In this tutorial, Spanish motion graphics artist and animator Luis Armesilla – aka Aesthetic Therapie – explains how he creates fluid-based type illustrations where the letters are formed from liquid.
Luis details the best workflow for this: from type creation in Illustrator to modelling in Cinema 4D, and fluid simulation in RealFlow. He will return to Cinema 4D for animation and rendering, and then add the final touches in After Effects.
It’s a creative process that requires a powerful workstation as you’ll be working with some dynamic effects. Even so, you’ll see that making fluid animations with RealFlow isn’t only for 3D magicians, and using it with Cinema 4D is easier than you think.
You can use this tutorial with the files provided in the project files, and you can also use it to make your own logo fluid animations and other experiments.
Time to complete
Maxon Cinema 4D R12, RealFlow 2012, After Effects CS5, Illustrator 3 or later
Files for this tutorial are downloadable from here.
First, you need to create your flat type. For this masterclass, I’ve used my own Plstk typeface, which can be downloaded from bit.ly/Aeepmf. You can also find the Illustrator file I’ve used in this tutorial’s project files.
Save each letter – or part of the letter with a component font such as Plstk – separately as Illustrator 3 files, so you can easily import it from Cinema 4D.
Next, open Cinema 4D, and drag the first Illustrator 3 file into your scene. Apply an extrusion (Object > NURBS > Extrude NURBS) with a depth of 20cm. Add Fillet Caps with six steps and a Radius of 3cm. Check the Constrain checkbox to keep the shape regular.
Select everything in the Objects panel and make them editable (C). Select everything again, right-click Connect and Delete, and then delete the triangular shape tags. Next, Triangulate the shape (Functions > Triangulate) and export it as an .obj, so it ends up in a form and format that RealFlow likes.
Open RealFlow, select Import > Objects and choose the .obj you want to start to work with.
Once you have the object in the desired position, add a Particular Emitter to the Scene. We are going to use a Square Emitter. Ensure this is inside the object.
The Emitter parameters are extremely sensitive and changing one of them even just a little bit can give you very different results. It’s one of those tools where it’s best to learn through reading the manual and trying to understand the physics behind it, rather than learning through pure experimentation.
For my thick gloopy liquid, I used the following parameters: 5 for Resolution, 100,000 for Density and 1.2 for Int Pressure; leaving the others on their default settings.
If you want to see a preview of your liquid, click on the Simulate button. To generate a more accurate preview, add a Particle Mesh to the scenes. Right-click on it in the Nodes panel and select Build. Now click on Simulate again, and you’ll see a better preview.
If you’re happy with how your letter looks, select Export > Export Central, then click on Export All. Save it somewhere. Repeat these steps for all the letters or letter components.
To bring the fluid simulation back into Cinema 4D, you’ll need the import plugin from realflow.com, so download and install it now if you don’t already have it.
Open a new scene in Cinema 4D. Change the Project Settings (Cmd/Ctrl + D) to 25fps and the Document and Preview times to 125 frames each. In the Render Settings, change the size to 1,025 x 576, and add Ambient Occlusion and Global Illumination to the Effects.
Next, import your meshes. Go to Plugins > RealFlow > RealFlow Mesh Importer. In the Setup tab, click on the button by File Path and select your first mesh. You can now see the mesh in your scene and use it just like any other Cinema 4D object.
Repeat this for the rest of your letters. Add some ‘hard letters’ too, by just importing some of the .objs you exported earlier – and the other elements including the camera and the floor.
When it comes to adding lighting, you can create your own, though I bought the Greyscalegorilla Light Kit Pro lighting system for Cinema 4D (its usefulness is apparent in that almost every Cinema 4D tutorial we’ve ever run has used it, Ed). Create the textures for each object, playing with the colour and the reflection of the materials.
It’s now time to animate the different elements – the letters, camera and lighting – to create your animation. Your liquids will flow as your animation plays out. If you want some of your letters to be hard, import the .objs you exported in Step 3 (before you used RealFlow to fill them with liquid).
To make the shot in my animation where all the letters fall to the floor with realistic gravity and collisions, I used Cinema 4D’s Mograph and Dynamics tools. I created a couple of Cloners and put all of the letters inside, then went to the Dynamics tab for each Cloner, set it to Enabled and set Dynamics to On to make them fall and bounce.
I enabled Dynamics for the floor so the letters collide realistically with it, but set Dynamic to Off so the floor doesn’t fall when the letters hit it. I then imported the letters to spell the word PLSTK, and put this on the floor. Again, I enabled Dynamics, and set Dynamic to On so they would move when impacted by the falling letters.
Once you’ve finished all the shots you need, render them out with the settings you selected earlier.
Next, you’ll need some music to add to the animation. For this project, I used After Effects rather than Premiere Pro as the task’s more about finishing – that creative polish than makes a short piece like this look fantastic – than editing.
Rather than ripping off some pop or dance music illegally – as many creatives seem to for their showreels and promo films – downloaded some free royalty-free music to use. Blue Vertigo (bluevertigo.com.ar) is my favourite site to find such tunes.
Once you have the music, import the footage into After Effects so you can edit it and make it flow with the audio. This part is very important to give the final animation the fluid rhythm it needs.
Once you have the final animation, colour correct the animation. I used Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks plugin, as it quickly and easily allows me to get the look I need – and the results are outstanding.