Best Drones for Filmmaking



In this new era of filmmaking, getting complex shots has become much easier thanks to technological advances made by vendors across the world. It’s more affordable to get a rising shot thanks to jibs and cranes that are accessible to even the most low budget filmmakers. Getting stabilized shots are easier now thanks to amount of rigs available. Aerial shots have now become cheaper due to the influx of drones available on the market. I want to highlight some drones you may want to consider adding to your filmmaking kit so that you can increase your production value.

DJI Phantom 3 Advanced/Professional $1,3000


This aerial drone is a new release from DJI and can capture great high quality footage from great distances. What makes this drone so popular is the following:

  • 3 Axis Gimbal camera which shoots HD (for the Advanced model) or 4K (for the Professional model)
  • Captures photographs at 12 megapixels
  • Live HD camera view via smartphone or tablet attached to the remote controller through the DJI app
  • Vision positioning through visual and ultrasonic sensors
  • Intelligent Battery with battery level indicator
  • Worry-free AutoPilot

As an owner of the DJI Phantom 3 Pro, I can attest to the incredible media captured with this camera. Within three days of learning to fly this drone, I was capturing great aerial shots that I would have had to pay a helicopter pilot to capture. With a $1,300 price tag, it is a steal for what you get from this drone. I would personally recommend this model for any prosumer or high end shooter who needs to capture aerial shots of client locations.


DJI Inspire 1 $3,399



The DJI Inspire 1 is the more advanced and expensive model of the Phantom models offered. This drone is designed with strong carbon fiber arms and gives the user a full 360 unrestricted view when in flight. The Inspire features:

  • 3 axis gimbal 4K camera which shoots up to 30 fps, or 1080p up to 60 fps and takes photos at 12 MP
  • Optional dual remote control function
  • Powerful propulsion system
  • HD wireless video transmission
  • Vision Position system
  • Intelligent Power Management system

If I had the expenses, I would have considered investing in this. I would definitely say that this model is meant for high end, big budget filmmakers that have the funds to afford it.

3DR Solo Quadcopter $999.95



The 3DR Solo is an all-in-one personal drone with a great ease of use and powerful new features. Within these powerful features are the following:

  • Computer assisted cinematography through the Solo app
  • Attach a GoPro to gimbal harness and stream HD video from your GoPro to your iOS or Android mobile device, at ranges of up to half a mile.
  • Easy to use aerial photography controller
  • Powerful smart battery which displays remaining time
  • Up to 20 minutes of flight time with GoPro attached

I haven’t had the opportunity to try this drone, but based on the preview video above and the feature list, it has a lot to offer. With the ability to mount a GoPro, you know what type of quality you are getting. With a price tag of $1,000, you are getting an advanced video production tool that will give see a greater return.

Overall, these three drone models are great if you want to add aerial videography to your business and skill set. I’ve only began my journey into aerial photography, but already I feel that it has added much value to my current projects. I look forward to seeing what I can do next.

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Valentine’s Day Theme Tutorials


With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be nice to share a few free tutorials for those of you involved in post production. These free items service a variety of programs such as After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Cinema 4D, and more. Feel free to scoop these up before Valentine’s Day so you can make a special video for that special someone.

Creating Flying Hearts with Boris FX

In this Valentine’s themed tutorial, Imagineer Systems Product Specialist, Mary Poplin, shows you some quick ways to get particle effects into your workflow with Boris Continuum Complete. If you are a fan of using particle effects, then I strongly recommend using plugins from the Continuum Complete particle collection. I can honestly say that they are on par with Red Giant’s offerings of Trapcode Particular and Form. On top of that, this tutorial shows you how to take a vector image created in Illustrator, and extrude it in 3D space. With some post effects like vignettes and color grading, you are able to achieve quite an animation. What I found very interesting about this tutorial is that it looked complicated in design but easy to follow. Feel free to download a trial of Continuum Complete and create this animation for your V-Day sweetheart.

Create a Valentine’s Day Themed Animation in Cinema 4D

In this tutorial from AE Tuts, motion graphics artist Stefan Surmabojov shows us how to create custom Valentine’s theme animation using Cinema 4D and After Effects. Starting first in Cinema 4D, we create the heart shape and ending text. Using Cinema 4D’s camera tools and effectors, we are able to produce the emitting hearts and animation in 3D. Before we send it to After Effects, we can touch it up in Greyscale Gorilla’s HDRI Studio Pack to give it a photorealistic look. From there, we refine the look of animation in After Effects using Optical Flares and Trapcode Shine. This particular tutorial can seem daunting if you are not used to Cinema 4D, but it can help leverage your learning curve by showing you how to create something complex in an efficient manner. If after following the tutorial you are not getting the results you want, you can download the files from it and modify it to taste.

Valentine’s Day Particle Animation

In this tutorial by motion graphics artist Abdul Kabir, he shows us how to make another Valentine’s Day animation utilizing Photoshop and After Effects. He starts in Photoshop by creating miscellaneous shapes he will need down the line. With those shapes, he turns them into particles which form a heart with the help of Particular. With a camera added along with a null object, he is able to finesse the animation further. From there, he adds a gradient background and a lens flare reveal to tie everything together. What I liked about this tutorial is the collaborative nature of Photoshop and After Effects. I’ve found in some situations that it may be easier to create assets in Photoshop than in After Effects. Using them together is a powerful combination which I encourage users to do as much as possible.

These are just a small collection of tutorials you can use to create a gift for that special someone in your life. I’ve found that people really appreciate the effort you put in when you use a video over a physical item. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

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3D in AE




After Effects has been the industry leading compositor, visual effects, and motion graphics application since its early days back in 1993. Back then, it was known as CoSA. This application has been used on small and large scale projects by post professionals across the world. Aside from that, After Effects by far has one of the largest communities than any other post production application on the market. One of the unique things about After Effects is that it can “interact” with 3D elements, but it is still a 2.5D application. In the last 21 years, this application can now handle the 3D pipeline thanks to third party developers and companies like Maxon. I want to highlight some of the third party plugins available to help you get 3D objects and/or text into After Effects.



Founded by Zax Dow, Zaxwerks provides a plethora of 3D plugins for AE that can handle just about any 3D pipeline. Used by news broadcast and high end production companies, Zaxwerks’ two biggest plugins are ProAnimator and 3D Invigorator. ProAnimator provides the user with real-time 3D rendering, raytracing capabilities, image based lighting, real time ambient occlusion, and much more. 3D Invigorator has 3D text, modeling creation/import, and animation capabilities. Some of the difference between Invigorator and ProAnimator is that 3D Invigorator uses the AE keyframe system, as well as AE camera, whereas ProAnimator has its own integrated 3D animation system. It comes as a plugin for After Effects as well as a standalone application. It’s currently in its 8th version with more features being added per update. It currently retails for $499. In my opinion, I believe these are great plugins for creating incredible 3D animations as seen in their gallery. However, with limited training and a very small community embracing it, it doesn’t get as much praise as it should. Hopefully, that should change in the coming months.

Element 3D


The 3D object plugin from VFX and AE guru Andrew Kramer, Element 3D was a plugin so revolutionary that it changed how artists handled the 3D pipeline. This plugin can not only import 3D models from popular 3D applications, but can also do much more. You can take a model of a a few buildings and duplicate it to create a city with little effort. This plugin also simplifies the animation process using its own render engine, in addition to taking advantage of After Effects motion blur and camera abilities. This plugin possesses the ability to easily create 3D text using text layers and masks for the basis. What makes this plugin so popular for 3D work, is the fact that it was used on creating the credits for Star Trek Into the Darkness. They also provide extensive training, taking you into the depths of the plugin. On top of that, it costs $149 with model packs ranging from $99-$200. I’ve used this plugin to create my new intro, and its updates make it a must have plugin for any artist. It’s currently in its 1.6 version, but will see a V2 update shortly.



Cineware is the new plugin for After Effects CC, and allows users to import Cinema 4D scenes into After Effects. This plugin helps improve the 3D workflow, when, normally, users would have to export high resolution scenes from Cinema 4D to do further compositing inside After Effects. Dropping Cinema 4D scenes into After Effects allows users to interact with the scene as well as integrate into an AE composition. This plugin is available for Adobe Creative Cloud users, but the fact that something like this exist now only opens the door for new users of both programs. As great as the concept of this plugin is, it’s far from perfect. If you intend to use Cineware, you should have a beefy laptop or desktop, as well as a high end graphics card for those intense C4D scenes. There are plugins available for helping deal with Cinema 4D scenes, such as Cineware Proxy, which helps to speed up the workflow. I believe that the Adobe AE and Maxon teams give a bright light into After Effects’s future. I can only see things getting better with time.

Overall, these are some of the options for dealing with true 3D in After Effects. There are other options out there, but these three are currently the most popular of the bunch. Obviously, you can fake 3D in After Effects in a variety of ways, but with each new update, After Effects becomes stronger and more efficient for dealing with compositing, motion graphics, and 3D.

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Sports Motion Graphics Companies


I’m always enamored with the work that is done by those who create sports motion graphics. The time and effort it takes to bring these animations to life is incredible. From having to rotoscope athletes from games, build 3D environments with a variety of software, and tie it together to the aesthetic of a particular piece is nothing short of extraordinary. I want to share a few motion graphics companies I’ve come across who create fantastic motion graphics. Scattered across the world, the artists in these companies are responsible for creating memorable work that will be talked about for years.




Based in Los Angeles and founded in 2001, Troika is a brand consultancy and creative agency which specializes in entertainment and sports media for clients around the world. Their clients include HBO, A&E, the CW, EA Sports, the LA Lakers, and much more. They are responsible for a lot of the branding elements you may have seen on television, movie theaters, and live events. When Troika works with a brand (especially a sports brand), they add a creative and invigorating feel that leaves many in awe. The talent that this agency possesses is second to none. Take a look at the work they’ve done for Time Warner Cable and NBC Sports below.

Big Studios


Big Studios Inc. is a Canadian graphics/visual effects agency responsible for creating large scale network graphics for clients that include the NFL, MLB, CBS, and ESPN. With a talented team of over 15 people, this agency is responsible for the motion graphics you’ve seen on previous Super Bowls, as well as the graphics for Monday Night Football. You can admire their work below. I guarantee that it will leave you with envy.


Cake Studios


Based in Burbank, CA, Cake Studios s a full service creative house offering extensive experience in branding, design, animation, and management of the creative process for clients around the world. Their clients include Fox Sports, the Denver Broncos, Golf Central, and CBS. From show intros, bumpers, and overlays, Cake Studios is on top of their game with stunning motion graphics. Aside from the U.S. clients they deal with, Cake Studios has also produced content for clients across the world. Take a look at their amazing work here.




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PhotoElectric is one of the newer post production houses that specializes in sports motion graphics. Founded in 2011 and based in South Carolina, they have done work for Fox Sports, ESPN, the Carolina Panthers, and the NHL. Comprised of a team of four talented individuals, along with freelancers, PhotoElectric have been able to create show packages, show intros, commercial spots, and more. Although they’ve only been around for three years, the combined amount of experience in this group is about 30 years. Check out their exciting work below.


I strongly recommend you check out each of these companies out on their websites, as well as Vimeo. You can also look at other companies through Graphics Mafia, which showcases the work of sports motion graphics artists. It’s companies like these that I turn to get inspired on my work, and I’m sure you will find yourself in awe, as well as inspired, once you see what they each offer.

Sound Effects

Adding Images to 3D Objects in Cinema 4D


When creating 3D objects, there will come a point where you will need to add a logo or design to one of your objects. For example, you may need to add a label to a bottle. Today, I am going to show you how it can be done in three simple steps:

  • Setting up the Material
  • Changing Projection Method
  • Adjust Orientation

Before we begin, we need to set up the scene. For me, I quickly created a wine bottle using the methods I taught in a previous lesson on using the lathe NURBS. Cinema 4D already comes pre-loaded with a series of textures, including glass for the bottle, liquid for the wine, plastic for the bottle cap, and ground materials for the floor. For the lighting, I used a simple three-point lighting set up (also taught in a previous lesson) to give shadow and highlights to my bottle object. The only thing missing is a label on my bottle.

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There are a few methods you can use in adding the material needed to your 3D object. For instance, a client might provide you with the necessary materials. Another method would be simply be obtaining from the internet, say from a quick Google image search. For this lesson, I created my own label personalized for using Photoshop CC. If you do create your own label in Photoshop, be sure to save the image as a PNG without interlacing. This is to make sure only the label is saved with no background color.

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In Cinema 4D, you will first want to create a new material by going to the MATERIALS WINDOW >> FILE >> NEW MATERIAL. From there, you will want to go to that new material’s ATTRIBUTE WINDOW >> BASIC TAB. In the Basic tab, we want to make sure ALPHA is checked in order for our image to displace correctly without interlacing on our bottle object.

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From there, navigate over to the COLOR TAB and choose the 3 DOTS next to the TEXTURE option which will allow you to navigate and select your image file.

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Now, navigate over to the ALPHA TAB and again choose the THREE DOTS next to the TEXTURE OPTION. Select the same exact image file.

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Now your material is ready to be added to your bottle object. CLICK AND DRAG the material from the MATERIALS WINDOW to your OBJECTS WINDOW and drop the material onto your bottle object.

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After applying the material to your bottle object, you will notice that the label is not exactly appearing the way you had hoped. The reason for this is because, by default, Cinema 4D doesn’t understand how the label needs to be placed on your object. The projection method needs to be adjusted in order to achieve the desired effect. To do this, highlight the MATERIAL TAG next to your BOTTLE OBJECT in the OBJECT WINDOW. Then, navigate over to the TAG TAB in the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW.

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Because our wine bottle is a cylinder, we want to change the PROJECTION from UVW MAPPING to CYLINDRICAL.

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By doing so, you now see the label is fitted more properly on the bottle. However, now it seems to be repeated multiple times. To fix this, go to the TAG TAB in the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW and uncheck the TILE option. This is the option that is causing the image file to repeat, or tile, over your object multiple times.

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We are nearly finished. All that is left is to orientate the label to the exact location on the bottle where we desire. To do this, we need to select our bottle object from the OBJECTS WINDOW and then select the TEXTURE TOOL from the left hand TOOL BAR.

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The label on our bottle object will now have the AXIS ARROWS, allowing us to CLICK AND DRAG the MATERIAL to our desired location.

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The label still may appear a bit stretched or distorted, but no worries. To wrap it up, all you need to do is adjust the LENGTH U and LENGTH V options under the TAG TAB in the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW for your image material.

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How to Use Lathe NURBS in Cinema 4D


Getting back to the basics. For those not in the know, a lathe is “a machine for shaping wood, metal, or other material by means of a rotating drive that turns the piece being worked on.” For example, a wooden baseball bat is formed on a lathe. A wooden block is spun and the tool cuts away at the block, rounding it out, and over time, forming a perfect baseball bat. In Cinema 4D, using a lathe NURBS will create a perfectly rounded object from a simple outline. In this lesson, I will show you how to create a goblet using the lathe NURBS in three simple steps:

  • Getting the Right Viewing Angle
  • Drawing with a B-spline
  • Adding the Lathe NURBS


I have taught using Cinema 4D in the past, but this time we will be using a few different viewing angles in order to reach our goal. By default, Cinema 4D’s viewing angle is set to PERSPECTIVE, and you can see this clearly written in the upper left corner of the CANVAS WINDOW.

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What we need is the RIGHT VIEWING ANGLE in order for us to be able to draw a 2D simple form that we can later round out using the lathe NURBS. On a PC, you simply need to hit the F3 key in order to get this perspective. For Macs, there is an extra step because the F keys are set up to manage alternate functions on the computer. If you are using the Mac, go to SYSTEM PREFERENCES >> KEYBOARD >> check the box for USE ALL F1 F2 ETC. KEYS AS STANDARD FUNCTION KEYS.

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Once completed, you will be able to use your F keys to change the viewing angle in Cinema 4D as follows:

F1 = Perspective

F2 = Top

F3 = Right

F4 = Front

F5 = 4 way split screen viewer


Now we need to create our simple form. First hit F3 to go into the RIGHT VIEWING ANGLE, and select the B-SPLINE tool from the SPLINE DROP DOWN MENU.

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The simple form we need to create needs to be the profile of our goblet form in the positive XY quadrant. The reason for this is because when we apply the lathe NURBS to this 2D simple form, it will take this design and round it in 3D space.


The B-SPLINE tool is used by clicking three times to create a curve. Click once to create the origin point, click a second for the middle of the curve (a.k.a. the arc), and the third click will be the ending point of the curve.

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As you proceed, the ending point of the first curve becomes your new origin point. Continue through using the B-Spline tool to create the thin walled profile goblet’s cup, stem, and foot. When you finish at the bottom, simply reconnect to your first origin point to finish your simple 2D form.

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We can now hit F1 and go back into our PERSPECTIVE VIEW. To add a lathe NURBS, go to the HyperNURBS drop down menu and select LATHE NURBS.

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In your OBJECT WINDOW, you will need to CLICK AND DRAG your B-SPLINE OBJECT on top of your LATHE NURBS. When you do, you will see your simple object has now been lathed and is now a rounded 3D object.

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After review, I found that I still wanted to go back into my simple form and change some of the points to give the cup a higher wall. To edit my simple form, I first need to CLICK AND DRAG my B-SPLINE OBJECT out of my LATHE NURBS with the OBJECT WINDOW, reverting my 3D object back into 2D.

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Back in the RIGHT VIEW (hit F3) you can select the anchor point you wish to manipulate, and DRAG it to the proper destination.

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After finishing your simple form, be sure to add the B-SPLINE back into your LATHE NURBS. You can now view a QUICK RENDER by hitting CMD+R.

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To finish, you can add some great GLASS MATERIALS in the preset materials to your LATHE NURBS to finish your 3D goblet.

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Standard and Multi-Pass Rendering in Cinema 4D


Once you have created the 3D model, lit it just right, created the background, and animated a camera in the scene, it is now time to render out our creation. For some, rendering is the end of their journey and the rendered file will become the final video of their project. Others render from Cinema 4D, which is just another step in the project. Commonly, After Effects CC is a compositing program that works well with C4D files for further developing a creation. Regardless of which avenue you may be taking, rendering is an inevitable necessity of learning the software, and I am here to shed some light on the process.

I will show how to render out your C4D projects in two different methods:

  • Standard Render – method used if the project is finished and this is the last step.
  • Multi-Pass Render – method used if you intend to import your work into another program for further revision.


The standard render is the method to be used when your project is finished and you are looking to create a final Quicktime video of your image sequence. To create the standard render, you will first need to select the WHITE CLAPBOARD furthest to the right on the toolbar.

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You will then be presented with a window that looks like this.

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Keep the first option, GENERAL, at its default option, FULL RENDER.

In OUTPUT, choose the preset that best fits your needs. For me, I create a lot of content for film and video and render at HDV 1080 29.97. Depending on your needs, these numbers may change. Towards the bottom, you will want to input the frame range your render will be taking place (remember that the sequence starts with 0, not 1).

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In SAVE, you can now designate where you want the file to save by selecting the ‘…’ option to the far right of ‘File.’ Using the FORMAT drop down menu, you can select the file type of your choice. For example, if you are looking to create a video, you would want to select QUICKTIME VIDEO. On the other hand, you may want to create an image sequence, in which case, you would choose JPG or TIFF, depending on your preference.

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At this point, you can close the render settings window and then select the MIDDLE WHITE CLAPBOARD on the ORANGE BOX. This will initiate the render sequence. The program will then go frame-by-frame, mapping out the sequence until it creates the final output.

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A Multi-Pass Render is a multi-layer file that stores all of the data so it can be imported into another program and manipulated further. For example, say I wanted to place my text and shadow in the middle of the road somewhere and eliminate the background. If all the data is from a multi-pass render, I would be able to control those individual characteristics of the file, eliminate the background, and composite my text appropriately. If I felt that the shadow was not dark enough, but everything else looked fine, I can just go into the multi-pass render file and adjust the shadow’s contrast… instead of going back into the master file and rendering out a whole new sequence.

A Multi-Pass Render utilizes all the same key points mentioned above in the STANDARD RENDER with a few added adjustments thrown into the mix. After setting your OUTPUT and SAVE settings, go towards the bottom of the SAVE menu and open COMPOSITING PROJECT FILE.

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Turn on SAVE, RELATIVE, and INCLUDE 3D DATA. Select the compositing program of your choice (I chose After Effects).

Go to MULTI-PASS and check the box to the left in order to make the multi-pass options available.

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Now, select the MULTI-PASS button next to EFFECT at the bottom of the sidebar. It will open a drop down menu with numerous selections. Select the first one on the list, ADD IMAGE LAYERS.

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By doing so, all the layer options will appear in the side bar. In most cases you will not be using the vast majority of them. It’s important to know what your image is composed of, which will help decide what options are necessary. For example, I know I used SHADOW in my project, so I want to keep SHADOW checked. The same applies for AMBIENT, DIFFUSE, and SPECULAR. After I go through and select/deselect the options that are necessary/unnecessary, I am now able to close the render settings window and render out my final sequence.


Animating a Camera in Cinema 4D



Once you have your 3D object designed, properly lit, and set in with the background of your choice, it’s time to breath some life in the scene and animate a camera rotating around your object. Creating a camera and having it move throughout your scene is a basic necessity for any beginning 3D modeler and animator. I am going to show you how to animate a camera in 3D space in three simple steps:

  • Create the Camera
  • Orientate the Camera
  • Keyframe the Animation

Create the Camera

To create a camera object, go to your LIGHT OBJECTS drop down menu and select CAMERA.

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Pretty simply, right? But how do you know if you are controlling the camera while moving around the object or not? It’s simple. Do you notice that symbol next to your CAMERA OBJECT in the OBJECT WINDOW that looks like a BLACK SQUARE OUTLINE WITH A DOT IN THE MIDDLE?

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When this symbol is black, it means you are not actively controlling the camera. If you select this symbol, it will turn from black to white. At that point, your perspective in the CANVAS WINDOW will jump to the camera’s, and you will be controlling the camera object until that symbol is deselected.

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Orientate the Camera

The three motions that move your camera object around are:

Pan – Hold down #1 on the keyboard, click, and move the mouse. This is to move left, right, up, and down around your object.

Dolly – Hold down #2 on the keyboard, click, and move the mouse. This is to move into and away from your object.

Orbit – Hold down #3 on the keyboard, click, and move the mouse. This is to pivot and rotate around your object.

Make sure that your camera object is selected and active, and at this point begin to move and orientate your camera into your starting position.

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For this example, I want the starting position to be on the left side of my object, and, over the course of a few seconds, rotate around my object and end on the right side.

Keyframe the Animation

With your camera object in the starting position, we need to set a KEYFRAME in order for the program to remember the camera’s position. To set a KEYFRAME, make sure your CAMERA OBJECT is selected. From here, navigate just below the CANVAS WINDOW and select the RED CIRCLE WITH THE BLACK SKELETON KEY button.

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If you select the COORD TAB under the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW, you will also notice each coordinate is marked with a red dot. This signifies that every camera aspect on the timeline is locked into place and recorded.

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Next, you will want to move the PIN down the TIMELINE. Note that each notch on the timeline represents one frame, and depending on how you’ve set up your composition, there are roughly 24 frames in a second.

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At this point, you can now reorientate the camera to your ending position.

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Remember to have your CAMERA OBJECT in the OBJECTS WINDOW selected before setting your final KEYFRAME. If you click and drag the PIN along the TIMELINE, you will see your camera animating between the two keyframes you just successfully created.

Click here to see it in action.


Creating a Background in Cinema 4D



In recent tutorials, we explored how to make 3D text and how to properly light the scene with three-point lighting. Now it’s time to add a background, and create a basic world for our 3D object to live in. I am going to show you how to do it in three simple steps:

  • Add the Plane and Background Objects
  • Create the Color Material
  • Composite the Final Image

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Add the Plane and Background Objects

The two objects needed to create your world is a plane (think of this as your floor) and your background object (think of this as a back wall). To create the plane, go to your cube object drop down menu and choose PLANE.

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By default, the plane will not be large enough, so go to your OBJECTS tab in your ATTRIBUTES window and increase the HEIGHT and WIDTH as needed.

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For your background object, go to the LIGHT OBJECTS drop down menu and choose BACKGROUND.

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Create the Color Material

Now, we need to add a basic color to both of the objects. To create a material, go to the MATERIAL WINDOW and choose FILE>>NEW MATERIAL. At this point, double click on the new material, and under the COLOR tab go to TEXTURE>>GRADIENT>> and choose CIRCULAR.

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You will notice a color slider that adjusts the tone of the gradient. Set the swatch box to the left to pure white, and the swatch box to the right to a light gray.

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You can now CLICK & DRAG your material to both your PLANE and BACKGROUND.

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Composite the Final Image

Attaching the color material to the objects will not create the desired effect you are looking for. In order to finish the world your object is living in, you must first composite the color over the objects correctly so the information is interrupted in the proper manner for the final image. First select the PLANE OBJECT in the OBJECT WINDOW, and then select TAGS>>CINEMA 4D TAGS>>COMPOSITE.

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Next, select your COMPOSITE TAG, go down to your ATTRIBUTES WINDOW, and check the box for COMPOSITE BACKGROUND (which should be the only option not checked yet).

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From here, select your COLOR MATERIAL next to your BACKGROUND object in your OBJECT WINDOW. Go down to the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW and change the PROJECTION type from UV MAPPING to FRONTAL.

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At this point you can see the world you created by TEST RENDERING the scene by hitting COMMAND+R.

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You will notice that there are no hard edges. Instead, you see an infinite white background for your object to live in.


Additionally, your object is not showing any signs of a shadow. This is to save time on render speeds and keep the program running as smoothly as possible by default. To turn on the shadows, all you need to do is select your LIGHT OBJECTS from the OBJECTS WINDOW (first created in our 3 point lighting tutorial), and under the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW, change the SHADOW type from NONE to SHADOW MAPS (SOFT).

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Creating 3 Point Lighting in Cinema 4D



Lighting a scene is an essential and fundamental skill. Whether it’s on set with your actors or in post production with a 3D model, it’s something that every filmmaker and editor must know. Lighting can make or break your scene. With good lighting, you can create layers of depth, focus, and intensity. Depending on where your intent lies, it can make your subject really pop, or fall into the shadows. Three-point lighting is the most basic of the lighting techniques. It sets the foundation for almost every lighting scheme thereafter.

First, let’s review three-point lighting. Then we’ll apply the rule in post production using Cinema 4D to properly light a 3D model. Three-point lighting, obviously, deals with three lights. These three lights are: (1) Key Light (2) Fill Light and (3) Back Light.

3 way lighting

  1. Key Light: This light is off to the right of your subject (stage right), and on an angle of roughly 45 degrees. This light creates highlights on one side of your subject and leaves dark shadows on the other side that need to be ‘Filled’ in.
  2. Fill Light: This light is off to the left of your subject (stage left), angled 45 degrees and further back than your key light. By changing the distance of this light, it will fluctuate how much of the dark shadows are filled in.
  3. Back Light: This light is above and angled behind your subject. It gives the head and shoulders a glow (also known as a ‘rim light’ or ‘halo’) and pushes your subject out from the background.

Now that we have the foundation of three-point lighting, let’s try implementing it by properly lighting some basic 3D text in Cinema 4D. Before we begin, you will want to have a subject you want to light. If you want to create some basic 3D text and are unaware how, check out this tutorial. While we are working in Cinema 4D, we will also need to move around our object confidently. In Cinema 4D, it is a combination of using the mouse and keyboard to move, rotate, and track in and out of your object. A quick review: remember that (1) on your keyboard is panning, (2) is to track in and out of your object, and (3) is to rotate, or orbit, around your subject. With that in mind, let’s get started.


The first light you always want to create is the Key Light. It creates the base that you work from. First, you are going to want to locate the LIGHT OBJECT drop down across the top tool bar.

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Click and hold. When you get the drop down selections choose SPOT LIGHT.

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Now, using your mouse, we need to move our Key Light into position. To do that, we need to manipulate the three color arrows representing the XYZ planes: Green represents Y (which is the vertical axis), Red represents X (which is the horizontal axis), and Blue represents Z (which is the axis following depth). First, grab onto the Z arrow and move our light backwards away from our subject text. From there, grab the X arrow and move our light to the right about 45 degrees or so.

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To turn our light, hit ‘R’ on the keyboard, or locate the ROTATE TOOL icon from the tool bar. Now we are presented with three bands of color. These three bands work the same way as our arrows, except they are used for rotation. We want to rotate our light toward our subject, so grab onto the X band and rotate it towards the left. At first, you will notice it does not light up our entire subject. If you so choose, you can also grab onto the small orange dots around the cone of light and click and enlarge the emission range from our light object.

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To view a test render, simply hit COMMAND+R.

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Now create a second spotlight and follow the same process as the Key Light. As explained before, the fill light will be placed on the left hand side of the subject at roughly a 45-degree angle, pushed back further away from the subject.

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Moving a light on set determines the intensity of a fill on your subject. Sometimes, you want your subject to be heavily contrasted, so the fill light would be less intense and much further away. Other times, you want your subject to be more evenly lit, in which case you would move your light closer. In Cinema 4D it’s not necessary to move the light further or closer as the laws of physics do not necessarily apply in post production. If you select the Fill light object from your OBJECTS PANEL (underneath the GENERAL tab in the ATTRIBUTES WINDOW) you will see a level called INTENSITY.

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Think of intensity the same way as moving the light closer or further away from your subject. Feel free to increase or decrease the intensity until you have a nice fill on your subject.


Now to create our subjects halo. Just as before, you will now be creating a third spot light, except this time you will be positioning it behind our subject and angled back down on them. When lighting a person with a back light, you generally want the head and shoulders to show the rim light. In order to do so, the light cannot be on the same plane. It has to be slightly elevated above the subject and angled downward. Use the Y Axis to raise up the light, and the Y Band to rotate it downward onto the subject.

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Your three-point lighting is now complete! Test it out by looking at various angles and perspectives of your subject and do a quick test render by hitting COMMAND+R to see how it looks. If something appears to be off, go back and adjust the lights and do another test render until satisfied.

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