• How to Set Up Physically Based (PBR) Materials in Cinema 4D

    If you are interested in having your lighting look realistic, then you’ll want to start using PBR materials

    In this tutorial we will cover how to setup Physically Based or PBR materials in Cinema 4D using Physical Renderer. This workflow is relevant to Cinema 4D R17 and higher and uses the Material -> Reflectance channel.

    If you are a Set Designer Subscriber then you’ll want to follow this tutorial to learn how to use our PBR Materials. We also include a .c4d file with the material all setup, so you can skip this whole process. But it’s still good to understand how to set it up manually from the material files.


    1. The Material Files

    cinema 4d physically based materials

    Most likely you have downloaded a Physically Based Material from some where online and you want to use the files inside of Cinema 4D. Included will be a few files with a bunch of different names like: texture-color.jpg, texture-normal.jpg, texture-specular.jpg, texture-gloss.jpg, texture-height.jpg.

    Save these files some where safe. Create a folder like “PBRMaterials->Concrete-01” and start your material database.


    2. Cinema 4D Setup

    Next open Cinema 4D and Open Render Settings and change your Renderer to Physical.

    Double click in the Materials Panel to create a new material.


    3. Color

    Go to the “Color” tab of the material and enable the check box. Find the “Texture” field and click the button next to it and select the “color” file. This may be called “texture-albedo.jpg”, “texture-color.jpg”, “texture-basecolor.jpg”, or “texture-diffuse.jpg” or some version of these. This is simply the color of the material.


    4. Reflectance Pt 1

    Navigate to the Reflectance tab of the material and enable the check box.
    – “Remove” the “Default” Specular Channel.
    – “Add..” a new GGX Layer.”
    – Set the “Specular Strength” to 0%. In the graphic it’s set to 20%, but specular is not Physically Based, so set it to 0%.

    Find the “Layer Color” section and then find the “Texture” button. Click it and load the “specular” file. This may be named “texture-specular.jpg”, “texture-spec.jpg”, or “texture-metallic.jpg”.

    This defines if the material is reflective in combination with the “Roughness” attribute that we’ll cover next.


    5. Reflectance Pt 2

    In the Reflectance Tab, find the “Roughness” slider and set it to 100%. Then hit the triangle next to it. Then click the Triangle Button and add a “Colorizer”.

    Click the Colorizer button and then make the gradient look like the graphic. We are essentially inverting the “typical” roughness/gloss map that most program generate.
    Finally click the “texture” button and load the “glossiness” map. This may be called “texture-gloss.jpg”, “texture-glossiness.jpg”, “texture-rougness.jpg”.

    This defines how “rough” the surface is. A white map or 100% roughiness means the materials is 100% diffuse (Lamberts Law) and all light is equally diffused. A black map or 0% roughness means the materials is 100% reflective like a mirror or chrome.

    Finally, navigate to the “Layer Fresnel” and set the “Fresnel” to Dielectric for plastic and most materials. Set it to “Conductor” for metal objects. There is MUCH more to this subject but it’s beyond the scope of this tutorial to cover it well. If in doubt, just leave it on “Dielectric” and the default settings.


    6. Normal

    Navigate to the “Normal” tab and enable the check mark next to it. Find the “Texture” field and click the wide button to load the normal map. This may be called “texture-normal.jpg” or something with the word normal. It should be a purple and green image.


    7. Displacement

    Navigate to the “Displacement” tab and enable the check box next to it. Find the “Texture” field and click the wide button to load the “displacement” map. This may be called “texture-height.jpg”, “texture-bump.jpg”, or “texture-displacement.jpg”.

    This will alter the actual shape of your geometry. If you model lacks the resolution (low poly) then enable the “Sub Polygon Displacement” and set the Subdvision Level to somewhere between 4 and 8. This topic require more explanation but is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

    Note that Displacement will add a considerable amount of render time to your scene. So consider disabling it until the final render or not using it at all for quicker renders.



    Physically Based Materials add incredible realism to your scene , but they take a bit to setup. Hopefully, this has helped you setup a PBR material in Cinema 4D for your scene. Take the time to play with the settings to see what they do. We only illustrated a generic PBR setup, each materials needs it’s own “tweaking.”

    When your Material is setup and you are happy, open the “Content Browser” and create a new “Preset” and call it “PBR Materials.” Drag your new Material into the “Preset Folder” and now you don’t have to set this up again. You can just open up the Content Browser and drag it into your scene.

    If you are looking for a place to get some PB Materials check out the Materials section of the Set Designer Database and consider joining for access to the entire database.



  • Our First Cinematography Course!

    In August of 2017 we launched our first online cinematography course and it’s been a great success! In this post I want to briefly talk about why and how I made the course and what our plans are for the future.

    Why Did I Make This Course?

    I’ve spent the last 2 years on YouTube and Instagram talking about cinematography and teaching what I know and what I’ve been learning. While they are both great platforms, they aren’t the best places to teach something in great depth. So I decided I wanted to create a place where I could create long form in depth cinematography content and the courses section of Cinematography Database was created.

    The First Course Topic

    The first course I created was about White Cyc Lighting. White cyc lighting is something I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. It started with music videos and then moved into commercials. I’ve been able to make a living shooting white cyc and green/blue screens, so this is the first topic I wanted to share with up and coming cinematographers.

    I learned these techniques by observing on bigger sets and learning from DPs and gaffers. I wanted to share that experience virtually for people who are unable to get on bigger sets in person.


    I spent a month brainstorming what concepts, techniques, and setups I would use to illustrate the fundamentals of white cyc studio lighting. After making an outline I broke the content into “modules” that were made of “lessons.” Each lesson would be a video about 5-10 minutes long. I recorded the A-roll and voice over in a few days and then created the corresponding illustrations with Cine Designer over a month.

    This forced me to further develop Cine Designer and I made a lot of improvements that will make their way into the next update/release.

    The Future

    I am currently developing a Set Designer, which will allow me to visualize sets, rooms, houses at a much higher level of quality. When that is completed I have plans for a course on location lighting and stage lighting with sets.

    I want to thank everyone who has taken the course and I’m looking forward to producing more in the future.



    You can watch the trailer for the course and take two lessons for free @ courses.cinematographydb.com

  • Set Designer for Cinema 4D Set Designer for Cinema 4D in Development

    In April of 2016, we launched the very first version of Cine Designer for Cinema 4D. Since then, our user base has continued to grow and we have released a new version and several updates. And we’ve always included a free “alpha” version of Set Designer with every Cine Designer license.

    We are now working on an official release of Set Designer for Q4 of 2017.

    What is Set Designer?

    Set Designer is a collection of both parametric and static Cinema 4D assets that streamline the process of creating photo realistic sets.

    – Stage Flats with windows and doors
    – Residential house walls with windows and doors
    – Floor and Ceiling with Stair Well
    – Parametric Cabinets with Customizable Drawers and Doors
    – Kitchen Assets ( Refridgerator, Microwave, Dishwasher, Sink, Faucets )
    – Bathroom Assets ( Toliet, Shower, Sinks )
    – Bedroom Assets ( Beds, Dressers, Night Tables )
    – Practical Residential Lights and lamps
    – Couches, Tables, Shelves, and more!

    No one wants to 3d model rooms, doors, windows, etc. but they are essential to visualizing almost every scene. Set Designer for Cinema 4D brings together all of the essential components of a built set or house into one centralized place.

    Follow Cinematography Database on Instagram to stay up to date with our development.



    Development Renders

    Set Designer for Cinema 4D

    Set Designer for Cinema 4D

    Set Designer for Cinema 4D

  • 3 Cinematic Lighting Setups in 1 Room – Aputure 300D First Look

    I learned these lighting techniques when I was a camera intern on a feature film in NYC.  I spent 10 years experimenting and refining them during my career and now I use them on almost every shoot.

    There were three main goals of this shoot:

    1. Demonstrate several fundamental lighting techniques that are used for narrative shooting.
    2. Light 3 interior scenes: Day, Sunset, and Night
    3. Test the preproduction model of the Aputure 300D LED light.

    We shot at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, that is located on the Steiner Studios lot in Brooklyn, NY. The school is only a few years old and the facility is brand new and gorgeous! We shot with their Red Dragon Weapon in 6K and used their Zeiss Compact Zoom 28-80mm f2.9 lens. I’ve used this lens quite a bit and it’s still one of the only cinema lenses that covers the Red Dragon sensor.

    The bedroom set for this scene was constructed with 3 simple stage flats that were left over from the show “Vinyl,” that was shot across the street at Steiner Studios. The left wall had a door, the back wall had two windows, and the right wall had one window. The stage had a proper pipe grid and a man-lift, but for speed I decided to keep everything on the floor.

    After framing up the wide shot, I also noticed that the left wall’s color didn’t match and that there wasn’t any floor boards. In situations like this, it’s best to keep the “UGLY OUT of the FRAME.” I stuck to the longer end of the Zeiss Compact Zoom 28-80mm and never showed the floor to wall transition or the left flat with the door.


    I love lighting day interiors and I always pretend I’m shooting an episode of “Law & Order” or the feature film “Drive.” Those are my main jumping off references points for some reason. I started by framing the two back wall windows with two 4′ rolls of Quarter Grid Cloth diffusion. We didn’t need to cut the gels, we just unrolled what we needed and hung them from C-Stands with arms. This is a quick way of “frosting” the windows and hiding what is behind them. And in this case there was an ugly black sound stage wall about 10′ behind the windows, not a translite or another set.

    For the wide shot I wanted to “blow out” or overexpose the picture window (the window that the camera see’s in shot) and I pushed an Aputure Tri8 LED set at 5600K and 100% output through it. That lighting unit has a relatively punchy focused light beam, so I aimed it at the lower part of the window. This brought the window/diffusion up to a nice light level and edge lit the male actor nicely.

    Next, I added an Aputure 120D with a Fresnel Lens and pushed it through the right window of the back wall. We let some of the direct or hard light shine through the diffusion and slashed it across the lap of the actors. Real sunlight would have been MUCH brighter but we wanted to control it for this scene. The hard quality of the light made a convincing sunlight slash.

    To add a soft keylight to the entire scene we bounced the new Aputure 300D into an 8×8 Muslin frame.

    Muslin is basically a canvas fabric that is used to diffuse or bounce light in the film industry. It’s one of my favorite bounces and diffusion materials but it does “eat” a lot of light.

    The muslin bounce made a great key and using the Aputure RF remote, I was able to dial in the amount of light I wanted to taste by looking at the monitor.


    Aputure 300D LED – TBD
    Aputure 120D – http://geni.us/Aputure120d
    Aputure Light Dome – http://geni.us/AputureLightDome
    Aputure Tri8 – http://geni.us/AputureTri8BC
    Bounce/Diffusion – http://geni.us/BleachedMus8x8


    I wanted to setup a Marvel / Neo Film Noir “desk with a typewriter” scene, so I brought a desk down stage and left the bed in the background. I center framed the whole set and started lighting from scratch.

    The first thing I started with was the key light! We placed a very small desk lamp (PRACTICAL!) camera right of the talent. To make it feel like that lamp was illuminating the actor we pushed an Aputure 120T with the Fresnel attachment through the 8×8 Bleached Muslin.

    Muslin comes in two types, bleached and unbleached. The unbleached is a more orange color and the bleached is closer to white.

    In this case, it would have been nice to get the extra warmth from an unbleached muslin but we had the unbleached muslin already setup.

    To separate the main actor at the desk from the background, I bounced the Aputure 300D + Fresnel off of a 4×8′ beadboard (whiteside) that was positioned as a back top ambient bounce. This spilled all over the room a bit too much for my taste, but I used the RF remote to dial it to a reasonable light level.

    To finish the scene, I used an Aputure 120D to hit the two windows and flagged it off of the stage background. This added a bit of extra detail to the scene and made the “unmotivated backlight” a bit more believable. RE: unmotivated source: moonlight doesn’t typically backlight anyone unless you have large cathedral style windows or skylights.


    Aputure 300D LED – TBD
    Aputure 120D – http://geni.us/Aputure120d
    Aputure 120T – http://geni.us/Aputure120T
    Aputure Light Dome – http://geni.us/AputureLightDome
    Bounce/Diffusion – http://geni.us/BleachedMus8x8


    Sunset is always fun because you get to work with hard light from the SUN and color contrast. The general concept with magic hour is that the ambient light from the sky is 10,000 Kelvin or higher aka BLUE AF. And the direct sunlight, depending on the distance from the horizon is 1900-3200 Kelvin aka ORANGE AF.

    To key the actor, I used an Aputure 120T (T FOR TUNGSTEN!) coming through the right wall window. We didn’t use any diffusion but the Aputure Fresnel attachement gave the beam a nicer shape than the basic reflector. This LED is natively 3000K and the camera was set to about 4300K, which made it render pretty orange on camera.

    We used the same Aputure 300D and beadboard back ambient bounce for some well… blue back ambient lighting.

    And the real moment of genius here (Matt pats himself on the back) was using a 4×8 showcard as a low budget translite. I hit the top of the showcard with a 120D (blue) and the bottom of the showcard with an Aputure TRI8 dialed to 2300K (orange). This created a gradient that graphically recreated the look of the sky at sunset. DP FTW!


    Aputure 300D LED – TBD
    Aputure 120T – http://geni.us/Aputure120T
    Aputure Tri8 – http://geni.us/AputureTri8BC


    I had a great time shooting this project and it brought me back to my film student / indie filmmaking days. While this may appear to be a “large” production if you are a student or a filmmaker who is early in their career, this shoot is the size of a VERY SMALL indie feature film or commercial. Given that, I was very happy with what we were able to create in a few hours with a small crew!

    I recommend watching the video for some extra insight and if you are interested in picking up some of the equipment we used during this shoot, there are plenty of BHPhoto affiliate links casually dropped through out the post!




    On Camera DP: Matt Workman
    Producer: Ted Sim
    Producer / BTS: Nerris Nassiri
    AC: Silvia Lara
    Gaffer: Kristen Meloche
    Grip: David Light
    Grip: Minu Park
    Grip: Mikey D’Amico

    Actors: Nick Rapp, Yasmeen Jawhar

  • Is Your Top Light… Tops?

    This mini article is a from my new White Cyc Lighting Course that comes out August 2017!

    Top lighting can be both dark and “Godfather-esque” or it can be soft and heavenly. In this mini article we’ll study 3 different lighting setups that were visualized using Cinema 4D and Cine Designer.

    Small Light Sources = Hard Shadows

    White Cyc Lighting

    If you use a small light source (relative to the size of the subject being lit) it will create sharper shadows. This is illustrated in the figure above where the talent is being lit by an Arri 2K Open Face light.

    The open face light is a “spotlight” and the 2K double ended tungsten globe inside of it emits light that is gathered by a reflector and projected from the lighting unit in a cone shaped light beam. The beam is narrow as it is emitted from the lighting unit but widens the further it gets. This beam creates a circular lighting pattern when it hits the floor.

    The shadow that it creates on the floor is “sharp” and well defined. The shadows on the talent are also sharp and defined. Because of the dark shadows it creates under the talents’ eyes, this creates an ominous and scary vibe. Even if you put diffusion the barn doors of this unit, it wouldn’t change the shadow quality very much. BUT if you put FOUR of these units through a 20×20 Bleached Muslin, then we would get a much different look.

    Large Light Sources = Soft Shadows

    White Cyc Lighting

    When you use a light source that much larger than the subject the light beam is much broader and creates softer shadows. You can think of every point on the 20×20 diffusion frame (illustrated in figure 2) as a discreet spot light, like the 2K Open face. Every point of light on the diffusion frame is emitting it’s own beam of light. Because the sources are so close together they blend together.

    But if you consider two different points of light on opposite sides of the diffusion frame, their shadows are essentially “cancelling” each other out. This effect is why the shadows from the large light source appear to be so “softer” and much “brighter” than the shadows from a smaller light source. Relative to the subject, lighting is coming from more directions which is softening the shadows and adding more fill from below.

    EPIC Conclusion!!11

    Try this concept out for yourself on your next shoot and pay attention to the shadows and the emotional effect it has on you. AND if you liked this WIP lesson and you want to see more, SIGN UP for my latest online course: Commercial Cinematography I: White Cyc Lighting” and stay up to date on when the course goes live and any special promotions before the launch!




  • Cine Designer Domenik Schuster Brandenburg Road Safety Campaign | DP Domenick Schuster

    Germany based Cinematographer Domenick Schuster used Cine Designer to design a chilling “one take” crane move for the “Brandenburg Road Safety Campaign.”

    Cine Designer Case Study

    Domenick Schuster | Website | Instagram

    Final Spot


    Director: Jonas Ludwig Walter
    Production: Alina Wiederda and Philipp Rappsilber
    Cinematographer: Domenik Schuster
    1st AC: Alexander Mitzler
    2nd AC: Sophia Fenn
    DIT: Marcus Mittmann

  • Cine Designer Mike Staniforth The University of Manchester | DP Mike Staniforth

    UK based Cinematographer Mike Staniforth used Cine Designer to create these detailed 3D lighting diagrams to explain the lighting of a white cyc studio commercial.

    Cine Designer Mike Staniforth

    Mike Staniforth | Website | Instagram


  • Modern Cinematographer Hunter Baker The Power of Mentors with DP Hunter Robert Baker

    In this episode we speak with NYC/LA DP Hunter Robert Baker about how a chance meeting with an industry DP lead to a mentorship that helped launch his early career.

    Hunter Baker

    Hunter Robert Baker | Website | Instagram

    New York Camera Company



  • Kit Kat Commercial | DP Justin Derry

    NYC based cinematographer Justin Derry used Cine Designer to visualize the lighting and blocking of a horror/comedy commercial for Kit Kat.

    Justin Derry Cine Designer

    Justin Derry | Website | Instagram


    KIT KAT “Chainsaw Massacre”