I wanted to create a scene that plays with light in Redshift. I thought about writing a blog that explored stained-glass windows, but I wanted to go deeper, something with bounces and refractions through multiple layers of glass.
Marbles will do it! Better….marbles inside one of those gumball machines that would always be in the corner of a games arcade or a local newsagent.
I trained as a Maya artist and I’ve done a few things with 3ds Max but never in Cinema 4D. To explore a C4D and Maya pipeline with some Redshift, I challenged myself to create a simple marble gumball scene in an afternoon.
I dived straight into C4D for modelling, but after half an hour of modelling I didn’t have much to show for my efforts. My marbles were just plain spheres, they didn’t have much aesthetic interest and I was not happy with the final results.
Do what you know.
I decided that it was better to model the scene in Maya and then import it to C4D for the lighting. As Maya is familiar territory, I wanted to try some new techniques aside from the basic modelling, so I explored MASH. You can see some of the procedural techniques I tried by referring to this well received blog by my good friend, Mark which was the basis for the Mash Marble Run video below.
OK…so I got a bit lost in MASH for two hours – there’s a lot to learn but it is a fascinating tool. Let’s get to the materials and lighting.
On the marbles and the gumball machine container I used the Redshift pre-set for glass. The key thing to know if you want to set up your own glass material is the refractive index. This creates a difference between materials such as glass and water. Without a refractive index, you wouldn’t be able to tell, for example, if a glass was filled with water. The index for glass is 1.517 whereas water, which is less dense, is 1.333.
For the rest of the machine I chose a bright plastic material. I went for a bright green as this was the same as my reference material. I didn’t want to get distracted by searching for a better material as I was more interested in light for this exercise.
I assigned an aluminium material to a few metal strips on my model.
I was happy with my model and the marbles so I took my project back to C4D by exporting the scene from Maya as a Redshift proxy. I didn’t expect to have to change anything on the model as I was happy with the way it looked. I imported it into the scene in C4D and added an HDRI on a dome light.
I decided to cheat a bit with the composition as I’m more focused on the look of lighting rather than the comp. I settled on an angle that made sense with a nice indoor HDRI that had some curtains restricting direct light. This meant that there were great levels of diffuse light which I could manipulate in my scene.
The scene wasn’t looking too bad, but there was nothing to ‘catch’ the shadows. I needed to have a ground plane that blended with the background. In Maya, this would be the background shader but C4D needs a slightly different setup. I created a large plane, but if you’re following along you can choose to use a smaller one depending on your scene.
With my plane made, I went to ‘tags’ in the object manager and selected the Redshift object icon to get the override options.
On the Matte tab, I clicked ‘enable’, and then ‘show background’. I also enabled the shadows.
That was more like it but I got a much darker result; too dark by a long way.
What I saw was correct because half of the dome light was now blocked by the shadow catching floorplate. So, I needed to get some more light in.
I mimicked the room HDRI by putting in an area light where the window is. As the window was the main light source, it was important to get this right.
I also wanted to copy the ceiling light so I put in another area light. I did this to mimic the bounce light. I adjusted the colour slightly to a very soft yellow as that seemed to be the colour of the light in the HDRI.
I tinkered with the intensity of the light to make it match better.
I didn’t see the shadows that I wanted; they were quite soft and that wasn’t good enough so I added a point light.
The angle of the shadow made sense but when I looked at the scene, it didn’t seem correct. Near the table, the shadow was soft and very short. If the light was like this we should also have seen a shadow cast from the little table. I moved the light to a slightly different location.
At this stage, I thought that the shadow edges were too hard. They didn’t match the scene. This was easily fixed by adding more shadow softness to the light. On the spot light I increased the softness in the shadow tab to 10.
The final thing that I wanted to do was to create more transparency on the shadows. This made the cylinder in the middle catch slightly more light, which I quite liked. This was a personal choice. If you’re following along, you can leave your scene as it is depending on your preference.
This finishes the look for me.
And that is that – creating something for the first time in Cinema 4D and manipulating the light in a simple scene within 7 hours.
I will continue to explore Cinema 4D on the side of my render wrangling day job at YellowDog.
Find out more about ‘render wrangling’ at YellowDog and how I balance ‘Maya’ with ‘being a mum’.
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