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Using audio in Cinema 4D to drive animations can be a powerful tool, but it can be difficult finding the same power of Trapcode Soundkeys.
In this tutorial, we will look at a workflow to generate keyframes in After Effects using Trapcode Soundkeys and export them to Cinema 4D to drive the animation of text only using the core features found in the Prime version of Cinema 4D.
For this tutorial, create a new composition using the HDV/HDTV 720 29.97 preset inside After Effects. Before clicking OK, change the duration of the composition to match the length of your audio track.
Import your audio file and drag it to the beginning of the timeline.
Next we need to create a null layer for each letter. In this example, there are seven letters, so press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Y seven times.
To keep the null layers organized, rename each null layer by selecting a null layer on the timeline and press enter to edit the name. Change the name to match the letters that will be animated in Cinema 4d.
Distribute the nulls along the x axis. Keep the nulls in order according to the null's name in the timeline so that layer 1 is furthest to the left and layer 7 is on the far right.
Press Ctrl Y to create a new solid. Make the solid the same size as the composition and name it Soundkeys Data.
Select the Soundkeys Data layer and apply Trapcode Sound Keys by going to Effects > Trapcode > Sound Keys.to the Soundkeys Data layer and select your Audio Layer from the dropdown list.
In the Effects Control Panel, use the drop down menu for the Sound Keys Audio Layer to select your audio file .
Scrub the timeline to find a location in the audio file that produces peak amplitude in the audio spectrum generated by Trapcode Sound Keys.
Select Sound Keys in the Effect Controls Panel and twirl down the options for Range 1. Change the Falloff to linear and the Falloff Time [sec] to 0.25. Set Output Min/Max to Custom with values of 720 for the Min and 0 for the Max (The Min is set to 720 since that is the Y value for the bottom of the composition and 0 is the top).
With the Sound Keys effect selected in the Effect Controls Panel, move the Range One Corner Markers to border the tallest audio spectrum bar in the Composition Panel.
In Effects Control Panel, press Apply in the Commands area at the bottom of the Sound Keys effect.
In the timeline, select the Soundkeys Data layer. Press U to reveal the Output 1 Sound Keys keyframes.
Select all the null layers by selecting the first null, hold down shift and select the last null. Press P to reveal the Position Property for all the null layers.
Hold down ctrl and highlight the position property for each null layer. Right click the Position Property for one of the nulls and select Separate Dimensions.
Press Ctrl + Shift + A to deselect all the layers. On the null layer titled "U", Alt + Click the stopwatch next to the Y position.
Using the pick whip, drag from the Y Position to Sound Keys Output 1 and press Enter on the numeric pad once you have let go of the pick whip.
Select the Soundkeys Data layer in the timeline to reveal the Sound Keys effect in the Effect Controls Panel. Click on the title of the effect (Sound Keys) and press Enter to rename it to Sound Keys U. Renaming the effects will help keep track of the multiple instances of Sound Keys.
With Sound Keys U selected in the Effects Controls Panel, press Ctrl D to duplicate Sound Keys U.
Click the fx check box next to Sound Keys U to turn off the effect. Select the duplicated Sound Keys effect (Sound Keys U 2) and press Enter to change the name to Sound Keys T.
Press Delete in the Commands area of Sound Keys T to remove the previous keyframes.
With Sound Keys T selected in the Effects Controls Panel, move the Range 1 Corner Markers to border a different spectrum bar in the Composition Panel. Be sure to keep the Y value of Corner Marker 1 the same as in Sound Keys U
In Effects Control Panel, press Apply in the Commands area at the bottom of the Sound Keys T effect.
In the timeline, select the Soundkeys Data layer. Press U to reveal the Output 1 Sound Keys T keyframes.
On the first null layer titled "T", alt + click the stopwatch next to the Y position. Using the pick whip, drag from the Y position to Sound Keys T Output 1 and press Enter on the numeric pad once you have let go of the pick whip.
Repeat steps 16-20 until you have a new instance of Sound Keys for each null layer. Remember to change the Range Corner Markers for each instance of Sound Keys keeping the Y value of Range 1 Corner Marker the same for each instance to ensure the nulls have a variety of maximum heights.
Select all of the null layers by selecting the first null (layer 2), hold down shift and select the last null (layer 8).
Click on the Options button and change the world scale set at to 1:1 and click close.
Press the Export button. Note: One drawback of the AE3D_Export script in AE CS5.5 is that the browse button does not work. The default location for Windows is the desktop. I don't know where the default location is on a MAC.
Open Adobe Illustrator and create a new document.
Press the letter T on the keyboard and type your text that you want to use in Cinema 4D (you can also use the built in text tools in Cinema 4D as well).
Select your text and go to Type > Create Outlines.
Go to File > Save. Be sure to save the file as an Adobe Illustrator 8 file under the Illustrator Options during the saving process to allow it to be imported by Cinema 4D.
Go to Cinema 4D and open the Lightwave file created by the AE3D_Export script.
Click OK on the LightWave 3D Import dialog box.
In the Objects panel, select File > Merge Object. Select your version 8 Illustrator file to import your text.
Click OK in the Adobe Illustrator Import dialog box.
In the Attributes Panel, change the coordinates of the Illustrator text null to 0 for the X,Y, and Z axis. Also, change the P Rotation to -90 degrees.
Create an Extrude NURBS object.
Make the Extrude NURB the parent of the Illustrator text null.
In the Attributes Panel, change the Z movement value from 20 to 800 and make sure the box is checked for Hierarchical.
Right click the Extrude NURBS object in the Objects panel and select Make Editable.
Right click the Extrude NURBS object in the Objects panel and select CINEMA 4D Tags > XPresso.
Click on the [+] icon next to the Extrude NURBS null to reveal the individual extruded paths for each letter.
Double click the name of each individual extruded path and rename it to correspond with the text objects.
Drag the null object for the letter A that was imported from After Effects into the XPresso Editor.
Click the red box in the upper right hand corner of the null layer in the XPresso Editor and select Coordinates > Global Position > Global Position Y.
Drag the Extrude object for the letter A into the XPresso Editor.
Click the blue box in the upper left hand corner of the null layer in the XPresso Editor and select Coordinates > Global Position > Global Position Y.
Connect the Global Position Y of the After Effects generated null with the Global Position Y of the Extruded text object by dragging from the red dot to the blue dot.
Click and drag around both objects in the XPresso Editor to highlight them.
In the Expresso Editor, go to Edit > Copy.
In the Expresso Editor, go to Edit > Paste to duplicate the objects.
Drag the letter E null object that was generated in After Effects into the duplicate of the letter A null object from After Effects in the Expresso Editor to replace the object.
Drag the letter E Extrude NURB into the duplicate of the letter A Extrude NURB in the Expresso Editor to replace the object.
Repeat steps 51-55 until each null layer from After Effects is link to the corresponding Extrude NURB.
Now if you drag along the timeline you can see that the Extrude NURBS are animated along the Y axis.
Move to the last frame of the project and create a new floor.
Move floor down along the Y axis so that when the letters come to their final resting position they are just above the floor.
Change the project settings to your desired output. For this project, I will output the same settings as my After Effects composition. Add your materials, lights, and a camera to the scene and export your final animation. Import your Cinema 4D animation back into After Effects for adding post effects and creating a final export with the original audio file.
There are a lot more possibilities than just animating the height of text with Sound Keys in After Effects. Try using Sound keys to animate position, scale, rotation, particle speed, particle birth rate, and the list goes on.