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Workflow Blender C4D After Effects

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ben rollasonWorkflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 29, 2010 at 11:23:40 am

Hi there,

I'm trying to work out a workflow between Cinema 4D, After Effects and Blender.

That means I need to be able to import and export back and forth between all three potentially.

So far, I can do C4D -> AE, AE -> C4D and Blender -> AE.

But so far, no joy with going from Blender to C4D or vice versa or even AE to Blender (which could of course act as an intermediary)

I've had most luck exporting VRML 2 from C4D and using the VRML 97 importer in Blender. It's a bit big and the orientation is wrong....easily solvable. The main problem though is that the animation part goes missing even though I baked all keyframes of all objects and flattened all object hierarchy.

I also got excited about Collada. C4D 11 exports to Collada natively... but I'm using v10. I exported to FBX and used Autodesks free FBX converter to convert to Collada, but both of Blender's Collada importers gave an error.

Does anyone have any ideas how to achieve this? Without an easy workflow back and forth between programs, it's difficult to imagine incorporating Blender into a pressurised and serious workflow. However, I'd love to be able to incorporate its fluid and particle abilities into my projects... It's a great program and I have to say it has opened my eyes to open source.

Thanks.

Ben.

vfx.benrollason.com


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Paolo CicconeRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 29, 2010 at 2:40:45 pm

Ben, the I port/export of 3d animations is the largest issue in integration of programs today. This is true with all programs. Try to exchange between Maya and C4D, it's not that easy. In fact Collada was born with that task, to provide a mean of moving scene data between programs in a sort of neutral format.

Collada integration in Blender is becoming fairly complete but that works only with 2.5/2.6, whatever is in 2.49 is a few years old and doesn't work very well. Cinema's implementation is very new and fairly clunky for what I could see. This is going to change in a few months, when Blender 2.6 will be released, but for now it's pretty tough.

--
Paolo Ciccone
Pret-A-3D
http://www.preta3d.com
http://www.paolociccone.com


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ben rollasonRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 29, 2010 at 3:07:53 pm

Thanks Paulo,

That sounds pretty positive. I'm not in a huge hurry...I'm still in the process of getting to grips with Blender, so I can wait a month or two for 2.6.

-Ben.

vfx.benrollason.com


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Paolo CicconeRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 29, 2010 at 3:15:15 pm

Great, just FYI, 2.6 is going to be released probably in 5 - 6 months. No set dates, but judging from the development status right now, it will, be definitely after summer.

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Paolo Ciccone
Pret-A-3D
http://www.preta3d.com
http://www.paolociccone.com


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Steven JenkinsRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 30, 2010 at 2:28:07 pm

Ben,

I can assure you Cinema 4d can import fluid animations from Blender. What it does is, since the fluid is a mesh, and is different at every frame of the simulation, is it exports a single obj file for each frame of the simulation. Then, Cinema 4D must import each mesh. Paeng Paeng wrote a Cinema 4d file that uses an X-Ref and an Xpresso script that will allow you to render each frame of the animation without having to first import ALL of the meshes at once. As you can imagine, this is a huge memory savings in Cinema. However, there is a problem with the exporter script in Blender. It attaches a "dummy" texture to each mesh that is impossible to delete in Cinema. You are basically stuck with a default gray fluid. I read that a modification to the obj exporter script will get rid of the dummy texture, but I'm not sure where to start with this. Maybe Paolo might know what to modify in this script.

If you'd like to mess around with this, send me your email and I will gladly send you what I have.


Regards,

Steven Jenkins



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Paolo CicconeRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 30, 2010 at 2:40:28 pm

Steven, are referring to the standard .obj export in Blender? If so then the material can be deleted with a text editor, before importing in C4D.



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Paolo Ciccone
Pret-A-3D
http://www.preta3d.com
http://www.paolociccone.com


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Steven JenkinsRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 30, 2010 at 3:00:11 pm

Yes, Paolo, that is correct. However, each frame of the simulation must be exported as a different mesh and each requires a separate object file. If you have a 150 frame animation, you have 150 object files and you have to delete the material from each one.

For this particular solution, as far as I know, there is no way of getting around having a separate object file for each frame of the simulation. That is why, from what I've read, it would be more productive to have a setting in the object exporter that will not include the material.

Even within Blender, it uses separate compressed files for each frame of the simulation it creates. When you preview the simulation in Blender, it decompresses and displays the meshes in "realtime" for each frame.



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Paolo CicconeRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 30, 2010 at 3:08:28 pm

I see. Wouldn't be possible to redefine the material in Cinema?

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Paolo Ciccone
Pret-A-3D
http://www.preta3d.com
http://www.paolociccone.com


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Steven JenkinsRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 30, 2010 at 3:31:51 pm

No, unfortunately. I\'ve tried. I pursued this some months ago. It won\'t let you delete the reference to the material when you use an x-ref to import the frames. What the x-ref and the xpresso script do is it somehow imports only the object file needed at a particular frame on the timeline in Cinema 4D. In object manager, it shows the material, but since this xref object is referring to multiple files, I guess that\'s why you can\'t change the material.



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Paolo CicconeRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on Apr 30, 2010 at 4:47:04 pm

I gave it a quick look. I don't know if changing the export_obj.py script in Blender, for such a specific case, would be the right thing to do. After all if C4D cannot edit the associated material that seems like a bug to me.
One thing that can be done, and it's the fastest to implement, is to use Perl's in-place editing. If you are unfamiliar with that, it's a neat little trick of Perl that allows you to edit a file with a replacement expression from the command line. When you use it, Perl scans the file, applies the substitution, creates a backup copy of the original file and updates the file on disk. All with a one-liner. Pretty p[powerful stuff.

For example, in the .obj file materials are defined with the "usemtl name" statement, where "name" is the name of the material. We can automatically get rid of that by using this from the command line:

perl -i.bak -p -e 's/^usemtl\s+.+//' test.obj

Of course you would replace "test.obj" with the name of the file that you want to change. The result is that you will have a new test.obj without the material defined. At that point you can load it in C4D and continue from there. The expression inside is interepreted as:

- Starting at the beginning of the line (the ^)
- Check if there's a string as "usemtl"
- followed by one or more spaces (\s+)
- followed by any number of other characters (.+)
- If so, then replace it with nothing (//)

If you have multiple files, like in the scenario that you have described, simply change the file expression to include wildcards:

perl -i.bak -p -e 's/^usemtl\s+.+//' test*.obj

This will work on any unix-like OS like Linux and Mac OS, no idea how Windows treats wildcard or if it supports that feature at all. If it doesn't you might want to resort to use some batch file or install a copy of a shell program like bash.

One word of advice, Perl will apply the changes without asking you for anything. It assumes that you know what you're doing. If you have a typo, or anything that matches different file there will not be any "Are you sure ?" prompt. So, be sure that you use this inside a dedicated subdirectory, where all your OBJS, and only the OBJS, are saves. Be sure that that subdir is the active dir and double check your syntax. I am, as always, not responsible for possible damage caused by using the above commands.

Cheers.

--
Paolo Ciccone
Pret-A-3D
http://www.preta3d.com
http://www.paolociccone.com


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Steven JenkinsRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on May 1, 2010 at 6:21:28 am

If I import a single object fluid mesh file into Cinema, I can redefine the material.

This solution, by Paeng Paeng, is an XPresso script that uses the X-Ref function in a way that was perhaps not in the Cinema 4D programmer's minds as its main purpose.

What the X-Ref does is it allows entire scene files to be referenced as an single object in a new Cinema scene, allowing more complex scenes to be formed, and allow easier collaboration in a big project. There are limitations as to what you can edit in objects, once placed in the scene in this manner. To do heavy editing, we are told to edit the original.

What the XPresso script does is looks at the frame number in the timeline that the playhead is at, and uses that to import the numbered object mesh file for that frame in the simulation, using the X-Ref function. It's pretty clever because you aren't having to import all the frames at once, which is, of course, an enormous memory saver.

What we see in the object manager in Cinema is a single X-Ref file, which represents multiple object files. I think this is the reason the material file can't be edited.

I appreciate the info on the Perl scripting. Sounds a little scary though, and it would be good to know there is a solid workaround for all platforms.

One last note - the last time I meddled with this I was using C4D version 10.5. I haven't tried this with version 11.5. I'll have to see if I have better luck in the new version.

Regards,

Steven Jenkins



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Paolo CicconeRe: Workflow Blender C4D After Effects
by on May 1, 2010 at 2:52:45 pm

>What we see in the object manager in Cinema is a single X-Ref file, which represents multiple object files. I >think this is the reason the material file can't be edited.

That makes sense. I thought that the script generate something like Blender's shape morphs and merged everything into the same object.
The Perl solution is still the easier one and it is completely multi platform, Perl is the multiplatfirm language, being avaialable for pretty much every single OS for a long time.
Alternatively the same could be achieved in Python but it's more complicated because Python doesn't have the in-place editing feature.

--
Paolo Ciccone
Pret-A-3D
http://www.preta3d.com
http://www.paolociccone.com


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