Recently, Intelligent Realities was approached by an agency with a request that we don’t often get. At this point Cineware was a distant memory from a few years back which we’d not had a use for until now. But would Cineware be the answer to this client’s request?
Cinema 4D - .ai export function
The image below is what we get from using the Illustrator .ai export function. Clearly out of the box this is not going to be an efficient use of anyone’s time to try and get to work. Not only does it look weird, but there are other less obvious issues which would not be easy to resolve.
A quick test which proved a negative!
Maybe useful for some form of cubism-like abstraction of an object!
Let's move on quickly and not dwell on that. Let's remember Cineware!
Clearly this export function was not going to be the solution to this question. After a short search on Google, my memory of Cineware for Illustrator was jerked awake. A journey of discovery followed.
Cineware is a plugin for Illustrator, which is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud and is primarily a package for producing vector-based illustrations. But if you’re reading this I suspect you already know that! 🙂
But what does the Cineware plugin offer the 3D visualiser? Turns out, quite a lot!
The rest of this article describes the findings from an experiment to take a project from its building blocks in Cinema 4D through to production-ready artwork. The pdf created during the process and the model can be downloaded here.
Maxon's Cineware Plugin for IllustratorCC
The installation of the plugin into Illustrator was a simple and straightforward process. You will now have a new UI layout available from the workspace menu called Cineware. Create a new file and select Place from the file menu. There were a couple of crashes in Illustrator when attempting to open a Cinema 4D file directly into Illustrator. Using the Place command proved to be pretty stable.
Select your model and hit Place from the file menu. After a few moments the cursor changes to the place selector thingy. Click and drag out a location box and release the mouse button. A short moment later (depending on your model!) you will see the editor shader version of your model. Holy cow we have a 3D model in Illustrator!
The new UI includes the Control Bar. This allows you to select cameras from within the C4D scene. This provides the ability to adjust the camera’s location and rotation and the display options. I found that the only way to get the Sketch and Toon module working was to use the Custom option. Draft is the same as the editor view in C4D. The transparency options are Alpha and None. Alpha mode was perfect for this exploration.
Wow! So what! How is that so useful?
First inspection showed some pretty interesting features:
- Full control of cameras;
- Control over lighting;
- Live tracing;
- Sketch and Toon functionality;
- Drag and drop texturing for labels and stuff!
That’s a pretty good list in itself but the one that got me really interested was the ability to make adjustments to the materials assigned to the object in Cinema 4D.
Cineware | C4D <o> Adobe Illustrator
Level up your Adobe Illustrator using Maxon’s Cineware plugin. Let us show you the process we went through to find out what possibilities and benefits it offers. We asked the following questions of the plugin:
Cineware | Functionality controls
Great results using with procedural shaders.
Easily change colours of a material from within Illustrator.
Toggle visibility of objects in the scene.
Utilises Cinema 4D’s Sketch and Toon module really nicely.
Integrating Cinema 4D with Illustrator
A well organised object manager in Cinema4D provides additional functionality within Illustrator. Within Illustrator there is a Structure menu which provides access to a limited range of functions associated with the object manager in Cinema 4D. You are able to unfold the hierarchy of the scene and turn on and off folders or objects as you see fit.
A really nice function is the ability to interact with the materials, albeit at a basic level. Changing the colour of the shed was a very straightforward process; this colour-changing ability is a brilliant pipeline integration system that we love at Intelligent Realities. This little function can save vast amounts of time when looking at streamlining a process. It should at this point be noted that the wood material for the shuttering and other timbers in this model use a procedural water shader to generate the grain in the wood. This is visible as an attribute in Illustrator, but sadly I was unable to make adjustments to the settings. This would need to be adjusted back in C4D.
As well as the colour-changing ability you can also toggle the visibility of object. In this example we are able to show and hide any of the shed elements: shuttering, main frame, roof, insulation board, or dry-lining boards.
An interesting phong shader angle related issue when I initially started to create slice throughs of the various elements of the model. A resolution to the phong issue was found. See conclusion for more details.
Scalable resolution worked very well, but the render time in Illustrator becomes noticeably slower when the resolution is set to 300dpi. We left the resolution at 72dpi in the render settings of C4D and it was a manageable render time which kept the process relatively fluid.
Another plus for Cineware, is that it has kept the font information. Sadly it is not possible to access the type field from within Illustrator.
It would be great to have access to the user data from within Illustrator.
Unlike Cineware for After Effects the ability to utilise the Take system is also not currently available.
Cinema 4D drives the experience
In this option dimensions are locked to the model, making adjustments to camera angles seamless. The dimensions text objects may need adjustment back in C4D if the camera angles alter drastically.
It became apparent that effective management of the C4D object manager offered far more control over the model in Illustrator. There is no live link as such as there is with After Effects as each time you save the C4D file you then need to update and re-render in order to see the revisions.
In the toolbox
Cineware offers powerful functionality, beneficial in many sectors. It is a perfect solution for a variety of applications: technical documents, fabrication documents, product catalogues, design intent documents, kits of parts, brochures or even instructional documents. A definite intelligent solution in our eyes.
Masses of potential uses with just a few limitations, this Cineware plugin will definitely be on the menu for our clients from now on at Intelligent Realities.
We felt the plugin was missing some key pipeline integration facilities that would further improve the experience:
- Take system support
- Layer Manager support
There is one possible issue for use in large scale product brochures. Each time the document is opened Cineware renders all the live assets in the document. If there are multiple live assets in the Illustrator file, Illustrator will render all of them in whatever current state it was last saved as. This takes some time! Assets that have been traced do not require rendering, but they are also not interactive.
Clearly we have not covered every aspect or nuance of Cineware; we merely took an idea through its course to see how the system would fit into the production pipeline.
The resolution for the phong issue came in the shape of making the entire geometry editable, losing all MoGraph data and symmetry data which is something we try to avoid whenever possible. Up until this point we were still able to make significant alterations to the shape and size of the model in a reasonably short period. Revisions are still possible after this process for sure, but at a far more laborious pace. On the flip side, once everything was simple geometry, the render time came tumbling down.
In conclusion, this is a fantastic addition to any visualisers toolkit and a service which we will offer our clients. There are some functions still to explore within the Cineware plugin which were not utilised in this article. Therefore you can expect to see a follow up article in the future that pushes the ability to map artwork from Illustrator directly onto a 3D model.
Want to know more?
We hope you have enjoyed this little exploration into the Cineware realm. If you would like to know more about how any of these functions work let me know in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do to help. 🙂
There is also a time-lapse movie of the build process for the workshop which can be seen here.