Freelance 3D artist Nejc Polovsak explains how to create a stylised logo animation, working from start to finish in Cinema 4D
Cinema 4D, with its MoGraph tools, is probably one of the most user-friendly 3D packages available. By enabling you to experiment with different tools and explore your creative ideas, it helps you achieve unique effects in a short time. Animating logos in 3D is one of the most common projects that motion designers come across. Here, I’ll take a look at how to start off with splines, and then create the logo in 3D.
You’ll achieve a distinctive animation, then add some stylised lighting to fake global illumination and create shaders for your scene. Let’s get started!
Creating your logo
Start by creating splines for the logo and the text under it with Cinema 4D’s spline presets and some basic spline tools. Use the Extrude NURBS object to add some depth to it with fillet caps that will create highlights on the edges of the logo. This will be a dummy logo but you can apply the same principles to almost any shape or text you want. You’ll create two layers for the logo: the base layer, which is visible in the beginning, and the outer layer, which will be animated.
00:05 The logo splines
Create an outline of the spline to prepare it to be extruded
Start by adding a Flower Object spline. Change the number of Petals to 5, set Plane to XZ and make it editable by pressing [C]. Go into point mode, select all points and right-click in the viewport to access spline commands, then select Create Outline from the drop-down menu. Now click and drag in the menu so that you get an offset, which will look good when extruded.
00:50 Add an Extrude NURBS object
Extrude the spline by setting up its Fillet Caps and Radius to give it a rounded look
Grab an Extrude NURBS object, make it a parent to the spline and set its Movement on the Y axis to 30cm. Go into the Caps tab of Extrude Object and set the caps on Start to None and the caps on End to Fillet Cap, with 4 Steps and a Radius of 5cm. This will be the inner part of the logo.
01:32 Create outlines for the outer part
Now you need to duplicate the Inner Logo Extrude Object and rename it Outer Logo. Select a Flower spline inside Outer Logo and then go into point mode and create a spline outline with the Create Outline command. This outline will need to be a bit bigger so it wraps around the inner part of the logo when extruded. Also, make sure that the Y Movement on the Outer Logo Extrude Object is at least 1cm bigger than the one on the inner part.
03:22 Add text splines under the logo
Create a new outline on the outer part of the logo so it’s thicker and wraps around the inner part
To add text under your logo, create a Text spline and type in the text you want. I’ll use the words This is our logo for now. Set the Plane of the Text spline to XZ and tweak Height so it matches the size of the logo.
04:00 Create Inner and Outer text parts
The next step is to extrude the text
Next, create another Extrude NURBS object, rename it Inner Text and make the text a child of this object. Set Movement on the Y axis to around 4cm and set Start caps to None and End caps to Fillet Cap, with 3 steps and a Radius of 0.5cm. Duplicate the Inner Text object, rename it Outer Text and set Radius on the End caps to 1cm.
06:16 Tweak the mesh
Set up the mesh on the outer parts so that it’s made out of quadrangles
In this step you’ll tweak the mesh so it’s made out of same-sized quadrangles. Go into the Outer Logo spline and set its Intermediate Points to Uniform. Increase the Number to around 20. Next, increase the Subdivisions in the Outer Logo object to 4 so you get even-sized squares on the sides of your logo. You’ll also have to tweak Caps, so change Type to Quadrangles, turn on Regular Grid and set Width to 7cm.
Repeat these steps on the Outer Text spline and Extrude Object to get the same look. Now create a new material with the colour you want and apply it to the outer parts.
Adding a PolyFX object and Effectors
In this stage you’ll break your logo into separate polygons with a PolyFX object. You’ll use a Step Effector on your PolyFX object to achieve the look you’re aiming for. By tweaking Position parameters you’ll offset the polygons of your logo, and by tweaking Falloff settings you’ll get the exact effect that you want.
You’ll also add a Random Effector to randomise the position of the polygons a bit and to add some extra animation. Of course, you’ll need to set some keyframes for Effectors to animate and add camera animation for the final piece.
09:15 Add a PolyFX object
Now prepare to add the Effectors
First you need to hide the text, then create a new Null object and make it a parent to the Outer Logo Extrude Object. Rename the parent Outer Logo. Go into the MoGraph menu and add a PolyFX object. Put it under the new Outer Logo parent. Next, create a Connect object and make it a parent to the Outer Logo Extrude Object. Now you’re ready to start adding the Effectors.
10:19 Add and tweak the Step Effector
Tweak the Step Effector
With the PolyFX object selected, go into the MoGraph menu, add the Step Effector and put it inside Outer Logo parent. Create a new Null object, rename it Effectors and make it a parent of your Step Effector. You’re about to tweak the Step Effector falloff, so go into the Falloff tab, tick Invert, then set Size to 400 x 400 x 400 and Falloff to 25 per cent. In the Parameter tab, turn off Scale, turn on Position and play with the values until you like the look of it. I used values at around 200cm.
13:23 Tweak the falloff
Go to the Falloff tab and alter the Step Effector falloff curve to get the effect you want
It’s time to tweak the look of the Step Effector falloff on your logo. Go into the Falloff tab, right-click on the Spline graph editor and select Linear from Spline Presets. Now select points in the graph editor, right-click and set Point Type to Soft. You can see that you have handles on the points to control the tangents. You want a nice ease-out effect on the point on the left side of the graph, so tweak the point handles to achieve this.
14:28 Add a Random Effector
Add a Random Effector for some random movement animation on your polygons
Select the PolyFX object, go to the MoGraph menu, add the Random Effector, and make it a child of your Effectors parent object. First, set the Falloff of the Random Effector to have the same values as the Step Effector. You’re using this Random Effector to get some random animation on your polygons, so go into the Effector tab, set Random Mode to Turbulence, and set Animation Speed to 20 per cent.
16:28 Animate the Effectors position
Go to frame 0 and move the Effectors parent out of the way, so the falloffs of Effectors aren’t covering the logo. I moved that to around X: -500cm and Z: 500cm, and set a position keyframe. Now move to frame 150 and reset the Effectors position to 0, 0, 0. Set a keyframe. Open the timeline in F-curve mode and set the first keyframe to have Zero Length, then adjust the second keyframe to ease in for a longer time. Do this by adjusting the handles on the keyframes. This means that the animation starts fast and slows down towards the end.
21:16 Repeat these steps on the Text object
Repeat the steps on the Text object
You’ve finished animating your logo, but now you have to animate the text. Repeat steps one to five from Stage 2 on the Text object and play around with the values of Step and Random Effector to get a look you like. When animating Effectors for the text, make a slight offset on the animation, so the animation on the text starts later.
25:37 Add a camera and animate it
Add a camera and pick a nice angle for the beginning of the animation
Next, add a camera to the scene and look through it. Go into the Render Settings and set the Output resolution to 1,280×720 so you have a correct 16:9 aspect ratio in your viewport. You can also go into the viewport settings and turn on Safe Frames. Now go to the end of the animation and pick a nice, clean shot where the camera is directly looking down onto the logo. Set a keyframe for that camera position. Move to frame 0, move the camera closer to the logo part, pick a composition that looks good, and set a keyframe for it.
Now you can tweak the F-curves on the camera animation so they match the curves on your logo animation, which is fast-moving at the beginning and slower at the end. Create a Hardware Preview ([Alt]+[B]) of the animation to see what it looks like and if it needs any tweaks.
Adding lights and shaders
In the final stage of this tutorial I’ll explain how to light your scene. You don’t really need any fancy plug-ins to set up light or global illumination and get a good result. You can simply create a standard three-point lighting rig to simulate that GI look and set up a Sky object for reflections. I’ll also show you how to create materials for the inner and outer parts of the logo.
30:53 Add a floor and create a material for it
Create a floor material
Create a Floor object and make a new material for the floor. You want it to be white, so set the colour of the material to 100 per cent white and turn off Specular, which is on by default. To create some Ambient Occlusion shadows on the floor, go into the Diffusion channel of the floor material and add an Ambient Occlusion effect. You can leave the settings at the default values; just reduce Diffusion Brightness to 50 per cent so you don’t have so much contrast on the floor.
31:23 Create and position your Key Light
Now set up your Key Light. You’ll need to change the settings in the Details tab
From the Light menu create an Area Light. Name it Key Light, tint it slightly orange (10 per cent) and turn on its shadows. Looking from the top view, you want to place it above and to the right of your logo. I picked a position of about X: 1,200cm, Y: 800cm and Z: 1,400cm. Make sure that it’s rotated so it’s facing your logo. In the Details tab of Key Light, increase Size X and Size Y to about 500cm. This will make the shadows a bit softer. You also need to turn on Falloff: set it to Inverse Square (Physically Accurate). Set the Decay value to about 2,200cm. This will add some realism to your lighting.
34:08 Add your fill lights
Start by duplicating your Key Light and renaming it Fill Light. Change the colour to something more blueish, turn off its shadows and, looking from the top view, position it under the logo and to the left. Now duplicate it to create another Fill Light and position it to the bottom right of your logo. You can reduce its strength to about 50 per cent.
35:35 Add a Sky object for reflections
Set up the Sky material, turning off everything except the Luminance channel
Create a Sky object, make a new material for it and name it Sky. On this material, turn off everything except the Luminance channel. Now add a Gradient Shader to the Luminance channel, set Type to 2D – Circular and invert the gradient so it goes white to black from left to right. Drag the right (black) handle to the left so you get a nice white-looking circle with black borders in the preview.
When that’s done, you can apply this material to the Sky object and then, in the Texture Tag, set Tiles U and Tiles V to 2. This will give your logo some nice soft reflections.
36:20 Tweak the main logo material
Tweak the Specular levels on the main logo material to get the look you need
Go into the Reflection channel, turn on Additive and create a Fresnel shader in the Reflection channel. You can leave the settings at default – this will give you the look you want. Next, go to the Specular channel and set Width to 30 per cent, Height to 100 per cent, Falloff to -20 per cent and Inner Width to 30 per cent. This will give you sharp specular highlights on the edges of the logo.
38:00 Create a glass material
Finally, create a glass material for the inner sections of the logo
Now create a new material, rename it Inner and apply it to the Inner Logo and Inner Text objects. Turn on Transparency, leave it at 100 per cent, set Refraction to 1.4 and increase Blurriness to 10 per cent. Next, turn on the Reflection channel, add the Fresnel shader to the Texture channel, and set it to about 85 per cent. Now tweak the Specular channel – I use values of 25, 100, 0, and 40 per cent, which look pretty good. All you need to do now is set the render settings and render it out.
About the author Nejc Polovsak is a freelance 3D artist based in Slovenia. With over six years of experience as a Cinema 4D specialist, he works for clients all over Europe