LEVEL UP YOUR VR ART WITH CIN­EMA 4D

VR en­thu­si­ast and pioneer Martin Ne­be­long takes you through the steps of im­port­ing and set­ting up your VR mod­els in Cin­ema 4D and Oc­tane ren­der

3D World - - CONTENTS - Level up your VR art with Cin­ema 4D

VR pioneer Martin Ne­be­long demon­strates how to pro­duce im­pres­sive vir­tual re­al­ity scenes

is­tarted us­ing Cin­ema 4D a few months af­ter get­ting my VR head­set a year ago. Up un­til then I’d been us­ing Mar­moset Tool­bag for set­ting up my VR scenes, light­ing them, ad­ding at­mos­phere and so on. Pretty quickly I felt like I reached the limit of what Mar­moset could do, as great a pro­gram as it is. I needed a pro­gram to han­dle an­i­ma­tion, scene setup, ad­vanced light­ing, at­mo­spher­ics and par­ti­cles.

My eyes quickly fell on Cin­ema 4D, a tool that I saw peo­ple praise for its ease of use and versatility. I’d been toy­ing around with Oc­tane stand­alone, and wanted to see how Oc­tane and Cin­ema 4D would work with my VR sculpts.

For those of you who don’t know Oc­tane al­ready, it’s a very fast ren­derer that gives you al­most in­stant feed­back on the changes you make to your scene. It’s Gpub­ased and works with NVIDIA GPUS only. I have a NVIDIA 1080 Ti card that per­forms very well with Oc­tane.

In this tu­to­rial I’ll take one of my VR sculpts and com­bine it with a VR ‘draw­ing’ from Quill, in Cin­ema 4D. I’ll take you through how to set up a ma­te­rial that uses the colour in­for­ma­tion from your VR scene, and talk a bit about the var­i­ous tech­niques I use to im­prove the VR out­put. None of the VR pro­grams do ren­der­ing at the mo­ment, so you’ll have to look to ex­ter­nal pro­grams for that.

The first part of the tu­to­rial will very briefly de­scribe the process of ex­port­ing and im­port­ing your mod­els. The main fo­cus of the tu­to­rial will be about the work in Cin­ema 4D and Oc­taneren­der.

01 ex­port And Pre­pare the first Model

First I im­port the char­ac­ter I’ll be us­ing in my scene. I made a knight in Ocu­lus Medium and ex­ported the model at full res­o­lu­tion as a FBX file to re­tain lay­ers. I im­port that FBX to Zbrush. In Zbrush, I make a low-res ver­sion of the model us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of Dec­i­ma­tion Mas­ter and Zremesher. I try to go as low-res as pos­si­ble, for an eas­ier time Uv’ing. I then add UVS us­ing UV Mas­ter. Re­mem­ber to break your model up into poly­groups in or­der to give UV Mas­ter an eas­ier time.

Once ev­ery­thing is Uv’ed, I ex­port a low-res ver­sion of the model, and a high-res for the tex­ture-bak­ing process.

02 tex­tures Or ver­tex Paint?

I could by­pass the process in Step 1 by paint­ing the model in Medium and then use the ver­tex colour in­for­ma­tion in Cin­ema 4D along with the high-res ver­sion of the mesh. I de­cided to do a proper tex­ture pass though, for the higher fi­delity it gives and for the added per­for­mance you get from us­ing a low-poly mesh with nor­mal maps. I use the Ver­tex Color work­flow for the back­drop for the knight, and I’ll go over that later in the tu­to­rial.

03 sub­stance Painter

I im­port the low-res knight model to Sub­stance Painter, bake maps us­ing the high-res mesh and paint the model. The im­por­tant thing here when ex­port­ing to Cin­ema 4D and Oc­taneren­der is to se­lect the PBR me­tal­lic ex­port set­tings. That will ex­port a Base Color map, Rough­ness Map, Me­tal­lic map and a Nor­mal map.

04 set up knight in C4d

I’ll set up the knight in Cin­ema 4D first, save him and then set up the en­vi­ron­ment. I do the char­ac­ter and back­drop as sep­a­rate pieces first, to get bet­ter over­all per­for­mance while test­ing out ma­te­rial prop­er­ties.

In the File menu I choose Merge and im­port the low-poly FBX file. The lay­ers of the FBX file ap­pear in the Ob­ject Man­ager win­dow in the up­per-right cor­ner of C4D. I re­name lay­ers if needed, se­lect them all, right-click and group to keep things man­age­able. I open the Oc­tane Live Viewer win­dow through the Oc­tane>live Viewer Win­dow menu item at the top of the C4D win­dow. In the Live Viewer win­dow, I click the small Oc­tane logo in the top-left cor­ner to ac­ti­vate the live view.

05 let there be light!

To bet­ter see the ma­te­ri­als, I have to add a light source to the scene. There’s sev­eral types to choose from in the Live Viewer win­dow un­der Ob­jects>lights. I choose a day­light. This adds a Oc­tane Day­light ob­ject in our Ob­ject Man­ager. I se­lect this, and re­po­si­tion the sun us­ing the ro­tate tool in the main view­port. I also add a plane ob­ject from the com­mand groups in the up­per por­tion of C4D. I re­po­si­tion the plane to match the feet of the knight.

06 set up Ma­te­ri­als

I’ll go over set­ting up only one of the ma­te­ri­als, since each will be the same process. I start with the shield and shoul­der pads ma­te­rial.

To set up a ma­te­rial from Sub­stance Painter in Oc­taneren­der, the eas­i­est way is to open Livedb un­der Ma­te­ri­als in the Live Viewer. In here you’ll find a large col­lec­tion of pre­set ma­te­ri­als and tem­plate ma­te­ri­als like the ones for Sub­stance Painter. The Sub­stance tem­plate is un­der Ma­te­ri­als> misc> sub­stance PBR. There are a few ma­te­ri­als that are named the same; pick the

one that has some tex­ture on it. Choos­ing this will give us a tem­plate with ma­te­ri­als in the right slots, which means we can just re­place those with our own. Easy!

I right-click and se­lect Down­load, and the ma­te­rial ap­pears in the Ma­te­ri­als tab un­der the main view­port. This ac­tu­ally con­sists of three ma­te­ri­als: a Mix ma­te­rial, a Di­elec­tric part and a Me­tal­lic part.

07 use the node ed­i­tor

I dou­ble-click the Mix ma­te­rial, then click the Node Ed­i­tor but­ton. I open the folder I saved my tex­tures in, and lo­cate the ones for the shoul­der pads and shield. Since I have five ma­te­rial sets, I use the search bar in the Ex­plorer win­dow to speed things up. Then it’s just a mat­ter of drag­ging the Base Color, Rough­ness, Me­tal­lic and Nor­mal maps from the Ex­plorer folder, di­rectly into the Node Ed­i­tor.

08 re­place Ma­te­ri­als

I click the Base Color map I just im­ported, and copy its path from the Prop­er­ties panel to the right in the Node Ed­i­tor. Then I se­lect the Albedo maps in the orig­i­nal Sub­stance ma­te­rial, and paste the new path there.

I do the same for the Rough­ness, Me­tal­lic and Nor­mal maps. Once that’s done, I can drag the Mix ma­te­rial from the Ma­te­rial Man­ager to the shoul­der pads. I can drag it ei­ther to the ob­ject in the main view­port, or to the ob­ject in the Ob­ject Man­ager. The node lay­out is ac­tu­ally a lot less com­pli­cated than it looks. It’s just a mat­ter of re­plac­ing some file paths ba­si­cally. I hope the process gets even sim­pler in fu­ture ver­sions of Oc­tane.

09 in­spect the re­sult

Af­ter set­ting up all of the ma­te­ri­als and ap­ply­ing them to their ob­jects, it’s time to in­spect the model. I use the Live Viewer for this and play around with the lights to see what the ma­te­ri­als look like un­der dif­fer­ent light­ing con­di­tions. Once I’m happy with the re­sult, I save the scene.

10 Add rocks

I make some rocks in Ocu­lus Medium, and take them through Zbrush for low-res/high-res and then through Sub­stance Painter for tex­tures. The work­flow is ex­actly the same as that of the knight.

11 save And im­port the back­drop

I make a new scene for the back­drop. I’ve ex­ported the Quill file as an FBX file, which re­tains the lay­ers and colours. Here’s what the back­ground looks like in Quill with flat, un­lit colours (see screen­shot).

Quill is an amaz­ing tool once you get com­fort­able with it. It’s a very quick way to work, and this back­drop took roughly two hours to do and maybe an ex­tra hour for the fairy char­ac­ter. Ev­ery­thing was made from scratch here. If you use the pro­gram a lot for na­ture scenes for ex­am­ple, you can make a li­brary of plants and el­e­ments you could then re­use to make even quicker scenes. I rec­om­mend you check out Goro Fu­jita’s Quill videos for more in-depth info on how Quill works.

I choose Merge again from the File menu, and im­port my scene.

12 Or­gan­ise Quill scene

As you can see in the scene hi­er­ar­chy, all lay­ers from Quill are re­tained, and each layer has a sym­bol next to it with nine small dots. This is a Ver­tex Color Tag and in­di­cates that the ob­ject con­tains ver­tex colour data. In the scene I’ve made I have a lot of lay­ers, and I’d have to do a unique ma­te­rial for each to use the re­spec­tive ob­ject’s ver­tex in­for­ma­tion.

Since most of the lay­ers will have the same ma­te­rial prop­er­ties, I merge them by se­lect­ing all leaves and grass in the hi­er­ar­chy, rightclick­ing and se­lect­ing Con­nect Ob­jects + Delete. This will also merge the ver­tex paint data, and I’ll only have to make one ma­te­rial for each group. I then merge all three stems, all lay­ers of the fairy (ex­cept the wings which will have a unique ma­te­rial) and so on. By do­ing this I end up with much fewer ver­tex colour ma­te­ri­als than I’d have if I made one for each Quill layer.

Now it’s time to open the Live Viewer win­dow and start it by press­ing the Oc­tane logo. With­out lights or ma­te­ri­als the scene doesn’t look like much.

13 Po­si­tion light­ing

I add a day­light through the Ob­jects >lights menu in the Live

Viewer. I re­po­si­tion the light us­ing the ro­tate tool. The Live Viewer gives me in­stant feed­back on what my ed­its look like. I’m aim­ing for a sun­rise mood in my scene, so I po­si­tion the sun low on the hori­zon to the right, just be­neath the branches of the tree with the skull.

Once I’m sat­is­fied with the po­si­tion, it’s time to add ver­tex colour to the el­e­ments of the scene.

14 Make A ver­tex Colour Ma­te­rial

In the Oc­tane Live Viewer win­dow, I se­lect Ma­te­ri­als>dif­fuse Ma­te­rial. This will add a new ma­te­rial to the Ma­te­rial tab un­der the main view­port. I dou­ble-click this ma­te­rial and open the Node Ed­i­tor. In here, there’s a ‘ma­te­rial box’ that rep­re­sents the new ma­te­rial.

In the search bar above the node win­dow, I type ‘ver­tex’ to fil­ter out ma­te­rial types I don’t need. I then drag out the Ver­tex Map box into the node win­dow. I drag a node con­nec­tion be­tween the yel­low dot in the cor­ner of the ver­tex map and the empty cir­cle next to dif­fuse.

To get the ver­tex colours from the ob­ject to show up in the ma­te­rial, drag the Ver­tex Tag next to the ob­ject in the Ob­ject Man­ager, over to the Ver­tex Map slot in the ma­te­rial ed­i­tor.

I re­name the ma­te­rial in the Ma­te­rial Man­ager to ‘fo­liage’, and drag the ma­te­rial onto the cor­re­spond­ing ob­ject in the scene hi­er­ar­chy. In the Live Viewer win­dow, I now see my scene come to life ma­te­rial by ma­te­rial. I re­peat the ver­tex colour ma­te­rial process for each el­e­ment.

15 Cre­ate An emis­sive Ma­te­rial

For the magic glow com­ing from the skull in the tree, I want an emis­sive ma­te­rial to emit a red magic ef­fect. So in the Live Viewer win­dow, I choose Ma­te­ri­als>dif­fuse Ma­te­rial. I then open the new ma­te­rial from the Ma­te­ri­als tab and click the Emis­sive cat­e­gory.

Here I se­lect Black­body Emis­sion which will make the ma­te­rial emit light. I then open the Tex­ture tab, and set Power to around 2 and Tem­per­a­ture in the warm side of the spec­trum, which is to the left on the Temp slider. While do­ing this I con­stantly check in the Live Viewer win­dow in or­der to see if the re­sult is as I ex­pect.

16 Add dis­tant Moun­tains

I felt like the scene needed some more depth, so I de­cided to add some moun­tains in the far dis­tance. In­stead of draw­ing those in Quill, I just add some quick ge­om­e­try us­ing the ba­sic ob­ject func­tion that you’ll find in the top part of the C4D in­ter­face. I choose the Land­scape func­tion, which gives me a ba­sic moun­tain that I can tweak and move into place us­ing the po­si­tion and scale tool. I du­pli­cate this ba­sic moun­tain mul­ti­ple times, un­til I get the land­scape I’m look­ing for.

In the Ob­ject Prop­er­ties for the land­scape el­e­ment, you can change the seed num­ber for each moun­tain to make them unique.

If you want the Live Viewer to use a fixed cam­era an­gle, to make sure your com­po­si­tion looks good while mov­ing el­e­ments around, go to the Live Viewer, and un­der Op­tions, uncheck Check Cam­era.

17 in­clude Clouds

To add some mood and depth to my scene, I de­cide to add some clouds. They will also help me sep­a­rate the planes of the back­ground el­e­ments. For this, I use the Ob­jects>oc­tane VDB vol­ume. VDB vol­umes are a way of stor­ing vol­u­met­ric data such as clouds or fire. I use a set of cloud VDBS called VDB Clouds Pack.

The Oc­tane VDB ob­ject ap­pears in the Ob­ject Man­ager. In its prop­er­ties, I choose a suit­ing VDB cloud in the file path. In this scene, the VDB vol­ume is very small, so I have to scale it quite a lot for it to be seen. I make sev­eral copies and scale them be­tween 300 and 1,000x in the ob­ject co­ord. set­tings.

In the Medium set­tings in the ob­ject prop­er­ties, I play around

with the den­sity of the VDB vol­ume un­til I get a re­sult I like – in this case, around 20.

18 Add the Char­ac­ter

Now that I’m happy with the over­all look and mood of the scene, I im­port my knight model by choos­ing File>merge and se­lect­ing the C4D scene I saved ear­lier. All the ma­te­ri­als we set up for the knight will be im­ported along with him.

The pivot point of the char­ac­ter is off­set a bit, but that’s easy to change in C4D. I press the En­able Axis but­ton in the left tool­bar and drag the pivot point to the mid­dle of the knight.

I use the trans­form tools to move him into place. I place him by the edge of the small for­est, and I have him look­ing di­rectly at the omi­nous burn­ing skull. At the mo­ment, the knight is to­tally un­aware of the fairy who’s look­ing at him from her hid­ing place be­hind a big rock.

19 set up A CAM­ERA

To be­gin play­ing with cam­era set­tings and post-pro­cess­ing, I have to make a ded­i­cated Oc­tane cam­era for my scene. To do this, I click the Ob­jects>oc­tane Cam­era menu item. This adds a cam­era to our Ob­ject Man­ager. No­tice the lit­tle open white square with a cross in the mid­dle next to the cam­era name? To ac­ti­vate the Oc­tane cam­era, you need to press this sym­bol. Oth­er­wise you won’t see the changes you make in the cam­era set­tings.

If you press the cam­era name, you’ll see the stan­dard C4D cam­era op­tions. The only ones here that I use are the fo­cal length, sen­sor width and fo­cus ob­ject set­tings. The rest of the changes I’ll be do­ing are un­der the Oc­tane Cam­era Tag. Be­fore go­ing into de­tail about that process, I feel like the scene could use a bit more light.

20 Add More lights

I’d like to have a rim light around the knight to make him stand out more from the back­ground. In the Live Viewer I click Ob­jects>lights>oc­tane Area Light and po­si­tion the light be­hind the knight. I tweak the size of the light-emit­ting plane by pulling on the small or­ange dots at the top/ bot­tom/sides. I make sure the light source is large enough for the light to ‘wrap around’ the char­ac­ter.

I tweak the power of the light and the tem­per­a­ture un­til I get a re­sult I like. I also add a light that shines on the road, one that adds more red light around the skull, and a blue light that il­lu­mi­nates the fairy’s wings and sur­round­ings.

To hide the light emit­ter planes in the ren­der, I go to Vis­i­bil­ity un­der the Oc­tane Light Tag and de­s­e­lect Cam­era Vis­i­bil­ity.

21 Post-process

Post-pro­cess­ing can be per­formed in ei­ther the Oc­tane Cam­era Tag, or in Oc­taneren­der set­tings. I al­ways do it in the Cam­era Tag since it’s eas­ier to ac­cess. If you had mul­ti­ple cam­eras and were switch­ing be­tween those, it would per­haps make sense to do it through Oc­taneren­der set­tings.

I click the Oc­tane Cam­era Tag next to my cam­era, and tweak the set­tings un­der Cam­era Imager and Post Pro­cess­ing. In Cam­era Imager I add a vi­gnette ef­fect, and in Post Pro­cess­ing I add bloom and glare to get a lens flare ef­fect.

22 ren­der And fi­nal tweaks

Go to Ren­der>edit Ren­der Set­tings in the C4D top menu. In here I switch from Stan­dard ren­derer to Oc­tane Ren­derer. In the Out­put sub­menu, I choose the fi­nal ren­der size. In the Oc­tane Live Viewer win­dow I switch from Chn: DL (di­rect light­ing) to Chn: PT (path trac­ing), which takes longer to ren­der but gives a bet­ter re­sult. I hit Ren­der>ren­der To Pic­ture Viewer in the C4D top menu.

Lastly, I take the fi­nal ren­der through Pho­to­shop and tweak curves, add a stronger blue glow to the fairy and tweak the over­all ap­pear­ance of the im­age. •

An Ad­ven­ture Pro­duc­ing im­pres­sive vr scenes like this is eas­ier than ever thanks to the tools within Cin­ema 4d and Oc­tane

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