Party Bot, Part 06: Add Gorgeous Reflections with an HDRI Environment

Photo of Donovan Keith

Instructor Donovan Keith

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  • Duration: 10:04
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  • Made with Release: 18
  • Works with Release: 15 and greater

Bring your image to life with photo-based lighting.

Learn the fundamentals of creating and manipulating lights in Cinema 4D - then skip all of that by applying an HDRI image to the Sky object. Topics covered include:

- Adding light objects.
- Adding shadows to lights.
- Creating an infinite plane with the floor object.
- What are HDR images?
- Lighting with an HDR.



In this video, we're going to take our simple textured character and place it into a more interesting environment so that our renders look like something other than just black and white. And the key to that is actually pretty simple. It's going to start with something called a sky object. So go ahead and press and hold right here and add a sky object to your scene. And when we render now, we'll see that we have something that looks a little bit more like a metallic robot. It's got some reflections, we can see it reflecting itself, but it's still not great and that's because there's not a lot of contrast in our sky. So let's see what happens when we add a floor object to our scene which is this icon right here. So now we've got a floor, we've got a sky, and now we're getting a little bit more contrast. And if I pop out of my camera right here, maybe change my angle, we can see that we can get even more contrast and an even better appearance this way. Now, if we want even more contrast a little bit more interesting, I can come in here and add in a target light, and a target light adds a simple spotlight to my scene. And if I zoom out in my different views, I can see it from the top, I can see it from the front, or the side right here. And now when I click and drag to move this light, you'll see that it's sort of auto-orienting and it's got a light target which I can move and place maybe up top here so that when I render, my character is now in a spotlight. And if I grab this light, I can add in a shadow and I'm going to choose an area shadow which is a slow rendering but good looking shadow. You'll see that it's nice and sharp at the base, and sort of feathers out towards the edge, but it also reveals that my character is floating. So I'm going to take my body and then just kind of drag it down. Now, if I drag it down the Y axis, it slips off to the side a little bit. So I can also use this local or world toggle, grab that little green handle, drag it down, and switch back to local coordinates. Okay. So, that is one way for lighting this, making it look a little bit better, but there's a faster, easier way and it almost feels like cheating in order to get a great looking render with very little effort on your part, and that is something called an HDRI image. And in order to replicate that, I'm going to select my light right here, delete it, and we're just going to add an HDR image as a texture to our sky. And to find one of those, I'm going to go to the content browser, I'm going to click on this presets icon up above, and I'm going to search for a special keyword, HDR, which is the file extension for these high dynamic range images or you might find HDRI. Cineversity has its own CV-HDRIs pack which you can download with some really great images from different environments, or you can use whatever you find inside of your general presets folder when you search and there's a lot of them already included with Cinema 4D. I'm going to grab one of these CV-HDRIs because I love the look of if, and I'm going to drag it into my scene and I can then drag it onto my sky. And when I render, our metal is looking a lot more interesting, and if I select this floor and delete that, our character looks even better still because he's reflecting this super interesting environment. Now, some of these you might run into a problem where you click and drag them over and nothing's happening and that's because those are images not materials, and the clue for that is that they are rectangles that are flat instead of the sort of spheres on these tiled backgrounds. So to create one of those, just double-click to create a material, open that up, turn off color, turn off reflectance, and instead turn on luminance and luminance refers to materials that are self-lighting. Right here, you can see there's no shading, there's bright white. And I can click and drag this material or this texture into this texture field and release. That loads in my image and I can drag that onto my sky and give it another render and now my character is hanging out indoors. It's like he's in a completely different photo-realistic environment. And if I zoom in right here, I'm going to make this a little bit smaller to speed up my render, you don't even really notice that he is not in an environment and that's one of the great beauties of using photos or photo-based textures in your scenes. You get instant realism, and I highly recommend, when you can, use photographic resources, photographic reference. We've got a pretty good looking render and we might want to take this and save it out as a finished file. And probably the simplest way to do that is just to render in your editor here and do a print screen, and there you go, you've got something you can paste in an email. But if you want something a little more dependable than that, what you want to do is go into your render settings. Now, personally, I've got some default render settings set up here that are less than helpful for us, so you won't have to do these steps. I'm going to right-click and choose new to create a new render setting and this will be the same as what you have by default. And I'm going to go first into my output tab here, and the output tap refers to the resolution of your final render and 1280 by 720 is probably fine for tests. For the most part, though, I find myself rendering 1920 by 1080. If you're rendering an animation in just this frame range here, I don't need to do that. On the save tab, I'm going to make sure that I have a file name. Now, the easiest way to do that is click those three dots right there, navigate to where you want to save, give it a name and choose Save. I don't want to do that though. I'm going to use what's called a relative file path which allows me to automatically save files based on where my project file is. So I'm going to type ./ that says, okay, we're in the same directory as our project file and then I'm going to type the word "renders" and I've just created a sub-folder called renders or rather I will as soon as I render. Forward slash again to create that folder. And now, I'm going to add what's called a token by clicking on this triangle right here. And inside of here are a list of things that you can automatically name. I can, for example, include the name of the currently selected camera, or the name of my project, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to choose project name right here and it adds these special characters in a keyword, so there's that dollar sign which indicates this is a token, and then these latter three letters right here say, okay, this is the project file name that we see up above here. And I love doing this so that every time I render, I know exactly what project file created the render that I'm looking at. And one way to do that very easily is just to go to file save incremental to make sure I've got a nice clean file that I'm working in, and when I press this middle render button, Cinema 4D is going to pop open a window and start rendering. Now, you might notice and I certainly do, that there are some jagged lines in the appearance of our scene especially on the edges of our object and in some of these reflections. And the solution to that problem is to turn on something called anti-aliasing. Now, by default, this is set to geometry which just handles the edges. If I set it to best, it's going to look inside of my textures and look for anything that's sort of out of luck. So when I render this again, it's going to ask me, "Do you want to replace?" I just click Yes and now this render is going to be a little bit slower, but it should correct a lot of those aliasing issues. Now, I'm finding this render is a little bit slow just in general and that's because I've got what are called blurry reflections and you can see that those are those nice sort of blurred out reflections on the body and the head and so forth. And that's less than ideal to have those in terms of speed, but the results are just so beautiful, it's hard to not want to use them. So if you want a slightly faster render, I find that the physical renderer is much better when working with highly blurry reflections, and you can adjust the sampling quality here to different quality levels: low, medium, high, to get something that looks a little bit better. And again, this just keeps popping up on my side screen here, but I'm just going to drag it over. Here we are, we've corrected some of those anti-aliasing issues and there are a few minor tweaks so you might still want to make. I can see that I'm starting to see the edges of some of my polygon shapes here in this render. So if I have the latitude, if they're still parametric, I can come in here, go to my objects tab, and increase the number of rotation segments or the number of cap segments to just sort of round that out a little bit and I might do the same thing for the cylinders right here. I might increase the number of rotation segments to something like 48. So here you are, your final scene rendering, and we've got this gorgeous looking character in a photo-realistic environment and you can really see the possibilities here. Just with simple primitive, simple materials from the content browser, and an HDR image for your reflection, you can create some really fun and playful characters that look great, and I fully encourage you to experiment and create your own. Don't limit yourself to this tutorial. See what kind of animals you can create or something even more fantastic than that and apply your own materials, play around with lighting, and see what you can make.
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