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How to Export from Cinema 4D into Unreal Engine

By Jonathan Winbush
Cinema 4D

It's time to give your 3D design the power of real-time rendering

How many times have you been stuck waiting on a render to see if your concept matches the reality of your design? Cinema 4D is a powerhouse, but it requires time and patience to see your work come to life. That's why mixing in the power of Unreal Engine's real-time rendering can be an absolute game changer.
Jonathan Winbush is back with a step-by-step look at how you can take a project from Cinema 4D, easily import it into Unreal Engine, and utilize the incredible tools and speedy workflow to make your project pop. In this tutorial, you'll learn:
  • What Cinema 4D Assets do and don't translate
  • How to export Cinema 4D Project Files for Cineware
  • Steps to import Cinema 4D file in Unreal Engine
  • How to render in Unreal Engine
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How to easily export and import with Cinema 4D and Unreal Engine

How to prepare Cinema 4D files for Unreal Engine 4

Here are a few things to check when moving your Cinema 4D scene over to Unreal Engine:

1. Proper Cinema 4D Textures for Unreal Engine

Have you already textured your scene in Cinema 4D? If you're wanting to bring textures over, it's important to know Unreal Engine won't accept third-party or PBR textures. So, when you're building your scene, make sure you're sticking with standard materials.
There are methods for converting your Redshift and Octane materials if you get in this pickle.

2. Double-check Cineware settings

There are a few boxes you want to make sure to check under the Cineware tab in the project settings. So, to navigate to the project panel in Cinema 4D, press Command + D.
Once that is up, you should see a tab for Cineware. Make sure these three settings are enabled:
  1. Save Polygon Cache
  2. Save Animation Cache
  3. Save Material Cache

3. Saving the project properly

You won't be able to open up the standard Cinema 4D project file in Unreal Engine 4. There is a specific saving function for making sure your data can be accessible.
Here's how to save your Cinema 4D Project file for Unreal Engine 4:
  1. In Cinema 4D, click the File menu.
  2. Scroll down and select "Save Project for Cineware" (or older versions "Save Project for Melange").
  3. Choose a location to save the file and hit save
Depending on how fast your computer is, you may notice a progress bar at the bottom left of the window. If you don't see one then that means your file as been saved.

Here's how to import Cinema 4D files into Unreal Engine 4

There are a few steps to getting your Cinema 4D files loaded up into Unreal Engine. We'll go over what plugins you'll need, project setting and more.

1. Unreal Engine Project Settings

Once you've fired up the program, you'll be met by the Unreal Project Browser. Here is what you'll want to set up:
  1. Under the project categories, select Film, Television, and Live Events
  2. Select a Blank Template
  3. In Project Settings, select if you're working with a Ray-tracing compatible card or not
  4. At the bottom of Project Settings, select where to save the file
  5. Click Create Project at the bottom

2. Install the Datasmith C4D Importer Plugin

There is a special plugin you'll need to grab for this workflow. Unreal Engine actually has a search functionality built-in that helps a ton. Here's how to access the plugin library and install the Datasmith C4D Importer:
  1. At the top of the program click the settings button
  2. Select plugins
  3. In the left column select the Built-in list
  4. On the top right-click in the search bar and search "Datasmith C4D Importer"
  5. Click the enable check-box and then click "Yes"
After working through these steps you'll need to restart Unreal Editor for the changes to take effect.

3. Clear the World Outliner before importing

Before you bring in your Cinema 4D scene you'll want to clear out the world outliner panel. There are some extra objects and lights that are automatically added to the project when you'd started from scratch, but you don't want these to affect the hard work you've already put in.

4. Open the Cinema 4D project file with Datasmith

With steps 1-3 taken care of, you can now bring in your saved file—the space is primed. Here is how to open your Cinema 4D project file in Unreal Engine 4:
  1. Go ahead and make sure the Content Browser window is being viewed
  2. At the top of the window, click the Datasmith button
  3. Navigate to your saved Cinema 4D File and click open
  4. Next, choose the Content folder to import the Datasmith content
  5. Enable the checkboxes for which content you want under the import options dialog box and click import
Once you open the file, you'll probably notice an option to update the project. For this, you can just click Update and it'll disappear.

How to export your 3D animation from Unreal Engine 4

This is the part you've been waiting for! Fast iteration and exporting with the power of real-time rendering! Unreal Engine is changing the game, and here are the final steps to harnessing this new superpower.
To render your animation out of Unreal Engine, follow these steps.

1. Launch the movie render queue in Unreal Engine.

The journey for exporting starts in the movie render queue, so here's how to launch it.
  1. Click on the Window menu at the top of the program.
  2. Hover over Cinematics
  3. Click Movie Render Queue

2. Add sequences and define output settings

Now we need to point Unreal Engine to the sequences you want to export. Here in the movie render queue, you can set multiple sequences and define the export settings. If you've been working with Adobe products, think of it like you would Adobe Media Encoder.
Here's how you add sequences to the movie encoder queue:
  1. Click the green + Render button at the top left
  2. Double-click the sequence that you'd like to render
  3. Click on the words Unsaved Config under the Settings column.
  4. Click the green + Settings button at the top left
  5. Define your output preferences
  6. In the left column, select Output under the settings dropdown.
  7. Set your output location using Output Directory
  8. Finally, at the bottom right click accept
Once you've gone through all of those steps you can choose whether you want to render local or remote. When the render starts, a new window will pop-up showing you all the details of your render, such as total frames, elapsed time, and all that good stuff.

Start mastering 3D Skills with Cinema 4D Ascent

If you're looking to get the most out of Cinema4D, maybe it's time to take a more proactive step in your professional development. That's why we put together Cinema 4D Basecamp, a course designed to get you from zero to hero in 12 weeks. And if you think you're ready for the next level in 3D development, check out our all new course, Cinema 4D Ascent!