Siggraph 2015 Rewind - Sekani Solomon: Cinema 4D Production Workflow Techniques

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Maya to C4D for Game Cinematics.

Sekani Solomon of Imaginary Forces demonstrates how he and Jason Diaz helped create a piece introducing the characters of the Fates Forever
video game. Sekani was able to import assets complete with materials and animation directly from Maya. He then utilized CINEMA 4D's own tools as well as Vray for C4D to finish the cinematic. Sekani demonstrates how he created a page turn effect and created deep environments from flat art with the help of projection mapping. He also shows how C4D's motion system allowed flexible retiming of a floss animation.

01:58Fates Forever
06:08Maya to C4D
09:06Collision Deformer Footsteps
17:38Environment Projection
19:10Page Turn Transitions
25:02Floss Rig
26:39Retime Animation with Motion System



- How's it going guys? My name is Sekani Solomon, I'm a designer/animator at Imaginary Forces. I'm pretty excited for the presentation today. I have some cool stuff on production techniques, C40D workforce stuff that I want to show you guys. And also I want to have a big shout out to Maxon for bringing me out. But before I jump into my presentation, I would just love to show you guys some of the work that we do at Imaginary Forces. ♪ [music] ♪ All right. So today we're going to be talking about C4D production workflow techniques. This is more or less looking at how you can bring stuff from another software package, say Maya for instance, bring it into C4D and you gather all your elements there using Cinema 4D as a hub, and then carry everything over to After Effects or another compositing software like Nuke, for instance. So we're going to be looking at this one project in particular that I had the chance to work on last year with my buddy Jason Diaz. It's called Fates Forever. ♪ [music] ♪ This was a really fun one to work on. It comprised of three software packages: Maya, Cinema 4D, and After Effects. So I'll give you a little bit of background history about the project. So this game company called Hammer & Chisel they were creating this game cinematic for the new game called Fates Forever, but unfortunately they didn't know how to finish the pipeline. They didn't know how to do really nice lighting and rendering. They didn't know how to do compositing and really give it that sense of polish. But they had really awesome character animation, really awesome environments. They just needed someone to finish the pipeline. At that point that's when they contacted me and asked us to join the team, me and my buddy Jason Diaz, to finish off this process. So we had six characters and we delivered each one in phases. Each phase having two characters composited and re-rendered and two transitions. This was more or less the workflow. They would deliver us files in Maya which we would then bring into Cinema 4D, render out, and then bring into After Effects. So before we go any further I'm just going to show some of the initial files that we got from them. They had really cool looking characters designs, stuff that was like, "Wow, this is something I would really love to work on." because the initial concept just looked so awesome. These were the characters and the environments they had mocked up. And...if I can navigate to find it. This was as far as they could have gotten it in terms of rendering and lighting and polish because they didn't know that part of the pipeline. So once again that's where we come in. But we're not Maya guys, we're C4D guys and we needed a way to get our stuff from one software package to the next, and this is where C4D really shined. Also, another thing that they requested was to have these page transitions built in. So also incorporating some design using Cinema 4D. I'm just going to start by the first part of the workflow which is bringing stuff from Maya into Cinema 4D. From Maya what I ended up doing was exporting an FBX and I was actually pretty shocked at how much information came over in this FBX. I'm going to load the exact FBX that I exported from Maya and now I'm going to bring it in C4D. Everything is going to appear black because all the textures are disconnected. C4D has this really awesome tool to reconnect all of your textures. I can just hit select all, reel in textures, and navigate to the folder that has all my textures. And boom they're all reconnected. It was pretty awesome to see that once I brought over this scene from Maya, everything was still intact. The joints, the animation, the background, the cards everything was still there and I was like, "Wow!" I was pretty blown away at how easy that pipeline was to bring stuff from Maya to Cinema 4D. When we got to this point that's when we began doing some look development. If I just navigate to style frames. These were the initial look style frames that I had created. This is using V-Ray for Cinema 4D. This is just taking what they had, re-rendering it, re-touching up the textures, speculum maps, reflections, that kind of thing. Adding some porous [sp] layers on it. Really just trying to nail down a look. This is also one of the looks to transitions at the time, which changed over time. Once we got to that point, we divided the labor. My buddy Jason Diaz, he would take care of most of the 3D stuff in regards to switching out the backgrounds, adding new geometry, really polishing that section. I took care of more of the 3D transitions, page flips, opens, outros, that kind of thing. What I'm going to do, I'm going to open the final version of this file for character, Cotton Tail, that we ended up rendering with Fury [sp]. This was the scene that we ended up doing on our final render. Just really stretched out the background, there's a bunch of little tweaks that we made. We reanimated the camera to make everything feel more dynamic. It was a really fun process taking something that someone else did and adding some extra polish. Let's actually take a look at this Volunder scene. This is a pretty cool one. My buddy Jason Diaz, he worked on this, and to really bring this thing to life he had just to ground the forming as these guys would be walking through. And again, everything is coming through from Maya with the joints, the animation, everything still intact. If I jump to this feet cam, you can see how this is being done. It's being done really simply, actually. What's going on is he is using a collider deformer. Let us jump into these objects. There's a deformer that's being attached to the snow stage and we're using the actual character a deformer so when he's walking through it's creating compressions and compressing that floor just using this deformer. If you go into this colliders tab you see both characters as the collider which is then pushing down the snow when they interact with it. Once again, making for really dynamic animation that brings this thing to life. We also went in and we switched out all the cards that they had with actual geometry, really bringing this thing to life. You can just look at how they built the scene. That's another good hint about building scenes, you only need what you're seeing. If you look at the camera, since they kind of planned the camera moves, it's really trickery. You're only building what you're seeing and nothing more. So that was a three part of the pipeline. Let's jump into the compositing aspect of it. Back, back, compositing. When I open these types of projects, I love to work with render passes. I probably use maybe, depending on which scene, 10 to 15 render passes, they can vary. You have your main render passes such as your diffuse, your global illumination, reflection, specula, atmospheric, depth of field, and then all the FD sims that we did to make all these effects. I'm just going to scroll through so you can have a closer look at these render passes. And since we're using V-Ray, V-Ray does their render passes differently from Cinema 4D so then I had to figure out a system to put these things together to actually rebuild my beauty pass. When I'm doing this type of production where I have multiple scene that are very similar to work on, it's very important that you figure out number one, what your layers are going to be, and be consistent with them across the board so then you can kind of build an After Effects template to construct your composite files. And that's exactly what I'm going to show you guys now. This isn't the build file for this shot, but it is my toolkit. So before I start any shots, this is the main toolkit that I developed where I could just drag in my passes and replace it in these comps. I have my diffuse layer, then I have my GI layer which I multiply on top, my shadow. I just build it up that way. If I have a new character that I need to composite, I just bring in my passes in here in my passes folder and I jump into diffuse and I just switch out that pass. And as I keep switching out, switching out, and switching out, I'm building my base that I can then start building upon. I usually do my compositing in about three different comps. I have one comp that I will do all my main stuff like build the image, add the background, 3D, all that kinds of stuff. And I would have another comp where I'm just doing more adjustments. I'm tweaking the color, I'm adding motion blur, I'm adding depth of field. You know, those sexy layers. And then I have my final render where I do some additional color adjustments, nothing too much, just adding that extra spit shine, that extra sexy to make sure everything looks really polished. Let me actually jump in to a build of a comp I did. I usually start off with your base diffuse pass that we have and we're just going to start building, adding your global illumination, then your speculas, then reflections, getting our background in, and getting some of the effect stuff in. More lighting, more dynamic lighting, lighting from the orb itself. It's really about paying attention to some of these details. For example, for this scene in particular, I just went, I used a standard renderer and I created the light on this guy and just made sure everything else was like a black color. I just created a pass where I could have a dynamic light emanating from this guy and I just comped that on as a separate layer. So it's just thinking like that in regards to compositing. As you can see, this is some of that dynamic lighting that I was talking about. Adding vignettes, adding depth of field, we have these little particles around the scene. I sharpened it up a little bit. More color adjustments. Chromatic aberration super important, I use it all the time. Motion blur and then we have our final image. And if I play back the final of this scene...originally this is like our main beauty pass, but when the light emanates that's when I bring that dynamic lighting layer in. So it seems like the light's reacting as this orb is flying around. So that's more or less my toolkit. When it comes to compositing I'm also doing RBG mattes and it's also cool because you can also mix and match with your beauty pass which I do all the time. So say for example I would just use the beauty pass of our character, Cotton Tail, here. I would cut her out using this RBG matte. But this looks a little too contrast, maybe I want it to feel a bit more flat with some cartoonish accents to it. That's when you can just jump in and grab the diffuse pass and just mix it in with your beauty. And that's the power of compositing. It gives you more options to single out specific attributes in your scene and give it the shine and polish that you want and get really specific with it. Another aspect of this project was the transitions. And that took a little bit of figuring out. Once again, if I jump back to our main final render we have all this book stuff, these environments, all these book animations which were also done with a combination of Cinema 4D and After Effects. I'm opening everything up, wow. Let's actually take a look at that first scene. So what's going on here, more or less, I animated one page that's just turning with a deformer. So I animated a rotation parameter and it just has a bend deformer going through each page that's bending it as it's coming around. I just duplicated that page and offset it in the timeline. So it's doing the same animation but you have that flipping sensation because it's all offset. And for the background, they provided us with this really awesome map painting, but it was just flat. So in a really nice way of just expanding on something that's flat is just by doing a projection which is more or less setting up a camera and projecting a texture from that camera onto geometry so then that image feels like it has more depth. So it is a little bit of [inaudible 00:18:13] so when you comp everything together, you don't see any of these lines or anything like that. And this is, once again, how I think to do my things. I just build things in layers. I also did a volumetric lighting pass and just put everything back together in After Effects. Final render for that was this when everything got put together. And you have a really strong volumetric light which I also build in another layer that I put together. And I also used that same background. I actually built it specifically for this scene but I ended up reusing it in the beginning animation. That's another way of expanding your background using just a flat image instead of going out and building an entire thing. Let's actually talk about the transitions themselves and how I actually planned doing this. What we did in Cinema 4D specifically was just the page animation. What I would do, I would have my image here as in how it would for frame of my character lined up, and then I would animate my camera how I want it to be composed in After Effects. It's a similar concept for here. But what I actually ended up doing most of the time, I would do one character in one of these files and then I would-- What I mean by this, for example, we have LeeChi here. I would just do him in the specific file and then for my other character I would do him on this side and I would just render the two and combine them in After Effects. So for this file I just did LeeChi. At this point when I know "Okay the pages are flipped." this is where I kind of wanted to compose him in the scene. And then I just animate my camera to bring this into full screen. So now I have an idea of how I want things to be composed. Then I can just jump into After Effects...and this is where the workflow between Cinema 4D and After Effects really comes in handy because all I need to render from Cinema is that page flip animation. Let me just jump to that. So this is all I rendered from Cinema. Just this page animation. And everything else is built up in After Effects, so it was just more of those blank slates. And with Cinema, you could export all that camera data, all that tracking data, so you could just match 2D elements with your 3D so it looks like a texture that's been placed in 3D. It's a more flexible way of working especially because you can animate stuff in z-space and just animate stuff in general using After Effects. So if I turn on these layers here, you can see that I have these trackers that move with my page animations so then all I have to is just parent my elements that I animated to these nulls so then I have my animation moving with my 2D elements. That's a really important way to think about it like that. Like how much can I get away with in After Effects versus Cinema 4D? Because After Effects is a little bit more forgiving when it comes to things like that. This is more or less the same methodology that I used. So for example, I would just do this separately and in between here I would do a cut to the other one, but it's going by so fast so you don't even know. Cut to this one. So that's more or less Cinema 4D workflow. Now I'm going to switch gears a little bit and talk about something else called motion clips that literally saved my life on a project. I want to talk about this specific spot in particular. Let me find it. Okay it was this Listerine... I just want to scroll to it. So it was this Listerine spot that I worked on. Believe it or not, this is probably the most difficult thing I have ever animated. Reason being this floss is hand animated so all the bends, all the curves, were all done with key frames, and then the client wanted to have a sit and hit. So we needed to get a pack shot at this point, needed to get a floor shot at this point. It needs to flip and it needs to do this all in the space of five seconds. And then they had a lot of re-timing requests. That's something I had to do in 3D. Now when I load up the file you're going to see that there are like a kazillion key frames for this thing. I'm going to open up the animation and I'm going to open up the rig. So this is the animation. And let me just turn off the audio real quick. So that's the animation. If you look at the key frames... It's really chunky. And for anyone who's re-timed things, using key frames you would know how difficult it is to go in and, "Okay I'm going to move this, I'm going to move that." That's nuts. But before I talk about how I re-timed it I just want to show you guys this little rig that I created. Standard. Okay, so this is this Listerine rig that I created using simple deformers to actually build it and a little bit of Xpresso to create these custom sliders. Because I'm animating, I like to make these little custom tools. So say for example I had a little slider for the cap, I had a slider where I could just increase the height so I could do some squatching and stretching. I could twist it. I could make it bend back and forth. I can make it bulge. There's a bunch of little things you could do by just building up and using a bunch of little deformers. And then you just bring everything together using Xpresso. I've done a tutorial about this in my last interview presentation in case you guys want to get more in depth with it, but more or less what you do you create new user data fields. So if I click on my floss rig, I create a new user data field where you could define say, for example, I add a new user data field, I could call this “Flipper,” for instance, and then I get a new field here. And if I go into my Xpresso you have the option to input one of these fields. So this new field that I created you could input it here and then attach that field to, like, another deformer or another parameter from another deformer and that could be your custom slider. That's just simple rigging for you. But what we want to talk about is how would you go and re-time something like this without jumping into key frames? And the answer is motion system. So you see this tag, this is a motion system tag and I'm just going to take this off and now when I press play, nothing is re-timed and everything is just going as one fluid animation. Let's actually re-time this again and delete this tag. I'm going to go into my animation window, go to my motion system tab here, and just delete everything so we start fresh. Cool. Jump back into standard. All right, so the first thing you want to do, you want to go to animate, add motion clip. And you want to make sure-- and definitely make sure to uncheck this remove included animation because what that's going to do is delete all your key frames on your animation if you leave that checked. So you want to uncheck this for sure. Once that's unchecked you're going to get this little tag. And then if you jump into animation and you go on this motion systems menu you're going to see a timeline. So then it's just like animating in an editing software. Say for example I wanted to slow down right here for bit. I could come and I could cut this. Okay this is nice a cool from this section. Then I wanted to come here. I'm going to cut this here, move a little bit further in the timeline, and I want to cut here. Then I want to ramp up from that point to that point. I could cut that here. Okay. So let's mess around with this a little bit. And you know, it's just like editing. I could squash the end then I could extend this section that I want to slow down, move these over to the side, and I could speed up the opening and extend all the parts that I want to slow down. So I could jump back into my standard window, hit play, slows down, slows down, and it ramps up. So two minutes you've re-timed your animation. Don't need to worry about any key frames. So there's one problem with this. I'm going to demonstrate it using a cube because it's just easier to show. I'm going to build this really quickly. All right we have a cube. I'm going to have this cube animating from left to right. Okay cool. Really simple animation here. I'm going to build a new motion systems tag. Add motion clip, make sure this is unchecked, hit okay, jump back into our animation panel. Motion systems in the middle. I'm just going to cut one, two. Uncheck that. And stretch the middle portion out. Now it slows down, it ramps up. But say we want to change this animation, right? So we want to change this. I'm going to create a new null just to remove our motion tag and now instead I'm going to have this going across. Then it's going to go up. Then it's going to go up again. And it's going to go down. So that's our new animation. But when I apply my motion tags, what happens is it keeps the animation of the old. But we don't want that, we want the new animation. And this is one thing one thing you have to understand about motion systems is every time you make this tag, two things happen. One, it creates a motion source and a motion source is where Cinema 4D keeps all your animation. And then the tag specifically represents this timeline, all these clips on the timeline. So if I delete this tag, you see all the clips disappear but my motion source still exists. So in order to change the animation, I'm going to have to create a new motion source. I'm going to drag this motion tag up here, I'm going to select my cube again, hit animate, add motion clip. When I do this I have a new motion source; I'm going to call this two, I'm going to call this one. I have anew motion source and a new clip. But we don't want this new clip. We want our old clips. So we can just delete the new tag that we created right here and then drag our old tag. I'm going to select all these clips and you can see that it's reading our first motion source. So now if I drag the second one in and I hit play, it's going to re-time our new animation. So this shows the flexibility of the system to still re-time something then go back, change the animation, and still keep the re-timing that you already did, which is huge when it comes down to re-timing something that has a kazillion key frames. I'm also going to show another project that I used it in. Go back. So this is a fun little project called Kendama Warrior... ♪ [music] ♪ And as you can see there's a crap-ton of re-timing going on there. This will give you a little bit of background history on this. It's based on a Japanese toy called a kendama which has a ken and a ball, and the objective is to hit the ball on all four sides of this toy. So this project, which is just a fun side project I was doing in my spare time, I just wanted to do it in the most ridiculous way possible. So that was the objective. I used that motion systems tag in various places. Like right here when things are re-timing. I used it extensively in places like this where you'll have an animation and then you would re-time it, you would speed it up. It gave me that flexibility to do that kind of work. So a really, really flexible system. Okay, I still have some time left. What goodies can I show you guys? Maybe we could just jump into some of the C4D files. This one specifically for this and...this just has the ball animations. But yeah still a handful of key frames that we don't want to touch. But you can see because we have these lines, and this motion tag, you can tell that things are also being re-timed. If I jump into my animation window. You can see my timeline where things have been re-time essentially. Okay I've come to the end up my presentation. I will just end it off by showing my very rough demo reel that is still a work in progress, so it's going to be a lot of black in the beginning. Forgive me. But if you want to get a sense of more the personal work and stuff that I've worked on, that's what you'll get from this. ♪ [music] ♪ All right that's a wrap. If you want to find out anything more about me, check and thank you guys so much.
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