360º VR animation with Cinema 4D
This is a quick walkthrough about how to create animated 360ºVR content for YouTube using native Cinema4D tools!
[I have an alternative method outlined here: The 6-cam method which also uses native tools. It includes a few extra steps and a third party plugin, but it comes with a few benefits.]
Anyway, Lets hop right in:
To make 360º content, we’ll need a camera that can look in all directions at once, aka a Spherical Camera. Cinema 4D does not natively include a spherical camera. If you use VRay, you’re in luck! VRay includes a spherical camera. Sweet! But I don’t have vray so fuck that, we’re gonna do this with regular ol’ Cinema tools. You can skip these steps and download a rig I put together here if you’d like to save some time: Sean’s Spherical Camera Rig for C4D. This rig will be periodically updated to become more robust over the next few months, and if you purchase now those updates will be sent to you for free! [UPDATE 9/10: Now includes Preview Cam with realtime pan/tilt control to simulate Youtube user experience directly in viewport]
To hack a spherical camera in C4D we’re going to use a shiny sphere (Nick Campbell’s ears are ringing right now).
Pop a sphere in your scene and make it pretty small. lets say 1cm. Throw a Compositing tag on there and uncheck Seen by Camera, Seen by Transparency and Seen by Reflection…pretty much uncheck everything. We want this guy to be ‘invisible’ to our scene like c4d cameras are.
Next just create a new material, turn off everything and turn on reflection. Leave it as is: 100% brightness, no Fresnel or anything (sorry Nick). Sweet! Now you have a spherical camera!
You will move this around your scene like its the camera. Wherever this sphere is will be where the viewer is able to pivot from. I recommend parenting a few actual cameras to your sphere so you can look through them in every direction as you animate. Kinda hacky, but it works! And you didn’t have to spend a ton of $$ to make it happen.
We are not going to render like we usually do. Since we aren’t using a real camera we have to get a little hacky about this part too. We’ll use the Bake Texture tag to save out the reflections on our sphere. Since we have a fully reflective sphere we will get an image that includes EVERYTHING 360º around our scene, as though there was a camera on every single point of the sphere.
Right click your Sphere>Cinema4D Tags>BakeTexture Tag to apply the tag
Here are a few key settings:
Set your Filename and save path, as well as file type. These options should look familiar from the render options.
Uncheck Automatic Size if it is checked. Set your size to have a 2:1 ratio. I generally use Width: 6000 Height: 3000. I wouldnt go below 4000×2000
Leave everything unchecked except Reflection
Either check Use Current Render Data and set your start and end time in the Render Options, or uncheck it and do it here.
Drag the 100% Reflective Texture Tag from your Spherical Cam object (not from the material manager).
Now go back to the Options Tab and press preview. Make sure some objects show up! If its black, double check that you dragged the right material and checked the proper boxes in the Bake Texture Tag. If it looks good, press Bake and go for a walk. These take a while, especially when you consider the Resolution.
The output is a distorted panorama image very similar to what you’d use for an HDRI sky map. After you bake out your image sequence (recommended! If a movie file screws up, you’re left with a useless file. If an image sequence screws up, you can pick up where it left off) you’ll need to render to an mp4 format. Now we have one final step before we can upload to YouTube!
YouTube is working on just being able to know that these bizarro looking videos are 360º VR vids, but at the moment its not built in. They released a tool here that adds a line of metadata to your video file that tells YouTube that it is made with a spherical camera. Scroll down to ‘Prepare for Upload’ and choose Mac or Windows version.
Toss your mp4 in the app, press go, and voila! The metadata has been added.
Upload that sucker to YouTube and tell your Mom to check out the cool thing you did!