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This year we decided to make a short christmas ‘sting’ to post on social, which made use of both live action and 3D rendered elements.

First off, we began work on the bauble shapes which will later form the logo. To do this, we used Cinema 4D and looked at a lot of reference images to make the shaders look realistic. On the glass part of the bauble, there are actually 3 different shaders blended together (for the glass, the frosty look and the scratchy ice skating lines). For the fabric wrap around the bauble, we used a similar shade of orange to the logo, but gave it a more metallic and shiny aesthetic – to emulate an embroidered look. This was rendered just using the Cinema 4D physical shader and we were quite pleased with the initial results.

Although our aim was for realism inside each of the baubles, we thought it would be a nice idea to juxtapose the realism with some ‘snow globe’ particles inside, as though they have just been shaken and there are falling snow particles . We opted to make the snow particles really large in comparison to the scene, in order to give them an ‘ornate’ aesthetic. To create this effect was very easy, it was literally just a particle emitter emitting some blobby displaced spheres – a rigid body tag was added to give them some dynamic properties and a collider tag was applied to the glass geometry.

We opted to create CG baubles so we could encapsulate little festive scenes into each one respectively. We wanted these scenes to feel realistic and have photorealistic lighting and textures, as though each one was a window into an alternate reality. We decided on a snowy tree scene for the main bauble, a snowy log cabin for the middle sized one and a snowman for the furthest away, smallest one.

Building a christmas tree was something that we thought would be quite time consuming, but we quickly found that using splines and cloners, Cinema 4D made very light work of this task. We drew 4 different splines representing branches, from the top view. These splines were then put into a cloner with the radial setting, so that they were instanced in a circular way around a point. A displacer effect was then added to the Y-axis of the splines, making them appear more random and organic. This cloner setup was then put into another cloner, but now a linear one moving upwards in the Y-axis, with a descending scale value, to make the top branches smaller. A small bit of random rotation was also applied along the X-Axis of the branches. This setup resulted in the rudimentary structure of a christmas tree – which was all procedural and easy to tweak!

The tree needles were created within the Cinema 4D hair system, which offered a really flexible and fast solution for exactly what we needed. Once we tweaked the shader and got the hair looking how we wanted, we converted the whole system to geometry from the hair ‘generate’ attributes – this was so that the animation rendered flicker free.

The tree Geometry was created from simply using a sweep along the splines we created. The only tricky part here was keeping the polygon count as low as possible without losing any noticeable visual quality.

Finally, to speed up the whole scene, we deleted all of the geometry that was not going to be seen by the camera. The fur geometry was obviously pretty taxing on resources, so this sped up the scene a huge amount.

For the footage, we wanted to shoot something close to our office in the centre of Altrincham, Cheshire, and we obviously needed to shoot our footage at night time for our neon sign to be visible. In order to make the shot easy to camera solve and preserve as much detail as possible, we shot before the sun had actually set and graded the footage down afterwards. We added a few extra details such as tracked-on headlights to sell the effect and we believe this execution worked pretty well!

We created our neon sign taking inspiration form the Altrincham christmas decorations that were already up. The sign was also created in Cinema 4D and it’s 3D position and camera was created just using the in-built motion tracker. Again, the results were great and super quick compared to other match-moving solutions. We lit the geometry using a ‘pseudo-hdri’ made from chopping up the footage in photoshop – This also gave the shiny materials something to reflect. An¬†illuminated texture was also applied on the text element, to resemble a neon light.¬†The lighting was obviously not that important as most of the geometry will be hardly visible at night time, and the illuminated text provided the majority of the overall aesthetic.

The individual elements were then all composited together in after effects. A ‘crash-zoom’ effect was used to unite the live action footage with the rendered christmas tree scene, and a ton of motion blur was used here to hide any seams. We made the rendered tree scene a little more festive by adding some live action footage of a fireplace behind it, which believe ended up looking quite nice. We also added a fake little zoom and re-focus effect to the live action part, to frame our cg element a little better as we felt as though it was getting slightly lost, and might be hard to read when people watch it on their phones etc. The colours were then tweaked a little but at this point we felt as though it was good to go!

The video was then shared on socials, a few days prior to the Christmas break period. It was then shared by a popular page in Altrincham and had over 2,000 views in the first day. We were very pleased with the reception we had on the video and it is very encouraging for future posts for socials.

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