Track a 3D Object into Shot Footage Using Cinema 4D and After Effects

June 16, 2013

In This Video, we will go though a quick project and show you how to bring in a 3D object or model into your Tracked After Effects scene using Cinema 4D Lite and Cineware. First, we will track the scene using After Effects built in 3D Tracker, then we will bring in and composite our 3D model in for the final composite.

In this tutorial, we use some great free models that are included in Cinema 4D Lite provided by the wonderful folks at Pixel Lab.


Learn More About Cinema 4D Lite and Cineware

Tutorial Focus:  , ,
Software:  , ,

  • Hi Nick,

    Thanks for this tutorial! Do you have any ideas on how to define the scale of a scene? If it’s a less surrealistic scene than the one in your example that has to be enhanced with 3d-objects, it’s hard to ensure that the 3d-result of tracking uses real world measurements. E.g. when compositing a car that has a real world size, it must fit on a road with real word width. The C4D Camera Solver has a feature that lets us define a real measure of a line. Is there something alike in the AE 3d-tracker?


    • I agree! Can you fix that in any way?

      • As a AE user, I haven’t found anyway to do any real life measurement inside AE. Ctrl+R brings up the ruler, but it’s a width x height measurement tool. So, as of now, you’ll just have to eyeball the thing, unfortunately.

  • Alejandro Martos June 17, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Hey Nick, You put de 3d object manually in the 3d space. Is it possible to export from AE some null object based in the Camera Tracker to C4d? This way we could have much better control of the positioning of 3d objects.


    • You may be able to, but I’ve been importing the background footage to C4D as a material/texture, and then apply it to a Background object. Then, once you set your render settings to the proper dimensions, you can see how your object will line up against the video. Just make sure the Background is excluded from the render, it’s only for reference.

  • kennedy Aweslomn June 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    i feel more passionate about this new brain magic however im still a learner in after effects so it becomes unfortunate that i cant either jump into this wonder of software or even be sure that i can buy it but thank you for the turtorials and going this harder to get me use my creativity

  • Thank you Nick, this is very helpful, useful and generous. I’m guessing that this technique would work for animated objects in C4D too. Great stuff.

  • Nick, can you please tell us what camera and lens you used to film this? Thanks!

  • Awesome!
    After your tutorial for the vimeo school with a nearly still shoot, this was the next thing i would have liked to see 🙂

    Thank you very much for this great tutorial!! 🙂

    Cheers from germany,

  • Great look at the software/plugin. Any reason you didn’t texture your ‘sky’ in Cinema?

  • Yes Nick.. Top Man

    This is just what I’ve been trying to workout.

    Super Cool

  • This is great, as always! We just upgraded to After Effects CC. Looking forward to giving this a try.

  • Nick, I saw and heard a enough mistakes in this video.
    But then again it looked good and as you wanted it to look.
    Just friendly. I visit your blog daily for about 5 years I believe…

  • cool…nick
    but how can i put an 3d objekt in realistic footage with an shadow on the floor
    in cineware???

    • Simone De Nadai June 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Hi, i think i solved this problem. In Cinema 4D i added a plane object as a floor and i created a new texture with no specular and the color set to green (R=0, G=255, B=0). Than in After Effects i selected the c4d layer and i added the “Keylight 1.2” effect that is under “Transparency” section in the effects menu. Set the Keylight color with the green used in Cinema 4D and the floor will disappear. Obviously in Cinema 4D you need a light with shadows activated.
      Hope this will be useful to someone, and sorry for my bad english but i’m italian 🙂

  • How did you do that
    Super Cool?

  • Thanks Nick.

  • In the Balloon tutorial, you opened a jpeg still Image as a background plate, inside C4D Lite. Is it possible to do this with a video image? Could you have opened a low Rez version of your footage in the C4D lite side, and used that for object placement?

  • thanks, this one helped me a lot for my assignment.
    it’s not perfect but it works:

  • Hey Nick, awesome tutorial! I was wondering how you would go about adding a shadow catcher into this process if your 3D object needed to cast a shadow on the ground in the live action footage?

  • this is epic..but i can’t seem to track the objects properly no matter how many times i run it..the objects always seems to float in the scene and doesn’t stay put…really frustrating.

  • Cool tutorial with bringing the camera into C4d. I’m not the biggest 3d guy, but comparing this to element 3d it seems sort of tough to do trial and error guessing the placement of the plate with a gray background in the C4d canvas, as oppose to Element where its all comped at the get go. I wish you showed us bringing in backplate footage into Cinema to use for a reference. I know you can bring in image sequences into 3d packages which are a pain with rendering and the process, but I hope it’s possible for the ease of use of just bringing in a .mov. The other thing was this shot was just a zoom so it looks like it wasn’t really necessary to 3d track but coulda done a simple 2d track and since the traffic light was so static you coulda just imported a picture of it and tracked/comped it in. I’m hoping that AE CS7 has greater integration with C4d so we can get rid of element 3d all together and take advantage of all of the 3d features Cinema has, but most importantly make the ease of use of doing the work flow super fast and simple.

    • Hey Mike,

      I know it’s be a couple months since you posted this, but I just read it so I thought I’d chime in.

      Putting video in as a reference in Cinema is not to difficult. All you have to do is create a new texture, under the “color” tab there is the empty bar with the button that has “…” to the right, click on that and navigate to your footage (I haven’t found a format that has not worked). Once you have done that all that is left is to create a “Background” object (which can be found where the cameras and lights are) and apply the texture to the background object.

      Hope that helps!

  • Since the directory for cinema 4d lite goes through the after effects directory, where do you install cinema 4d plugins?

  • Comedians… They are everywhere …. just like ninjas… lol 🙂

  • Hey Nick, Even though I’ve masked my footage and pre-comped it, the 3D tracker keeps tracking the entire video instead of just the masked off section. Do you have any idea why that might be?
    Thanks for all the awesome tutorials btw.

  • Thanks for this cool tutorial. but I’m having a problem using 3D camera tracker. Every time when I use it after solving the camera it is showing that analysis failed. Can you explain why it is happening? Nick?

    • Some footage is problematic – it just won’t solve no matter what you do. Other footage is difficult to solve and requires a bit of tweaking of settings and / or points tracked. Search for tutorials on matchmoving problem footage – I’m sure you’ll come up with some good ones. Then you can share them here! 😉

  • Thanks for the tutorial but the 3d Camera isn’t moving, do you have any idea why?

    • Hi Laura,

      I expect you solved your problem a long time ago but I’ve just started messing around with AE + C4D and I came across the same problem – the camera got imported into C4D but remained motionless.
      In my case I noticed that the frames weren’t starting at zero, which seemed to be due to timecode being embedded into my original clip.
      My solution was to copy the clip and camera into a new AE comp (with timecode starting at zero) and export the C4D file from there, although I could also have gone into the original comp settings and zeroed out the start timecode.

      Hope this helps anyone in a similar situation.



  • Hey, I was wondering if you could match the perspective of your tracked data in C4D so that I can do camera projection and shadow catching?

  • AWESOME! Thank you! Please do more like this. I know this is the basic principle for all but maybe do some with moving 3d objects.

  • hi nick you know how to do the same but with an animation?

  • HI Guys,
    I Would love to know the best way to make contacting shadows with the ground if blend A 3D object with a live shot, i try so hard to make the shadows look realistic but still they don’t come out well. the problem is how many lights should i use, and also how about the Bias, does it matter that much?, i try to make the shadows contact the ground but it’s a bit advanced and i need your help. Unfortunately in this tutorial, the object wasn’t focusing on the ground that much. Thank you!

  • Hey is it possible to use the casted Shadow from 4D to AE?

    Greetz Mischel

  • Hi Nick just wondering is it possible to import the actual footage inside C4D to use as a BG reference background instead of just slowly moving the objects around via trial & error? Great tutorial thanks alot!

  • I just wanted to thank you guys for making a comprehensive tutorial that explains how to do this. It’s going to make my workflow so much faster now that I don’t have to jump between multiple apps, and render out hoping that my renders will match my shots. Keep up the great work guys and thanks a bunch!

  • I have a newbie question…when I try bouncing back from C4D to AE 6, the C4D project file shows up as a comp, when you click on the comp it’s the 3D camera. How do I get the C4D project file to work in AE 6?

  • Hello,

    This tutorial is great; I was wondering, how would I animate a 3D object, such as a dinosaur or something – any ideas?


  • Works well! But in C4D, I want to change where my ground plane is so that simulation tags will work (like using rigid body or collider body).

    Currently, I can make a plane that matches my footage, but it’s at an angle, so objects slide off of it—does anyone know how to make it flat relative to the camera, so that objects just fall and stack on each other and just stop?

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.