Sci-Fi Ident

As part of a rebrand for Foxtel On Demand I created some genre-specific indents that play before the movies. This first spot for science fiction was created using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, After Effects, Maxon Cinema 4D, plug-ins from GenArts, Red Giant Software and Video CoPilot, and textures from Greyscale Gorilla and The Pixel Lab.

I knew I wanted to create a spaceship door with some kind of locking mechanism and some quick sketches helped me zero in on the look I was after.

A simple animatic in Cinema 4D helped test timing of the animation and framing of the lock.


scifidoor4The paths were created in Illustrator, named and imported into Cinema 4D using the Cineversity ArtSmart plug-in. ArtSmart converts the Illustrator layers into named Cinema 4D layers in the Layer Panel, saving loads of setup time. Even though the spot focusses on the lock, I decided to build the entire door to give me more flexibility when animating… plus it was fun!

The door and lock were modelled using a combination of simple extrusions and sub-divisional modelling.

The materials are a combination of Greyscale Gorilla Texture Kit Pro textures and Pixel Lab Material Pack textures. Both packs have great metal and overlay grunge materials. Notice in this image the section above the right side of the lock is missing. Originally I had the word “AIRLOCK” as extruded text on the left side (you can see the end of the K) but it didn’t make sense because the framing made it impossible to read. So instead I added a section above the right side of the lock to act as a digital readout.

scifidoor6aDirty Metal from the Pixel Lab Material Pack includes an Ambient Occlusion channel inside the Fusion Shader, which gives the grimy, brown appearance in the shadows.

scifidoor6bThe dust material on the lock LEDs is from Texture Kit Pro. I noticed in a test render that it wasn’t rotating with the LED and after some trial and error discovered that setting the Falloff Shader’s Space parameter to Object not World, fixed the issue.

Screenshots of the displays from Cinema 4D were imported into Photoshop where grungy textures were created with alpha channels. The Readout Dots were created in After Effects using CC Ball Action and the leaks were sourced from CGTextures.

scifidoor8 These were imported back into Cinema 4D and comped onto the displays to add extra dirt around the insides of the displays and below the lock. Texture Kit Pro Grime and Dents overlays were used on the lock, door frame and speaker grill.

scifidoor9After a test render I noticed that the grime material noise was jumping around and none of the noise animation settings in the preset were active. After some experimentation I discovered that disabling the Distort Shader’s 3D option fixed it.

This is an initial Photoshop test for the vertical LEDs using a gradient from red to green, and placement of the readout text.

The lighting is a combination of Greyscale Gorilla’s HDR Studio Pack with Pro Studio Collection and Area Lights. The Area Lights were placed around the edges of the frame pointing inwards.

The final render out of Cinema 4D was done using the Physical Renderer with a Custom Sampling Quality setting just below High to minimise the noise. The multi-pass Open EXR render was imported into After Effects via .AEC export from Cinema 4D (I didn’t use Cineware as this was done using CS6).


scifidoor14Rampant Design Studio Flares and Studio Smoke were used to create the environment behind the door.

Red Giant Software Key Correct Matte Feather EZ adds a subtle feather to the edges of the matte and Light Wrap helps integrate the doors with the background. Key Correct remains my favourite set of plug-ins for compositing in After Effects.


scifidoor17The reflection pass was masked off and comped using the Screen blend mode to add some punch to the highlights on the lock and logo.


scifidoor19The shadow pass was comped using the Multiply blend mode to beef up the shadows a bit more.


scifidoor21GenArts Sapphire Glow was used here to create the glow on the main LEDs and extensively throughout the project.

Each vertical LED was rendered with an image buffer in Cinema 4D, making it easy to colourise and animate them in After Effects.

Once all the LED precomps had been prepared, Sapphire Glow was used with a wiggle expression added to the Brightness parameter, giving the LEDs a subtle flicker.


scifidoor25The LED buffers were combined to make a matte for the entire vertical LED strip. Levels was used to add contrast to the strip, which was comped over the glowing strip using the Multiply blend mode.

Sapphire TriTone was used to colourise the LEDs, with hold keyframes to animate the colour to switch from red to green.

The readout text and dots texture were parented to a null object, created using an external compositing tag in Cinema 4D.

Extra grunge was added to the displays and parented to null objects, also created using external compositing tags in Cinema 4D.

The Curves effect was used on an adjustment layer to increase the contrast and and move the overall grade towards cyan.

Another Curves adjustment layer – isolated using feathered masks – adds subtle blue tones around the sides and top where the area lights were placed in Cinema 4D.


scifidoor32VideoCopilot Optical Flares was used to create visible blue light, with a wiggle expression on the Brightness parameter to add subtle flicker.

Red Giant Magic Bullet Mojo was used on an adjustment layer for the final colour grade.

FT Lens Distortion was used to add some subtle chromatic abberation.

Sapphire Glow was used to add some extra glow to the door opening, with the alpha channel set as the matte to isolate the glow to only the opening.

scifidoor36Sapphire Rays was used for the volumetric light, with the alpha channel set as the matte to isolate the rays to only the opening. I love the addition of Atmosphere with this effect, making it appear that the smokiness from the background is wrapping around the lock.

  1. Erik Cantu

    Great post. Any info on the audio production of this spot?

    • John Dickinson

      Hey Erik,
      I wasn’t invoived in the audio post other than making a few suggestions. Personally I feel it’s a bit over done.
      Best, John.

  2. Steve

    HI John;

    Awesome breakdown really well designed and conveyed in the visual break down. Thanks for taking the time to do this.


    • John Dickinson

      Thanks Steve, much appreciated.
      Best, John.

  3. Nilesh Prasad

    Nice tutorials

  4. Brandon

    I would love to see this in a full tutorial, it looks awesome.

  5. Ryan Pohanic

    very helpful to see the “gotchas” in the material settings—so many obscure checkboxes in Cinema 4D that can throw you for a loop-

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