CINEMA 4D Integration with After Effects CC Animation





Designers have always wanted to have better built-in 3D tools within After Effects. Now we have that ability. This year, Adobe and MAXON released the ability to collaborate a pipeline between Adobe After Effects software and MAXON’s CINEMA 4D. This has allowed artists a way to have seamless 2D/3D integration between the two softwares. Adobe After Effects CC now comes with CINEWARE. CINEMA 4D Lite (or CINEWARE) is a feature-limited version of CINEMA 4D that is included for free with the new Adobe After Effects CC. Now we can create, import, texture and animate 3D content that is rendered within After Effects along with many other features.

(Below is a screenshot of CINEWARE being used in After Effects)


There are a few setbacks to these new elements, but nothing daunting. Since CINEWARE is part of the new After Effects CC, you have to upgrade your license to After Effects CC. CINEWARE can’t be used with older versions of After Effects. MAXON explains that rendering directly inside CINEWARE is limited to a resolution of 800×600 pixels and renders cannot be saved. Rendering in After Effects CC is, of course, not restricted to any defined resolution, and will be rendered at the given project resolution automatically.

A benefit of CINEWARE is that it is within the After Effects CC installer, which avoids confusion during the installation process. Some of the new features are really exciting. Animator Nick Campbell explains that you can use multiple CINEMA 4D files within one After Effects file. One way is to select the .c4d scene layer in After Effects in order to open and edit the file in CINEMA 4D. You can also import a .c4d project file directly into After Effects as a footage item or insert an After Effects camera back into a .c4d project. Cameras, nulls and lights can be extracted from .c4d files, which allow you to use your .c4d cameras and lights directly within After Effects. The Adobe blog explains that you can tell CINEWARE to render the .c4d scene using either a selected camera from the C4D project, or an After Effects’ camera. You can separate your imported .c4d project file into a “multipass render” directly within After Effects. This creates a separate layer inside your After Effects timeline of either a preset selection of properties or ones you’ve previously set up inside the C4D project.

The company who created CINEMA 4D, MAXON, explains that in CINEWARE you can choose which layer or passes you want to use for compositing in After Effects CC. You can use 3D content multiple times in a composition and use layers to create various setups. Along with the use of the CINEMA 4D camera parameters, you can adapt them to the After Effects CC coordinate system and use them as if they had been originally created in After Effects. Lights imported with your CINEMA 4D scene can also be converted to native After Effects CC light sources and edited. Almost all of the features in CINEMA 4D are included in CINEWARE. For greater specific details you can view MAXON’s Product Comparison Chart.

I believe that artists have waited a long time for something as smooth as this process. As with anything newer on the market, since it is the first time for this integration, there are a few bumps in the road. However, with time they will improve. I, for one, am looking forward to a greater ease of creating animations and tools that allow for significant creative endeavors.

Video Production Support at the Farm Progress Show

Known as the “world’s fair of agriculture,” the annual three-day Farm Progress Show (FPS) is the nation’s largest outdoor farm show. Held alternately between Decatur, IL and Boone, IA, this year’s show featured some 600 exhibitors, including DuPont Pioneer, who contracted with The Iona Group for media preparation and on-site A/V support.

The Pioneer “tent” was 180’ x 100’, had an interlocking, hard floor, and was air-conditioned! This helped provide a more comfortable, enjoyable visitor experience, especially when temperatures outside were in the mid-90s. Inside the tent were dozens of “stations” highlighting the various products, services, and technologies offered by DuPont Pioneer. Included in many of those stations were monitors that played looping videos, which Iona compiled prior to the show.

Photo: Inside the DuPont Pioneer tent

In addition to the numerous videos playing inside the tent, Pioneer also utilized a 9’ x 12’ Jumbotron outside of their tent. The purpose of the Jumbotron was to provide schedules and information to attendees walking outside the Pioneer tent, but mostly to draw them into the tent. To do so, we “broadcast” portions of live presentations happening on the Pioneer stage from various ag experts speaking on a number of key topics. There were also hosts for these presentations, and we had them do “promos” out to the Jumbotron to entice visitors to come into the tent. Tim Martin ran camera, BJ Aberle was the audio engineer, and I ran the video switcher that fed the signal to the Jumbotron.

Photo: Jumbotron outside the Pioneer tent

Photos: Tim Martin mans the camera (above); BJ Aberle in the control room (below)

As with most things technical, there are always challenges, and this year’s FPS was no exception. We had some challenges with cable connectors and getting a signal from our control room to the Jumbotron, but once those issues were corrected, the show went very smoothly, and our client was very pleased with the final outcome.

Team Prepares for Teaching at Bradley University’s Interactive Media Department

Several members of our team are once again preparing for another semester of higher learning as they expand and enrich the minds of Interactive Media students at Bradley University. Bradley University’s Department of Interactive Media in the Slane College of Communications prepares its students to be critical thinkers in a continually evolving field that requires interdisciplinary, theoretical and application knowledge in the design, development and production of interactive and mobile media.

Chad Udell and Jim Ferolo will be teaching “Introduction to Interactive Media” where students will learn the tools and aesthetics of media production such as word processing, photography, audio production, videography, visual literacy, desktop computer interface and production software.

One of the classes Department Chair, Jim Ferolo, will be teaching is “Basic Interactive Media Authoring” where students will learn the acquisition and computer processing of text, photographs, video and sound files. This will lead into incorporating processed files into documents for computer multimedia. The goal of this class is to teach students to solve problems in multimedia communication through the theories and cultural effects of visual communication and new media.

Heather Ford will be teaching “Intermediate Video for Interactive Media” where students will be introduced to High Definition video essentials while expanding their knowledge of lighting and cinematography; including non-linear editing and motion capture fundamentals. Students will utilize programs such as Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Cinema 4D.

Matt Forcum will be teaching “Digital Animation”, a studio course exploring computer modeling and animation using the Cinema 4D software package. Students examine the theory, history and practice involved with creating quality modeling for print media, modeling and animation for time-based audio-visual media.

BJ Aberle will be teaching “Sound Design”, instructing students in the theoretical and practical elements of sound composition. Specific areas of study include: music, field sound recording, studio tracking, aesthetic analysis and electronic sound generation. In response to the creation of new types of entertainment, students will explore digital game technologies, 3D sound processing and generative audio structures; mixing in non-linear environments and final mastering. Students will use ProTools and Unity software in the class.

We look forward to an exciting semester at Bradley University as we impart our knowledge of multimedia to the young prospective members of the industry.

Making a Difference – One Pair of Shoes at a Time

Ideas come in many shapes and designs and are as unique as each person. For some, it is seeing or perhaps hearing something that triggers a random thought. Such is the case for Iona’s Shoes for Water project. Several years ago, I was in Ohio and went to a local church one Sunday morning. There was a very large box in their gathering space overflowing with old shoes. I looked at the signs that were on the box and remembered the information probably because of the visual impact. Later, I went online and read a bit about the organization, WaterStep, and their work to provide clean/safe drinking water. WaterStep states, “875 million people live without access to clean water every day. Without clean water, disease spreads more rapidly. In fact, 80% of all sickness in the world is attributable to unsafe water and sanitation.”

Safe drinking water is something we take for granted. It is as simple as walking to our kitchen sink and turning on a faucet. In some areas of the world, women and female children spend more than 200 million hours each day collecting water from distant and (often) polluted sources. The United States is one of the top five nations, by percent of the population, with access to clean water. The bottom five nations are Chad, Niger, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. Diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and malaria are some of the dangers of limited water access. Diarrhea is currently the global leading cause of sickness and death, with 88% of the fatal cases due to inadequate water access.

Over 2.2 million people could be saved this year just by having access to safe drinking water. WaterStep recognizes that many of the world’s problems could be cured with access to clean water. By providing water treatment systems, offering health and hygiene education and training people who are going into areas with unclean water, WaterStep is providing more people with access to clean water and sanitation.

I have a friend who said to me that she doesn’t have what it takes to make a global change in the world. I disagree. WaterStep accepts all types of shoes from high heels to high tops. Shoes that can be re-worn are sold to an exporter and funds received help bring clean water to those in need. Shoes that cannot be re-worn can be recycled. In addition to funding water projects, donated shoes keep hundreds of tons of waste out of our landfills. Therefore, donating shoes, a seemingly small act, does make a huge difference globally.

At Iona, we support WaterStep’s efforts. In 2012, our target was 4,000 pairs because that was the minimum amount required for WaterStep to come to our area to transport the shoes to their location in Louisville, Kentucky. Through the generosity of the community, we collected almost 10,000 pairs of shoes. There were several weeks that we were bringing in over 2,000 pairs of shoes per week. What we found last year was that the bulk of the shoes were donated at places where people regularly go, so churches were the largest part of helping to make this effort successful.

This year, we started earlier, and worked to increase the number of drop off locations. We have added many new businesses, several churches and two public libraries. In 2013, we have 36 different collection sites. Iona manages the Morton sites and the St. Ann’s WATCH (We Are The Church) program manages the participating churches in the Diocese of Peoria. In just the first two weeks of August, we have jointly collected 4,586 pair of shoes, which is over 2,500 more pairs than at the same point last year. This year, WaterStep requires 5,000 pair of shoes in order to transport from our location. We fully expect to go beyond that total before this blog is posted!

With half of the month remaining, we anticipate exceeding last year’s total. To do this, though, we need your help. Donations for Shoes for Water will continue until the end of August. Please say yes by SAVING your old shoes and ASKING others to do the same. Then donate them by August 31 at one of our drop off locations.

Throughout this process, I have had the opportunity to meet many new people who have shared their stories. One woman said that the downturn in the economy has affected her ability to give financial donations to make an impact globally. She feels like she is making a difference just by taking a few minutes to go through her shoes and donate those she no longer uses. One young man from Limestone High School’s Key Club asked for a few of our posters. He took it upon himself to distribute them with his contact information to garage sales in his neighborhood. At the end of these sales, people call him. He then picks up their unsold shoes and donates them to our collection effort. One gentleman said that he is retired and the shoes he wore to work are no longer needed. He did not feel comfortable throwing them away but does want to help others so he donated them to our project. Many people have shared that while they don’t want to have a drop-off location at their business, they will collect at their work places and bring the shoes to one of our collection sites. I attend St. Ann’s Church is the south side of Peoria. This is a poorer area of our community. I have seen so many carry in bags of shoes because this is one way they feel they can help others. On Sunday mornings, parishioners join us in between services to help pair and count the shoes that have been donated, or tell us that they are praying for the success of Shoes for Water.

WaterStep hopes that they will be able to see the day when every person has access to safe, clean water. By empowering ordinary people, using appropriate technology and training, and partnering with volunteers and humanitarian professionals, they are taking steps toward this goal. In our little corner of the world, we are people helping people so far away. Working together, we can and we will make a difference!

**References for specific data contained in this article can be found at

Donate Shoes by August 31 at one of our drop off locations.

Drupal 8: A Brief Primer


In the life of a Drupal developer, one of the things that brings both excitement and trepidation is the release of the next major version. The release brings both the promise of performance improvements, as well as the prospect of significant effort to bring an existing Drupal install up to speed. That time is rapidly approaching again, as Drupal 8 prepares to go from Application Programming Interface (API) freeze to first release candidate (at this time, still TBD, though tentatively planned to be around New Year’s).

Being that the API freeze has come and gone, I feel the code base was at a stable enough point to download, bring up an install and take this latest and greatest for a spin. Since it has been in development for over 2 years now, it promises to be outstanding. As has become the norm, installation is quick and painless once you have cloned the code base from the main git repository, and you can have a base install up and running in mere minutes.

At first glance, there are several noticeable changes present in Drupal 8 from just looking at the front end. Bartik is now the default theme, replacing Garland. Bartik is a much more configurable and flexible theme, for instance, offering more regions out of the box than Garland, and is also fully responsive, an indication of Drupal 8’s commitment to being as mobile-friendly as possible. On the module front, a most welcome development is the addition of “Views,” one of the most essential site building tools, to core. In addition, there is the inclusion of CKEditor (providing WYSIWYG content editing functionality) as a core module. This will be seen as a welcome addition for content editors looking for an easier and faster way of maintaining a Drupal sites content.

However, taking a deeper dive is where we see the major changes that are taking place as the result of a move to Drupal 8. Probably the most significant underlying framework change is the decision to refactor a large portion of the core code base to utilize Symfony components. Symfony is a robust and stable PHP framework that offers a lot of built in functionality out of the box. It has a large and diverse set of components that will be able to be utilized by developers who are looking to add custom functionality via contrib or custom modules. In addition, teams who are adding to core Drupal for version 9 and beyond can use these components. While I believe this move to Symfony is a great one from a technical perspective, it does present some challenges to the developer community in regards to how modules, and extension of core Drupal functionality in general, are coded.

One of the most immediately identifiable changes in the way that module development will change is the adoption of YAML (YAML Ain’t Markup Language) as the means of specifying custom additions to Drupal. Some of these changes might be menu routes, system configuration settings, or general information about a custom module itself. This adoption of YAML is an integral part of the Configuration Management Initiative that looks to move away from the concept of storing configuration in a combination of code and database records, such as using features, to a purely code based approach. For instance, gone are the days of adding menu paths via implementing “hook_menu” in your module, which are then created as records in the “menu_router” table. In Drupal 8, you will specify custom menu paths in a “module_name.routing.yml” file. Also, gone is the “ file,” replaced by the “” Bear in mind, though, the key information contained within this YAML file hasn’t changed, it’s just a different, more robust way of specifying this information.

Another Symfony related change that will become quickly apparent to theme developers is the abandoning of the PHPTemplate engine, in favor of the newer, and more flexible, Twig template engine. Anthony Ringoet gives a good overview on the changes, from a Drupal perspective, between PHPTemplate and Twig, and how to go about converting “tpl.php” files in an existing theme to the new “html.twig” format. At its most basic level, this involves a change in delimiters between the two formats, but a more significant change is that Twig doesn’t allow a themer to put custom PHP code directly in a template file. Rather, a developer/themer will need to put any “heavy lifting” PHP in the theme using the more conventional “theme_preprocess” hook. This is a good thing, as it more rigorously enforces the separation of functionality and presentation.

In summary, Drupal 8 looks to offer many exciting new opportunities for developers, as well as a more robust and performance base architecture (via the adoption of Symfony) that will only allow Drupal to grow and improve going forward. While these underlying changes do require some substantial changes as to how modules are structured and developed, the associated improvements are far and away worth this effort.


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