Best practice for big projects?


Hi guys! For the first time, I try to tackle quite a big project in C4D:
A full-CG music video (3:40 min) with two detailed characters, acting in 9 locations, for a total of about 80 shots.
I aim for a quality comparable to say, a prerendered videogame-Cutscene. Not Hollywood-Blockbuster, but also not too far away :wink:

What I have:

  • A powerful rig (AMD 3950X, 128 Gbyte RAM) nvidia RTX2080Ti, big SSD, Redshift, C4D R23
  • A detailed storyboard, already roughly cut to the music, so I know where I need to go.
  • I drew some artboards to have a visual guide for color, composition, etc.
  • The Characters are ready and animatable via mixamo-Motioncaps
  • A lot of detailed assets (guitars, tools, decoration)
  • Big scenery setups (landscapes, a ‘slice’ of ocean, etc.)
  • Some test-rendered animation snippets, that prove that I can actually achieve a good quality with my assets.

What I don’t have

  • A deadline :slight_smile:
  • A Team. It’s just me, so everything needs to be really efficient
  • Experience with the usual workflow for a project of this size. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong :slight_smile:

Where I struggle:
When I completed all the assets, I thought: ok, now the fun part starts, let’s animate! But in this stage, I want to keep creative control over the assets, even if those are spread cross several scenes/shots. So my first take was to merge all the assets and the characters into a single scene file, sort everything tidily into layers and manage the different shots as ‘Takes’. Should I need to update an asset, I would do that in the base take, and all sub-Takes would update accordingly.

In practice, performance is just not good enough to fluidly animate the characters, even when only a subset of the objects is activated via the layers. I thought, managing everything via layers would free up enough resources, but it ain’t so. The scene-file alone is 1.6 Gbyte big, just to give an idea. Also, the take-system does not work with the motion-clip system, so that would require additional workarounds.

So, the next option would be to have separate scene-Files for the shots and load in the Characters as xRefs. I didn’t even try that as of now, since I read of so many problems with the xRef-System, and even of ultimately broken scene files. So I’m really afraid of that place and don’t want to go there :slight_smile: Is that a thing you pros use? Maybe it’s gotten better? Any caveats?

The last option would be to give up central creative control over the assets and just break everything up. Should an update occur to, say, a char, I would have to just redo the shot with the updated char. I would really prefer not to go that route :slight_smile:

So, do you guys have any hints for me, how to tackle such a big C4D-Task?

Thanks and best regards!



use xrefs. no files get ultimatively broken by them, if so it’s easily fixable. but you can avoid that trouble all together, if you obey the follwing rules:

  1. never ever tick the hierarchy tickbox in the xrefs options, and don’t mess with the hierarchy in your xrefs. only make hierarchy canges in the master file that gets referenced.

  2. untick the “relative file path” tickbox in the xrefs options in the file tab right from the get go. there’s a bug with relative file paths in xrefs, resulting in everything gets greyed out (easily fixable though by cutting the xref out and pasting it in again), but still, other weird things also can happen with relative paths, so better just use absolute paths… since you are not working in a team it doesn’t matter anyways.

  3. be aware that material changes don’t get stored, so make your material adjustments alsoin the original file.

that’s it, if you follow these rules xrefs are perfectly stable and reliable. i have used them in every production since 8 years, never had a single show stopper. and it saves you a LOT of trouble in bigger productions.

the issue with your takes approach would be you end up with one massive scene, taking ages to load and save and becoming hard to manage quickly.

other than that it seems like you’re good to go.


Hi everfresh,

This stage of the project feels like standing before a crossroad,
and it’s very good to hear of someone already knowing about the right path :slight_smile:

Thanks a lot for your advice, especially for the xRef-Rules!


I’m going to make a guess here, so please regard it as such.

It seems you are afraid to dive in, and you are delaying doing so by stacking up the preliminary work (some of it needless like detailed inventories). Many of us who have perfectionistic tendencies (me included) have a tendency to put too much pressure on ourselves. We then procrastinate.

I say to myself and to you: dive in. Head first. The water will be cold at first until you start swimming. If you need to re-work something or even throw it away and start afresh…that’s OK! Start creating.


Hi Icecaveman,

it’s a good guess, but I’m happy to report that it does not really apply to my situation.

The whole idea of this music video is to up my game in every regard, and I totally embrace the idea, that my first try won’t be my best :slight_smile: In the process I already had my fair share of ‘dive in … wait a second… where’s the water?!’, especially in regards to character setup. Man, I redid almost every step of the process several times. At least I now know that char-rigging is really not my forte :smiley:

So far, it has been a really good decision to start this bigger project, I learned a ton of new stuff already. Also, I try to devote at least 30 Minutes per day to the project, which for me is more productive than e.g. working only on the weekends -> Nice find!

But I very much enjoyed you empathetic reply, it’s a very welcome change of tone for a forum conversation.

Thank you all, guys!


Hi keppn,
I think that’s a very interesting topic! I struggle with this quite some times by my self. Here is my take on it, there might be some pretty obvious things but anyway, i hope it helps:

Try to keep your scenes fast:
I think, that’s basically the most important thing for any project. Slow scenes equals fewer iterations equals a less refined outcome. But that’s easy to say and hard to do:)

Animatic / Previz
if you manage to have fast scenes, at least at the beginning of your project, you shoud spend some time on previz. As long as everything is nice and snappy you can quickly iterate on your animations, cameras and edit. I allways enjoy this process, when working simultaneously in c4d an premier pro.

Stay away from things that are to complicatet and fokus on the basics (animations, camera work, lighting, editing). I made this experience over and over again when some unnessesary and overcomplicatet thing sucked up way to much time and energy.

On XRef’s i can only echo everfresh: I think they are very useful. They also keep the Filesize down and make it much easier to refine on your assets. I think XRef’s are also ok for Characters although i have never done this.

Redshift Proxies
In case you are using Redshift, Redshift Proxies can also be very helpfull.

The more i use them the more i love them. But i try not to use Takes to earls in the project. When you do drastic changes to your scene it can get a bit confusing. But maybe thats just me.

Render Manager (Royal Render)
If you have multiple machines this can help a lot. Royal Render also works well with the take-system.

All the best and good luck for your project!


Hi Zillas,

oh wow, thank you a lot for your list! It reassuring to hear quite the same priorities that have bubbled up for me in the past weeks:

Fast scenes
I honestly hoped that my new rig would bite through even the heaviest scenes, but yeah, no way :slight_smile: Maybe some day with scene nodes. Having to keep everything fluidly is a constraint, but a good one, as it forces to concentrate on the big factors (you mentioned those as well).

It would be so great to have some kind of C4D / Premiere bridge. Alternatively, having a simple NLE in C4D would be dope. ( I suggested this feature here, basing on the the Take system …)

Yeah, that seems like a really good way to keep everything organized and controllable. I already discovered the XRef-Placeholder-Feature, which should allow easier work with landscapes and other heavy geometry. Will try that for sure.

RS Proxies
… I had no idea these existed. Thanks for the tip, that might come in very handy!

It’s such an immensely powerful feature, I applaud Maxon to no end :slight_smile: I mostly use it for work though. It’s indeed confusing with to big setups, but I think that’s inherent to the idea, not the implementation.

Thanks a lot for your reply! Super helpful :slight_smile:


Since After Effects has C4D lite built in, does it not work to create an AE comp with your c4d scenes active and then drop the AE comp into Premiere? A little convoluted but should give you a direct workflow between C4D and Premiere for previs as long as the dynamic link keeps things in line.


Oh wow, brilliant idea!
I will try that :slight_smile:
Thanks a lot!


Let us know how well that works. I’ve used AE comps in premiere but not directly with C4D scenes. I’m curious how well that actually works. It should work, on paper :).


Will do! I’m actually a big fan of well documented forum wisdom :slight_smile:
At the moment I’m still fighting my pesty alembic setup…


A little update on general progression:

As long as I’m working in C4D, I’m making good and constant progress. There are some oddities here and there, but generally I really love C4D for it’s good integration and mostly polished releases.

Broadening the toolset though, that’s another story. I purchased some of the bigger tools for specific purposes (Redshift, Marvelous, Realflow, X-Particles…), and there are just so many problems with interoperability. I don’t want to dive into details, just say that I spent a LOT of time on their respective forums and support hotlines.

It get’s even worse when those tools or plugins share data with each other. For example, I have like three different tickets regarding Redshift-MotionBlur when rendering data from Realflow or X-Particles. I don’t think that those combinations are really tested by the dev-teams at all - it’s understandable, as the combinations of plugins / tools would amount to huuuge testing scenarios, but, well. It’s not fun as a user to deal with those tech-problems.

So, what to do?

I think, Maxon could really do a power-move here. Have small Maxon-teams (2-5 people) sit at the respective tool- or plugin-developer, and let them polish the C4D-integration to the degree of the main dcc. Have those teams communicate with each other, so that for example interoperability between RedshiftC4D and Realflow C4D is just flawless. Let those teams make shortcuts for better workflow (in C4D -> “Go Marvelous!”, and back)

Then add special support-teams that are equipped to deal with those interoperability quirks. (For example, Realflow support told me “We don’t have Redshift, so we can’t help you”. Bummer.) Of course there is enough volume of problems to deal with. Just have a look at all those unanswered forum help requests.

Finally, introduce some kind of “Maxon Badges for Integration Quality”, so you know what to expect as a user.

In the long term, Maxon would be in a position where they can proudly boast about the best pipeline integration of all DCCs. And that would be a really strong position against competing DCCs and a real beneft for users.

Ok, thanks for reading, just had to get that out :slight_smile:



What company who cares about their own IP would open the doors to a ‘team’ of Maxon developers? Did you actually think about what you were writing when you were writing it? Have you also considered that the issue with integration might actually be down to C4D’s APIs and not the plugin developers code? You realise Insydium, for example, have to write their own dynamics system because Maxon don’t (or didn’t) make the C4D dynamics system available to 3rd party developers so X-Particles always feel like a plugin and not integrated.

Don’t you think that given C4D is the most expensive DCC for Indies that 2-5 developers would be better spent at Maxon HQ coding features like a modern cloth system, native fluid simulations, a modern particle system and ship it with a production quality renderer for free so you don’t have to invest in a plethora of expensive plugins? Just a thought?

The notion that Maxon is some sort of arbiter of quality is, frankly, insulting to a lot of 3rd party developers. Last time I checked I couldn’t export an Alembic particle sim (just particles not geo) out of C4D, I can do that with a click of a few button in Houdini and Bl*nder. Have you actually tried to cache a complex Mograph animation with Alembic in C4D, it fails more times than it works.

If Maxon was interested in being the ‘best pipeline’ integration of all DCCs then they would’ve already begun shipping basic USD support and Alembic caching would work as advertised. I can go between Houdini and Blnder with USD in an early preview of the tech and Alembic works flawlessly between the two. In Blnder I can cache out multi-million particle sims and view them in real time off an SSD to check timing. Try doing this in C4D.

This thread is about big project workflows, the fact of the matter is working on big projects is a miserable experience in C4D. Architecturally it’s stuck in decades old workflows, the only hope is the Neutron project but it’s going to be at least 5-10 years before all of C4D is added to that new scene graph.

No, thank you…


For me, it’s the first time of using C4D for a bigger project. It’s also the first time I integrate other tools and I’m just sharing and dicussing these first-time-expieriences. It’s a topic I didn’t find many conversations about.

If, as you say, C4D is miserable for this kind of work, well, I’d like you share your knowledge in a more friendly way, as “miserable for big projects” is not exactly a bullet-point on C4D’s box. In the contrary, as far as I have seen, a lot of time was spent in the last years. to open C4D to the surrounding software scene.

To simplify my original point: At the moment, there is no party that takes responsibility for the interoperability of DCC, plugins and other tools. It’s too much for plugin devs, but I think Maxon could take that role, better now than tomorrow, because it’s getting only more complicated and tech moves fast.

I think it’s completely naive to assume Maxon could implement the functionality of big tools like e.g. Marvelous or Substance Painter all by themselves. Why would they, when those tools already exist and have a big community and gravitas built around them?

In my opinion, they should continue to embrace those tools and build bigger bridges to the outside world. Be that external teams, a quality program… Whatever!


I think you could be the ideal Maxon customer with such pitifully low expectations for Maxon’s ability to develop features.

If you’re happy to supplement the meagre offerings with expensive 3rd party software then there’s little more to be said.


If you consider yourself a part of said helpful community, you’re not making a good point of it, as your posts come across quite snorty.

There may be valuable information in your post, but after asking once for more politeness, I’ll just return to my project, if you’d excuse me.


You can lead a donkey to water but you can’t make it drink.


Good news! They have as of R23.