Your CG problems solved
Pro artists tackle your queries
Mike Griggs replies
Creating exciting product shots used to be a matter of dark backgrounds and depth of field. Times change though, and the current trends in advertising are leaning heavily towards more use of single colours in environments, with well-lit hero objects to the fore.
A traditional methodology to create a simple colour background would have been to render the shot with an alpha channel, and then in comp add a single colour. The issue with that kind of workflow is that often shadows are needed to add ‘weight’ to the hero object. That can become a complex comping issue as shadow maps need to be created, and these can create more problems in comp than they are worth.
Thankfully solid-colour backgrounds with working shadows are relatively easy to create in MAXON Cinema 4D and Redshift. This is done by breaking down the core components into two distinct groupings. The first is the hero model and the lights that are used to light it. In the example shown, the hero model is the phone. There are two Redshift area lights, a key light which handles the primary reflection on the screen glass, and a rim light which handles the reflections on the edges of the phone.
The second group controls the shadows and the background colour. This group
comprises of a dome light which only shows the background colour. There’s also a background object, which in this example is a Disc object with a Redshift Matte object tag applied that is set to only show shadows. There is also a Redshift area light set to cast shadows from the phone onto the Disc object.
The secret to making all of these groups work independently while still working together is a matter of deciding which objects the lights apply their light to. For example, the hero phone lights affect both Specular and Diffuse properties. In contrast, the shadow lights affect Diffuse only, and the dome light does not affect any properties.
Using the dome light with a solid colour instead of an image as a background plate allows for the background colour to be animated directly in Cinema 4D. This animation can be timed and viewed with the hero animation.
Understanding these techniques can be a great way to learn how to make product shots that are both stylish and quick to create. Let’s take a look.