Choosing The Correct Focal Length For Cinema 4D Cameras

June 26, 2014


Many 3D artists never bother changing the default focal length of their camera. However, choosing the right “lens” makes a huge difference when setting up the composition and feeling of your scene. There is a rich language of film and photography that you can use to make your renders look and feel the way you want them to.

Learning even a bit about traditional photography or composition can do wonders for your final renders. Below are a few rules to get you started in the right direction when picking the right focal length for your scene.

Wide Angle Lenses (15-35mm) Make Things Look…

  • Large
  • Impressive
  • Powerful
  • Looming
  • Overwhelming

Telephoto Lenses 85-300mm) Make Things Look…

  • Small
  • Fun
  • Cute
  • Far Away
  • Weak
  • Attractive

You should combine these rules with the angle of the camera. As a general rule, if you want the hero of your scene to appear large, try looking UP at it. The opposite is the same. Looking down on objects make them look small and cute. Or, lonely and sad.

Image by Alireza Mirhadi

In this video, I will go over a few ways to decide what focal length to use in your renders.

Watch The Video

Tutorial Focus:  , , ,
Software:  ,

  • Nick
    Great refresh on basic photography / composition techniques.
    Awesome post.

  • Here is my own example of using good focal length: I made this underwater scene in C4d, and I wanted the shark silhouette to look like a huge great white. I started off with a 25mm lens but it just didn’t look right, The wide lens distorted the shark geometry too much, the shark looks small and I didn’t want the wide separation from the shark and fish in the foreground.. Look how just by using a telephoto lens, the whole scene has a better, more ominous feel, and makes it look like the fish are oblivious to the shark, the wide shot made the fish look like they are running from shark.

  • I love you Nick. 🙂

  • Lance Brown-Ochs June 28, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I used a combination of focal length and the dolly to create a vertigo effect. Jaws and Poltergeist used the technique to great effect.

  • Useful not only for 3d composition. Thanx!

  • I’m on R13. Is that smooth transition you’re getting when switching between cameras something new for R15, or is that a preference you have set?

    • I think it’s new in R14 or R15.

      • Thank you for the reply, Nick.
        I think that’s a very interesting feature. Would I be correct in assuming that if you key frame 2 cameras off/on, that transition is included in the animation, or is simply a UI aesthetic?

        • Hi Charlie,

          They actually made a new tag for that (in R14): Camera Morph. You can attach that to ur main camera and add two other reference camera’s in the tag. After that you can blend between them. Focal length is included in that blend between the camera’s.

  • Cinmea4d Nautilus July 3, 2014 at 2:14 am


    thank you for this great tutorial. 4 More Cinema4D and After Effects Tutorials see my blog with more than 140 Tutorials!! Keep up the good work!

    thank you

  • Great tutorials, thanks for posting these!! : )

  • do you now purposely have people wandering around in the background in your intros to look like your busy?

  • Nice refresher for people.

    From the photography world, I call this “compression”. People need to choose focal length wisely for when you WANT to bring distant objects closer or purposely shove it further it away. For more flattering portraits you want a longer focal length so it’s better to step back and zoom in. The catch? Decide what’s most important! Proportion changes so dramatically at both extremes!

    Good work Nick!

  • Thanx for all the good work. I was wondering how you could animate the texture like in the “VW” animated gif.


  • Always great tutorials Nick. Thanks for continuing to make these

  • Hi there fellas! I was wondering if anybody knows how to do this focal length effect on After Effects without using any plugin, just the camera? I’ve been looking for a while now and I can’t find a solution to this, by the way, thanks for the tutorials Nick, just AWESOME!

  • how do you do the texture animation? anyways your tuts are epic!!

  • Waoo….what a creativity…..nice to see the image when it is change the size time to time ..looking awesome view in tha changing time.

  • This was SUCH a helpful tutorial. So much is out there about this for film, but it’s nice to have you translate it to 3D land.

  • Just found out, the focal lenght also affects rendering time. Wider lens increases the rendering time.

  • Thanks for your article!
    Your post has given me a very special impression, unlike other posts.
    I hope you continue to have valuable articles like this or more to share with everyone!

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