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.

Float Symposium Update

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Importance of Prototyping

Here is an image from “paper prototype” testing we performed recently for an experiential learning system we are building for the National Sequestration Education Center (NSEC) in Decatur, IL.

The user testing was for the Sequestration Technology Educational Learning Array (STELA) we are developing for the NSEC at Richland Community College. Sequestration? Basically, it is a relatively new technology that captures surplus carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants or ethanol plants and stores this material safely underground. STELA will show visitors how this process works and why it is important.

Building interactive experiences that entertain and engage their audiences is always a challenging job. Quite a bit of careful planning and work goes into strategy, graphic design, content creation, moodboard development, wireframes, graphical user interface design, etc. At The Iona Group, we place a high value on audience feedback and testing. We schedule rigorous testing sessions at several points in the design and development process to make sure that users “get it” and are able to explore the material a fun and intuitive way. Invariably, our test participants give us valuable direction and surface new issues we realize we have to solve.

Test participants last week ranged from 8 years old to 30 something. One thing was universal; participants were driven much more by graphical information than written instructions. With every testing session we conduct, I realize how true this observation is. People want to be excited, jump right into an experience, and be entertained and engaged. If they happen to learn something along the way, that’s OK. Having said that, we understand this reality and have built many installations that have engaged audiences and achieved their intended leaning objectives.

Several of our assumptions for game play were upheld by our testers. Most users were able to move through the experience without issue. The need to move some of the elements to different locations to increase overall interaction became apparent.

It is far better to discover this now than after we have built graphics, animations and programming that need to be revised. Paper prototyping is almost always a bumpy ride but it’s a great discipline that pays off with good insights that make the rest of the development process go smoother.

DDR Strikes Again

Last year we talked one of our long-term clients, Pioneer Hi-Bred, into trying something a little different at the national FFA convention in Indianapolis.  Large numbers of teenagers from all over the country – what better than give them a chance to show off their DDR skills.  Iona created a Pioneer branded dance experience that was a big hit.  It was good enough that it was rolled out again this year.

B.J. Aberle said, “The kids really responded well to the characters with the FFA jackets.  A lot thought that was the coolest thing.”

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