Thriller Ident

This ident was created using Maxon Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects and plug-ins from GenArts and Red Giant Software.

I started by box modelling a basic car shape, although I knew it probably wouldn’t be seen in the final framing it’s main function is to control the lighting.

The windscreen was created using a Bezier Object. Believe it or not it was the first time for me to use one and it was perfect for this kind of shape.

The rearview mirror was created using a spline and Extrude object with Half Circle Fillet Type. The base, arm and day/night switch were box modelled.

The tree spline was imported from Illustrator and dropped into an Extrude Object.

The twine was created using splines and a Sweep Object. I originally considered using dynamics so designed it to hook onto the back of the day/night switch.

The final model.

Dark glass and dried water drop materials was placed on the windscreen. Modified plastic and leather from Pixel Lab Material Pack were used for the mirror frame and twine.

A highly reflective material was used for the mirror glass, with smudge decals placed on the left and right sides for realism.

The tree object was created in Illustrator then modified in Photoshop to add texture and age.

The tree object material was imported and placed on the model using the Fit To Object command. More dirt was added to the mirror glass.

A police cruiser image was placed on a plane at the back of the car and positioned to sit correctly in the reflection.

A modified Tile shader with a Gradient matte was used to create the shade around the top edge of the windscreen. Notice how the Gradient layer is placed above the Titles layer and set to Screen mode to work correctly as a matte.

Generally I use a Sky Object with HDR material for at least some of the lighting. This was my first time to use Smart Image-Based Lighting (sIBL). You can grab the sIBL Loader plug-in for Cinema 4D here.

sIBL uses a set of images for the reflection, the environment lighting and the background. Check out HDRLabs for a large selection of really useful HDR images that can be used with or without sIBL Loader.

Two spot lights were placed at the back of the car in line with the cruiser headlights.

Red and blue spots were placed in line with the cruiser police lights. The Intensity was keyframed to have the red and blue lights alternately flash.

This view shows the headlight spots and the police light spots.  Red and blue omni lights were placed in front of the cruiser bonnet and linked to the intensity of the red and blue spots. This made it appear as if the red and blue light was being reflected in the bonnet.

Rather than use dynamics I opted for a Vibrate tag to add some subtle swing to the tree.

The background pass was imported into After Effects and graded using the Curves effect.

The Camera Lens Blur effect uses a greyscale gradient ramp as the Blur Map. This increases the sense of depth by blurring the foreground less than the background

Rearview_22The Background layer was precomposed and duplicated, with the Shift Channels effect applied to the top layer to make it blue. This was then combined with the original using the Add blend mode.

Rearview_24Next a red Solid layer with a soft feathered mask was combined with the background using the Soft Light blend mode.

The lighting was imported from Cinema 4D via the .aec (After Effects Composition) file and precomposed with a 50% grey Solid layer set to 3D mode. This made the Solid flash red and blue in time with the Cruiser lights.

A feathered mask restricted the Solid to just the lower third of the frame so that the entire background wasn’t affected by the flashing lights.

Some Turbulent Noise was added to the centre of the windscreen to dirty it up a little.

Rearview_28The background was precomposed and duplicated with Sapphire Blur and Diffuse. A mask restricts this condensation effect to the edges of the windscreen.

A masked water drop image was used to create the shape left by the windscreen wipers.

The final background plate.

Quba HQ has a terrific 3 part tutorial on creating a realistic rainy window using Trapcode Particular. I used the technique demonstrated to create the drips on the windscreen.

The foreground and background layers were combined and graded using a Curves adjustment layer.

Magic Bullet Mojo was used for the final grade.

Mojo made the tree and mirror a little dark so both were comped back on top using image buffer mattes.

The Exposure effect helped to brighten up the overall look.

Sapphire Glow was restricted to just the mirror using an image buffer matte.

Rampant Design Smoke was added in the foreground to represent cigarette smoke. Sapphire RackDefocus was used for faux depth of field blur.

Ft-Lens Distortion was used for subtle chromatic abberation.

A super subtle grain pass was added using Sapphire Grain.

  1. Oliver

    Nice work. Thanx for sharing the post-details!

    • John Dickinson

      You’re welcome Oliver.

  2. Quba Michalski

    Awesome work (though I like the action ident even more!) – thanks so much for the props. So few people bother to mention where they get their elements and solves from – I really appreciate it 🙂

    • John Dickinson

      Thanks Quba, I really enjoyed the tutorial and it definitely came in handy with this!
      Best, John.

  3. ed

    Hey John, can you recommend a good book on Cinema 4d? What do you use?

    • John Dickinson

      Hi Ed,
      It’s been a long time since I’ve purchased a book on Cinema 4D so really have no clue what’s out there.
      Best, John.

    • Jason

      Digital Tutors / FXPHD, no one reads software books anymore!

  4. Guilherme Todorov

    Hey John,
    Did you end up using dynamics for the twine? Because whenever I want to apply spline dynamics to a closed spline, Cinema4D just can’t understand the closed bridge and renders the start/end points as independent and just trace a line between them. (like this
    Do you know of any workaround for this?

    • John Dickinson

      Hi Guilherme, no I didn’t, I used a Vibrate Tag. I have little experience with spline dynamics.

  5. roger


  6. Matt Brushinski

    Just wanted to thank you for going into such detail on how you manage to solve the problems that came along with this project. Really thorough!

    • John Dickinson

      Thanks Matt, you’re welcome.

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