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A Glimpse at Glints

Combining Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D to create moving highlights on Logos By Ko Maruyama
Glint passes can add a simple bit of motion to a static image, or provide the additional highlight the client is looking for. It's a handy, yet simple trick to have in your skill set. This week we'll take a look at one technique for creating this effect using Maxon's flagship 3D program, Cinema 4D, along with Adobe After Effects to develop easy glint passes that add dimension in an instant. If you're a veteran user, you may think it a basic technique, but take a look at an alternative method that's easy enough for a beginner but may hold a new approach for even a seasoned After Effects user.

A Glint or light pass occurs when an intense, focused light crosses your subject. It can be any color, but usually illuminates the subject with white light in the hottest part of the brightness. It can be any shape, the standard (AKA easy, boring) shape being a diagonal rectangle. It can represent an opening that allows hot light to project onto your subject, or a focused light (laser, searchlight, etc.)

I'm going to create my logo still in Cinema 4D to produce the fastest, easiest results for use within After Effects. (I should mention here that C4D exports directly to a Photoshop layered file as well.)

Part 1: Cinema 4D: 3D Logo creation
Cinema 4D is a 3D suite from Maxon Computer. Although known for its high-end toolset, it can easily be used to create simple compositions as well, such as flying logos. I've kept it as simple as possible for purposes of brevity. You can make your scene as elaborate as you like. What is required is a camera and some 3D objects. (Incidentally, you can also use Cinema 4D to extrude existing logos created in Adobe Illustrator. For information in this, see Rob Garrott's C4D Illustrator Tutorial.)

To my Cinema 4D project, I've added a simple text object which has been extruded with a NURB controller, a camera and an ordinary sphere.

I've positioned my camera, so the focal depth ends at the back of the group of 3D objects (the sphere). You can do this manually by dragging the small orange center-point on the camera icon in the viewport window, or numerically by entering the value in the camera's Attribute manager's "Depth" options. (Note: Attribute windows appear in Version 8 only, but the camera can be managed in earlier versions of Cinema 4D by double clicking the camera object icon in the object window).

In Render Settings (Control-B), I am going to set up a Multi-Pass Image Render.

  • Save:
    Deselect the "Save Image" box. We'll be able to save the RGBA in multipass.
    Select the Alpha Channel box.
    (optional: Straight Alpha)

  • Multi-Pass:
    From the Channels Tab in the upper right corner, select RGBA Image.
    Select Depth also.

  • Mutli-Pass (saving):
    Select the Path for your file.
    Select the format of your rendered files.

A render (Shift-R) produces two files: an RGBA image and an 8-bit Depth file. (Note: Exporting as a Photoshop document produces a Depth channel, not a layer. This is a good thing because the file would be considerably overweight if you had to produce 24-bit images for each channel. However, in order to recognize the channel in an AE comp, you have to convert the channel to a layer - more work than necessary for this tutorial).

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