How to Animate the Inception Totem Part 2 – After Effects

August 16, 2010

In part two of this tutorial, we head into After Effects where we composite and finish the scene using Frischluft Depth Of Field, Curves and blurs. I also show you how to use the object buffer from cinema 4D to color correct different parts of your scene separately. Enjoy.

Watch Part 1 of This Tutorial

Tutorial Focus:  

  • hello, I’m from china. Frist,i want to thank you for to teach me many things in cinema 4d and ae .You know,for some reason in china,we can’t watch the video on vimeo&youtube. can you give me another link to see your tutorials.or ,you can send your video files to me. i will Upload it to the blog we i see it. my msn . my english is so,if you have time .all the chinese cinema 4D user will thank you.

  • Thanks Nick!!

    my final version..

  • Thank you very much for this tutorial Nick another winner for sure. I really enjoy your tutorials and have learn’t alot over the last 2 years or so, love the colour grading you do with levels and the like in AE and it gives the final renders a very professional look.

    Looking forward to many many more tutorials in the future, you rock!

  • woo hoo! now if i can figure out my lighting issues i can finish it up! thanks for the tuts nick!

  • I enjoyed with the first part, thanks dude!

  • great tut nick, maybe you could show us your “essencial plugins” for after effects. havent seen that plugin before. would also be good to see how you would achieve the depth without that plugin and what is possible with a standard install of after effects.

  • thanks nick 🙂

    here is mine..

    though i have to wait for 30+ minutes for it to be converted.

    you rock!

  • Instead of double rezing the entire render, couldn’t you just double rez the depth map, then scale it back in AE?

  • Great Tutorial…Learned some new techniques. Thanks

  • Hey Nick.

    Here is my scene file which I said I would share with everyone.

    Thanks for the tutorial 🙂

  • nice nick! good work as usual. Yes I like to see mini tutorials once in a while just as you said during the end.

  • Great tutorial nick.. I acutally havent watched your 2nd part. I kinda went ahead and just made my own version leaving off from your first part. I also exported using a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. when I get home from work I’ll view the 2nd part. ( work doesnt allow vimeo. 8( )

  • Excellent. As always. Thanks a lot!

  • Hi Nick,

    i defenitly don’t wanna go on your nervs but i think you have to try it.
    In this part on minute 16 or so you say that there are steps on the edges of the totem caused by the alpha-matte and there is no way to fix it. But since Cinema 4d R11.5 you can.

    As i’ve written in my comment for part one, there is a litte check-box in the render-preferences under Anti-Aliasing. “Consider Multi-Passes” i think (i’m from germany so i don’t know if it’s the real name in the english version).
    When you tick that all multi-pass-renders will be anti-aliased and fit perfectly to the rendered picture. So hopefully this will fix these stairs-edges even with DOF.
    I’ve tried it with photoshop and it worked.

    It’s just a tip, i realy don’t whant to annoy you! So keep on going, love your tutorials!

  • Hi Nick, quick question;
    Doesn’t the adjustment layers effect the values of your depth map below it, and thereby changing the focal point? I never used the frischluft stuff, but I do just that, color correction on my depth pass, to adjust the blur with the built in AE tools.

    • sorry! Obviously effect in ‘Doesn’t the adjustment layers effect the values of your depth map below it’ needs to be affect.

  • Thanks, i really like this one! Tonight i’m going to see Inception in Imax

  • Great as usual!

  • That was fun!
    Here’s mine… with music from the score added

  • Nice tutorial again, I am posting the link here which I did for a small beverage company. It uses your discovery branding tutorial for transitions. Check it out here:

  • Great tutorial Nick!

    Too good to be true… or was it all a dream. 🙂

  • Thanks Nick! Great tutorial.
    Here is my version of the totem:

    Made with Blender 2.5

  • From Spain… ¡¡¡Nick you are the best ape!!!

  • Thank you Nick! You are great as always!looking forward for your After Effects tutorials.

  • Great job Nick! Your tutorials keep me inspired and motivated!

  • Excellent tutorial. Glad that I find this website and learn something new today.

  • How are you Nick?

    Love your tutorials. I have been a big fan of your helpful tips for a while now.

    I had the same problem with the anti aliasing on some projects and I resolved the issue by putting just a 0.5 to 1. of Gaussian blur on the Z-depth pass.

  • Really great to find all these different type of tutorials on your blog. It is inspiring and helps alot.

  • Nice one.
    Looking forward to the ae tutorials

  • Hi Nick,
    thanks a lot for all your tutorials.
    You gave me an idea with this “Inception” thing. Let’s create our own totem for a fake “INCEPTION 2” trailer. So here is mine : TOTEM #1 “le sablier”.

  • love your stuff nick, a great help as always 🙂

  • I followed your tutorial; I found it very interesting so I tried and obtained this result, hope you like it:

    I know, text is not very impressive…I’ll wait for your new tutorial based on text animation! =D Cheers

  • I loved the little look you gave right at the very end! lol
    Awesome job as always!!

  • Great stuff as always man.
    Here is my version using a different type of spinning top / gyroscope thing.

    PS. You said to let you know what I thought of your HDRI Light Kit Pro … It’s awesome man! So intuitive. Great results .. can’t wait to get stuck into to some more C4D.

  • hey Nick.. here is mine.. looks almost exactly like yours!! 😀

  • Hi Nick,

    Great work as always. Learned a lot. Anyways, one quick question, I’m just starting out using c4d, does the size or scale of the object affect the render time?

    Thank you very much.

    • No, size nor scale will affect render time. Render time will increase with the use of (very roughly in order of impact, least to most) reflections, transparency, area shadows, high anti aliasing settings, blurred reflections, Global Illumination.

      The last four in particular have settings that can be tweaked to get a decent result in an acceptable time, depending on the project.

      Hope that helps.

  • Great tutorial as always Nick.

    I tried to do something a bit different in a roundabout sort of way. I deliberately kept the texturing very simple and played around with the colour in Motion. Tried for very subtle, simple look.

  • I know this isn’t related to the tutorial (thanks for it, by the way) but how do you compress the file you want to render. I know there are some settings. Say you had an avi file about 700 MB’s. If you were to put it in After effects, without adding any additional layers to it, and then render it, what compression settings would you use to keep it at the initial 700MB’s size?

  • Wow! Thanks Nick!

    Really appreciate your tutorials!

    I love seeing everyones work…So here is my take and final result, critiques more than welcome!

  • Found a piece of the movie in a review on youtube at 1:06 minute. Tried to make it look same. Only C4D no AE.

  • This is my version. Gsg is actually my homepage Nick. You are inspiring!

  • Wanted to do this right after I had watched Inception for the first time:

    Quickly combined real footage and 3d, some more work to do the masks.

  • Hey Nick,
    Here is my version:

    I used photo texture for the floor instead of procedural and added extra shadow pass (actually blurred reflection to the floor).

    Thanks for your cool tuts.

  • Well, it only took me a month to get this done because ive been crazy busy.. but here it is in all its glory… my inception totem. Thanks for the tuts Nick.

  • I know I´m arriving very very late. But please check it out. My version is completly different. Definetly “Sexier”


  • Thank to your tuts I’ve good hope to go from paper edition to video FX…

  • my take on this great tutorial, let me know what you think

  • Thanks for the tutorial nick, it was truly amazing.

    Heres my final.

  • Hey there, Nick, I really love everything that you do on here. I especially like this video but I had a problem. I can’t work with Cinema4D, instead I work in 3Ds MAX and I decided to see if I can replicate the result using what I know.
    Here is what I ended up with:

    Unfortunately it was my first time using AE so there are mistakes.

    I just wanted to share.
    Keep doing what you do because it’s awesome.

  • Hi Nick, i know this may be a dumb question but when you import the tiff layers into after effects you get it all in like 1 single file, and i wonder how do you do that because i cant , so if you could tell me it, or somebody else i would appreciate it. 🙂

  • Outstanding – thanks for putting this together.

    Just a comment about your closing comments – RE doing some more animation type stuff in just After Effects: WOULD LOVE THIS!

  • Thanks for the tutorial.

    Here’s my version

  • Hey Nick!

    Great tutorial u’ve made there! Do you now what Frischluft actuelly means?:
    Its German for ‘fresh air’…

    Keep it up!

  • Thank you Nick. You are a inspiration. Keep up the great work.


  • Thank you very much for awesome tutorial, I’ve lot’s of things as always!

  • super late, but I’ve lost my fear of AE and getting on with learning it 😉
    Here is my effort based on your tutorial… Cheers, Rod

  • This was amazing. Heck, this is the very Gorilla cheese. Like you are laying the whole creamy, steamy melted cheddar cheese on top of us for us to embrace and enjoy, and I cannot thank you enough for that.

  • hey, Im a little late to the party but decided to start here in my quest to learn C4D (dragged myself away from AE).
    So great tutorial but just wondered why the noise texture in my video acts like noise and is animated in a snow storm type way.. any ideas? Im pretty happy with my result any how.

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