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Vertex Week day 3: VFX live blog

Join us through the day as we follow along with our artists for Vertex Week 2022. Day 3 is all about VFX.

Vertex Week 2022, all you need to know
(Image: © Future)

Welcome to day three of Vertex Week 2022, and we're focusing on VFX. Today we have videos that include those from Mike Griggs who will takes us through using Cinema 4D and After Effects to create cinematics; Glen Southern shares how to get started in iPad 3D sculpting; and Ian Failes looks back at the creation of the VFX in The Lawnmower Man with its director, Brett Leonard.

We've watched along to Mike Griggs using Cinema 4D and After Effects to create cinematics for TV and caught up with Brett Leonard, the director of cult classic movie, The Lawnmower Man, as Brett Leonard. Rewatch his video below. In fact, you can watch all our videos any time you like on Creative Bloq, but why not follow along with us on some key videos and share the experience? Scroll down to start the live blog.


Here we go! We can't wait to hear what Mike has to to teach us about seamlessly utilising two creative software heavyweights. And kudos on the Creative Bloke url by the way, almost-twin.

So we'll be learning how to place an object (made in Cinema 4D) into this impressive drone footage, which is starting off in After Effects. Excellent. And we're glad to hear he's starting from the basics with this as the title sounds somewhat intimidating.

So Griggs is kicking things off in After Effects, using a pro-res 4K image at filmic quality. Griggs begins the process by adding a text box to the footage, alongside shrinking the footage from 4K to HD.

Oooh rotating text, nice.

A good point that trimming the work area to your exact timings makes it much easier to work with the footage. 

Mike says you can use the tracking tools in AE for a variety of tasks, including when working with Instagram filters. A useful tool all-round. But there are also a bunch of hidden secrets within Cinema 4D and AE that cover almost all bases (though you could also check out this list of top video editing software).

Mike shows us how to attach an object to the text layer using a null object, so it all tracks together. It's not brilliant, he says, but it looks okay to us.

And now to export the scene as a jpg in order to pop it into Cinema 4D. An important point here is to make sure all Cinema 4D content is saved in a tex folder.

Ah Cinema 4D. Hello. As Mike says, you can do loads in Cinema 4D, a "practically infinite" amount, in fact. Love this shape play to start things off and show us how the polygons, edges and vertices work.

Watch out for erroneous objects that could track – Mike is worried about the white car in the background so he just made sure it hadn't been picked up by the 2D tracking. 

No, those green circles aren't an alien invasion. They are a colour key, showing that C4D is confident in that tracking movement. The red bits mean the system isn't so sure. You can click around on this to explore each individual point.

Back to the sphere. Mike is now dropping it into AE. He points out that the scale is wrong and you can fix this easily by scaling the project in the drop down menu.

Spaceship vibes for real now that the sphere is hovering above the null landscape. But oh no! Mike's Mac has given up (to give yourself the best chance of that not happening, see our best laptops for video editing). He switches over to PC and seamlessly continues with a slight difference to the remade scene.

Mike is showing us the Redshift renderer now to add some shadows and lighting effects. He's added a dome light to start to make things look more natural, but C4D has a whole bunch of light options to play with.

Fascinating to see Mike playing with the shadows here, really dialling down into the process it takes to perfect 3D work.

Now adding in the texture using Node editor... we wonder what he'll go for. What suspense.

Mike uses Maxon Noise to add a unique texture now to make this simple shape more complex. How complex you want to go with this is purely in your skills remit.

Ooh what a glow at the end there. So there we have it, a whistle-stop tour through using After Effects and Cinema 4D as a team. As Mike says, there's a lot more that can be done but what an excellent starter. Thanks Mike!

We'll be live blogging later today as we take a look back at the VFX behind 90s classic Lawnmower Man. In the meantime, watch our other videos on-site for Vertex Week, including a tutorial on how to create an NFT.

Here we go… Remembering the VFX of The Lawnmower Man with its director Brett Leonard. This was a classic that set the standard for VFX back in the day.

Welcome to 1992! Well, not quite, obviously, but we are revisiting one of the year's most prolific films – Lawnmower Man on its 30th anniversary. And here to give us his unique perspective on the VR sensation is the film's director Brett Leonard.

Oh hi there Brett Leonard and Ian Failes. Don't worry Brett, the lighting is Zoom-chic and we are all here for it. 

A $5million budget for this film seems pretty impressive tbh. 

A reminder there that the film may be best known for its VR, but the themes of the film are so important, especially now. Brett comments that he is still mining those themes now, as there is "virtual everything" and even that he feels like he has entered the movie. Mark Zuckerberg, we hope you're listening.

Wow, from horror to sci-fi in one meeting. We're not sure the chainsaw thing would have made such a splash. Glad we got a VFX VR movie rather than a trashy slasher.

Yes, the whole thing did feel like a crazy magic trick. With a '90s colour scheme.

That swirling lovers scene is so iconic. You can imagine it being used as a music video now.

Amazing that those headsets were being depicted 30 years ago, and they are just starting to be commonly used now (see our pick of the best VR headsets list if you want one for yourself).

The old CG looks so stylised and inventive now. That CG ball look is amazing. To think there are games and VR now that are struggling to get a unique look and these guys did it through necessity.

First motion capture there in 1992 – and now you can do it on your iPhone and tablet. We've come a long way since The Lawnmower Man but guys pioneered it.

As we're in the year when the metaverse and Web3 is starting, this feels very cautionary. 

Love seeing how this new technology can be harnessed with traditional filmmaking. Hollywood Rooftop sounds very interesting.

The metaverse, VR, filmmaking… it really feels like we're at the edge of another wave of incredible creativity. Can it be sustained? We hope so.

Peter Gabriel… more name dropping here. That 90s style of CG is kinda fun, we'd love to see it replicated and cleaned up. Who wants a Lawnmower Man remake?

New word of the moment… CYBERDELIC.

That was fun, we're off to dig out our VHS copy of The Lawnmower Man. Remember you can rewatch this talk at any time. 

And we're off! We're in the presence of a sculpting master here, as Glen's design studio has worked on Game of Thrones and that gorgeous Sainsbury's stop animation ad, to name but two of many!

Glen starts by chatting through some of the more traditional choices for 3D modelling on drawing tablets, but stresses that the iPad is so powerful now some of its apps can rival more obvious options. In fact Maxon has just got involved and bought Forger. Glen likes to use Forger and Nomad to sculpt on the iPad.

But who is going to use an iPad for sculpting? He asks. Well, two main groups. First, beginners, who don't need to engage with all the confusing (mind-boggling) jargon and just get results with not much knowledge. Second, those who are already using ZBrush, Blendr etc and just want to get away from their desks. Plus, you can create in iPad and then use in more 'serious' programs. 

Limitations include no buttons on Apple Pencil so you have to use your hands. There isn't always enough memory either, and you can't UV or bake out your maps. Repetology is just on the way though.

This sector will see a boom, he says. We agree, as we've seen the uptake in search for 3D modelling apps rather than software. 

Glen is going to use Nomad to model a T-Rex (hurrah!) and he has used reference images. He recommends you do the same, whether they have been modelled by you or they are images you've found.

Glen talks through the important distinction between the creation stage and the refinement stage. There's a key difference between the workflow in both and he shares a helpful chart showing what to do in each stage.

Red flag: You can't remesh the low-poly mesh on the iPad, you need to do this elsewhere. So once you're in the refinement stage, you must not voxel remesh or you will lose everything. 

Now if you didn't know the difference between plantigrade and digitigrade before just now, you're not alone. Thanks Glen for an unexpected learning opportunity.

Glen has smushed all the shapes together and is smoothing things out. You can do anything at this point, he says, so just have a play at what you want to include. Think about big muscle groups but don't get too detailed.

Oooh Glen is adding surface detail now, which looks fantastic (though he says the underneath is still a mess). 

A great tip is to keep the images you need open in the background as there is no quad view.

A lovely example of using the trim tool to make "sweeping cuts" there, to make the tail. Glen chose not to use the tube tool here.

The way Glen adds the fingers shows exactly how smooth and simple the blocking out process can be on the iPad. Roar-some!

Ah, time to remesh and onto the clay tool to refine it better. There's no surface detail here. It looks splendidly sumptuous with the glistening grey texture, it's very pleasing to watch.

An interesting point here, Glen has used a crocodile as a reference point for the dinosaur's mouth. Sometimes it works to look around the subject for detailed references. Here, a reptile stands in for another reptile.

You can use masking, Glen says, to define some of the detail, and the Crease tool as well to increase realism. Then use the Crease tool but inverted to do veins and other detail.

Wow it is really starting to come together now. Look at that detail. 

Keep any explorations of poses on a separate layer so it doesn't interfere when you put it into another program. It'll be better for rigging and lots of other processes.

Glen is moving around the body of the dinosaur, solving problems with different tools and adding more detail.

Then finally, export the image to wherever you like. Glen takes it into Procreate, and it looks glorious. He adds complementary colours (check out our post on colour theory for a lesson on this) and he plays with different layers of lighting.

That's it for the second day of Vertex Week. Coming tomorrow we'll talks and tutorials on game art and design.

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