebrations from the best players and teams in the world. We suggested the idea of intersections and digital energy.

Why did you think the visuals you created told the story the client needed? 
The digital energy graphics created a kinetic movement inherent in the sport while connecting the players around the league. The intersections concept helped to integrate the world of soccer seamlessly with DirecTV’s message.

What exactly did you provide services-wise on the piece? 
Conceptual design, art direction, 2D and 3D animation and video editing
.

What gear/tools did you use for each of those services? 
Our secret sauce along with Cinema 4D, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Illustrator.

What was the most challenging part of the process?
Evolving the look from month to month throughout the season and building to the climatic finals, while still staying true to the original concept.

What’s was your favorite part of the process?
Being able to fine tune a concept over such a stretch of time.

Review: Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16

By Sophia Kyriacou

As a designer who appreciates how products are packaged, my first impression of the Mobile Studio Pro when it arrived was very positive. I loved the minimalism of the design and how everything was carefully considered and placed within the box. It felt special and aimed at a creative who had earned it.

While I have been using Wacom tablet products professionally for over 20 years, I had never previously used a Wacom PC tablet. I didn’t have any expectations or preconceived ideas of what this box of tricks was capable of. It was great to stumble across things by accident, and it felt very intuitive.

The Mobile Studio Pro is a self-contained computer tablet device. You don’t need a laptop or a desktop to use it, as everything is within one handy box. You can, however, plug the device into a separate monitor should you need the additional screen. While I haven’t done this yet myself, I would imagine a second monitor would be handy when you need to spread out your application interface.

The tablet arrives with Windows 10 pre-installed. It’s essentially a PC computer rather than a mobile tablet device. You simply install your software as you would on your laptop or desktop workstation, and off you go. It’s as simple as that. I installed my Adobe Creative Cloud, with a special interest in Photoshop, as it was perfect for painting and drawing, and even sketching initial ideas. I also installed Allegorithmic’s Substance Painter, a brilliant painting package I use for my texture mapping. I also have my Studio version of Maxon Cinema 4D installed, which I predominately use for exporting my geometry that is ready for texture mapping in Substance Painter.

Digging In
Immediately, I liked the idea of being able to see where my pen was pointing at the screen before the pen had literally touched the screen itself. The little circular indicator was very simple and very useful, as it allowed me to target my pen exactly where it was going. Simple things count. The pen is very comfortable to hold, slightly weightier but not heavier than other tablet pens. It has a sturdy rubber grip and attachment should I want to let the pen hang from the tablet itself.

 

The overall design is minimal with a set of function keys and a wheel to one side. All can be easily changed to suit your needs. The screen is semi matte and perfectly smooth, although I personally prefer a glossy screen as the blacks look more crushed, but I appreciate that is also a personal preference. The screen is super-smooth and easy to glide without the pen slipping as it could on a glossed shiny surface. I did notice some minor light bleeding at the bottom edge in three places, but this didn’t impact my actual workflow and was only slightly noticeable on start-up rather than actually interfering with my workflow.

The 16-inch model is perfect for working between 3D and 2D texturing, although again a personal choice. The full-size version comes with a Quadra Nvidia Quadro M1000M 4GB GDDRS card, which is super-punchy — working with high-resolution imagery and geometry with no lag. Texturing in 4K+ is demanding, so this high-spec box of tricks is essential. The pixel resolution is highly respectable at 3,840×2,160 and along with an i7-6567U processor and 16GB RAM you have a very powerful tablet that perhaps provides more power than you may need but it is there to be taken advantage of when you do need it. The Pro Pen 2 is very accurate with no lag and comfortable, switching between using the pen and touch function feels very natural.

One of the drawbacks for me is the weight of the top-spec model — my MacBook Pro weighs 4.46 pounds and the Mobile Studio Pro weights 4.85 pounds. As the name suggests, it’s a “mobile studio.” For me it felt only mobile from room to room, and is not a device I could carry around with me for too long. The battery drains very quickly (four hours battery time), but given the amount of hardware inside this punchy unit, it is to be expected. The battery brick is very large, so if you are carrying the Mobile Studio out and about, you have to consider this and all the peripherals. While USB-C is still new compared to the USB design, I would have preferred to see perhaps two USB-C and one USB ports, but I guess this is a forward-thinking product and an adapter will do the trick, so this can be forgiven.

I found it very useful using an inexpensive wireless Logitech keyboard with a trackpad as constantly going back and forth between the tablet keyboard and the application was a little cumbersome as it was breaking up my workflow. What I would like to see is a simple button in the top corner that you click once that brings the keyboard up and press again and it’s gone, rather than having to go into bottom menus.

Real-World Work
When I took on the task of reviewing the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro, I thought it would be best suited on a project that benefitted from heavy use of texture mapping and texture painting. I decided to start working on a “concept film” where I would use the tablet to texture all the 3D assets. As this is a work in progress project, I have attached with my review an asset I textured using the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro and plan to finish the film this year, so please come back to see the results.

I am often inspired by sounds and music. Concepts have always been my main focus and I was inspired by a piece of cinematic music, which I thought would work incredibly well. It’s a short sequence about emotion. I want to take the viewer through a series of emotions and leave them thinking and stay with them. At the moment I am inspired by concept art and surrealism and like how chain reactions take you to places. Some scenes may be logical, others not, but will have a thread that links them all together. The opening of the track has a piano piece and the keys travel downwards. To express this I built a spiral staircase travelling in a downward motion taking the viewer into another world.

Pricing
For the MobileStudio Pro 13, prices vary with storage capacity: $1,500 for a 64GB SSD, $1,800 for 128GB, $2,000 for 256GB and $2,500 for 512GB.

As for the MobileStudio Pro 16, the less expensive $2,400 model incorporates an Nvidia Quadro M600M processor with 2GB of video RAM and a 256GB SSD, while the $3,000 model has an Nvidia Quadro M1000M with 4GB of video RAM and a 512GB SSD.

Summing Up
Would I recommend the Mobile Studio Pro? Absolutely. It’s powerful and it’s a computer, so I am able to install and use my software with ease. It works very well within my wider workflow, which is how I prefer to work. I think its success also comes down to the fact that this is a computer tablet device and not just a tablet that relies only on apps.


Sophia Kyriacou is an award-winning motion designer and 3D artist with over 20 years working in the broadcast industry. She is also a full voting member at BAFTA and has presented her various projects on the international stage at IBC for Maxon. She splits her time between freelancing and the BBC in London. Follow her on Twitter (@SophiaKyriacou) and Instagram (@sophiakyriacou).

 

Laundry adds James Sweigert as managing director

Animation and design house Laundry has a new managing director in James Sweigert, who brings extensive experience in marketing, brand strategy, design and TV and film production to the studio, which recently moved into a new creative space in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles.

Working closely with Richardson and ECD/partner Anthony Liu, Sweigert will oversee all creative and production management and operations for the studio, which encompasses animation, design, VFX and live-action production. He is also tasked with nurturing existing client relationships and cultivating new opportunities with brands, services and technology partners.

Sweigert arrives at Laundry following a tenure as executive producer of TV and Streaming at mOcean. Other previous positions include EP/partner at Nathaniel James, head of production at Brand New School and assistant EP at Fuel/Razorfish. He’s produced notable projects, including the main titles for the Emmy Award-winning documentary Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau, which was featured on ESPN Films’ 30 for 30; IDs for the NFL Network’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, as well as work for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Sport in America.

Also a filmmaker, Sweigert has just completed producing and directing a documentary titled N-Men: The Untold Story. The film takes a look at the Northern California skateboarding scene from 1975 through today, featuring interviews with Tony Hawk, Tony Alva and the N-Men who inspired them. The film is scheduled for release in 2018 with Laundry playing an instrumental role in the post production.

“I’ve known James since arriving in Los Angeles 18 years ago, and the moons have finally aligned for us to work together,” says PJ Richardson, executive creative director and partner of Laundry. “What I’m most excited about is his fresh enthusiasm for design-driven animation and production, but also his understanding of how it is all evolving. Like us, he understands creativity comes down to having fun, so it’s a perfect fit.”

“Laundry has a sophisticated creative infrastructure, which I’m excited about bringing to new heights,” says Sweigert. “We can achieve great things with our clients by tapping deeper into the existing strengths of this company across the board, and implementing systems that allow us to become more of a strategic partner early on. I’m also keen on what the future holds for Laundry with respect to VR/AR, 360 and experiential work, as well as expanding our live-action bandwidth.”

 

Review: Maxon Cinema 4D Studio Release 18

By Brady Betzel

Each year I get to test out some of the latest and greatest software and hardware releases our industry has to offer. One of my favorites — and most challenging — is Maxon’s Cinema 4D. I say challenging because while I love Cinema 4D, I don’t use it every day. So, in order to test it thoroughly, I watched tutorials on Cineversity to brush up on what I forgot and what’s new. Even though I don’t use it every day, I do love it.

I’ve reviewed Cinema 4D Release 15 through R18. I started using the product when I was studying at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, which coincidentally is about 10 minutes from Maxon’s Newbury Park office.

Voronoi Fracture

Each version update has been packed full of remarkable additions and updates. From the grass generator in R15, addition of the Reflectance channel in R16, lens distortion tools in R17 to the multitude of updates in R18 — Cinema 4D keeps on cranking out the hits. I say multitude because there are a ton of updates packed into the latest Cinema 4D Release 18 update. You can check out a complete list of them as well as comparisons between Cinema 4D Studio, Visualize, Broadcast, Prime, BodyPaint 3D and Lite Release 18 versions on the Maxon site.

For this review, I’m going to touch on three of what I think are the most compelling updates in Release 18: the new Voronoi Fracture, Thin Film Shader and the Push Apart Effector. Yes, I know there are a bazillion other great updates to Cinema 4D R18 — such as Weight Painting, new Knife Tools, Inverse Ambient Occlusion, the ability to save cache files externally and many more — but I’m going to stick to the features that I think stand out.

Keep in mind that I am using Cinema 4D Studio R18 for this review, so if you don’t have Studio, some of the features might not be available in your version. For instance, I am going to touch on some of the MoGraph toolset updates, and those are only inside the Studio and Broadcast versions. Finally, while you should use a super powerful workstation to get the smoothest and most robust experience when using Cinema 4D R18, I am using a tablet that uses a quad core Intel i7 3.1GHz processor, 8GB of RAM and an Intel Iris graphics 6100 GPU. Definitely on the lower end of processing power for this app, but it works and I have to credit Maxon for making it work so well.

Voronoi Fracture
If, like me, you’ve never heard of the term Voronoi, check out the first paragraph of this Wiki page. A very simple way to imagine a Voronoi diagram is a bunch of cell-like polygons that are all connected (there’s a much more intricate and deeply mathematical definition, but I can barely understand it, and it’s really beyond the scope of this review). In Cinema 4D Studio R18, the Voronoi Fracture object allows us to easily, and I mean really easily, procedurally break apart objects like MoGraph text, or any other object, without the need for external third-party plug-ins such as Nitro4D’s Thrausi.

Voronoi Fracture

To apply Voronoi Fracture in as few steps as possible, you apply the Voronoi Fracture located in the MoGraph menu to your object, adjust parameters under the Sources menu (like distribution type or point amount) add effectors to cause dispersion, keyframe values and render. With a little practice you can explode your raytraced MoGraph text in no time. The best part is your object will not look fractured until animated, which in the past took some work so this is a great update.

Thin Film Shader
Things that are hard to recreate in a photorealistic way are transparent objects, such as glass bottles, windows and bubbles. In Cinema 4D R18, Maxon has added the new Thin Film Shader, which can add the film-like quality that you see on bubbles or soap. It’s an incredible addition to Cinema 4D, furthering the idea that Maxon is concentrating on adding features that improve efficiency for people like me who want to use Cinema 4D, but sometimes don’t because making a material like Thin Film will take a long time.

To apply the Thin Film to your object, find the Reflectance channel of your material that you want to add the Thin Film property to add a new Beckmann or GGX layer, lower the Specular Strength of this layer to zero, under Layer Color choose Texture > Effects > Thin Film. From there, if you want to see the Thin Film as a true layer of film you need to change your composite setting to Add on your layer; you should then see it properly. You can get some advanced tips from the great tutorials over at Cineversity and from Andy Needham (Twitter: @imcalledandy) on lynda.com. One tip I learned from Andy is to change the Index of Refraction to get some different looks, which can be found under the Shader properties.

Push Apart Effector

Push Apart Effector
The new Push Apart Effector is a simple but super-powerful addition to Cinema 4D. The easiest way to describe the Push Apart Effector is to imagine a bunch of objects in an array or using a Cloner where all of your objects are touching — the Push Apart Effector helps to push them away from each other. To decrease the intersection of your clones, you can dial-in the specific radius of your objects (like a sphere) and then tell Cinema 4D R18 how many times you want it to look through the scene by specifying iterations. The more iterations the less chance your objects will intersect, but the more time it will take to compute.

Summing Up
I love Maxon’s continual development of Cinema 4D in Release 18. I specifically love that while they are adding new features, like Weight Painting and Update Knife Tools, they are also helping to improve efficiency for people like me who love to work in Cinema 4D but sometimes skip it because of the steep learning curve and technical know-how you need in order to operate it. You should not fear though, I cannot emphasize how much you can learn at Cineversity, Lynda.com, and on YouTube from an expert like Sean Frangella. Whether you are new to the world of Cinema 4D, mildly experienced like me, or an expert you can always learn something new.

Something I love about Maxon’s licensing for education is that if you go to a qualified school, you can get a free Cinema 4D license. Instructors can get access to Cineversity to use the tutorials in their curriculum as well as project files to use. It’s an amazing resource.

Thin Film Render

If you are an Adobe After Effects user, don’t forget that you automatically get a free version of Cinema 4D bundled with After Effects — Cinema 4D Lite. Even though you have to have After Effects open to use the Cinema 4D Lite, it is still a great way to dip your toes into the 3D world, and maybe even bring your projects back into After Effects to do some compositing.

Cinema 4D Studio R18’s pricing breaks down like this: Commercial Pricing/Annual License Pricing/Upgrade R17 to R18 pricing — Cinema 4D Studio Release 18: $3,695/$650 /$995; Cinema 4D Visualize Release 18: $2,295/$500/$795; Cinema 4D Broadcast Release 18: $1,695/$400 /$795; Cinema 4D Prime Release 18: $995/$250/$395.

Another interesting option is Maxon’s short-term licensing in three- or six-month chunks for the Studio version ($600/$1,100) and 75 percent of the fees you pay for a short-term license can be applied to your purchase of a full license later. Keep in mind, when using such a powerful and robust software like Cinema 4D you are making an investment that will payoff with concentrated effort in learning the software. With a few hours of training from some of the top trainers — like Tim Clapham on www.helloluxx.com, Greyscalegorilla.com and Motionworks.com — you will be off and running in 3D land.

For everyday Cinema 4D creations and inspiration, check out @beeple_crap on Instagram. He produces amazing work all the time.

In this review, I tested some of the new updates to Cinema 4D Studio R18 with sample projects from Andy Needham’s Lynda.com class Cinema 4D R18: New Features and Joren Kandel’s awesome website, which offers tons of free content to play with while learning the new tools.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

The Famous Grouse

Putting The Famous Grouse into CG environs for holiday spots

By Randi Altman

Flaunt Productions in Glasgow teamed up with the Leith Agency on a two-spot campaign for the Scottish blended whisky brand, The Famous Grouse. Heading the effort was director Ben Craig and Flaunt’s head of lighting, Jon Neill — they were tasked with putting the iconic grouse into a CG version of his natural environment for these holiday-themed ads.

The first spot, Perfectly Balanced, was released earlier this month and takes the viewer on a flight through the Scottish Highlands to reveal the Grouse with his chest puffed out and feeling proud of his environment. The second commercial, called Smooth, which aired the week of Black Friday, starts as the camera spins through the snowy Scottish Highlands.

flauntTo create the cinematic photoreal landscape, Neill and some of the team shot drone footage in Glencoe, which allowed real-life textures to be applied to the CG world.

In order to create a realistic grouse, Flaunt applied a feather system based on a fur and procedural shader that gave on organic look to the model. When it came to movement of the body and wing feathers, specific movements had to be animated to give a sense of realistic movement and the personality that is associated with the Famous Grouse.

We reached out to executive producer Andrew Pearce about the project and its workflow…

Photo:Mike Scott

Andrew Pearce

How early did you get involved in the project? Was the agency up for suggestions, or did they already have a specific plan locked in?
Director Ben Craig worked with Flaunt on a creative treatment, based on scripts from The Leith Agency. Their central idea was to bring the much-loved Grouse into his home environment: the epic, sweeping Scottish Highlands. Previously, all ads had been set against an infinite white background. With that in mind, we worked collaboratively with the agency to bring the ads to life.

The first stage after treatment would normally be storyboard. However, because our camera move was so extreme, we felt a 2D animatic would be misleading, so we proceeded straight to previs.

You used drone footage for the Grouse’s environment. How did you go about turning it into CG?
We drove up to the Glencoe ski resort and jumped onto the ski lift to get as high as possible. After a 30-minute walk, we attached a camera to the drone and sent it up into the sky — 360 overlapping stills were taken at three different heights.

We merged the images together to create a 360-panorama and applied this to geometry in Autodesk Maya. From there we rendered out the shot with this background, making creative decisions on what to add or take away. Next, we made simple 3D hills on which to project the images, thus providing parallax and a three-dimensional feel.

Was Maya your main animation software? Did you write your own particle systems off of that? What other tools were used?
Maya was used for animation, Side Effects Houdini for FX, Houdini Mantra for lighting and Nuke for compositing. We also had to write a feather system for the Grouse, which worked inside Houdini.

Can you talk about giving the Grouse personality in the CG world? What about facial (or beak) expressions, and his eyes and movements?
For these adverts, the Grouse was in a real-world environment. With that in mind, we didn’t want to go over the top with cartoony animation. The realism of the Grouse asset wouldn’t support that style, but we needed to give the Grouse some character beyond that of a real one.

Real grouse faces don’t move that much, and we didn’t want to change the anatomy too much. So we used the eyebrows and eyes as much as we could. Our rig also enabled us to exaggerate the shape of the eyes and eyebrows beyond the norm. These subtle anatomical exaggerations were enough for us to push the facial animation enough to engage the viewer.

When it came to the motions of the Grouse, we had to tread a fine line between realistic and anthropomorphic — fans of this brand love how it has moved in previous campaigns. We created various versions of all the actions as we honed in on the motion we wanted. The Grouse’s wink at the end of one of the adverts was the product of many iterations, having explored head tilts, nods, lifts, raised eyebrows and so on.

Before we leave you, anything you would like to add?
We had to strike a balance between a look that was both realistic and magical. This was partly achieved by mashing up some of the most incredible landscapes in Scotland. To augment the magical feel, we added lens flares and camera lens aberrations in the compositing. Subtle pollen particles were also added to give a sense of space as we flew through the environment.

Check out the making of the video here.

The creative process behind The Human Rights Zoetrope

By Sophia Kyriacou

As an artist working in the broadcast industry of almost 20 years, I’ve designed everything from opening title sequences to program brands to content graphics. About three years into my career, I was asked to redesign a program entirely in 3D. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over two years ago I was working full-time at the BBC doing the same work as I am doing now, broadcast designer and 3D artist, but decided it was time to cut my time in half and allow myself to focus on my own creative ventures. I wanted to work with external and varied clients, both here in the UK and internationally. I also wanted to use my spare time for development work. In an industry where technology is constantly evolving it’s essential to keep ahead of the game.

One of those creative ventures was commissioned by Noon Visual Creatives — a London-based production and post company that serves several Arabic broadcasters in both the United Kingdom and worldwide — to create a television branding package for a program called Human Rights.

I had previously worked with Noon on a documentary about the ill-fated 1999 EgyptAir plane crash (which is still awaiting broadcast), so when I was approached again I was more than happy to create their Human Rights brand.

My Inspiration
I was very lucky in that my client essentially gave me free rein, which I find is a rarity these days. I have always been excited and inspired by the works of the creative illusionist M.C Escher. His work has always made me think and explore how you can hook your viewer by giving them something to unravel and interact with. His 1960 lithograph, called Ascending and Descending, was my initial starting point. There was something about the figures going round and round but getting nowhere.The Human Rights Zeotrope Titles

While Escher’s work kickstarted my creative process I also wanted to create something that was illusion-based, so I revisited Mark Gertler’s Merry-Go-Round. As a young art student I had his poster on my wall. Sometimes I would find myself staring at it for hours, looking at the people’s expressions and the movement Gertler had expressed in the figures with his onion-skin-style strokes. There was so much movement within the painting that it jumped out at me. I loved the contrasting colors of orange and blue, the composition was incredibly strong and animated.

I have always been fascinated by the mechanics of old hand-cranked metal toys, including zoetropes, and I have always loved how inanimate objects could come alive to tell you a story. It is very powerful. You have the control to be given the narrative or you can walk away from it — it’s about making a choice and being in control.

Once I had established I was going to build a 3D zoetrope, I explored the mechanics of building one. It was the perfect object to address the issue of human rights because without the trigger it would remain lifeless. I then starting digging into the declaration of Human Rights to put forward a proposal of what I thought would work within their program. I shortlisted 10 rights and culled that down to the final eight. Everything had to be considered. The positioning of the final eight had their own hierarchy and place.

At the base of the zoetrope are water pumps, signifying the right to clean water and sanitation. This is the most important element of the entire zoetrope, grounding the entire structure, as without water, there simply is no life, no existence. Above, a prisoner gestures for attention to the outside world, its environment completely contradicting, given hope by an energetic burst of comforting orange. The gavel references the rights for justice and are subliminally inspired by the hammers walking defiantly within the Pink Floyd video, Another Brick in the Wall. The gavel within the zoetrope becomes that monumental object of power, helped along by the dynamic camera with repetitions of itself staggered over time like echoes on a loop. Surrounding the gavel of justice is a dove flying free from a metal birdcage in a shape of the world. This was my reference to the wonderful book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.

My client wanted to highlight the crisis of the Syrian refugees, so I decided to depict an exhausted child wearing a life jacket, suggesting he had travelled across the Mediterranean Sea, while a young girl at his side, oblivious, happily plays with a spinning top. I wanted to show the negativity being cancelled out by optimism.

To hammer home the feeling of isolation and emptiness that the lack of human rights brings forth, I placed the zoetrope into a cold and almost brutal environment: an empty warehouse. My theme of the positivity canceling out negativity once again is echoed as the sunlight penetrates through hitting the cold floor in an attempt to signify hope and reconnect with the outside world.

the-human-rights-zoetrope_gavel-shotEvery level of detail was broken up into sections. I created very simple one-second loops of animation that were subtle, but enough to tell the story. Once I had animated each section, it was a case of painstakingly pulling apart each object into a stop-frame animated existence so once they were placed in their position and spun, they would animate back into life again.

My Workflow
For ease and budget, I used Poser Pro, a character-based software to animate all the figures in isolation first. Using both the PoserFusion plug-in and the Alembic export, I was able to import each looping character into Maxon Cinema 4D where I froze and separated each 3D object one by one. Any looping objects that were not figure-based were all modelled and animated within Cinema 4D. Once the individual components were animated and positioned, I imported everything into a master 3D scene where I was able to focus on the lighting and camera shots.

For the zoetrope centrepiece, I built a simple lighting rig made up of the GSG Light Kit Pro, two soft boxes, that I had adapted and placed within a NULL and an area Omni light above. This allowed me to rotate the rig around according to my camera shot. Having a default position and brightness set-up was great and helped to get me out of trouble if I got a little too carried away with the settings, and the lighting didn’t change too dramatically on each camera shot. I also added a couple of Visible Area Spotlights out of the warehouse pointing inwards to give the environment a foggy distant feel.

I deliberately chose not to render using volumetric lighting because I didn’t want that specific look and did not want any light bursts hitting my zoetrope. The zoetrope was the star of the show and nothing else. Another lighting feature I tend to use within my work is the combination of the Physical Sky and the Sun. Both give a natural warm feel and I wanted sunlight to burst through the window; it was conceptually important and it added balance to the composition.

The most challenging part of the entire project was getting the lighting to work seamlessly throughout, as well as the composition within some of the camera shots. Some shots were very tight in frame, so I could not rely on the default rig and needed additional lighting to catch objects where the 3-point lights didn’t work so well. I had decided very early on, that rather than work from a single master file, as with the lighting, I had a default “get me out of trouble” master, saving each shot with its own independent settings as I went along to keep my workflow clean. Each scene file was around a gigabyte in size as none of the objects within the zoetrope were parametric anymore once they had been split, separated-out and converted to polygons.

My working machine was a 3.2GHz 8-core Mac Pro with 24GB of RAM, rendered out on a PC — custom-built 3X3 machine — with an Intel Core Processor i7 5960X with water cooling, 32GB RAM and clockable to 4.5GHz.

Since completion, The Human Rights Zoetrope titles have won several awards, including a Gold at the Muse Creative Awards in the Best Motion Graphics category, a Platinum Best of Show in the Art Direction category, and a Gold in the Best Graphic Design category at the Aurora Awards.

The Human Rights Zoetrope is also a Finalist at the New York Festivals 2017 in the Animation: Promotion/Open & IDs category. The winners will be announced at the NAB Show.

 

Sophia Kyriacou is a London-based broadcast designer and 3D artist.

Behind the Title: State Design ECD/Owner Marcel Ziul

NAME: Marcel Ziul

COMPANY: Los Angeles-based State Design

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We’re a design, animation and live-action production company. We’re on the small-ish side. Some fancier people might call us a “boutique.” We just like taking on a few select projects at a time.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
I’m the Executive Creative Director and Owner.

STATE_01WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Being the owner, I used to handle quite a bit of our business affairs, but now I mainly direct and oversee projects that come in our doors on a creative level. Along with a great team of artists and producers, I help ensure that our clients’ creative visions are fulfilled and surpassed.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Probably the balancing act of being an owner and creative director. It’s sometimes tough to separate the two. Early on, I used to be bogged down by business dealings during the day and then focused on creative after business hours. That was unacceptable.

In the last two years, we’ve grown up as a company, and I’ve hired the right staff to handle the majority of the business, so now I can focus primarily on the creative and strategy of the studio.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Working with a client that truly enjoys collaborating. When you’re in sync with your client it’s no longer just work, it’s fun. Also, I really enjoy working directly with my team of creatives. Our 3D lead Mauro Borba, for example, is always really excited about the projects, and his leadership makes my job more rewarding and creative.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The opposite of the above answer!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
When I have time to only focus on the creative direction and how to improve upon the projects we are currently working on. Most of the time, this is when I’m alone at the studio in the early morning or late evening.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d open a coffee store and probably drink coffee all day long. I also love cycling. That said, a bike shop wouldn’t be a bad idea either. But these are just entertaining thoughts. In reality, I wouldn’t do anything different than what I’m doing now.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
It’s actually because of my dad. One of his best friends had a production company and he thought it would be a good opportunity for me to intern there. I was 18 years old at the time. To me, it was the most amazing thing ever. From there, I went straight to college where I graduated with a degree in advertising.

FIFACAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Our recent work includes the History of FIFA Women’s World Cup web spot for Fox Sports, the “No Brainer” co-branded commercial campaign for IFC, and a beautifully animated commercial called Veteran’s Day for Syfy.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s hard to say because I’m proud of all our collaborations. As of today, I’d say it’s our self-initiated spot called “Statement.” It hits home for me because it’s kind of a culmination of my life’s work up to this point.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
iPhone, Nespresso Machine and my Fuji XT-1.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I love Instagram, but I also follow Facebook and Vimeo.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
Of course! Anything by Sepultura and Queens of the Stone Age to Apparat and Moderat.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Besides cycling, I enjoying relaxing with my family and friends, going to concerts and watching UFC and soccer.

Director Justin Harder joins production/post house Golden

Los Angeles-based production and post studio Golden has signed director Justin Harder to its roster. Harder, who has a background in design, will serve as both a commercial director and a creative director at Golden. He will continue to helm both animation and live-action spots.

Golden’s multidisciplinary approach, which fuses high-end live-action production, design, animation, and visual effects, appeals to Harder. “It feels right to be part of a highly selective roster, while having the support of a larger studio with more 3D and VFX firepower. I’m here because my work really aligns with Golden’s vision and needs.”

This Chicago native, who studied graphic design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, often creates pencil drawings and full-scale props. “I’m into the mechanics of things,” he says, “I don’t always rely on computer graphics to give the work a personality, to bring it to life. I live by the credo ‘Make Something Everyday and Make Everyday Something,’ and if that means getting down and detailed, I’m in. It’s all about making something innovative, something exciting.”