In the ongoing debate about After Effects and Cineware I think I had this one moment of perfect clarity in a thread on mograph.net and finally could put my own confusion into words: In its current state it doesn’t help you to make better 3D, it’s just another method of compositing 2D render outputs with rather limited ways of interacting with the actual 3D data. To me, that’s what it all comes down to. And here we are getting near a point: Aside from the performance issues, After Effects and Cinema 4D need to talk to each other a lot more.
Wouldn’t it be cool to e.g. tweak a C4D scene light based on having all the controls in After Effects, even if just as inert/ dummy property streams that don’t do anything with a light in your comp? It’s those little things and I don’t even need to mention the grander stuff like using comps directly as animated textures or editing keyframes in both programs. I think that’s what the thing needs to aspire to, not being a “free” logo rendering plug-in for people who don’t want to learn/ use/ buy a full 3D program. Those can and should get Element 3D, which is much more suited for this kind of thing and much easier to grasp, anyway. Lucky for you/ them there’s even the annual summer sale at Video CoPilot now.
While you’re on a shopping spree, you might also give Mathias‘ Cineware Proxy a look. Why am I telling you this? No, not exactly because I’m in love with how it tries to streamline the Cineware workflow with pre-rendered files, but the cooler part about it is that if you follow its naming convention, you can side-use it as some sort of render pass manager on a broader level. I’ll have to shoot him a mail so he can add support for Element 3D as well (and build standard Cinema 4D comps from offline renders), but there’s some potential here. He just needs to take down the price a notch to actually sell some licenses. I for one might send him a package full of chocolate one of these days… He always looks so skinny in his videos. ;-)
Since we have already prominently mentioned render passes, one of the classical uses is to create unique looks or circumvent limitations in a renderer such as plug-ins using OpenGL. As I have been teasing a while ago, I have been dabbling with some materials/ project presets for FreeForm Pro and Shapeshifter and since the new version will go live rather soon and is a free, update, after all, I thought I share a little picture to whet your appetite. It uses the new Fresnel shading and the refined reflections to good effect to fake subsurface scattering. The project (along with several others) will be available via the Mettle website when it’s time and will be utterly and totally awesomely free as well ;-). In the meantime you can watch a music video there, which isn’t half as bad (the music, I’m not so sure about the lens flares *lol*).