CINEWARE, CINEMA 4D Lite and CINEMA 4D: What After Effects users need to know

CINEWARE, CINEMA 4D Lite and CINEMA 4D: What After Effects users need to know

When it was announced that the Creative Cloud iteration of After Effects would be capable of two-way collaboration with Maxon’s CINEMA 4D range, it fast became our favourite new feature. Now that we’re a little way down the road, the dust has settled, the workflow has been explained and the deals have been announced, we thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at CINEWARE, CINEMA 4D Lite and CINEMA 4D and  work out exactly which option is best for whom, and what it is you’ll get for your money. Here are your key facts…

Maxon CINEWARE

Not actually a standalone application, CINEWARE is the name of the plug-in that’s been added to After Effects to let it communicate with CINEMA 4D. It’s what makes it possible for After Effects users to enjoy that two-way workflow, choose to render CINEMA 4D files in an After Effects-based renderer and see changes to cameras and lighting in both programs, regardless of which they were made in. It arrives as part of your After Effects CC download, and is not available to anyone still using After Effects CS6 or earlier.

Maxon CINEMA 4D Lite

This is the stripped back version of CINEMA 4D that comes as part of your After Effects CC download, and is the program you’ll actually do the C4D work in (although if you have a full version of C4D R14 or above already installed on your computer, After Effects CC can also harness that to deliver the same two-way workflow to a full version of C4D).

You can create basic 3D objects and animations in CINEMA 4D Lite, then export them to an After Effects layer as footage for further editing. Both programs can render C4D files, but if you choose to render directly in CINEMA 4D Lite you’ll be limited to low-res renders of 800×600 or less – this cap is removed if you render the footage within After Effects. However, being a Lite version, this doesn’t support advanced features like ambient occlusion, global illumination or polygon modelling.

That said, it gives you far more 3D capabilities than simply doing everything in After Effects would, and Maxon have worked hard to improve camera inoperability between the two programs, so it’s now far easier to make edits in either and have them instantly recognised by both.

If you’re working on motion graphics or only need very simple 3D assets, we reckon you can get away with sticking with CINEMA 4D Lite. If, however, you’re going to need to produce larger or more complex 3D elements or need to animate characters, we’d recommend levelling up to the full version of CINEMA 4D.

CINEMA 4D Broadcast and CINEMA 4D Studio

Let’s get the most pressing news out of the way first: if you’re using After Effects CC, you’re eligible for a 40% discount when you buy CINEMA 4D Broadcast or Studio with a Maxon Service Agreement. This is a pretty amazing deal, and if you think you’ll need a full version, it’s best to get clicking before Maxon come to their senses.

So what are Broadcast and Studio? Well, Maxon split CINEMA 4D into different versions based on what kind of 3D work you do. Studio is the full package, combining the features found in graphic-design orientated Prime and the more CAD-focused Visualize with advanced character creation and mapping tools, all the advanced rendering features that you won’t find in the Lite version, a physics engine and an unlimited client network for the fastest possible rendering. If you’re animating detailed (read: hairy and furry) characters, need to plan complex collisions or will be working with scenes that contain hundreds or thousands of objects, Studio is the CINEMA 4D package that will help you power through projects, all without losing that live link to After Effects.

CINEMA 4D Broadcast is a little more pared down, containing all the tools you’ll need for creating high-end 3D motion graphics and virtual environments rather than characters. It’s got all the rendering options that are missing from CINEMA 4D Lite, plus extra libraries of lighting and camera rigs so it’s easier to create 3D elements that’ll slot straight into any footage you’ve shot, not to mention CINEMA 4D’s infamously comprehensive cloning toolset.

A note on hardware…

If you are planning on using this discount as an excuse to move to CINEMA 4D Studio and take on more 3D-heavy projects, be aware that CGI rendering will take even longer than your usual After Effects jobs. To minimise the time difference, you’ll want to grab yourself a powerful GPU, and make sure your machine has as many core as you can cram into it. We’d recommend opting for a top spec iMac (you can repurpose this as a display and render node once the new Mac Pro hits) a Mac Pro or one of HP’s Z-series workstations.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

After Effects CC users can save 40% on Maxon CINEMA 4D!

After Effects CC users can save 40% on Maxon CINEMA 4D!

When After Effects CC came out, one of our favourite new features was the inclusion of CINEMA 4D Lite, a stripped down version of Maxon’s CINEMA 4D 3D software that allowed you to create more complex motion graphics.

If using the Lite version has whetted your appetite for 3D work, you’ll be pleased to hear that anyone with a copy of CINEMA 4D Lite can now get 40% off the cost of an upgrade to CINEMA 4D Broadcast or CINEMA 4D Studio if you buy before August 30th and add in an MSA agreement. Huzzah!

Studio or Broadcast? 

Maxon have split CINEMA 4D into five different versions, each designed for a different type of graphics work. If you’re looking to add 3D elements to broadcast graphics, Broadcast is for you – it uses a lot of the same tools as traditional 2D graphics packages, but adds 3D tools and additional rendering options. The Studio version is a bit more involved, bringing in character tools, a physics engine, hair and more, so you can create character rigs and animations easily.

Take a look at CINEMA 4D Studio and CINEMA 4D Broadcast on our site.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Adobe Creative Cloud licensing explained

Adobe Creative Cloud licensing explained

With boxed copies of Adobe Creative Suite a thing of the past, and Creative Cloud taking over as the only way to get your fix of Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Pro and more, the old upgrade policy has also changed. So here’s our guide to the latest Adobe licensing options, including how to buy, what you’re likely to pay, and what you can do if you’re only after one specific Adobe application.

With Creative Cloud, Adobe want to make it easier (and ultimately cheaper!) to make sure you’re always on the most up-to-date software, and the best way to do this is with a subscription service. Before, when you bought a perpetual licence, it was effectively out of date the moment you installed the software on your machine. But by now subscribing to Creative Cloud for teams, you get instant access to any updates the moment they’re out. Not only that, you get maintenance and support bundled in, extras like Muse, Lightroom and Digital Publishing Suite, and all the collaborative benefits of working with clients and colleagues in the cloud.

So how do we buy into Creative Cloud?

To get Creative Cloud, the best thing would be to get in touch, as we can help set you up with a subscription. If you’re looking to deploy Creative Cloud for teams, there’s a new scheme to manage the process called the Value Incentive Plan (VIP). This lets you purchase, manage, and assign permissions to use Adobe software and services to users through a really simple, easy to use portal.

Basically, your Jigsaw24 contact sets up a VIP portal and invites you in, then you deploy the software as needed, and can monitor who’s got access to what. Becoming a VIP member also lets you keep track of all your Cloud seats in a single agreement with a single anniversary date, even if you add extra seats part way through the year, so you never lose track of what needs renewing.

What’s happened to TLP/CLP?

If you feel particularly averse to the cloud, you can stick to your old TLP (Transactional Licensing Program, where you make a single one-off purchase) or CLP (Cumulative Licensing Program, where you get discounts for buying more than eight seats) model and buy Adobe Creative Suite CS6. However, it’s very important to note that any future releases and updates to software will only be available through Creative Cloud. After that, Adobe will only release support for operating systems.

[UPDATE, 16/04/2014]: From 1st June 2014, Adobe CS6 will no longer be available in TLP and CLP licensing programmes, with the last order date being 30th May. Adobe are doing this to simplify their creative offering and decision making process for customers and by removing this option and focusing on Creative Cloud, it will be easier for all customers to stay up to date with the latest and greatest features and tools. If you have any questions about making the move to Creative Cloud, please get in touch!

But I only ever use one application…

Adobe have now released individual subscriptions for all their top Creative Cloud apps. So if you only need to do some retouching in Photoshop CC, only require the drawing tools in Illustrator CC, or could just do with InDesign CC for some page layout, you can do just that. With a Creative Cloud for teams single app subscription, you get access to the latest features of your Adobe CC app, but with the added benefit of predictable budgeting and some great online extras.

The obvious difference is that, while Creative Cloud for teams complete includes access to the full range of Creative Cloud apps and services (including the online collaborative tools and file sharing functionality), a single app plan only includes access to one app and limits the amount of storage to 20GB per user (100GB for the complete option). Additionally, while the single app version lets you sync, share and collaborate with colleagues, and create a customised online portfolio with Behance ProSite, you don’t have access to the full range of Creative Cloud apps.

To put that into perspective, with complete, you’re getting access to 19 apps, 6 additional web tools and 8 workflow apps. With single apps, you’re only getting access to one chosen app and Behance, but it is around half the price of the complete version’s promo price.

How much am I likely to pay?

You pay an annual subscription fee for whatever version of Creative Cloud you use. As of 1st June 2014, the standard fee is £455 per user, per year for access to practically every application Adobe produce, plus any updates and some tech support from Adobe.

Want to know more about subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email Adobe@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and tips, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

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Bringing video in house: The Jigsaw24 Guide

Bringing video in house: The Jigsaw24 Guide

Adding video content to your offering is a great way to win new business, up end user engagement and create a stronger brand identity for your clients – and thanks to Adobe, helping your existing design team get to grips with a new medium is far easier than you’d think. If you’re currently packing Master Collection (or have just picked a copy of Production Premium CS6), you already have all the tools you need to produce cracking content, all in a single, integrated workflow.

Here’s how we did it…

“When we decided to start producing videos in-house, we looked at all the major NLEs,'” explains Tom Cottle, our resident Multimedia Designer. “I’d used Final Cut before, but when I joined Jigsaw24, the rest of the design team already had Master Collection. When I started exploring the video tools that it included, it became obvious that when we were trying to hit tight deadlines, I’d really appreciate the dynamic link between Photoshop, Premiere Pro and After Effects in Creative Suite, and the fact that it was cross-platform meant it would be easier to move projects between machines.”

As well as editing in Premiere Pro, Tom and the rest of the design team can ingest their footage in Prelude, add titles and graphics in Photoshop or After Effects, grade using SpeedGrade and output footage via Media Encoder or Encore, all without leaving Creative Suite. “It means we can divide up jobs if we’re in a hurry – someone can tweak a frame in Photoshop while I’m cutting another part of the project, and because Adobe software’s so common it’s easy to pick up the basic controls fast, especially now that you can do some video editing in Photoshop,” he says.

And CS6 looks to be the most user-friendly iteration yet. “The new UI has me excited,” says Tom. “I often find myself rearranging my panels in Premiere, and I can see CS6 will help avoid this – it’s been more thoroughly thought out, which’ll really help anyone new to video. I like the new larger thumbnail view mode for clips in the project panel, which makes it easier to find the specific clip you need by hovering the mouse over the thumbnail to scrub
through it quickly. Plus with the new Global Performance Cache, everything’s so much faster, which we always need.”

Handheld footage looking blurry?

Not to worry. Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6 include Warp Stabiliser, a neat little tool that lets you stabilise your shots during editing. If you’re shooting video on an older DSLR, you might find that some shots have a strange ‘jello-like’ blur to them because the rolling shutter can’t handle video. This used to be a big problem, but thankfully Adobe have added Rolling Shutter Repair to Premiere Pro CS6. This lets you lose the blur without auto-stabilising the shot, so you can get that naturalistic, handheld look without looking like your footage has been slimed.

Want to add 3D graphics to your promos?

Easy-peasy. After Effects isn’t a full-on 3D modeller like CINEMA 4D or 3ds Max (though it does have built-in integration with them), but the latest version still makes it simple to add 3D text and graphics to your footage. There’s a new, more powerful 3D tracker that lets you identify spaces in your footage where 3D elements will work, then drop in extruded text or objects you’ve created in After Effects or Photoshop CS6 Extended.

Want to work more naturally with 3D images?

We’re big fans of Wacom’s Cintiq 24HD, a giant monitor-cum-tablet that lets you get close to your work comfortably (you can reposition it like an old school drafting table) and, with customisable controls, can be made to suit any programme or workflow. A lot of design and 3D software is optimised for pen tablets, and the Cintiq combines those pen controls with a huge, hi-res workspace that’s exactly what you need if you’re doing detailed 3D or illustration work. You can even set up different configurations of controls for different apps, and the Cintiq will automatically switch them when you move between programs, so you’ve always got your most-used tools right at your fingertips.

For those who don’t have a spare grand and a half, try the slightly more modest Intuos5, which combines a pen tablet and touchpad so you can work more fluidly than you’d be able to using a keyboard and mouse.

Don’t want to wait for renders?

To make the most of After Effects CS6’s ridiculous speeds, you’ll need a workstation with a powerful GPU. NVIDIA’s CUDA-enabled and widely- qualified Quadro range are a safe bet, with the Quadro 4000 being a staple of our M&E solutions.

For maximum efficiency, you can combine a Quadro with a Tesla card to make what NVIDIA call a ‘Maximus’ configuration – one card handles all the mundane graphics tasks, like refreshing your screen, while the other powers through renders or focuses on playing back video so you never experience
any lag. We can build you a custom setup like this mammoth, Maximus-ready workstation (it’s got a 500GB hard drive, an AJA Kona LHe Plus video card for handling your footage and two terabytes of memory), and will even pre-install and configure all the necessary software and drivers. We like to feel useful.

Want to go further than three-way colour correction?

SpeedGrade CS6 is a great place to start, with a vast library of presets and histogram and waveform displays that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s colour-corrected stills before. Powering the whole shebang is the IRIDAS Lumetri Deep Colour Engine, which allows you to apply all changes with 32-bit floating point accuracy, even if you’re working with mammoth RAW or HDR files (translation: it’s super-accurate, even when faced with multiple layers of effects, and it’s not going to freeze on you every five minutes.

Want your audio to be as polished as your footage?

Adobe’s Audition audio editing software is now packing a host of tools that anyone working on sound would previously have had to purchase a separate, dedicated digital audio workstation for, making it a great contender for producing podcasts and adding quality audio to your videos. You can align and replace your shonky location dialogue with your polished studio recordings, and the Rubbadub feature lets you fix any lip syncing issues in a fraction of the time it’d take to do by eye. You can also stretch your clips nondestructively in realtime, preview changes and settings, and a new varispeed mode adjusts speed and pitch together automatically.

Need to offer clients footage quickly?

Once you’ve got your footage, you’re going to need to distribute it. Encore lets you deliver to Blu-ray so you can hand clients a hard copy, while Media Encoder handles digital delivery. However, you’ll need a bit of help from Matrox, whose MXO2 Max and CompressHD cards let you accelerate transcoding to H.264 (the format you’ll need your footage in if you want to send it straight to the web) by up to five times.

To find out more about adding video to your design and publishing offering with Adobe Creative Suite 6 get in touch. Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. To keep up with all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

A shining example of 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects

A shining example of 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past seven months, you will have probably seen and admired Alex Roman’s short film, The Third and the Seventh. It is without doubt the best photo-realistic short film ever produced and has successfully managed to make almost everyone in the industry feel woefully inadequate!

Watch the masterclass in 3ds Max, V-Ray and After Effects here.

Be sure to check out the ‘making of’ videos as well.

To find out more, call our 3D team on 03332 409 309 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com.To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

How to tweak 3D graphics faster with After Effects and CINEMA 4D

How to tweak 3D graphics faster with After Effects and CINEMA 4D

Let’s say you have a teaser for a TV show in which clips from the next episode play on animated 3D screens. Each week, you have to replace the clips with ones from the next show to air. Traditionally, this would take hours of tweaking and multiple, lengthy renders – not much good if you’re working to tight deadlines.



However, the link between CINEMA 4D and After Effects lets you do the same thing in minutes. Here’s our guide to speeding up your 3D editing with After Effects.

Step 1

In your C4D project, open the Render Settings dialogue box. Go to the Multipass tab and select the passes you want to export, then go to the Save tab, select ‘Save as multipass image’ and set the target application to After Effects – this will ensure the passes are stored as individual layers in an After Effects-friendly compositing file.

Step 2

C4D exporting to after effects

Still in C4D, use the internal and external compositing tags to isolate any objects within the image you will want to work on later (to save them as object solids rather than positions, select ‘solid’ in the Tag Properties menu). Then go to the Buffer menu at the bottom of the screen and enable a buffer for each object. Each buffer will appear as a separate layer in After Effects, making it easier to manipulate your image.

Step 3

C4D scene imported and ambient occlusion layer

Once you’ve saved and rendered the project in C4D, open it up in After Effects. Each pass is stored as a separate layer, with the blending modes already set. C4D layers all normal passes for you automatically, but the odd special pass (in this case, ambient occlusion) has to be added manually. You can do this simply by dragging and dropping the file from the C4D Special Passes folder into your timeline.  Set the blending mode and then you’re good to go – just tweak the layers as you would in any flat After Effects project, and they’re applied to your entire 3D sequence in seconds.

Another advantage of the C4D/After Effects partnership is that all of your cameras and lights are imported too, so you can move footage between the two programs without losing any of the lighting effects or camera moves that you set up in C4D, no matter how much you edit the image.

Step 4

ae replacing video imported solids

Using the object solids you imported from C4D, you can isolate the elements you want to work with – in our case the footage on the screens. The good thing about being able to export object positions and solids is that the footage you place on the screens will be “glued” in place and behave as if it was part of the original C4D project. When the laptop moves, your footage will move with it. It also makes replacing content really simple – just select the solid you want to replace, then drag and drop the new content into its place.

Step 4 (and a half)

ae replacing video original video

If the new image isn’t the right size, you can edit it by going to the Edit menu, changing the measurement value to pixels and then entering the values for the original image. The new one will be resized to match.

Step 5

ae object mask for video monitor

Another useful thing about exporting object settings is that you can use them to create object masks which will automatically cut footage for you – in this example, one is used to make sure the footage on the monitor looks like it’s behind the laptop, giving the impression of a single, seamless piece of 3D work.


Once the new footage is in place, you can tweak it the way you would any After Effects project, meaning you can tell immediately if something doesn’t look quite right. Once you’ve got the animation looking its best, simply re-open the project in C4D and enjoy your seamless, renderless 3D animation!

ae adjusting specular highlights multipass layer

Although this tutorial focuses on After Effects, similar workflows are implemented in Cinema 4D for Motion, Shake, Combustion and Digital Fusion.

To find out more, call our 3D team on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. To receive the latest 3D news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.

 

Network Rendering II: Management Software

Network Rendering II: Management Software

Last time, I discussed the hardware requirements for a render farm and drew the conclusion that CPU power is still king for dedicated render machines. I will now take a look at some of the software management solutions that are available to manage all of that hardware.

Most popular rendering packages ship with a solution for managing network rendering. This section will look at some of those options:

NET Render – Maxon’s solution for rendering Cinema4D jobs across a network is NET Render. It will distribute the rendering of animations on a frame-by-frame basis or still images using the tiled camera. It can also be used to batch render multiple jobs from multiple machines. NET Render is available as a chargeable add-on to Cinema4D or is included with the XL (three client licenses) and Studio (unlimited client licenses) bundles.

NET Render will run on OS X, on Windows clients, or even a mixture of the two. It is relatively easy to set up and, because jobs are submitted through a web interface, they can theoretically be submitted from any internet connected computer. To submit a job to NET Render, you have to open the interface and upload not only your scene file, but any associated assets such as textures or externally referenced models one by one to the NET Render server. While this ensures that all of the assets are in the right place, it can become tedious if you have many assets.

ScreamerNet – This represents NewTek’s solution for network rendering with LightWave. It is capable of distributing the rendering of an animation by having each node in your farm render complete frames. ScreamerNet ships with LightWave for no extra cost and can batch render jobs but only from a single machine. It is compatible with Windows or Mac machines.

ScreamerNet requires shared folders to be set up on your network for it to work properly, which means it cannot work in mixed environments. All render nodes should be running the same operating system as the machine that created the scene files. ScreamerNet gives a good speed advantage but it can be difficult and confusing to set up.

Aerender – Also known as the After Effects Render Engine, this is Adobe’s command line renderer for After Effects and can be used to set up an After Effects render farm. The render engine is included with every After Effects license and can be used to render multiple jobs from multiple machines. There is no queuing system; jobs are rendered on a first-come, first-served basis. Setting this up requires a watch folder to be shared out over the network and the project, and all associated assets must be copied here before rendering. This watch folder can make setting up cross-platform render farms difficult, although it is possible.

Backburner – Autodesk’s solution for network rendering supports several Autodesk products, including 3ds Max, Maya, Smoke for Mac, and Cleaner. Backburner can render multiple jobs from multiple machines and includes a facility for queuing and managing these jobs. It can even render jobs submitted from several different supported applications, provided those applications are running under the same operating system.

Backburner is supported on Windows, OS X, and Linux, but all render nodes must have the same operating system as the submitting workstations; mixed environments are not supported. Backburner is powerful, fairly easy to set up and expandable.

Mental Ray Satellite – Another Autodesk technology that allows distributed rendering. Mental Ray Satellite is designed to allow several machines to lend their CPU power to a designated workstation. Renders are started as if processing locally, and networked workstations help out with producing the final image(s) – this is then displayed and saved on the creating workstation. Mental Ray Satellite works best when there is only a single workstation creating content on each set of render nodes. It is compatible with any Autodesk software, making use of Mental Ray, and will run on Windows, OS X or Linux. Different packages ship with differing numbers of Mental Ray Satellite licenses, ranging from three to eight machines. This number can be extended by purchasing standalone Mental Ray Licenses.

Next week, I will look at third party management software and make some predictions about the future of network rendering.

For more information about render farms or any of the products mentioned above, give me a call on 03332 409 309 or email sales@jigsaw24.com. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter (@Jigsaw24video).