In the final part of our review of Video Copilot’s Element 3D (E3D), I want to talk about how to import 3D models into E3D, as it’s not as easy as you might think. But once you see how it’s done, you’ll be downloading models off the internet to use in any project you can. Click here for part 1, and here for part 2.
Now, before we start, I’m going to make the assumption that the C4D model you are going to download has all the textures mapped properly to the model. If not, you’ll need to set that up in Cinema 4D before you get started (you can even use the included C4D Lite if necessary).
My favorite site to download free 3D models is from tf3dm.com. TurboSquid is also a great resource, but most of the models there you will need to purchase. TF3DM, on the other hand, has a ton of 3D models set up as C4D files, which are the best and easiest format to use, especially if you’re going to need to make adjustments to your model.
On the TF3DM website, first choose the type of model you’re looking for, whether it’s a car, or a plane, or from any of the other nine categories to choose from. We’ll chose Cars for this lesson; once on the Cars page, simply press the C4D button to now have access to only the C4D models. I’m going to choose this Mustang:
Once you’ve downloaded it onto your machine, and unzipped, you can check your texture links via C4D if you want to, or you can get the file ready for E3D. To do this, you’re going to need to navigate to the Documents folder on either your Mac or Windows machine, and then look for the Video Copilot folder.
In this folder, you’ll find a few subfolders including Bevels, Materials and Models. This is where you can place custom elements so that E3D will be able to find them, inside of After Effects. I normally like to create a folder in the “Models” folder called “My Models,” or something along those lines. This way, it’s easy to figure out which models are yours, and which ones might come in an expansion pack.
I should address the elephant in the room, which for most people is “Why use E3D, when I have C4D Lite at my disposal?” Well, a great question deserves a great answer, and mine is simple: After Effects handles the E3D plug-in much better than it does the Cineware plugin. I find everything to be, overall, more responsive, and just a better way to work.
If you want a first hand example of what I’m talking about, once you’re done reading this article, and start importing 3D models into E3D, take the same models, and import them using the standard Cineware importer, and you’ll notice the speed and overall functionality enhancement right away. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cinema 4D, but Video Copilot has just streamlined the whole process in a way that is just superior to Maxon.
Once your model is in your newly created folder, simply head back into AE, create a new solid and apply E3D to it. Hit F3 on the keyboard to call up the Effects Control window, and simply hit “Scene Setup.” Once the E3D interface has appeared, in the Model Browser, simply navigate to the folder you created, double click on the model, and it will now appear in E3D. If you’re happy with how it looks, hit “OK,” and you’ll now be brought back to the After Effects interface to animate your model.
Now, keep in mind that the models you download off the internet won’t be of the same quality as the ones you might purchase from Video Copilot. The milage varies based to who created the model. I have had some that are super detailed, and look fantastic, and I’ve had others that, well, weren’t. I downloaded a model of a car, and when I got it into Element 3D, I realized that whoever created it only needed to use the driver side of the car, as that is what was created. Half a car! It was actually quite amusing.
In the end, having the ability to either create your own, or to quickly download full 3D models, and seamlessly integrate them into Element 3D is just another fantastic reason why you need this effect. Keep in mind that I was specifically referencing C4D files, but Element understands a wide variety of 3D file types, so chances are if you work with common ones, you’ll be up and running in no time flat!
It’s worth pointing out Video Copilot offers different bundles you can choose from, to ensure you get what you need to get started. For instance, they have a bundle that includes Element 3D and Pro Shaders 2 for $249, vs. purchasing each one at $199 and $99, respectively. You’re saving yourself $50 doing this. You can even pick them up at a reseller like Toolfarm [affiliate link], and purchase them for a great deal.
For more information, and to check out Element 3D, head over to their site.