Dan Hume's Blog

3D Title
March 19, 2012, 2:38 pm
Filed under: 3D, After Effects, Cinema 4D, Extended Major Project

After trying out the tutorial by greyscale gorilla, which consisted of creating 3D text and compositing it into a short scene.


Following on from my test of creating the Vimeo logo in 3d then compositing it into a live scene, I really wanted to use this technique in the opening of my documentary. I chose a simple font so that it would be clear to read in 3D. Haraba is my chosen font for the title.

First off I went into Cinema 4D and created the basic outline of my text under the menu, Mograph and then selecting Mograph text. I was able to type what I wanted and select my font type all within Mograph text. The first two screenshots show how the text looked in the 3D environment of the C4D and a rendered view.


I then started adjusting the colour of the text, but since then, I’ve changed it to a creamy white colour instead. To make the text look a bit more dynamic I applied a bevel around the edge of the tex.


I was eager to stat preparing the text for compositing. The next step was for me to select my chosen clip. I opened up After Effects and created a new composition and dragged my chosen clip onto it. I then exported one frame from my clip as a PSD file. This would act as guideline for posting the text in the scene and also lighting the text.

I used the grid and created a 3D camera to help make sure my perspective was right for positioning the 3D object in the environment. This is quite a crucial process as it needs to be as perfect as possible for the object to look really believable with the scene. I wanted to position the text on the ground of the street, so I had to make sure it was firmly sitting onto of the grid for it to work.


Global illumination was the next step for preparing the 3d object for compositing. Global Illumination is a relatively new feature to cinema 4d in which you are now able to light a scene using the pixel data from a still frame image (All the light from an image is projected onto the 3D object).

I created a sky object and added the background image to sky object, which then maps the entire image around the 3D object. I went to select global illumination, and selected Sky Sampler. This then tells cinema 4d to take all the pixel data from the image and use it to light the object. This is not 100% perfect lighting, however for what I’m trying to create, it does the job well. Once that’s was done, I then had to hide the sky object, without turning it off. To do this I went to compositing tags and then deselected the scene by camera option, which then takes you back to the normal view.


Once I hit render again, it clearly started looking more like it was in the scene. However, it still looked a bit dark and not really reflecting the light in scene as good as it should be. To fix this, I went back to the global illumination settings and played around with the gamma and light intensity. I increased the gamma slightly to about 1.8 and the light intensity to about 160% to help brighten the object up to make it correspond well with the light in the scene.

The next thing I did was I added another render effect called Ambient Occlusion. This basically fills in all the missing details such as minor shadows on the actual 3D object. If you can compare both screenshots, you’ll see in the second rendered shot there are some darker areas around the letter ‘a’ for example. The letter ‘a’ has an arch over it so naturally that small area would be darker as the light is being slightly blocked from that surface. In real life where corners meet and when objects are close together, they cast shadows and thats what Ambient Occlusion is designed to achieve.


Now, I really want to have the text sitting on the ground surface of the street. The only thing missing is a shadow on the bottom of the text. Without this shadow, the object doesn’t really fit in the scene and it looks like it’s floating in mid-air.


As my footage was shot handheld, the title needed to be stabilised within the video to look effective. To do this I had to use After Effects as it has a built motion track feature which tracks each frame of the cameras movement. Cinema 4D doesn’t have this feature. I thought I would have been able to render out the 3D title with the shadow from the scene, but unfortunately this didn’t work out and I had to re-create it as best I could in After Effects.


I used after effects to track the movement of the clip so that the 3D text can become fixed into the scene. The first thing I did was adjust some of the lighting using the curves tool, as it wasn’t 100% perfect after exporting out of Cinema 4D. Once I was happy with how it looked in terms of being realistic in the scene, I was then ready to track the footage using track motion.

The track motion in After Effects is probably the most basic compared to other softwares out there, so it does require a few goes until you can get a stable track. For me it took about 4 goes because I needed to find suitable distinct objects within the shot to track.

Once the track was finished, I then parented it null object to the 3D text so it would now look like it’s been fixated into the shot. However, with the lack of a shadow, it still doesn’t look like it’s been composited properly. The way I approached this was to duplicate the 3D text.


Then I added a motion blur to the duplicated layer and changed the colour of it to black. It was then a case of squashing the blurred image and positioning right underneath the original 3D text layer.


It’s not as effective as creating a plane and using Ambient Occlusion in Cinema 4D, but it creates the same effect nonetheless. I made a quick video render to show the completed version all tracked and composited.


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