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Setting Up a Procedural Morphing Cocktails Animation in C4D & Redshift

Motion Designer Victor V. has shared the workflow behind the Pick Your Weapon project, showcased the Cinema 4D workflow, and explained how the animation was rendered in Redshift.

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I'm Victor, I'm a Chilean Motion Designer based in Italy. I became a freelancer when I moved from Washington, DC, to Milan a year and a half ago. I studied Audiovisual Communication (TV). And as soon as I met After Effects, I started adding animation on top of all the pieces I had to create. Studying TV production gave me a base on storytelling and project development. And, within 3D software, I still can use some knowledge about camera, composition and lighting.

Getting Started With Maxon's Software

I listen to what's going on in the industry as much as I can. And I remember that C4D started appearing more frequently on my radar (Twitter), so I tried it. I remember quitting the first day I opened the software; it felt like walking in the dark, not getting any results. But the craving for creating pieces similar to the beautiful animation I used to see on Vimeo was bigger, and animating with After Effects wasn't enough, so three months later, I reopened it again. There is a first week when you're just lost, and then everything starts making sense. You just need to pass that wall.

Even when there are other (even free) options, C4D is the current motion design standard. It's friendlier than other 3D programs, and the UI's design makes the transition from Photoshop or After Effects very smooth since they have the same logic.

Since GPU render engines are available, I've felt less afraid of making realism. Recreate reality, mainly with a client's expectation, was something I wanted to avoid at all costs because it could become an endless nightmare. But now, Working with Redshift or Octane has unlocked new paths, like reflections and refractions. You can get lost iterating and making micro-adjustments for hours. It allows to be flexible and discover while making, instead of having a fixed target and struggling to achieve it. The look dev is one of the funniest parts; it's like an improv session.

The Pick Your Weapon Project

I like the idea of 'not repeating myself', which I don't know if it's good or bad, but it always has me looking for something new to try/learn. I found this tutorial about Refractive Materials and Nested Dielectrics, scrolling on YouTube, and I started grinding thoughts in my head to find an animation idea to apply it.

At the same time, we've dusted off our PlayStation at home to play Cult of The Lamb; at some point, both things converged into: What if we have a screen similar to where you pick a car in Mario Kart, but you're choosing cocktails instead? I felt re-energized because the technical challenge of morphing between the cocktail has a reason to be. There was a concept now that could inform the design, the animations, the sound design, and almost every decision.

I have to admit that I poured much more time into the 3D animation and nothing into the UI design to stress the idea of the game; not sure if people see that part. 

Cinema 4D Workflow

I just started working on the glass and using Xpresso (a node system within C4D) to link duplicated elements on the rig. I only needed to animate the glass, and the liquid will follow the internal walls. Having some kind of programming saves a lot of time, avoiding to animate twice things that can be automated. 

The first instinct to animate the morphing was to trace its silhouette and just move the spline's vertexes. This has the disadvantage that points travel in a lineal way and all at once, creating unwanted intersections, for example, when the thin leg becomes into the pint-like glass. 

To fix this problem, I used a stack of circles connected by a Loft Generator; by doing this, I could independently control the radius and high of each part. It also helps to art-direct the animation, making one section morph after another or incorporating secondary animations.

There are other automations to calculate the liquid surface to attach the ice cubes or particles. This way, I could reanimate the liquid and still have the objects where they should be. I like to work in a modular way where pieces are interconnected and still editable. 

I imagine the material transition as audio mixing. Here’s how the four flavours are connected to mixer and they show up at its turn.

The idea of the bar came after I started playing with the glasses. I needed a darker room to get more lights interactions and make it look fancier. So, I made a break in the middle of production, to gather more references for the environment; I wouldn't recommend doing it in this order, but since it was a stream of a conscious kind of project, I allowed myself to change directions in the middle of the production stage.

Rendering and Lighting

I have avoided working with transparent materials because calculating refractions and caustics is super long, but Redshift has unlocked that world. Even when GPU rendering is very fast, I was getting around 25 mins per frame, meaning more than four days of rendering for the whole animation if you don’t have to re-render. Also, I didn't want to spend money on a render farm.

The solution I found was to split the render into three layers: the background, the table, and the glass. Only the glass needed to be rendered at the highest quality. This way, I could turn down the table's refraction calculation and even turn them off in the background because it doesn't interact with the animated elements. This way of rendering allowed me to render the background and table faster and only once, and if I needed to adjust something in the cocktail's animation, I didn't need to recalculate the whole scene. Rendering on layers also helped at the compositing stage when I needed to add shadow and some graphics in front and behind the glasses.  


Now it's so easy to get started. Not only in C4D, but anything. YouTube will keep you busy for a long time if you're a beginner.

The way that has worked better for me is finding a specific project based on a reference or style I want to achieve and figuring out (mixing tutorials) how to get it done. On the paid side, School of Motion and Greyscale Gorilla are good places for beginners to learn not only the tool but also storytelling.
It's tiring having side projects and being able to finish them, but it's how I can prove myself before getting things done for clients. 

Victor V., Motion Designer

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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Comments 1

  • Hirsch Omer

    spectacular workflow and beautiful project!


    Hirsch Omer

    ·9 months ago·

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