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How to Make Interesting Water Shapes Using Caustics and Displacement 44 Comments

In this tutorial, Chris shows you an old technique he uses to make cool caustics based animations. He also talks about speeding up test renders, displacement, and some special lighting settings. Enjoy!

Final Render

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  1. I love your out of the box thinking. Great ideas… thank you.

    • Howie

      Great! Love youre tutorials!
      Is there a way to get these caustic on white background? I tried to give the ground a white material and use in render tag background-compositing. But then there is no caustics seen. All I’ve tried don’t work. Do you have any solution.

      Thank you and grettings from Munich Oktoberfest,

  2. LOVE this tutorial. Thanks a million. I have been looking for something like this for a long time 🙂

  3. Craig

    Cool technique! You mention at around 6-7:00 you never scale objects in object mode. Why do you think that’s a bad idea?

  4. Elmar Luijmes

    Hey i found a way to create a water effect light looks really cool

  5. DeepMotions

    One of the BEST Idea and tutorial, Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. w00dy

    Finally….waited for my weekly Chris.
    I noticed, you´ve been struggling to come up with some news ideas.

    I really would appreciate a tutorial ab texturing, e.g. explaining the functions of the different channels. Not the basic stuff…more the advanced typ of tutorial.
    How to achiev realistic surfaces, what to look out for,how to use textures,etc.
    GI tips and tricks are always nice and would love another in depth modelling tutorial.

    Come on guys…let´s brainstorm and take the weight off of chris´ shoulders.

    Greetings from Berlin…

    • w00dy


      I would love to edit my posts. Any chance you´re going to include this function soon?

  7. Louis

    Another excellent Tutorial. I love the way you problem solve as part of the tut

  8. Steve From UK

    Great and interesting tut to watch Chris, however I could not implement this as I only have the Broadcast version.

    Please don’t forget the little people who do not have the full blown studio version 🙂

    I would love to see another rigging tut say a updated version of your robotic arm

    Again great stuff Chris

  9. Thanks these tutorials are awesome. I also would love to see some information on Materials and Texturing, like how to make different surfaces, glass objects, wood, car paint ,etc and shaders vs materials. any general ideas on ways to make our renders look less 3D and more like real world objects. It seems to be one of the more subjective parts of 3D that I think would help greatly. Thanks again keep up the good work!

  10. Marty

    Hey! buddy, thanks for the tutorial–you area the man! Excellent job! I love all your tutorials–plus I think that you are one of the best teachers in my opinion–keep up the awesome work–cheers!

  11. Antonio

    great tutorial, thanks to this i know how to make proper 3D water, i should upload the video in the near future

  12. wtf_cakes

    I had been looking for an effect that the displacer deformer does for a long time. Thank you!

  13. In AE you can get something similar using TC form, yet that would be far from this particular effect. Especially when it comes to an area of usage of these caustics’ behavior 🙂

    Great stuff, Chris. 5 hours of brainstorming an idea for this tutorial worth it 🙂

  14. Love all your tutorials, Chris! You always demonstrate stuff that is so totally amazing and unique!

  15. alguti

    hey thank you Chris, really appreciate how you go in depth in explaining each function, move and why you did this and not that, makes learning this kinda of stuff accessible, fun and interesting!

  16. Tomtom Biggles

    I love this tutorial. Thanks so much. I just cant figure out why after getting almost all the way through it, Cinema will not allow me to turn caustics on….Any thoughts?

    • Jared

      You don’t have the studio version of Cinema 4d. Probably broadcast or lower.

  17. Tomtom Biggles

    Hey thanks for the great tutorial. Ive gotten almost all the way through, but when i go to turn on caustics in my light settings. It wont let me…. Some help please?

  18. Simon Smith

    Also if your stuck for a tutorial idea, a decent one on projectionman in c4d would be really useful

  19. Dustin Thaxton

    I KNOW THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE WRONG PLACE but I think I may actually get help with you guys.

    I’m using – Cinema 4d 11.5 / After Effects CS5.5 / Mac 10.7.3

    I’m trying to export my Cinema 4d scene to After Effects and it’s not working for me. I know all about the plugin I have to install and I have already done that. In fact, I can open of the provided .aec files in Example folder in the Exchange Plugins folder. The problem though is that I can’t open the ones I’m creating myself.

    So After Effects is working properly ( I think ) so I’m guessing it’s something wrong with Cinema 4d. When I export a file it comes up with an icon that has a picture of a yellow triangle with an exclamation point.

    Also, I’ve seen where people are trying to directly open the file. I’m not doing that. I’m going through the import process.

    Sorry for being rude! I appreciate any help that you offer me. Thanks!

  20. Thanks for the fantastic tut Chris, and for showing us some nice new techniques.
    Great Work!

  21. Liam Gallagher

    I cant find the ‘Caustics’ Effect you select on the Render settings at 9:55…. I’m using Cinema 4D R13.016. Any help? Thanks

    • Liam Gallagher

      I also cant enable the ‘Caustics’ effect on the spotlight you use. The ‘Surface Caustics’ tick box is un-tickable 🙁 Any help would be marvellously appreciated, and keep up the amazing work you all are doing. Greetings from England.

  22. Franz Former

    Hey Chris,
    thanks alot for sharing this handy technique.
    iam stuck getting the crisp look perfectly sharp…
    i tried the energy settings, the photons and the position of the objekt to the floor, but no luck (holy science).

    thnx again and big ups
    Franz Former

  23. Jorge

    Nice little tute, could this be used as a fire display? say like on a name or a logo? what would that take? color change? hmmm, something to play with. Thank you

  24. Very nice, Chris. I will give it a try, I am thinking you can achieve similar result by using texture with fresnel in luminance channel instead of caustics. Must render faster, will do some tests and link the results. Excellent work, as always.


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Comment Rules

This is a friendly community. Please treat everyone with respect. We don't all have to agree, but we do have to be nice. Criticism is fine, but rude comments and name calling will be deleted. Use your real name and don't be spammy. Thanks for adding to the conversation.