Post Production

CINEMA 4D Lite and CINEWARE – The Interface, the Workflow and Getting Started

What is CINEMA 4D Lite and CINEWARE?

MAXON CINEMA 4D is one of the leading 3D software packages used today to create stunning 3D motion graphics, product visualizations, video game assets, and much more. It provides an intuitive, user-friendly interface and set of tools for 3D modeling, texturing, lighting, animation, and rendering. After Effects CC now includes a Lite version of CINEMA 4D that can advance your skill sets in motion graphics and visual effects in a new dimension.

How can CINEMA 4D do this? After Effects provides limited 3D capabilities. In fact, After Effects has supported 2.5D in several versions. This acts as a hybrid between the 2D and 3D worlds. In After Effects you place a 2D object in 3D space by turning on its layer’s 3D switch. Even though the layer can now be positioned and rotated in 3D space, it still remains a flat 2D object (below).

After Effects supports 2.5D where the objects (layers) remain flat.

In CINEMA 4D, you create a 3D scene using wireframe objects that can be viewed from any angle by a virtual camera. The basic 3D workflow consists of creating and arranging 3D objects; applying color and texture; lighting the scene; viewing the scene with cameras; setting keyframes for animation; and rendering an image or animation. The final rendered image can include all of the visual information found in the world including: perspective and depth, light and shadow, form and texture, and motion (below).

CINEMA 4D creates 3D scenes that can be viewed from any angle.

Even though CINEMA 4D Lite is a scaled-down version of CINEMA 4D, it still provides a surprisingly extensive set of tools, features, and functions to create 3D content for After Effects. CINEMA 4D Lite also provides animation capabilities and control using keyframes and F-curves. The application is a completely separate software package installed automatically with After Effects CC. The bundled software resides in the After Effects Plugins folder.

What is CINEWARE? CINEWARE is a plug-in and integral part of the entire After Effects and CINEMA 4D Lite workflow. The plug-in serves as a bridge, connecting the two software packages together. CINEWARE displays in the Effect Controls panel in After Effects and acts as a real-time interface between a composition in After Effects and the CINEMA 4D render engine (below). If you have the professional version of CINEMA 4D, you can use that directly as CINEWARE will open native CINEMA 4D files in After Effects CC.

CINEWARE bridges After Effects and CINEMA 4D together in real-time.

Creating a CINEMA 4D File

As a 2D artist/designer who wants to add a 3D skill set to your motion graphics repertoire you need a solid understanding of how to create 3D models and operate in 3D space. CINEMA 4D has a relatively quick learning curve and provides the tools necessary for you to create your own 3D content. So let’s dive in and get an overview of how CINEMA 4D Lite and CINEWARE work.

Download ( the file to your hard drive. It contains all the files needed to complete the exercises.

To see what you will build, locate and play the file in the Completed folder inside Chapter_01 (below). The following exercise provides an introduction to using the CINEWARE plug-in in After Effects. It is a step-by-step tutorial that introduces you to CINEMA 4D Lite, its workspace and integrated workflow with After Effects CC.

The finished project is a title sequence rendered using CINEWARE.

Exercise 1: Setting Up a CINEMA 4D File

CINEMA 4D Lite can only be opened through After Effects CC as a new file or a new layer within an existing composition. Just like all footage in After Effects, the CINEMA 4D (.c4d) file created is linked and stored in the Project panel. The 3D footage is added to a composition as a layer with the CINEWARE effect.

1. Launch Adobe After Effects. It opens an empty project by default. Save the project as CINEWARE_Intro.aep inside the downloaded Chapter_01 folder.

2. Double-click in the Project panel to open the Import File dialog box. Locate the QuickTime movie in the Footage folder inside Chapter_01. Click Open to import the footage into the Project panel.

Import the QuickTime movie into After Effects.

3. Click and drag the imported file to the Create a new Composition icon at the bottom of the Project panel. A new composition is created.

Create a new Composition in the Project panel using the imported QuickTime movie.

4. To add 3D graphics into this composition, you’ll need to create a CINEMA 4D layer. Make sure the Timeline panel is active and highlighted. Select Layer > New > MAXON CINEMA 4D File.

CINEMA 4D Lite can only be opened through After Effects CC by creating a new file or a new layer within an existing composition.

5. The first thing that you will see is a dialog box asking you to save your new MAXON CINEMA 4D file. Save the project as 3DText.c4d in the Footage folder inside the Chapter_01 folder. Click Save.

6. After saving the file, CINEMA 4D Lite automatically launches and opens the new file. To make sure that you are using the same layout configuration as the book, locate the Layout pop-up menu in the upper right corner. Select Standard from the menu options .

The interface layout should be set to Standard to be consistent with exercises in this book.

The CINEMA 4D Interface

CINEMA 4D Lite’s user interface consists of menus, icon panels that contain shortcuts to frequently used commands, a main viewport that displays the 3D scene, and managers that “manage” all aspects of your 3D content. See the screen shot example below. The four main managers include:

• Objects Manager: This lists all of the elements in the scene. It is formatted as a tree-based structure displaying objects and their hierarchy in a scene.

• Attributes Manager: This provides contextual information and properties for selected objects and tools. When you create a new file, the Attributes Manager displays information about the document file including its frame rate and number of frames in the timeline.

• Coordinates Manager: This is used for precision modeling or manipulation as it provides numerical data on a selected object’s position, size, and rotation that can be used as information or modified to change the object.

• Materials Manager: This contains all of the shaders and materials used in the 3D scene. Materials define the surface texture of a 3D object and include several parameters such as color, reflectivity, refraction, and transparency.

The four main managers and viewport in CINEMA 4D Lite.

Editing the Project Settings

CINEMA 4D Lite’s default resolution is 800 by 600 pixels. The width and height of the composition in After Effects is 1280 by 720 pixels at 25 frames-per-second. Since this CINEMA 4D file will be composited with the video, the first thing you need to do is change the render settings to match the frames-per-second and dimensions of the composition in After Effects.

7. Locate the three clapboard icons in the top center of the user interface. Click on the icon to the right that has the sprocket. This will open the Render Settings dialog box.

Open the Render Settings in CINEMA 4D Lite.

8. Since this CINEMA 4D file will be rendered using After Effects, you can set the output to a higher resolution. Click on the arrow icon under Output. From the preset pop-up menu, select Film/Video> HDV/HDTV 720 25. When you are done, close the Render Settings dialog box.

Reset the output to a higher resolution to match the After Effects file.

9. Locate the Timeline panel under the viewport window editor. The default duration for an animation in CINEMA 4D Lite is 90 frames.

The Timeline panel is located underneath the viewport window editor.

10. Change the duration of the project from 90 frames to 150 frames. Type 150 into the text entry dialog box. To see all frames in the Timeline panel, click on the right arrow icon next to 90 F and drag to the right .

Change the duration of the Timeline panel to 150 frames.

Understanding the CINEWARE Workflow

Now that you have created a CINEMA 4D file, how do you view it in After Effects? The CINEWARE workflow allows you to jump back and forth between both applications to adjust and fine tune your 3D objects without the need to render a file in CINEMA 4D.

11. First, save your CINEMA 4D Lite file. This is a simple yet very important step in the CINEWARE workflow as this file is linked to After Effects.

Whenever a change is made in the CINEMA 4D Lite file, you must save the file first in order to see the updates in After Effects. As your CINEMA 4D file gets more complex, allow some time to save the file before jumping back to After Effects. This will avoid After Effects losing the link to the CINEMA 4D file while it is saving the file’s content.

12. Go to After Effects. Notice that a CINEMA 4D layer has been added to the Timeline. The Composition panel displays a grid floor .

The CINEMA 4D file is added as a layer in the Timeline.

The CINEWARE effect is automatically applied to the layer and allows After Effects to read the CINEMA 4D file and display the 3D scene in the Composition panel. As you can see, CINEWARE is an extremely powerful plug-in that provides a real time link to a CINEMA 4D file. There are a lot more features and functions to CINEWARE that will be covered later. But first, you need to adjust the duration of the CINEMA 4D layer in the Timeline.

13. After you changed the frame duration in the CINEMA 4D file, a ghosted bar now extends to the end of the composition in the Timeline. Retrim its Out Point by clicking and dragging it to the end of the composition.

Retrim the Out Point to extend to the end of the composition.

14. Save your After Effects project. This completes setting up the files between After Effects and CINEMA 4D.

Excerpt from After Effects and Cinema 4D Lite: 3D Motion Graphics and Visual Effects Using CINEWARE by Chris Jackson © 2015 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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