NAB 2016 Rewind - Trevor Kerr: Advanced C4D Production Techniques

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Trevor Kerr demonstrates advanced Cinema 4D production techniques, with particular emphasis on After Effects compositing tricks.

Trevor Kerr demonstrates advanced Cinema 4D production techniques, with particular emphasis on After Effects compositing tricks. You’ll see how to composite 2D elements between various 3D elements using Octane’s Z-depth pass, and how to use Cinema 4D’s Take System to generate multiple takes for higher-quality depth-of-field in post. You’ll also see how Trevor used a placeholder file with Xpresso to animate a sequence of lights synced to music. Finally, Trevor shows how Arnold can dynamically instance objects in place of X-Particles at render time to render 9 million polygons in mere seconds.

02:44Depth Compositing
15:02Keyframing and Xpresso
22:26Post DOF and Occlusion
30:44Instancing in Arnold

Recorded Live from NAB 2016 in Las Vegas.



- [Trevor] All right. Thanks, guys. I'm super excited to be here today. This is actually my first time presenting at NAB. I've been to NAB a couple times before and I just always love coming by the MAXON booth, so it's actually really cool to be presenting now. I want to thank MAXON for letting me come out and do this. So I'm Trevor Kerr,, and my Twitter is @kerrmotion. I'm a 3D Generalist, Compositor, and FX Artist. I've been in Cinema 4D for only about four years, since 2012. I started in concert visuals. More recently I've moved to trying to pivot to commercial and film, because that's kind of where my passion lies, I guess. I've been interested in cinematography and cameras since a really young age, like age seven. Here's me. My parents are going to kill me for putting this up. Panasonic AG-456, super VHS. They got it for me when I was a really young age. I want to take a second to say if you don't have a camera, go and get one because being able to look through the camera, look through the viewport, feel the constraints of the camera, lensing, figure out why you're using the lensing that you are, it really helps kind of even just subconsciously translates into the work that you're doing. And you can take cues from that. Okay. So we're going to go ahead and just watch my reel really quick. ♪ [music] ♪ All right, so that's...thank you. Really appreciate that. So that's kind of the work I've been up to over the past year or so. And let's just go ahead and kind of jump in. So today, we're going to start with some basic tools, which I know it's kind of like, "Ugh, basics. That's so boring." But there's certainly some advantages to learning and understanding these. So one of the biggest deals, I probably should have put that up at the top, is it helps break the blank page that you kind of experience when you load up a new scene. You've got a project you're about to start working on and you've just got to get something out there and kind of start choosing and picking the tools that you're going to use. Another point is sometimes some of the more complex scenes that we put together can ultimately be distilled down into just a few very simple tools. As well, having a strong foundation really fuels your design along the way. You're not using shaders or lighting or composite, or a lens flare to hide that little bad profile you had or something. So really, just as you start adding lights and your shaders and everything, it's just building on top of a really good foundation. And ultimately, it helps you avoid downstream headaches. So the first tool I want to talk about today, which I'm sure, Cinema 4D, everybody knows, the cloner. This is a project, sorry that's kind of pixelated, project I worked on actually a couple years ago. This is all in the standard render engine. But it's essentially just a cloner with a line to a spline at its simplest. So, why don't we just go ahead and jump in and we'll take a look at this scene? Okay. So, as you can see, it's literally... I've set some stuff up already, but it's literally just a spline with a camera, with the align to spline tag up here. And so essentially, what's happening is we're going to clone just along this entire spline. And then to animate, you just drive the camera through it with the align to spline tag. So what we're going to do, we're also going to talk just a little bit about some hard surface modeling. That's a personal interest of mine. So, we'll start off by building a little bit of a model, and then we'll pop it in the cloner so we don't actually have to model a ton of details, and then we'll pop that cloner in another cloner, and align it to the spline. So the first thing I'm going to do here is take this and orient it on the Z axis. And we're going to cut this down to six rotation segments. And kind of just drag this guy out here. And we've already got our base mesh, essentially. If I press C to make this editable, we're now converted from a parametric object, which I had a bunch of sliders and tools. Now we are in a just a fully polygonal asset. So the next thing we're going to do, since we're going to try to avoid as much modeling as possible, is we're going to just solo out a piece here. So I've got the live tool selected and we're going to select these points here. And now if we make sure to uncheck this "only select visible elements" you'll see we select all these points even though they're not facing the camera right now or they're occluded by geometry. So just go ahead and delete that. So now we've just got this little piece that we're going to work on. And the very first step here, when I made the conversion between a parametric object and current state to object, it doesn't connect, it doesn't merge the caps and the extrusions. So what we want to do is select all these points. Go ahead and go to mesh and commands and optimize. So, before optimization, I just hit undo to show you guys what happens. So these vertices are actually not merged. That's the whole point of what we're about to do here. So mesh, commands, optimize. So now you can see it's all...those overlapping vertices were merged. So now, if we go ahead and go into edge mode, if we press and hold V we get this little radial tool. And under select we can go to loop selection and just kind of highlight this edge as well. We'll highlight this edge. And then I'm going to go press E to select the move tool so I can just kind of select these individual elements. So now what we're going to do is a shortcut. Press M and then S. And we're going to get the bevel tool. And the bevel tool in R17 is really fantastic. And I'm going to use this a couple more times. But the reason I want to bevel these edges is because if we were just to look at this object, like render it right now in a little scene, we're just going to see the reflections from just this edge and then this interfacing edge here. So by just giving it a little tiny bevel, even if I looked at the glass or the edge of this booth, none of these are perfectly flat edges. So I just go in here and kind of click and drag. You're going to see, this is way extreme but you can see it really nicely builds out these bevels already for us with very little input and very little work. So we can either drag it like this or I can, I just hit undo, we can go in here and adjust the offset, like if we wanted to make it really tiny. And then press apply. So we'll go ahead and leave it there. The next step that we want to do is we're going to subdivide this edge a little bit. I just flipped into the polygon mode. And with the move tool, selected this piece right here. If I press K it allows me to cut inside this polygon. Now, there's a really cool tool in here, or in the knife tool mode, called plane mode, which is essentially taking's like I just took a plane and pushed it right through and cut right down where that plane is existing in space. And so I can actually orient this plane as well. XY gives me this direction. XZ gives me this direction. A really easy way to figure out which direction you want it to face is to look at your axis tool down here, and then decide which way you want that plane to face. So if I want the plane to face the Y direction, this way, I would make sure that Y is not in the plane direction and you'll see it's now facing off the Y axis. So, we're just going to cut a little bit here. Maybe we'll extrude these or something and add some lights in there. Okay, so I'm going to press E to go back to the move tool. I'll just select these edges. Now, we're going to use a tool called extrude inner by pressing M and then following it directly with W. And if I just click and drag you can see we're adding an inward extrusion. Okay, so we're going to go ahead and do that. And then press D and you can see we drag here and we can just pull all of these inward. So later we could go, for example, and make those lights and it'd be pretty cool looking. So the next thing we're going to do is just add a little bit more detail. We'll use that plane cut mode again. And now I want it to face the...let's see. I want it to face the Z direction so I'm going to go in here and select that one that doesn't have Z in it. Whoops. Oh, I'm dumb. Okay. So we're going to just kind of give it a couple just kind of weird little cuts there. And then we'll also flip it to this direction and kind of cut it here. Okay. So now something else we can do is go ahead and subdivide this under mesh, command, subdivide, which is basically going to take, for every polygon that we have we're going to get four more polygons. So now the last thing I'm going to do is extrude this. But what we're going to do this time when we extrude is we're going to go in here, into the extrude options, and press 100% on the variation. So essentially what's happening, and we have to uncheck preserve groups. So essentially what's happening here, and maybe we'll lower this a little bit to one or maybe we'll go up to three. There we go. So now it just randomly extruded all of those polygons for me without having to go in and individually extrude them manually. Now, the one thing that I am going to do manually is go back to my edge tool, select loop selection, and I'm just going to quickly highlight all of these and give them a nice little bevel. So we'll give it a 0.2 bevel or something, see how that works. All right. I missed one there but that's okay. Okay, so now we've just done, let's say, a ton of modeling and we want to basically exploit the work that we've done here and kind of get as much out of it as we can. So I'm going to go ahead and now add the cloner and drop my tube object back in that we just modeled. And so now, in the cloner, we want to go and change this to radial mode. So immediately, you can see we're kind of reproducing that. Here, let me center that up. Immediately reproducing that shape. We're not quite there. We've got to make a few adjustments but that's really easy to do. So firstly, we need to increase this to 6. And so now, under the transform tools I can actually transform the clones individually. And what we want to do is actually add an offset of 30 degrees here and you'll see it pops right into place. So next step is we're going to now take this cloner and drop it in another cloner. Okay. So now we're going to take this cloner. Go to the object tab and set to object. So now this opens up a dialog where we can actually drop a camera path in. And now we're cloning all of these along this line. So if I go to countdown here, I just happen to know that it's about 400 that I need to enter. And you'll see, we're cloning all the way along this spline. Now I've actually pre-built a few pieces in here just to save some time. I'll show those to you really quickly. It's really nothing amazing or complex. It's just a couple more tubes. So we're going to drop these in that cloner as well. Okay, so immediately what I see is this problem that the model we made is not aligned properly with the other clones. So I know the initial kneejerk reaction is maybe like, "Okay, well I'll just go in here and rotate this." Well, rotating this actually isn't going to do anything. The local coordinate doesn't matter to the cloner. So what we actually need to do in the cloner is go in here and we can actually set an offset, which I happen to know is 30 degrees. So within the cloner we rotated the clones instead of trying to rotate the object itself. Okay. So now, one of the really cool things about the cloner is we can very rapidly iterate and art direct this whole piece. So right now, we're not seeing that piece we just made because it's a little too large. So we can go into the clones and let's make it, maybe, way too small. Actually, 0.5 looks like it's just about perfect. So now we can see our clone in there. I can adjust the order of these. I could, if I want to see more of that clone, I can put more of them in the cloner. And we now are seeing way more of our object here. So we can just really rapidly iterate based on client feedback and stuff like that. Okay, so we're not actually going to go into shading and this thing specifically, but I do want to talk about some neat tricks that you can do with lighting that will make even just this unshaded scene look pretty cool. So I've dropped a light in. And what we're going to do is we're going to take the camera and select the align to spline tag and drop that right on the light. So now the light is actually right where the camera is. You can see if I go to its position and just arrow up, we can see it going out there in Z depth right along the spline. That's also pretty cool. So why don't we go ahead and take the light, just add a quick shadow. And something I generally do with all lights is go into details and adjust the falloff to inverse square. This is just replicating the proper, physically correct light falloff. Okay. So let's go ahead and just hit render real quick. And you can see it actually looks pretty cool already, even without shading and all that kind of stuff. But what we're going to do is go one step further. In my work, I kind of like to bring in some elements that we're used to seeing in the real world. So in this case, we're going to try to define it to scale a little bit. One of the ways we can do that is by adding an atmosphere. And without any kind of crazy, complex calculations or anything we can do that very easily. So we're going to go into our light and go into the general tab. And under visible light, we're going to add volume metric. We're also going to tick this little box for no illumination. Let me turn that other light back on. So now, what we're going to see is the light that we just put in, which is the volume metric, as well as the inverse square falloff light. And initially, we're not going to see much because it's just kind of tucked around this corner and the radius is pretty low. So what we can do is let's go make this radius way too big, like 3,000. So essentially, what's happening now is I just expanded the reach of the volume metric light, more or less. So if I press render, you can see we've got quite a bit, actually, and it's kind of shining around the corner and stuff like that. That's pretty cool. But I want it to feel a little more atmospheric so I came up with this pretty interesting idea. So the reason that we're not getting the light to cast around the corner is because there's this object occluding it. So if we remove that, then it'll exist everywhere in the scene. So if I actually go to the project tab of the light and hit include, now it's including nothing of the scene. So now if I press render, you can see we get it everywhere. It's just ignoring all the geometry and it's just like an atmospheric light. It renders very quickly. So yeah, we're already just a couple minutes and we've got a pretty good foundation for the scene. Lighting this, shading, adding the camera animation, and all of that is really going to just add on top of what we're doing. Okay, so the next thing I want to talk about. Oh, right. So this is actually, I brought this into Octane. I really love Octane. You guys should check it out. And just quickly shaded it and lit this, just to kind of... I don't know. I like Octane so it gave me an excuse to do something. So next thing we're going to talk about is sculpting. In December of 2012 I had the pleasure of working with Imaginary Forces on a piece for Dolby. And I just want to thank them for letting me come out and talk about this. I know there's a lot of red tape and stuff there involved. I'm just going to play the clip that I did for the trailer and then we'll go ahead and talk about it. ♪ [music] ♪ The place I started first with that was...hold on a second. Let me tab over here. So the place I started first with that was actually DEM Earth, just to get kind of an idea of scale and getting the mountains right and all that. Let me go ahead and open up the project file so we can look at what we're talking about. All right. So this was the region that I got out of DEM Earth. It's in New Zealand. Twizel, I think that's the pronunciation, I'm not sure. They actually used part of this area for Pelennor Fields in Lord of the Rings. It's pretty cool. So, I just started initial layout with DEM Earth. And then right after that, went into using the landscape object and literally just sprinkling in the landscape object everywhere. So that's what we're going to take a look at right now. And let me actually show you. So this is kind of what we ended up with and everything else ended up being done in shading and lighting and everything. Okay, so I'm just going to show a few tools here that I used to kind of turn the literally the C4D landscape object into mountains that were used in the Dolby trailer. Sorry, I'm breathing on the microphone. So we're going to go ahead and press C here to turn that landscape object...actually, let me just show you that it's literally the landscape object. The only things I've adjusted are maybe the width and depth segments and the height and size, and then I just placed it within the scene. I'm going to pop out of the camera and we'll turn this off as well so it's kind of easier to look at. Okay, so one of the first things that I did, of course, turn it to an editable object. And then I just looked through the camera to kind of figure out where the important profiles are. So this was a pretty ambitious project for myself, so I was trying to keep everything as manageable as possible. I knew I was going to load this into Octane as well, so I'm trying to keep the poly count as low as possible. So I just went in and selected the edges. We want to make sure here we've got "only select visible elements" checked so we're not selecting all the polys on the back. And just kind of go through here and select just the important profiles that we're going to see as we're flying by at a ridiculously fast camera speed. So just fill this in a little bit. I'm just going to do this kind of first ridge because we have limited time. Okay, so the reason I'm selecting this is because what I want to do is actually go and subdivide it so I can put a little bit more detail into getting the profile and bumps and all that kind of thing. We tend to look at the ridge of a mountain more than the face itself. So let's see. We go to commands, subdivide. And there we are. That's kind of hard to see because it's such a dense mesh right now. So we're going to go ahead and load this into the sculpting tool. So now what we're going to do is click subdivide. Now, the first time you click subdivide, you're not actually subdividing your geometry at all. It's just loading into the sculpting module and adding this tag over here. So, the first thing that I went and did, kind of looking at this model, is use the grab tool. The grab tool does literally what it says. You just grab polygons and push them around, like into really weird shapes. But in this case, I used it to kind of just pull the ridge of the mountain around. If I middle mouse click and hold, and then drag to the left and right, I can adjust my brush size. And just a disclaimer, I'm not a sculptor. I don't use ZBrush like crazy or anything. So if I can do this, you guys certainly can do this. There are many more talented people than I in the way of sculpting. So I just kind of pulled this ridge around a little bit, give it some not so noise-looking facets and features. Okay, let's just call that good for now. The next thing I did was kind of push these ridges inward so that we have a little bit more vertical slope. Now, I can also do this with the pinch tool, but this gives me a little bit more control over where that's happening exactly. Give this some depth. Pull that ridge out maybe a little more. Okay, so the next thing was the pinch tool. So now that we've kind of moved the mountain around a little bit, we can actually just go and you can see how this is just tightening that ridge up. It's pretty cool. Okay, so you've got a pretty nice, sharp ridge. So the next thing that I did was use the pull tool. Now, I just want to make sure that we're not using any of these things right now and that we are in freehand mode. So this is by default, kind of what it looks like when you use the pull tool. It's kind of like the grab tool in that you can put it wherever you want on the surface, but it's really just pulling in the normal direction based on your pressure and your radius. So what we're going to do here is load into the stamp tool. We're going to adjust the weight, essentially, of that sculpting tool by loading in a stamp. Now, it doesn't give you a preview here, but I think we're going to start with layered cliff. So, down here you'll see we get a little preview of what the stamp tool, or that height map that I just loaded. And I got this height map from a website called There are some sort of low res, like 2K, textures and stuff but some of these materials actually come with height maps, which are fantastic for if you're trying to get something done really quick. So we're going to go ahead and use this. And let me see what our settings are at right now. Whoops. Want to use stamp. Okay, so we're fairly low impact right now. So I'll just middle mouse click and drag upward to increase the pressure. And so now you can see, we're just starting to add some facets and whatnot to the edges here. And I can adjust the size so it's not too apparent that I was stamping something over and over. And it just kind of starts building up this rocky look. And as well, I went and layered on top of this another height map, which is kind of like this rocky, rubble look. So what I want to do now is kind of just show you a couple other ways to use the pull tool. So right now I'm in freehand. There's another way that we can use this tool. It's called drag dabs. So when I kind of click, I'm just dragging this pattern around on the surface. It makes it really kind of easy to preview what you're doing and just kind of quickly iterate and drag in and do this kind of stuff. Okay, so as well, you can do this other drag mode where you kind of adjust the size. That kind of helps as well to give it just a bit of a variation. So now, the last step that I did was to use the fill tool. This is pretty cool. So, what I'm doing now is essentially just filling in some of those negative spaces to get kind of this snowdrift look. And I'm not going to spend a ton of time getting this one right. I have one that I spent just a little bit more time on earlier. You can see, now, when we look through the camera we have this pretty good asset in not too much time. Like I said, I'm not a huge sculptor or anything and I was able to do this, so we're at a really good place to start shading and whatnot with this asset. So the next thing I would like to talk about is one of my favorite things. And that's dynamics. I love dynamics. I love blowing stuff up. I'm sure some people here do, too. And I have prepared just a quick demo of a few shatterings and other dynamics that I've done over the past year. ♪ [music] ♪ All right, trying to keep it quick. The one we're going to look at today is- ♪ [music] ♪ ...this frame, and kind of how I handled this. Now, something I want everyone to take note of is kind of how we have really varied sizes in the different fractures and whatnot. And that's kind of what we're going to talk about, using a very simple plugin called NitroBlast. All right, so we've got this sort of asteroidy-looking asset. Let me just swap it back over to startup. And then I've got this hand. This came from Ten24, it's a scan, human scan store. Some really good assets there as well. And so the first thing that we need to think about with this is in dynamics we want to basically pre-fracture and then run our sim. But this hand is way too high polygon. It's going to take forever. It's not easy to iterate on an asset like that. So first thing we want to do here is...sorry, it's in this menu, is the polygon reduction tool works really well for this. So I'm just going to drop it into the hand and you can see it's already reduced pretty significantly. If I go into the tool itself, increase it up to 98%, that's good enough to run our simulation with. So what I'm going to go ahead and do is right click and current state to object. It's going to give me a copy here. We're not actually going to render with this. We're just using it for our simulation. I'm going to copy the bend in there as well. Let's kind of turn this off. Something else I did was put a cube in here, just on that index finger, to make sure that we're really seeing a wedge shape with all of the fractured objects kind of splitting out that way, just to help the simulation a little bit. Okay, so the next step... Actually, let's add the tag here first. So if I right click on my low poly version and we go to simulation tags, we're going to check "collider body". Now, this hand actually is just really loosely animated. You can see we kind of have this little pushing motion. So what I need to do is let the bullet solver know that that's something it needs to look for. So if I go into the collision tab of the dynamics here, collision tag, and set the shape to moving mesh, the bullet solver knows, “Hey, this is moving around. Don't make a proxy object for this or anything. ” Okay, so the next thing we want to do is work on this asteroid asset. So we're going to go ahead and load up a plugin called NitroBlast. Okay, so when I go to set something up like this, I'm not going to go through the whole process, all the way around the asteroid, just because that would take a little bit more time than we have, but essentially what I do is I do a main fracture that are kind of like the large objects. And then go in and select pieces where I feel like we should see more little particulates and stuff like that happening. So it's just kind of a guessing game here with the numbers. So I set this to 50. We'll go ahead and hit fracture. It won't take too long, hopefully. And then we're going to go ahead, once this is done, go in and select just some of these pieces here that we've resulted and subdivide those. So, one thing I like to do is right on the collision point, is go in and subdivide that pretty significantly. So I'm going to actually kick this up to 100 and hit fracture. These are going to subdivide much faster because there are less polygons to work with. I know it's kind of hard to see right now. If I kind of mouse over these, you can kind of see what the profile looks like there. I'm just going to go ahead and fracture these a little bit more. So we're now creating these sort of medium-sized polygons. I'm going to go through, just do a few of these. Maybe this top one. Go back over to this side and see where our other pieces are. And the very last thing we want to do is get pretty granular in here with some of these, because it's really nice to be able to see those big objects, but then also those really little, tiny pieces. So I just kind of go in here and fracture these like crazy, and just have a few little spots in here that are going to scatter pieces all over the place. And also kind of vary this across the surface. It's actually pretty cool to go in here and do this in such a directed way. Just get a couple more in here and then we'll run our simulation. Okay, so let's call that good. So we've kind of gone in the main impact point and fractured it up. So now when we run our simulation we'll have a lot of pieces scattering from this area. And I would go do this over other points as well, like run this process for the whole piece and kind of maybe try to subdivide these in a way that we get some cracks and things like that. Okay. So NitroBlast, by itself, just goes ahead and creates the tag for you here. And we'll set this up in just a second. The very first thing you want to do with the simulation is press CTRL+D and that'll bring up your project parameters. In this particular case, it's big hands in space breaking things, which doesn't make any sense. But since we're in space we want to make sure our gravity is on 0. That's the first thing we're going to do. The next thing we're going to do is, okay, we've got this set to immediately. We could set this up to trigger on collision, but in this case we're in 0G. It doesn't really matter that much. So I think we've got everything set up. There's a lot of things to remember. Let's go ahead. Okay, so to preview this you can just press play on the timeline. What I like to do is just go ahead and bake the cache. So what a cache will do for us is basically any time we press play, it's reading a pre-simulated set instead of calculating it every time we press play. As well, what this allows us to do is we can kind of scroll through the timeline and evaluate how things are breaking and look at it without having to simulate every time. So what we're going to do is we're just going to press "bake all" on the cache tab. Now it's going to be a little bit slow in the beginning because it's calculating a lot of the intersections. But then once things start spreading out, the simulation gets much faster because there are no more collisions being done. Let's give this five more seconds. So you can see that it's speeding up once we get kind of close to the end. All right, so now if everything worked appropriately we should just be able to press play and get this really nice sort of dynamic simulation. We've got big, large pieces. We've got all these little, tiny particulates out on the side. Looks really fantastic. And we can just stick a light on this and it's going to look really sweet already. So that about does it for my presentation today. Let me flip back to my first frame. My name is Trevor Kerr, You can follow me on Twitter at @kerrmotion. - [Woman] Let's give Trevor a big round of applause. - Thank you. - Thank you so much for being our first presenter.
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