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Faster 3D Text and Logo Workflows in After Effects CC

This year at Adobe MAX, we released After Effects CC 2017 (14.0), which features a variety of performance and workflow enhancements.

In this article, we’re sharing more detail about faster workflows for creating 3D text and logos in After Effects, using a new composition renderer based on Maxon CINEMA 4D.

Please, if you want to ask questions about these new and changed features, come on over to the After Effects Forums. That’s the best place for questions. Questions left in comments on a blog post are much harder to work with; the blog comment system just isn’t set up for conversations. If you’d like to submit feature requests or bug reports, you can do so here.

Native CINEMA 4D composition renderer

Lots of you have told us that you want to do more with 3D. In our spring release earlier this year, we added a feature that enables you to send animated 3D text and shape layers to Maxon CINEMA 4D, extrude and style them, then bring them back to After Effects via CINEWARE, all without rendering.

Now, we’ve gone further: we’ve built CINEMA 4D’s standard renderer right into After Effects. It’s a fast, multithreaded CPU renderer and we’ve optimized it for motion graphics work.

This means it’s never been easier to jump into 3D. The new renderer enables you to quickly and easily extrude 3D text and shapes directly inside the timeline, no specialized GPU hardware required, all while working with the same animation toolset that makes After Effects the industry standard.

Getting started with the new renderer

Open your composition settings (Composition menu > Composition Settings), click on the 3D Renderer tab, and choose CINEMA 4D from the Renderer drop-down menu.

After Effects - Cinema 4D renderer
You’ll notice that not all options are available in the new renderer. However, non-3D layers in the same composition are still able to access features like blend modes and effects.

Now when you twirl down a 3D layer in the timeline, new 3D settings will appear. Different types of layers have different capabilities:

  • 3D text and shape layers can be extruded and beveled. To extrude vector elements imported from Adobe Illustrator, you first need to convert them to shape layers: right-click on the layer and choose Create Shapes from Vector Layer. Twirl down the Material Options to dial in reflection, specular and shadow settings. If you want to choose separate materials settings for different sides of an object, per-side materials options overrides can be added using the text animator and shape effects menus (the Add menu).
  • Other layers, such as video clips or solids, can be curved in an arc or set as environment layers (right-click on the layer and choose Environment Layer). Environment layers will appear in reflections, but not render themselves. If you want to render the environment as well, apply the CC Environment effect to a non-3D duplicate of the layer.

ae-extrusion-options ae-extrusion-optionsb

It’s quick and easy to change quality for faster previews or for high-quality final rendering. Simply adjust the Quality slider in the renderer settings.


These settings can also be accessed directly by clicking the wrench icon next to Renderer: CINEMA 4D in the upper-right corner of the Composition panel.


Note: The CINEMA 4D renderer includes improvements to the CINEMA 4D engine, which are required to render certain cases correctly. You will receive a warning about using an older installation of CINEMA 4D if you have changed the CINEMA 4D Installation Options (via either the CINEWARE effect options or the CINEMA 4D renderer options) to use a full installation of CINEMA 4D R18 SP1 or earlier, instead of the renderer engine installed with After Effects. If you get this warning, we recommend resetting After Effects to use the default CINEMA 4D engine.


  • What is the difference between the CINEMA 4D and Ray-traced 3D renderers? Both renderers have similar functionality, but the Ray-traced 3D renderer performs slowly without a qualified Nvidia GPU. At typical quality levels, the CINEMA 4D renderer is much faster than the Ray-traced 3D renderer on the CPU.
  • Is the Ray-traced 3D renderer going away? No, but it is only recommended for users with compatible hardware. Most people will see faster results with the new renderer.

Also available in After Effects CC 2017: Maxon CINEWARE 3.1.18

CINEWARE is a great way to work between CINEMA 4D and After Effects without intermediate rendering. The Maxon CINEWARE plug-in has been updated to version 3.1.18. Changes include:

  • The OpenGL renderer now renders without the grid and other overlays.
  • The Software renderer now uses the OpenGL renderer, with the grid and other overlays enabled.
  • Bug fixes
After Effects, Motion Graphics & Animation