Begin by setting up your animation in Cinema 4D: hit the Edit Render Settings button and enter the dimensions and frame rate for your image sequence. In our case, we used the rate at which we wanted to output the time-lapse sequence.
Background objects can be created as simple planes, as the results will seem realistic given how far away these objects are from the camera.
Once all the geometry is ready, it’s time to create textures. Since the textures have to be animated, we will use After Effects; if you’re working with a single image you can use Photoshop to replicate the technique that we are about to explain. Note also that if part of a building is blocked from view but will be seen as the camera moves, we will need to create that area.
Create a new composition in After Effects, selecting the resolution and frame rate based on your source material or desired output (we chose 2048 x 1365 at 24fps).
Load your video or sequence. If it’s a jpg image sequence, ensure the JPEG Sequence option is selected as this will load up all of your frames and treat them as a single clip.
Every layer you create in After Effects will represent a texture for a piece of geometry in the Cinema 4D scene. In our piece, we needed to create a total of 21 layers, including a clean plate for the sky and the visible surfaces of the buildings in front. Use the following steps to make textures only for the areas you know will be visible.
Duplicate your footage. With the Clone Stamp tool (
Cmd/Ctrl + B), Alt + select part of one of the buildings as the area to be cloned, and extend the building to the ground. Try to be as precise as possible.
When you’re done, skim through the animation to make sure the duplication of the area isn’t obvious. If it is, either tone down the cloning by reducing the opacity or delete it altogether and start again.
Repeat Step 11 for each of the foreground buildings, sets of background buildings and to create the clean plate for the sky (as shown above).
Now export all the building textures to separate movies. Create some rough masks around the foreground objects since the buildings’ geometry will eliminate the overspill. For the background buildings, we’ll need more accurate cutouts as they will be projected onto flat surfaces. You will also need an alpha channel for each of these layers to use as a mask in Cinema 4D in order that the background shows through, so export these too.
Return to Cinema 4D. Open the Projection Man window (
Window > Projection Man). Drop each piece of geometry onto the camera in this window. Choose New Bitmap for each but instead of selecting the appropriate movie, select a jpg instead (any jpg will do) as there’s an annoying bug in Cinema 4D that doesn’t allow you to load a video as a texture initially. Edit the material and load up the movie file.
It’s time to create and set up the camera that will be used for animation. To make the animation process easier, it’s preferable to use the camera inside a null object. This way you can control the camera’s movement using its own coordinates, while the null object governs the camera’s orientation. This means you can create this scene using just two keyframes. Set your start and end positions and animate the camera.
Hit Render and you’re done. To have as much flexibility as possible, we then added segments of fast and slow motion in After Effects and rendered the final animation at a fixed frame rate.
We Are Pitch Black is a multidisciplinary design studio in Athens, Greece. Headed up by Dimitri Katsafouros and Sotiris Kapnitis, the team loves to work on all sorts of projects – from traditional graphic design work to motion graphics and ultra-contemporary illustration. They have a passion for all things creative, and often discuss technology, music, movies and the effects that didn’t quite come off as intended in the latest blockbuster. Contact