Posted By:Chad Ashley, Author at Greyscalegorilla
Designer and Art Director Ash Thorp creates a sci-fi spaghetti western in this Nike VaporMax spot. See how he used GorillaCam to bring the project to life.
Nike’s fourth collaboration with ACRONYM® sees the release of the Nike Air VaporMax Moc 2. To announce the new sneakers, Nike released the following trailer featuring ACRONYM® founder Errolson Hugh and musician John Mayer.
Blink and you might miss the stellar work of designer and all-around creative mind, Ash Thorp. If you aren’t familiar with Thorp’s work, he created many of the stunning posters, concept art, VFX, and titles used in films like Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell, and several Marvel blockbusters.
You can take a closer look at his Nike work in this video Thorp shared on Twitter.
— Ash Thorp (@Ashthorp) April 3, 2018
We wanted to learn more about how this collaboration came about, so we reached out to Ash Thorp. Here’s what we found out in our interview:
Chad Ashley: For those not familiar with your work, could you give us a brief history of who you are, and what you do?
Ash Thorp: My name is Ash Thorp, and I am a creative, I’m a director, artist, illustrator. I’ve been working in the feature film industry and AAA games industry for almost 8 years now.
I primarily work on feature films, that’s my client work. I’m slowly migrating all my efforts to direct my own feature film.
I’m basically a generalist. [laughs]
CA: How long have you been using Cinema 4D?
AT: I’ve been working in Cinema 4D maybe about 7 years now. It’s kinda crazy, seeing I still kinda suck at it. [laughs]
CA: I’m curious about that. You’re work is amazing, and you do a lot of original concept work. How much of that is done in 3D versus sketching.
AT: It all varies and depends. I will sketch my thoughts on paper. If it’s a motion piece, I’ll do a still, or series of stills to sell the idea. From there, it’s full on pipeline mode to do the animation and all that fun stuff.
CA: I just watched your new Nike piece, and it is just fantastic. Can you tell me how that started?
AT: Yeah, it was a quick job. Very quick. Just a couple of weeks. I knew Errolson, who is the founder of ACRONYM clothing. He’s just an awesome guy, and I’ve had him on my podcast.
So, he was pitching a concept and idea to the team at Nike for the release of his new shoe collaboration, the VaporMax. He was like, “You know who could do this? Ash Thorp.”
They needed to make a world very quickly. They pitched the idea to me, to merge a spaghetti western and a cyberpunk world. Instantly I was like, “Wow, that’s really weird. That sounds good. Let’s do it!”
I was thinking, well, we’re really in a place in the realm of CGI that you can do anything you want. That’s really powerful for someone like me, who just wants to get these ideas out of my head as fast as possible.
I saw the vision for what it was, so I grabbed a bunch of assets off of turbosquid, modeled a bunch of stuff, and did some style frames. The Nike guys loved it, Errolson loved it, and then I was like – Ok. To the races.
I was basically rendering for an entire week with all my cards on fire. I think it was a total of three weeks, from nothing to the final.
I wasn’t alone. I had my buddy Toros Kose, and he took care a lot of the heavy lifting in After Effects while I was rendering and building out the worlds. We had a lot of fun passing stuff back and forth.
CA: So it was just the two of you?
AT: Yeah baby!
CA: Dude, that’s great.
AT: I think it’s the future. The future is in smaller teams of smart people working together, complementing strengths and weaknesses and making good stuff. In my mind that’s really where things are going.
I’m seeing the death of the bigger studio. I could be completely wrong, I just feel like that’s the way I’m moving.
CA: I don’t think you’re far off at all. I remember a while back, that you were mentioning you were starting a potential job that would be good for GorillaCam, which we were we still pretty early on in developing. I got you an early version of the plugin to play with. I had no idea you were going to actually use it on a job!
AT: You literally gave me the plugin the day I started animating. That’s how good it is!
CA: Wow, my timing is just that good. [laughs]
AT: I took it, and watched the tutorial. I think that’s one thing that I will say is so important for software creators and app developers. Please give us an understanding of how this thing works. For people that are crazy busy like myself, and with an attention span of a nit-wit.
I watched the tutorial, and I went right into it. I was like, “Oh, this is what I’ve been wanting for forever now.”
This is the way I did it, which is probably against the way you intended – but I don’t care. I just kept hitting “I’m feeling lucky.” I made two cameras and said I’m feeling lucky, and I was like, yeah, that’s good. Alright, cool. Then I rendered it out.
I wanted it to feel really weird and handheld. Kind of like a drone that was super spazzy. So, I created the cameras in a point A point B, then patched everything together using the GorrilaCam.
I would change the scale to World Scale proper, and then I’d just keep hitting I’m Feeling Lucky. I had no time to really finesse things.
CA: That is exactly how I use it, just so you know. When we were designing it, I said to Chris Schmidt, I want a button that says I’m feeling lucky. I got used to the Google Play Music “I’m Feeling Lucky” button that would build playlists for me. I wanted that functionality in GorillaCam. Sometimes you could surprise yourself, you’re not really sure what you want. So I usually hit that or Randomize Seeds.
AT: Beautiful. Thank you for that. That’s how I work. I’m a weird hyper-child who pixel-fucks everything to death, but I also like randomness. So I enjoy the ability of having flaws. I like to be surprised when I make things.
When you’re at a computer, it’s such a linear experience. It’s very controlled. Oftentimes, it’s about putting imperfections into your work to let it breathe.
I think it works mighty fine for me, and I’m gonna use it like that till the end of time. [laughs]
I’m starting to do pre-viz for my films, and I started slapping the GorillaCam on there, just so it doesn’t feel so rigid. It just helps me do my job faster.
CA: I’ve always wanted this tool in Cinema, and I feel very fortunate to work with developers who can make this a reality. The most satisfaction I get from my job, is hearing from artists like you and hearing that they’re getting something out of it.
AT: I couldn’t be more thankful, honestly. You guys have an interest, you build something, it’s awesome, it’s very useful. It helps me just be an artsy-fartsy guy.
When it comes to CGI work, the thing I love is that it’s the most powerful of the artforms, I think. The thing that I hate about it, it’s the most powerful. It’s so hard to get good at fast. You can’t just go, but you can make a multi-dimensional experience.
CA: What renderer did you guys use for this?
AT: I’m using Octane right now. Testing out Redshift still, but I’m worried about learning a whole new thing.
CA: That’s why I’m here, friend.
AT: [laughs] I know, I know! I’ve seen your new tutorials on Redshift, and it looks so promising and awesome. Especially to someone like me, who uses a lot of volumetric and lights and doesn’t like noise. But, I’ve been using Octane since I started doing GPU stuff.
CA: What about the comp pipeline, that was all After Effects?
AT: Yeah. I just like to render everything without any passes and send if off. I’m kindy risky like that. Then Toros and I will take all the renders, which I have 6 GPUS – 3 Nvidia Titan X‘s and 3 Nvidia GeForce 1080‘s. Some scenes are really heavy geo-wise, so it would be 8 or 9 GB of VRAM. So they’d take like 7-8 minutes a frame.
I think there were 20 shots, each with maybe 40-80 frames, so it was just a lot of rendering. I just didn’t want to do extra passes on top of that. I just didn’t want to deal with that, and I didn’t have the time.
We originally cut it to a Justice track, added glitch and removing things and going bonkers on it up until it shipped. We were working on it up until the last minute.
You know, you hate it when you do it, but the only way to get that stuff out is to put that pressure. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just how it goes.
The people at Nike are very talented, and have great taste. I’m just lucky that they picked me to go along the ride with them, and they realize that they best way to do this stuff is work with a creative and stay out of their way.
They just let me be a bozo and get crazy. Plus I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cyber-western.
CA: That’s great. Thanks for sharing and talking with me.
AT: Thank you for what you’re doing! And thank the entire team at GSG. You’re making it easier to do what I want to do, which I appreciate. Thanks!
Client – Nike
Creative Director – Danny Demers
Designer/Animator/Art Director – Ash Thorp
Designer/Animator – Toros Kose
Score – Pilotpriest
Producer – Monica Thorp
Producer – Collin Samples
Producer – Bria Hisey
Special Thanks – Zaoeyo, Greyscalegorilla
More about this project:
If you want to know more about the product, you can read more about the shoe collaboration on Nike’s website. For more of Ash Thorp’s work, check out his website. His site also includes many of his reels from the films and other projects he’s produced. His Behance page also includes more incredible renders from this project.
If you are curious about the GorillaCam plugin, you can check out the GorillaCam product page here.
We test out the backlit Cinema 4D ASTRA keyboard from LogicKeyboard. Do you need one on your desk?
So why am I reviewing a keyboard when there are so many other juicy things to talk about in hardware? I guess because this particular item scratched an itch that’s been bothering me for two years.
When I first started learning Cinema 4D, I was coming from Maya and 3ds Max. To get a leg up on the learning curve, I decided to port most of my shortcuts over to C4D so I could get up and running as fast as possible. It was all going swimmingly until I started realizing that in most of my tutorials I would be hitting hotkeys that made complete sense to me in my Maya/Max mindset, but would be utterly confusing to the C4D artists following along.
I recently came across LogicKeyboard’s Cinema 4D ASTRA, a keyboard with specific hotkeys printed on each key. Was this keyboard finally my excuse to ditch my patchwork hotkeys and go legit? I reached out to LogicKeyboard, and they were kind enough to send me a unit to review.
Before we get into it, I think you should know that I’m not a mechanical keyboard enthusiast (though this was not for lack of trying). I purchased a Cherry MX3850 and gave mechanical keyboards a shot. After about a week of the clickety-clack lifestyle, I ended up back at my trusty Apple wired keyboard. Yes, I’m on a PC and I use an Apple keyboard. I’m a sucker for both the form factor and the feel of the Mac keys. I don’t like a lot of travel, and I love how quiet it is. With that in mind, here’s what I thought about this scissor-switch Cinema 4D keyboard.
ASTRA Cinema 4D Keyboard Specs:
- Backlit keys
- Dimmable light with five levels
- Built-in dual USB-ports 2.0
- Scissor-switch keys
- Color-coded labelled shortcut keys with graphical commands
- Compatible with PC and Mac
- Dimensions – 17 5/8” x 6” x 11/4” (446mm x 150mm x 30mm)
- Net weight – 2.1 lbs (950 grams)
- Number of keys – 104 (ANSI version) 105 (ISO version)
- Manufactured for 10.000.000 keystrokes per key
- 1.8 meter cable with separate keyboard and hub connections (avoid interference with USB extenders)
I have to say, I was rather impressed by Logickeyboard’s packaging and overall presentation. A clean well-designed box is always a treat to open. Especially those with magnetic clasps that snap shut. Always satisfying. In addition to the keyboard, it shipped with a disposable cleaning wipe and a transparent silicone keyboard cover.
The keyboard itself was larger than I had expected. A few inches longer and deeper than my Apple keyboard. A bit taller as well. The ASTRA has a dual USB plug, one to plug directly into your machine’s keyboard port, and another USB 3 plug that will turn the keyboard into a USB 3.0 hub.
What immediately drew my attention was all of the useful standard Cinema 4D shortcuts printed on all of the keys. It was like looking into a shortcut menu sitting right under your fingers. The printing on the keys is of high quality and well designed overall. When backlit, the ASTRA has several levels of brightness, but no RGB support. I must note that keys do seem uneven in their translucency.
Once I plugged the ASTRA in, I fired up C4D and I was off and running. I simply had to delete my old shortcuts and switch to the C4D default layout.
Overall, typing on the ASTRA is a reasonably pleasant experience. Key travel and feel was on par with other scissor-switch keyboards I’ve owned. I must say though that the hardware is not what impresses with the ASTRA. The keyboard’s ability to teach me the proper shortcuts in C4D keeps me coming back. It turns out having hotkeys in front of my face and under my fingers is precisely the sort of motivation I needed to legitimize my shortcuts.
I began to transition to the new keys reasonably quickly, and whenever I got stuck a quick glance down would set me straight. I also enjoyed the multiple levels of backlighting. It was helpful to transition to a brighter back when needed. I found myself discovering shortcuts printed on the keys that I had never even known about.
The Not So Good
The biggest problem I had with the ASTRA was the build quality. Several times my right index finger would catch the underside of the “h” key and nearly pop it off. A few other keys also randomly popped off with barely a press. Luckily they could snap right back into place but it was annoying nonetheless.
I personally was not a big fan of the key press feel, which was a bit mushy. My fingers would become fatigued when typing for long periods of time. Its size was not as big of an issue as I had anticipated, but I do wish it were a bit slimmer.
It’s worth mentioning that this keyboard is not easily affordable, with a retail price of $139. At that price, I would have liked to see some dedicated audio controls, or perhaps a slimmer build.
I’m rather split overall. I would highly recommend the LogicKeyboard ASTRA for anyone wanting to double down on learning the C4D shortcuts. This is a fantastic learning tool, much more useful than a laminated shortcut cheat sheet (which I’ve had my fair share of over the years).
Though it has a well designed look and appeal, the keyboard itself doesn’t really stand out from other traditional keyboards. If you are a big fan of mechanical or scissor-switch keyboards, you likely won’t be stunned by this device.
So if you are ready to commit to being a hotkey master, this might be worth the price tag. The real question is whether or not it stays on your desk when you’re ready to take the training wheels off. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
You can check out or order the LogicKeyboard Cinema 4D ASTRA keyboard here.
With so many different options to choose from, what renderer is the best one to use for your final render out of Cinema 4D?
There is no magic answer and in some ways that’s perfect. Some render engines are better for certain tasks. Below is a list of a few that we recommend and what their pros and cons are.
The Goal Of This Post
The goal of this article is to help motion designers and 3D artists make an informed decision on what renderer they would most benefit from.
What are the criteria? Glad you asked! All opinions assume you want to make photo real animations in a production environment with little to no problems. So each one is looked at through a production final-frame render lens.
Why listen to us?
We have over 40 years of combined experience with 3D rendering. Our creative director Chad Ashley has tried most of these personally and has used many of them in production. Our goal is to give you the right information to help you make the right decision for you and your team.
We understand there is confusion in the rendering space, and we are here to share what we know and what we’ve found.
The Short Answer
As of August 10th, 2017 this is our opinion of the current “Render Wars” and what we think is best for most artists. (stay tuned as I expect these recommendations to change from time to time)
For those who are ready for a GPU renderer that’s production focused: Redshift
If you or your studio have already made the jump to GPU rendering and have outfitted your workstations with multiple Nvidia GPU’s then I can firmly recommend Redshift as the best solution for you at this time.
For those on Mac, dedicated to CPU, or who have a deep appreciation for features/scalability: Arnold
For those of you still on the Mac platform or who have already invested heavily in CPU machines/farms, I recommend using Arnold as your primary renderer.
But let’s take a closer look at what may or may not be right for you.
- Built into the core of Cinema 4D
- Ton’s of tutorials
- Good representation of materials in the viewport
- Great for stills
- Reflectance is quite robust
- Excellent noise maps
- No IPR,
- Lacks strong pass (AOV) system
- No node material editor
- No curvature map (though inverse AO is close)
- No tri-planar map
- Not receiving regular updates
- Lights are in need of serious upgrade
- No dome light
- IBL workflow is cumbersome
Who is Physical Renderer Good For?
I suggest you stick with Physical if you are tied down by hardware/OS and haven’t a budget to upgrade to anything else. It’s also entirely satisfactory if you don’t find yourself rendering any complex photo-realistic animations on a regular basis. It’s quite adequate on stills and can even handle distributed rendering with Team Render to Picture Viewer.
Arnold by Solid Angle / Autodesk
- Killer development team
- Deep feature set
- Uses all of C4D’s Noises Natively
- Custom AOV’s (Arbitrary Output Variables aka passes)
- Light Groups
- LPE (light path expressions)
- frequent C4D plugin updates
- simple settings
- x-particle support
- supports both Mac/PC
- same engine in multiple host applications
- scalability, stability
- Many speed enhancing short-cuts and workflows
- Expensive (compared to competitors)
- Confusing license system (dealing with Autodesk is far from fun in this regard)
- CPU only
- Slow compared to most GPU renderers
- owned by Autodesk (bad track record of acquisitions)
- poor choice for interior rendering
- caustics are weak
Who is Arnold Good For?
I recommend it to those individuals/studios who demand high-quality images and who value stability. Arnold is also perfect for those who are not quite ready for GPU rendering but are looking for something beyond the Physical renderer in Cinema 4D. It’s also ideal for individuals or studios that have not yet made the switch to PC as Arnold will run on either Mac or PC. If you are an individual artist or a studio running lots of different sort of jobs (volumes, particles, large data sets) Arnold is the right choice for you. If you are studio with mixed 3D host applications Arnold’s proprietary .ass format is interchangeable which can be a great benefit. Arnold coupled with render farm solutions out there such as Pixel Plow is a potent combination. Arnold and cloud rendering gives small studios and independent artists as much firepower as most large studios. Arnold is one of my most recommended renderers.
Octane by Otoy
- Easy photorealism
- IPR Speed
- IPR window features
- speed of rendering (up to a certain level of complexity)
- simple settings
- custom material node interface
- Octane Scatter Utility
- tri-planar mapping
- Limited by GPU memory
- no custom AOVs
- no light group AOV
- no light linking
- inconsistent/delayed updates
- limited maps/materials
- layering multiple materials is cumbersome
- Poor C4D Noise support (requires on the fly baking)
- Poor cloud rendering support/options
- “Octane Effect” (see GSG Podcast).
Who is Octane Good For?
I think Octane is perfect for an art-director that is designing frames or doing basic look dev. It’s fast IPR, and simple UI will make it easy for a designer to create imagery, given they have the GPU power to run it efficiently. I’ve seen Art Directors have great success with Octane. Do boards with Octane, then move to a production renderer to finish the job. Octane is also useful as a “daily render” tool. I’ve often joked on our podcast that Octane should have a “send to Instagram” button as it seems to be used more on that platform than any other. Not sure if that’s good or bad. Up to you, I guess. I should also add that Octane is a fine choice for those doing primarily exterior architecture renders.
- Balances load between CPU and GPU
- Very Fast (when tuned properly)
- production focused features
- Fully featured AOV system (including custom AOVs)
- textured lights
- biased engine
- unified sampling
- versatile uber shader
- tons of map types
- a responsive development team
- Redshift Proxies/Instances
- Supported by several cloud render farms (including Pixel Plow)
- X-Particles support
- Requires knowledge of settings to reach “photorealism”
- Becomes slow and unresponsive with scenes that have many dense objects
- Quirky issues still plague the plugin (random IPR refreshes, crashes). Though the dev team is quick to respond to issues.
- no light group AOVs
- Support for X-Particles trails and curve rendering is limited to flat hair strands
- higher learning curve
Who is Redshift Good For?
I recommend Redshift to anyone running Nvidia GPU’s and who is looking for a stable production renderer and isn’t afraid to jump into some settings to squeeze out every ounce of speed out of your frames. It’s very well rounded and versatile able to handle arch-viz interiors, intricate character work, product viz, or complex VFX.
Cycles Render by Mario Tran Phuc
Cycles4D by Insydium
- Works both on CPU and GPU
- tons of features for rendering X-Particles
- great node material editor
- plenty of learning resources.
- Cycles is developed by the Blender Foundation and not Insydium. The open source nature can scare large studios who are looking for deep customer support and accountability. I’ve found that it also a bit cumbersome on seemingly simple shading/lighting tasks. AOV’s are also a bit lacking.
Who is Cycles4D Good For?
Anyone who’s work is primarily X-Particles based would benefit from Cycles4D. It’s CPU/GPU flexibility, and low price would make it an excellent choice for those on limited hardware/budget.
“Want More To Read About This?”
We wrote an in-depth article over at Motionographer. If you’re still hungry for more information, go check it out!
“Why didn’t you mention My Favorite Renderer?”
If your renderer is not mentioned above, it’s either that we haven’t used it enough to form an educated opinion or we have used it and we don’t think it’s ready for use in production yet.
We are very excited to announce the latest update to our animation plugin Signal!
Version 1.5 brings some really awesome new features and bug-fixes. Most notable is the new BPM (Beats Per Minute) functionality. We hope you check out all the feature videos and see for yourself how Signal can improve your animation workflow.
Already own Signal?
Good news, you have access to Signal 1.5 right now! Just log into the customer area here and begin your download.
Don’t Own Signal? Let’s Change That!
Go grab it! But hey, don’t take our word for it. Look at what some Signal users have said about this update.
Signal’s BPM features deliver something that has been missing from Cinema since the birth of MoGraph
Greyscalegorilla’s recent BPM addition to Signal is a complete Game Changer. What would take an animator endless hours of keystrokes and key frames now takes a click, drag and your choice of tempo.
It’s the must have plugin for every animator using Cinema 4D.
Watch Chad Ashley talk about the past present and future of 3D production. And, how he thinks the future may play out for 3D motion designers in the next few years.
This video was recorded during Half Rez 2016.
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