How To Use Textures and Objects to Light Your Scene With and Without Global Illumination in Cinema 4D

October 5, 2010

In this video, I show you a couple of ways to light your scenes with luminant objects and textures instead of lights. First, I show you how to use global illumination to get this effect and show some of the downfalls of using global illumination with animation. Then, I show you an alternate way to get this effect to cut down on render times and improve reliability.


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  • Thanks Nick! πŸ™‚ Just what I needed.

  • Good stuff here. GI brings my computer to its knees… ohhh woh is me.

  • nice! yeah i agree with ragingclaw…sometimes when i’m under the gun, i don’t have time to render out a GI animation.

  • Ohh man! IΒ΄ve been waiting for this kind of tutorial since… I don’t know!

    Thank you so much, Gorilla!!

  • is that a twenty four logical cores i`m seeing in there while rendering?

  • Nice work Nick – good solution. I actually just had to re-render a scene that I had lit with GI, so this was on my mind.

  • Thanks Nick!

  • Pretty cool but is there any way to use the same light technique but instead of using spheres using planes to light a scene like you use your soft boxes and other objects from your light kit?

    • If you just want to use a plane you can use the area light as it is.
      In the “details” section of the area light you can also choose “Object / Spline” in the “Area Shape” menu. With this you can choose ANY object to emit light.

      Don’t understand why the gorilla didn’t show you this technique.

    • Pretty cool! I tried using area lights on my own objects, but I’m getting really bad hot spots from the glow. Anyone any ideas?

  • For realism sake the second method only would work for spheres, right?

    Totally excited about this tut non the less.

  • Thanks Nick very useful info

  • Dope Tut man. Keep them coming. Quick question. How can you use a sound effector to drive the luminance. Like turn the lum on and off with the sound effector. I know its expresso but i dont know what part of the sound effector node to pick wip the lum channel to.

  • i havent tried it out, but i guess if you make a material with a proximal shader in the luminance channel and use this material for the setup you wanna get lit, you would be able to use non-spherical objects.

    hopefully my thought was understandable.

    very nice tut nick

    maybe you could dig a bit deeper into the particle emitter in another tutorial, maybe even into pyroCluster.

  • Wick it! Can’t wait to test out the tutorial!

  • the “Render instances” option should be turned off, simply because lights can’t be instanced for render πŸ™‚

  • that was really cool.
    I was so excited with GI that i forgot about stuff like that.

    But then, light was wont bounce off wall, right? yep it wont.

    Im not sure if GI and illu would have much difference from just using lights.

    Thanks Nick. I am working on my band’s artwork, that would help i think.

    You can also exclude those lights for GI so you have GI wherever you want.

    I would love to see a tut with full animation GI from you and mostly with self illuminated materials. Pretty much settings and what they do.

    Thanks again.

  • pt1: Dope Tut man. Keep them coming. Quick question. How can you use a sound effector to drive the luminance. Like turn the lum on and off with the sound effector. I know its expresso but i dont know what part of the sound effector node to pick wip the lum channel to.

    pt2: How can you use the audio to emit particles from the emitter. Like if you have just the kick and every time the kick drops it emits a certain amount of particles.

    Sorry for the complex comment. I dont even know if this is where to post this!! HAHAHA

    • You may need thinking particles to do that stuff.

    • Any idea how to transfer user created material presets over from a previous version? I can’t find the “user” folder anywhere.

    • oops,sorry for mistaken reply.
      There isnt a non-scripting way to use the basic emitter for this, but the sound effector and thinking particles mixed with xpresso works perfectly.
      1:sample effector output strength
      2:range mapper
      3:Pstorm node

      Steps 1-2 in conjunction with a material nodes luminance brightness port will work for the other question you asked.
      hope that helps.

    • Thanks Guy. Works perfect. I will send a link to what i did when its finished.

  • Hi Nick .. this solution will only work for spheres and only for spheres with 1 single color. Try to get a solution for multicolored spheres or for non-spherical objects ..

    thats is the first tutorial which was wasting my time. all people with a bit of logical think be able combine a light with a sphere and exlude them each. Or this tutorial was for beginner. i dont know ..

    Is out there a solution for example other object types?

    • try a proximal shader in the luminance channel of the ojbect you wanna lit.

    • This wont work like it has to be .. it doesnt look like a gi effect without enough geometry.

      Fabian says right .. turn the mesh into a light source and higher the amount of samples to get a clean effect. And also copy the object and drag it above for the use with materials.

      but this will also not work for multicolored surfaces

    • Sorry to just repost my answer from a few posts up, but here you go:
      You can use an area light with β€œObject” as Area Shape. That way you can use any object shape! But it is slower than an omni light.

  • Hi Nick!

    Awesome tut as allways! One thing you could also do is turn a hole Mesh into a Light! Pretty Neat! Just turn a light into a Area-light and under Details switch the shape to Object/Spline! Now every Mesh you put in there is a light itself!

    Greetz Fabian

  • The fun-part of render instances is that I can setup an cloner/mograph-animation of a cube and afterwards disconnect/explode it to poly’s adding object buffers to it.

  • Dude that was awesome, iv been avoiding GI because of the render time, thanks.

  • Nice one, Nick – very useful for those of us who only have a couple of rendering boxes come up when we need them, not a swarm ! πŸ™‚
    12 core multi-threaded, Jeez man, you’re making us all v jealous πŸ™‚
    Great tute as ever, perfectly paced and awesome ad hoc commentary.

  • Nick, what an awesome tutorial! Just what I need! In the example animation I see you have some “glassy” balls in there, how you made them? There nice!

  • Wow, I just threw up a vid like this before the primitives video. Neat-o

  • Great, this is exactly what I need for a project.
    Thanks man !

  • Thanks Nick!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ahhhhhhhhhhhh that emitter thingy is so cool.
    Gonna have a crack at it right now.
    Mucho thanks Magilla.
    Hey the light kit is not to shabby either.

  • You can make it mutlicolored πŸ˜‰ but still – you can’t beat the GI quality, only the render time.

    • any idea how this is made?

    • Looks like it was done by using the following method.
      1:Create new material and import a colour image texture into the luminance texture field.
      2:Add a light as per Nicks tutorial
      3:Drop the new material onto both the sphere and the light
      The material tag on the light works like a light gel.

    • change to sequence above:
      Create a copy of the material you made and change from luminance to transparency for placement of the texture.
      Drop the luminance one onto the sphere and the transparency one onto the light.

      Sorry about that, it’s been a while since i last used this method and i’m getting old.

    • right πŸ™‚ that’s how i made it, just make the both blur settings on the transparency texture very high, otherwise it will look like colored shadows πŸ™‚

  • Fantastic as always there Nick, really sexy looking visuals. Can’t wait to see your new texture kit, i use your lightkit nearly every other day and use daylight all the time, it makes things looks great quickly and effectively and so easily tweakable too which helps heaps!

  • What’s up with that ping pong table?:D looks fun:)

  • Hi Nick!
    Which version of C4D you used on this tutorial?


  • That was brilliant. Been wondering how to do that. Appreciate you too much GorillaMan!!

  • Excellent work. I’ll use this immediately.

  • cool tutorial Nick.
    Thanks a lot!

  • Thanks a bunch for the awesome tutorial/helper. This actually helped me out pretty much to be able to complete a “lightshining” scene I’ve been buzzing with for quite a while!

  • Sweet tutorial nick :D, i have a question thought, or i guess its more of a work around than anything, when im rendring out my scenes i like to go photo-realistic. But for some reason cinema 4D takes for ever to calculate blurry reflections, is there any way at all to speed the render times up? i mean i had a 600 frame animation and it took 1 hour 24 minutes to render one frame, and that was even with samples set to low, GI set to low, shadow, reflection and refractions set low. so any help would be sweet on this.

    • There is no trick to speed up blurry refections or GI, really. Those things take a LOT of processing. That said, I will be talking more about optimizing your scenes and renders in an upcoming series.

    • what about rendering a non-blurred reflection pass and blur it afterwards in compositing?

      BTW. Great tutorial Nick I learned a lot, but that 12 core machine is waaay to expensive πŸ˜‰

    • That would do the trick illd, but you’d also need to use a matte layer to counteract the blur seeping beyond the objects edges, i think.

  • that’s really cool tutorial, thanks nick
    but how the hell you make that awesome transparent material ?

  • After reading the comments that it’s restricted to spheres, I tried to figure out how to do this with other primitives (torus, cylinder) this is where I got:
    I worked with a Matrix cloner to get the lights “inside” the geometry.

  • Nice. Thanks for this Nick. See you @ the Festival this weekend!

  • Hey there Nick, nice one.
    What I would love is more in depth about GI, I saw your tutorial with the Rob(the englishman) if I remember correctly which was good.
    We all kind of know what things are in GI land but still it is difficult to comprehend it especial when the info is written.
    Therefore I love video tutorials, they are more understandable in a visually way.

    To many times I make things with no GI because I can not guarantee a flicker free render.
    Often with a deadline you just can’t afford a second render, so us “THE PEOPLE” need more info on GI
    It can produce wonderful results so let’s make the world more wonderful:D

    Keep it up man.


  • I like this method… I used in my latest video. Let me know what you think.


  • Nick, out of curiosity, im currently planning a pc build for my gfx. Im going with 2 Xeon 6 core processors on a server motherboard. Giving me 2 processors, 12 cores, 24 threads. How did you configure, or even find a build like the one you have? Asking reason is, is that a configuration like that, has to be custom made. Are you spying on me? Cause ive been planning this for 2 months when you were on a mac, now you got what i only have in a buying cart!!

  • Very very nice and handy tutorial, Nick!
    Thank you…

    Something that helped me to understand and work better with GI was this link:

    You need a couple of hours and a quite mind to read trough…but its worth it!

    Keep up the awesome stuff!


  • Very Nice Nick Quick renders are the Future!

  • Hey that’s actually helps me , thank you gorilla πŸ™‚

  • Always good to know different ways to rome! cheers

  • Hey !!
    How are you ?

    I have a problem with render it take a lot of time !! and my PC :
    – Intel Core 2 Duo 2.9 GHz .
    – 2 GB ram DDR2
    – Win Xp

    Am I have to Increase The RAM or Change CPU

  • Hey Nick!I like the way You make The Emitter Emit Spheres in the end. I really wanna do that. But does that happen only In Cinema 12?
    Because when I try Doing that in 11.5 . It Does not become A proper rigid body , In other words , It becomes the other type of Rigid Body!
    any help would be sweet on this. Thank you for the great tutorials!

    • Hello Kaustubh,
      That is correct.
      Let me help you on this one.

      In 11.5 you have to create a cloner object.
      In this cloner object you choose object and you have to select object mode and drag the emitter in as the object.

      Then you make one sphere as a child of the cloner object.

      All you have to do then is put a rigid body tag on the cloner, and one on the (floor) object.

      Hope it helps.


      The Mographer

    • Hello Mographer!
      Thank you for your Reply!
      I Even used a Fracture Object instead (I saw the Marble Pop Blog post by Nick) and It worked as well!

      Another Little Question πŸ™‚
      How do you make that cool Transparent looking Sphere as seen in the Preview.
      My Renders have not been as Nice.It gets too transparent and is not clearly visible
      I even have not been able to get a negative Refraction.

  • If you make a cloner object, all you have to do is make the sphere a child. Then on the cloner, make the count 1. Then you should have the right rigid body tag. That’s what i did

  • Hey!

    I love your tuts. They help me alot to get into Cinema.

    Ive got a little issue with this one:

    My spheres are not stable when I start the animation. They keep deforming kinda like waterdrops as they hit the ground or other objects. How can I fix that ??

    Thank U !

    Keep up the good work!

  • Thanks for this tut!
    GSG realy is very motivating!
    i’ve uploaded a little test animation using this technique.. Combined with some “5sp primitives” influence πŸ™‚ c&c are more than welcome..

  • REALLY helped. Like the way you are showing things. Intelligent comments, quick rhythm, no fatigue at all.

  • Nice, just did a small rig using this technique combined with “Volumic Lightning” and a animated Alpha layer over my texture.

    Thank you for this!

  • Hey Nick,
    Great to see some tuts about GI.
    I think there are a lot of questions about tweaking these GI settings.

    P.s. the main reason for the light problem in your tut here is that lights simply can not work as an instance. πŸ™ (love to see that problem fixed @ maxon :).

    P.s. there is an other way to fake your GI look. Learned it from a collegegue.

    It’s kind of old school, but it works!
    If you create a (crossed) ring of simple spotlights with soft shadow around the object (targeted). and rotate the the light(dome) 360 degrees in one frame, you get amazing results if you crank up the the motion blur.

    And with FAST render times! (sounds like music πŸ˜‰

    It’s worth a try πŸ™‚

    Keep it up!

    Kind regards,

    The Mographer

    • Hello, Mographer. This work-around sounds great and inexpensive on render time, can’t wait to give it a try.
      Quick question, do you mean that you have to animate a 360 degree rotation for the ring for every frame of the animation or is it just one from beginning to end?

  • muchas gracias… no escribo en ingles pero te pregunto algo como hacer el mismo efecto con objetos mas complejos? en esferas es perfecto pero en otros casos como aros o espirales

    • Hola, trate de usar un Γ‘rea de luz y caΓ­da de la forma que quieras en la “forma de Γ‘rea” campo de la secciΓ³n de detalles. Yo traductor Google para esta respuesta, por lo que espero que tenga sentido.

  • Hi,it was really good drip irragation We have led the industries with product innovations and our total commitment to the same in future makes us move forward. You can count on creative excellence in all that we do to make us the most reliable name in the manufacturing of plastic processing machinery.

  • Why are you keep using plane object as a floor? You know that you could just use a floor object which is basically a plane object with an unlimited space, so you don’t have to use plane object and scale it up all the time.

  • Great tutorial, Nick; Sharp as always. Thanks.
    Any chance to see tutorial about liquid ink or dropped ink?

  • A couple nice little info particles were emitted from your fine tutorial and were subsequently cloned into my “Eternal Search for the Perfect Neon Tube”.
    Thanks for the great stuff. Keep on chooglin’.

  • Thank you for another great tutorial! Learned a lot! Can’t wait to use this in the future!!!!

  • I put up a “how to video” on Vimeo Here I show how to rig ‘non’-spheres with lights using the matrix object. Hope it’s helpful for some. Have fun

  • Hey, really love your tutorial. Just wondering if you could do a tutorial on this or if you could send me a link to one that would be much appreciated.

  • Hi Mr Gorilla sir..
    just got my hands on c4d, and lovin it. ive followed ur tutorial on this one, everything is good up to the part where i want the ball to fall off each other (4:39). i cant seem to find the effect and was wondering if theres a plugin that needs to b installed to create the movement/animation, or whether i just cant find it to switch it on

  • hi thr Mr Gorilla sir..

    jus got my hands on c4d n lovin it. almost completed this tut except for the part where i want the ball to drop off from each other (4:39), is there a plugin that needs to be installed to create this drag n drop effect, or did i miss it somewhere?

  • Thank you!! very very Thank you!!

  • great tutorials, I’m doing something with the lights and I’ll show you what I made when I finish it,
    this helped, thanks

  • hey nice tut but is there a chance of a tut on making the whole of the example video please? im a noob with this but im getting better. i got an idea of how to do it but it isnt working out πŸ™

    • Sure. What part are you stuck on? Most of the video techniques have been covered in other tutorials that maybe I can steer your towards.

    • well im trying to make this into an intro with my name falling down on the spheres instead of the big one in your example. so the problem is when i have the sphere in the cloner object i can only put in one texture and on all of them i was trying to have different colours. i hope you know what i mean and sorry for the long message

  • This may be a really stupid comment to make, but I thought I’d put it up in case any one else stumbled at this point like me…

    Nick’s shortcut to make the spheres Rigid Bodies is not the standard Dynamic RB tag, but instead the MoGraph one.

    Hope this saves someone 5 minutes of tag hunting…!

  • Nice!! Thanks Nick! Here’s my little test:

  • hey nick that collider function for the plane….where can i find that button ?

  • Will you please do a second part on the tunnels because that is so cool!

  • Great tutorial. Thanks for putting these c4d tutorials on the web. They realy help me a lot.

  • Thanks man!! it was very useful and very well explained. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!!

  • i apply the emitter but the spheres doesn’t like pop up they just stay in the air without landing on the floor, what am i doing wrong?

  • I discovered your blog thanks to my friend Claudio Carrera (we also have a tutorial site on Cinema4D) .. What can I say? you are great!

    You are really great, you’re very good. My compliments. I’m learning a lot from you and I can also teach me a little something to our Italian friends.

    I have subscribed to RSS and Facebook now!

  • Thank you very much
    M / Nick
    Really very nice tutorial
    Richard from Egypt
    My mail
    M / Nick i hope see you in Egypt in cairo

  • Hello my friend, thanks for the tutorial, but i Have a Question, what do you do when you have a Irregular kind of shape in 3d and you want to generate light just like the balls, but it is a text or a form like Neon Types? thanks! and best regards

  • Hey, your tutorials are really amazing, i’ve learned a lot just watching your videos.
    Heres what i got from watching this, i know its a blatant copy but i just wanted to see if i could do it!
    I screwed the lights a little too

  • i found this tutorial pretty cool, and a very intuitive way of solving the problem. I did this in 11.5, so i skipped the emiiter part of it and just stuck with the regular dynamics.
    Once again, thanks Nick.

    Here’s the one I made. I really like the one orb that disappears in the background with a flash.

  • i have a broblem with an emitter object because it’s wrapping my spheres to ovals when the emitter creates them and ovals get wrapped even more when they start rolling on the floor

  • As always, you freak’n ROCK!!!

  • Hi! i recently learned Cinema and I tried out your GI tut and it was great!
    One thing that baffles me though, I’ve probably set the highest render output settings that I can and even waited almost 20 minutes to see my results in any of the practice files that i’ve done, and yet they all turn out having NOT so fine/pixelated edges especially texts. Why is that?
    Hope you can help. Thanks!

  • Hi Nick,

    I work with C4D is already about 2 years and I ended up modeling a Green Lantern ringand would like do this but this dynamic ring is divided into parts as I do to apply rigid body in a null object with such pieces as a child ? ? thanks …

  • Dude, you’re soooooo epic!!!!!!!!!!
    I have a bit of work. nothing really but I am going to force myself to watch every single one of your tutorials.
    Because they are sooooo epic and I learn so much.
    Cheers bro. Keep up the good work and make me something ;D

  • Hey!

    Wauw very great tutorial and a nice result. But, I’m kinda stuck.. I can’t find the tags you use to let the spheres fall down or the tag to don’t let the spheres go through the floor.
    So any help is welcome. I like your tutorials very much, keep on making them :D.

  • i’m french so this will be hard to explain …it’s too long because at 90″frames” the ball have not land ((touch down )) help me please

  • MAN Thanks for the great work and support.. there is somthing driving me crazy, that is in 04:40 time.. you made the sphere riged body and what about the plan, i cannot find this option ??.. and if this option is the one who will make the spheres fall it’s ok.. if it’s now so why the spheres aren’t fallin ? ..

  • MAN Thanks for the great work and support.. there is somthing driving me crazy, that is in 04:40 time.. you made the sphere riged body and what about the plane, i cannot find this option ??.. and if this option is the one who will make the spheres fall it’s ok.. if it’s not the option that makes the spheres fall so why the spheres aren’t fallin ? ..

    • i found it Gorilla, it’s not to put rigid body to the spheres, only to the clone object then it will act normal like v12.. i was going to had an heart attack.. KEEP IT UP GORILLA AND KEEP FIGHTING PLANES πŸ˜€

  • hey nick what do you think of my attempt of the example i really liked the colours and the idea so i gave it a shot.

  • Hi gorilla im not good on computer stuffs but… how much cost your computer???

  • Dude, you are the man. everyday.

  • nick you have to show us how you made them plastic balls.. whats the index of refraction? 1.2?

  • Great tutorial!! I came up with my own take on it……

  • Hey Nick,

    awesome (<- spells that right? – I don't know it precicly, 'cause I'm german – sry in case of wrong spelling) alternative solution & tutorial – thanx 4 this, dude πŸ™‚
    best regards

  • For some reason when I turn the material into orange… the light does not reflect orange. It stays white. Using version 12… thought it was odd… any suggestions? Or reasons why?

    Thanks for all your tuts. They’re great and I’m learning so much!


  • When ever i make the light a child of the sphere the sphere does not allow the light to shine through can someone please help me! im using R14

  • Thanks for sharing Gorilla!! This was a cruacial tutorial for my current project.

  • Hi Gorilla πŸ™‚ i have a problem & it’s driving me crazy… I did small animation like this and when i do a render of one frame separately it’s nice smooth and there is nice light on the scene, but if i render all 30 frames for example there is no nice light and there are some issues with shadows, what is about? In GI i have irradiance cache settings and the is one more problem πŸ˜€ why i don’t have there any QMC IR animation settings or something, when it’s shows and when is not? I hope U’ll help me…

  • Dear Nick!

    I have one question to ask you. I made the knowledge you instructions in 1 Sci-Fi scene. I also used to Luminance fake Lighting and GI render settings. But the problems encountered when I render an image is very good, light very good simulate. But when I make a sequence it flickers like crazy. I do not know you have not meet the same situation??? How to do fix it??? Please just help me! Thanks GSG!

  • Is there any way to use the second option with a tube to have the tube illuminate an object inside of it? I tried global illumination here, but since this is an animation, I calculated that render time would be about 312 days. Which is a bit much.


  • When I add the object as an excluded object in the light settings, the light still doesn’t shine through it! Bizarre..

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