I'm new to to the Maxon suite and looking for some advice on the look and feel of renders. My renders from Cinema 4D look a bit sterile, more like a game but I'd like to try and get more of a classic film look/quality to them. Is this possible from within C4D or should I be looking at one of the tools in Trapcode/Universe etc? Sorry if this is a bit basic but I've only just started with Maxon One. I'm still trying to figure out what all the things actually do in Trapcode
Thanks in advance,
Dr. Sassi last edited by Dr. Sassi
There is a fast way, and that is the best way to get started: make all the mistakes as early as possible. (I was just joking, but there is some truth in it, as recognizing mistakes increases experience.)
Anyway, the first step is to recognize what you have (where you are right now) and the interest to improve, as indicated in your question above.
Explore Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks, an easy-to-use and effective toolbox. You find a copy in Cinema 4D.
As the main advice I have given and have seen many times, dive into photography as deeply as you possibly can.
Observation is the key to quality and using the tools best. Presets should be seen more as a learning and brainstorming option.
After a while, you might reach the same point again: it is not doing everything you wish for. Why is that? Because it all needs to be played together. At that point, you must ask yourself what is essential. If that is clear, dive into this journey and learn what parts make a cinematic look. It is a bit more complex and, quite frankly, a long journey, something we get better at every year. One tip from the start: learn all the rules and then forget them; they are crutches to sharpen your eye, not to be applied mandatorily. Rules with a "3" are those rules; they are for rookies, not used by pros; so far, I can tell from my own long and multi-awarded journey.
The idea of film look is nearly as broad as the amount of people using it. Let me share just a few notes about it.
Some try to nail it down by exploring the "Celluloid" (now polyester) pipeline and often miss out that it is a multipart result, not just an effect.
Others just sell the look-after wards as a plug-in and believe in grain and letterboxing to get the filmic feel.
The more you explore, the more it might become apparent; it depends on who you ask.
I asked myself in the '90s precisely that (What makes cinema different, and I went through all these phases. Grain might trigger a little bit today, but I'm more annoyed by it now. Scope (1:2.39 ratio) might do the trick, but not really, just to mention how things change.
In the past years, many people have discovered what ACES introduced in 2012: to tone-map the results for low dynamic media and some claimed even that is the filmic look, only to see that the tone-map treatment is different for HDR Video or in wider Gamut formats, which comes closer to Film.
I find most approaches missing the point. I know that sounds pretentious. Bear with me for a moment.
In the past three decades, I have worked myself through around 40 Cinematography books and worked on movies (First Feature Film Award in 1994). Yes, I learned everything first in Analog, like editing on a Steenbeck table. Then, I had the pleasure in the mid-'90s to convert all of that more and more into digital.
My takeaway from many discussions about the Film-Look is simple: It is all about Love – Love for every element in the production.
It is not an afterthought, LUT, or plug-in that can be blindly added on the end of it. It is more complex.
So, how is that working?
Simply learn who your audience is, which is often not a simple task. Think about Culture, Society, Time, the Arts, etc. That is the space that defines the visual language. (I know, you want a quick tip to get there. Sorry that is not possible, if we talk about filmic look and not just a one size fits all.)
In Film, we combine many things: Set Design, costumes, and landscapes, to name just three. Each delivers certain information to the Audience; each provides the support for the primary layer in the movie. That is often the actor. All these things create layers, leading or supporting, that will vary, even in indie production. The impact of all these layers allows us to evoke certain emotions. Just saying that only a little parameter session in "Post" is all there is to it is wrong from my point of view.
Filmic, to me, means to guide the audience's eye while moving the story or content forward. Each part in the image and the temporal flow (editing, for example) contributes. Here is the love part, expressed in carrying for every piece. Always with the idea of what leads and what supports. If two things are leading, the Audience has to work, which might kick them out of the movie space.
Filmic, or better cinematic, is an experience that allows the audience to melt with the content and dive into it without working hard to decipher the elements.
Cinematography is the core of bringing all that together (visually). Don't forget the subconscious force of sound, another support that might condition the idea of filmic.
The way lenses and filters determine the outcome is often not understood, and the sharpest lens and no filtration are used. The 3-point light is used, often mist-placed and overused, which consequently often looks just like the video, not filmic at all. Each light setup has a quality; it can ruin anything if it is not understood. Watching movies with open eyes and an analytical mind is the best starting point here.
Typically, at that point, I get the question, "When I don't care all about that and want only MY FILMIC LOOK, how do I get it?"
If one is not striving to set the best light, the best camera movement, or no movement at all and doesn't use the best mood (e.g., with color and light), will not tell the story well.
Yes, you just can get some presets and hope people don't have a more educated eye. If depending on a preset, do yourself a favor and go through all of them. Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks has a lot of them. Browse through all, and note why you like one and not the other. You will see that even a short drill like that will provide insights into your work that no one can give you. Because what you create is always an individual expression, and it deserves the best settings. So, even if some looks seem over the top, look at them and ask yourself why that is triggering something in you or in the people you watch it with. You will see that some presets take anything you had in the shot away, and some add to it, perhaps supporting it.
That is the work one needs to do, as every filmmaker with a sophisticated background does, exploring what works and what doesn't.
Thousands of Cinematographers are currently in pre-production, reading scripts, checking color schemes, testing perhaps a hundred lenses for a single project, and defining the first ideas of a final look. That is challenging but fun work. All of these artists define what the Audience thinks about the "Filmic Look" for the future ahead, as it is changing – always.
In summary, this is just a glimpse of what Cinematography is, and as I wrote to a friend this week, "Being a Cinematographer is a journey, not a title".
Write down what you want with a given scene, then explore with Magic Bullet Looks and the Post options in Redshift 3D while setting the light in different ways to find what supports your story. After a while, you will see that you have a solid idea for the current project. With the next one, you start over, but it gets faster with time.
Watch "Max On Color" https://www.youtube.com/c/MaxonTrainingTeam
Max supports that work and loves exploring techniques. Twice a month is a well-invested time.
There are often "Demystifying Post-Production" series that provide also insight into this field. Enjoy.
The good news for anyone starting in this field is what I have called for two decades+ "My Studio In A Pocket": Cinema 4D. As it is much faster than the practical studio work. The learning progress is much easier. Yes, based on your question, you have the tools, and it is one of the fastest tools to get very savvy in Cinematography.
However, even with many decades under my belt, I have finished a Semester of Color Grading this year with many courses. (Summer Look Academy For Professional Colorists). Learning never ends, and that is the beauty of it. We work each time on something new.
After all, it is the passion that one has for this area of visual arts that will determine the motivation to move forward with it.
My best wishes for your journey.
Hi Dr Sassi,
Thankyou for the reply. I had a look at the Magic Bullet Looks, wow there's loads to explore in there. I had seen that in the renderer but had no idea what it did, I thought it was a special effect tool for doing bullets like in The Matrix I find some of the names for Maxon products a bit misleading.
I do understand that there is a hell of a lot that goes into a major film and the whole look and feel is down to a combination of many factors. My needs at this point are much less ambitious though. At this point I'm only doing short product videos but I do have creative control over them so I have the chance to explore this amazing Maxon world I'm only at the beginning of this 3D journey and have so very much to learn. Initially I was just trying to change the picture quality so that it didn't look so much like a video game. I have tried looking at scenes I love the look of and tried to see what it is that makes them look the way they do. The colours, saturation, softness, lens blur, grain, aerial perspective, all those sorts of things. The more I experiment the more I'll learn, reading manuals is one thing but you have to try this stuff out and see what happens and find what works and what doesn't.
Dr. Sassi last edited by
You're very welcome, David.
Yes, Magic Bullet Looks is a great place to explore, brainstorm looks, and set up one's idea about a specific Look.
The attention to detail allows for creating a filmic look; it uses everything to guide the audience's eye and limit distractions. With that, less stress is provided, and one can sink into the visuals. This intensity is often confused with the prominent, easy-to-read part of the image. Hence, just applying for a LUT is not working.
Hence, we talk in color grading about secondary grading, something neither a parameter preset nor LUT can do.
On top of that comes handling all clips to merge into the found visual language to create continuity.
Many people use references, as you mentioned as well. Analyze those and compare your results. Step away for a day and look again. You might be surprised how much more you see after a while.
Johannes Itten's "The Elements of Color" was the book that most impacted my understanding of Color as a young art student. Even decades after I bought it, it echoes in me. Many mainstream film looks are built upon this knowledge. Understanding those unlocks why some look work along a movie, and some just fade over time in one's perception.
Before I get lost in another long text:
Enjoy the exploration