Tutorial 05: C4D Multi-Pass Rendering/Compositing and Shadow Catching.

Hey everyone, here’s a tutorial I made that explains my multi-pass workflow in Cinema 4D to After Effects. Namely, my focus was to show how to set up your C4D scene to catch shadows properly on live action footage or a photograph in one render. I’ve had a lot of questions how to do this so I hope this is helpful for some.

Often you will here C4D users ask if there is something similar to 3DS MAX’s “Shadow Matte” material. The answer is yes and you don’t need a plug-in like “Shadowcatcher” to achieve this. You can do this natively in Cinema 4D. Not only do I show you how to set the material up I made a content browser preset ready for download. Cleverly named “Shadow Matte”.

Download it here. Install it in Cinema 4D > library > browser.

Just wanted to point out there are other ways to do this. A common method is to make two renders. One of those being a shadow pass but I show you how to do it all in one render with mulit-pass control. Something I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with.

FYI, this method doesn’t work with the Physical Renderer in R13 but in my opinion it should as it uses built-in tools and no post effects. I contacted MAXON about this is so hopefully it gets fixed in the near future. In case you were wondering the shadowcatcher plug-in doesn’t work with the Physical Renderer either.


  • Peter on Mar 11, 2015 Reply

    You’re out of luck if you wanna catch shadows created by Global Illumination. This method will not work. But all hope is not lost. Just export “Illumination” and “Global Illumination” passes and then set them up in After Effects like this:
    I highlighted those 2 passes/layers with green to make it easier ๐Ÿ™‚ good luck!

    • adam on Apr 07, 2015 Reply

      Hi Guys,
      I found another method, which may or may not be of use to some of you, depending on what you need to achieve.

      I am working on some matchmove shots. where i have text floating around some scenes i filmed in various locations.

      After i track the shots and solve the camera movement,
      i set my light, an place white colored planes where the shadows would fall set to compositing background with the c4d compositing tag.
      Then i go on to seperately render my Objects without these planes and after that the planes with the shadows without my objects that cast the shadows (this time they have to be set not to be seen by the camera via the compositing tag).

      Then all I have to do is to set the shadow layer to “Multiply” in After Effects. This works also with the Physical Renderer.

  • Paul on Feb 05, 2015 Reply

    I don’t get this, what happened to the shadow in the alpha? how was it used? It wasn’t shown in the video.


  • Collin on Jan 05, 2015 Reply

    This is just what i needed. Thanks for sharing!

  • Stephanie Adams on Dec 08, 2014 Reply

    Hey Josh,

    Thanks for the tutorial! I was always wondering how you would do it without shadow catcher. I’m having an issue, though. I can’t seem to make my floor completely transparent in the alpha. I’ve turned off seen by transparency in the tags but I’m still getting a ghost of the floor in the alpha. Any ideas?


    • kenny on Feb 03, 2015 Reply

      Uncheck the “soft” option in the alpha option

  • JORGE on Aug 28, 2014 Reply

    Hi, Nice tutorial, Josh in wich version work’s this plug-in?, thank a lot, jorge

  • Duca on Mar 13, 2014 Reply

    Hi John,
    can you update infos about your material and C4D versions? I have C4D r14 and C4D r15 on Mac Osx Mavericks and they don’t recognize your material, and of course we cannot go ahead with your tutorial. By the way, in Maxon/Library/Browser your material vfx daily.lib4d is a Black folder with green sign “EXEC”. Plese help us to understand how dale it with new C4D versions. THX

  • Franz on Jan 25, 2014 Reply

    Awesome! I just found the solution myself: I just had to uncheck ‘Seen by Transparency’ in the compositing tag of the object that should vanish into the floor.

  • Franz on Jan 25, 2014 Reply

    Hi Josh, thanks a lot for this shedding light on this. Very helpful!

    I have one question, though: What would be your solution if you wanted your objects to vanish into the ground? Because with the shadow catcher material applied to the ground plane the latter gets transparent. So everything underneath or penetrating the ground plane will be completely visible.

  • JeremyW on Jan 25, 2013 Reply

    Hi. I downloaded the S&T cell shader shadow catcher. It works fine for soft and hard shadows, but not for area shadows. Is there a way to get that to work?

  • xkuruma on Dec 07, 2012 Reply

    Hey guys, so does anyone know how to make this shadow catcher material for vray in cinema4d ??

  • Justin on Nov 13, 2012 Reply

    Your download material is giving me a Texture error message when I render. I tried creating the material manually, but I lack the SKETCH menu you branch through to make it all work.

    • Josh on Nov 19, 2012 Reply

      Hi Justin, sounds like you don’t have the studio version of C4D? You need sketch and toon to use the preset.

  • MarkOtay on Oct 03, 2012 Reply

    Finally solved my problems. Best tutorial out there for this subject. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Josh on Oct 03, 2012 Reply

      Hey Mark, I’m glad it helped. Thanks so much for the kind words! More tutorials to come just really busy at the moment.

  • Sandro on Sep 28, 2012 Reply

    Nice tutorial, just a thing that I don’t get.
    When you render with GI, your shadows in the alpha channel came from the GI?! or you are still using a normal light with soft shadows? and this light is casting the shadows you get and not the GI shadow.
    In short, is it possibile to get shadows in the alpha channel with only GI sky light? without any standard light?
    I am trying but with no luck.
    I hope you can help me.

    • Josh on Oct 03, 2012 Reply

      Hi Sandro, shadows from GI will not be included in the alpha but you can always try and fake the GI shadows with AO. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Charlie on Sep 19, 2012 Reply

    This is Spot on ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks so much, very useful


    • Josh on Oct 03, 2012 Reply

      Thanks so much, Charlie! Glad you find it useful.

  • Rob Symington on Aug 28, 2012 Reply

    Hi Josh,
    I’ve just discovered your site and its proving really helpful…..thanks!
    I’m a little stuck at one point though….
    I’m trying to render out shadows in a scene using GI and one of GSG’s softbox lights (to help with shadows to match footage).
    When I render using your shadow matte, I think I see the cast shadows but the background image is not scaled to match the rest of the scene and seems darker.
    Do you have any idea why this might be?
    I’ve managed to switch Nick’s light to be on Soft so I don’t think it’s the Maxon/Area light problem.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.



    • Josh on Oct 03, 2012 Reply

      Hey Rob, interesting. If you want send me the file to and I’ll take a look. Thanks for the comment.

      • Menno on Dec 19, 2012 Reply

        Did you ever find out why shadow pass doesn’t render shadows with only softbox as lighting?

  • KFC on Aug 17, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for making this, Josh! It was a huge help when I started compositing, I still come back to this every now and then to refresh myself.

    • Josh on Aug 17, 2012 Reply

      Hey thanks! I’m glad it’s helpful :).

  • steve clarkson on Aug 17, 2012 Reply

    It doesn’t seem to render out the shadow for me. The shadow pass is the detailed shadows on the object but not on the wall i want the shadows on. maybe my compositing tab on my wall is wrong?

    • Josh on Aug 17, 2012 Reply

      Could be a few things. Send me your file via email and I’ll take a look.

  • syd on Aug 07, 2012 Reply

    Thanks man! I have been looking for this For a long time! Great job and keep it up!

  • mars on May 17, 2012 Reply

    hi josh,

    Does this technique work with a light that is a shadow catcher? I can’t seem to get it to work when the light is not illuminating. Any ideas?

    • Josh on May 18, 2012 Reply

      I will test that out over the weekend and let you know :).

  • Gareth on May 15, 2012 Reply

    Hi Josh, great tutorial. I’ve always had a problem with reflective floors in my cinema4d composition, do you have any tips for that? Basically I just want the reflections to be of my 3D objects but the no matter what i try with compositing tag the plane object is visibly lighter and looks terrible! Any help much appreciated.


    • Josh on May 18, 2012 Reply

      Hey thanks, Gareth. I’ll make a quick tutorial on that for you in a few weeks. Sorry really busy right now.


      • Gerard Henninger on May 21, 2013 Reply

        Hey Josh,

        Do you happen to have time for that reflection tutorial, I am having the same problem;
        the floor (which reflects objects) gets lighter/darker and is influenced bij the GI. I just want it to reflect and have shadows (of the objects on top of it).


  • Jose on Jan 11, 2012 Reply

    This awesome thanks. It would have really helped 2months ago when I was struggling with this but hahaha there’s nothing I can do now. Your method is better than the one I ended up using anyways.

    Thank you!

    • Josh on Jan 11, 2012 Reply

      Thanks, Jose. I’m glad it helped!

  • KTYJIX on Dec 06, 2011 Reply

    Thanks alot, Josh.

    • Josh on Jan 11, 2012 Reply

      You’re welcome!

  • KTYJIX on Dec 05, 2011 Reply

    Josh, thanks alot for your work.
    Typing you from the mother Russia. (:

    With ordinary light your plugin works just fine, but when Iโ€™m trying to use it with GI. I canโ€™t see any shadows there.

    Here the project:

    I would be very admired if you can fix this.
    Iโ€™m not the first who encounter this.

    • Josh on Dec 05, 2011 Reply

      Hi. Thanks for the comment. Please email me the project file to

      This technique will work with GI but it won’t work with the new Physical Renderer nor will it work with area shadows. This is due to MAXON not supporting sketch & toon with the new Physical Renderer. Hopefully they will support it in the near future. As for GI shadows you will have to do your best to fake them with AO and soft shadows but the GI illumination will work just fine.

      If you need to use area shadows or the Physical Renderer then your only choice is to Render in two passes until MAXON fixes this.

  • Rick on Dec 03, 2011 Reply

    Hey Josh,

    Thanks for the great tut. I have searching everywhere for this technique and this is the first time ive understood it completely.

    Im a Director DOP who loves getting involved with the graphics side to help me better understand what more we could do with a scene.

    This technique will quickly become a favorite of mine in a lot of things i do!!


    • Josh on Dec 05, 2011 Reply

      Thanks, Rick! Glad to hear it.

  • alex on Nov 08, 2011 Reply

    thank you josh for the tut great tip ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Josh on Nov 26, 2011 Reply

      Thanks for the comment Alex and you’re welcome!

  • Rod on Oct 31, 2011 Reply

    Hi Josh!

    Great tutorial, mate! I’m always checking you website out, it’s an amazing source of information.

    I’m just having a bit of a problem to achieve that. It works fine with Soft Shadows, but as soon as I change it to Area my floor goes entirely black. Do you know a work around?



    • Josh on Nov 01, 2011 Reply

      Thanks, Rod. Glad to hear you enjoy my website.

      I haven’t tried it with area shadows. I’ll give it a go tomorrow and let you know. Cheers.

    • Josh on Nov 07, 2011 Reply

      You’re right it seems it doesn’t work with Area shadows only soft and hard. If I find a workaround I’ll let you know.

      • Scott on Nov 26, 2011 Reply

        Any luck on the area shadows? I’ve been pulling my hair out since I haven’t been able to get any shadow catcher techniques to work (not just your setup), then I realized based on this thread that it was because I was using area shadows.

        • Josh on Nov 26, 2011 Reply

          No luck on the area shadows using this trick. MAXON will have to address this in an update for it to get fixed. I hope they do. Send them a support suggestion on this. If this is fixed it would would work with the physical renderer too.

          The only work work around is to do two renders. One just for shadows.

  • kevoneil on Oct 28, 2011 Reply

    Similar to Pablot, seem to have followed ur tutorial, but it appears my floor is transparent, maybe again something to do with composite tags! stuck… any further help would be appreciated

    • Josh on Nov 01, 2011 Reply

      Hi, you can upload your file and send it to my email Thanks. I’m guessing you are having a comp tag problem.

  • Pablot on Oct 25, 2011 Reply

    Thanks!, but I have a problem, It’s doesn’t work. I think is because I’m doing something wrong with the compositing tags, ow you do that?

    • Josh on Oct 29, 2011 Reply

      What exactly is the problem? Yes, maybe you are doing something wrong with the compositing tags. You can upload the project and send it to me at and I’ll take a look.

  • Vince on Oct 22, 2011 Reply

    Thanks very much. This is the clearest tutorial I’ve found on the subject.
    If you could ever find the time to do a tutorial taking a shot from SynthEyes to C4D to AE it would be greatly appreciated. I think many of us struggle somewhat with the process in.

    • Josh on Oct 22, 2011 Reply

      Thanks, Vince. Yes, that exact tutorial is coming :).

  • John Keeser on Oct 20, 2011 Reply


    Nice video about multipass shadow compositing. I was wondering… will you be making the project file available?


    • Josh on Oct 20, 2011 Reply

      Hi John, currently I don’t have any project files or footage to download. I try to encourage people to createtheir own scenes but I could upload the project file for this minus the footage or maybe just one frame of it. Cheers.

      • John Keeser on Oct 26, 2011 Reply

        Thanks for responding back. I would like to examine the setup in detail and I think it would be excellent if you could upload the project minus the footage. That way I can see how you put together the setup. Would most definitely be interested in the scene file ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Josh on Oct 26, 2011 Reply

          Sure. I can do that. Should be able to upload it soon.

    • Josh on Nov 07, 2011 Reply

      Hey John, I didn’t forget about the project. I’ll be posting it soon for you.

  • Martin Craster on Oct 19, 2011 Reply

    Nice tutorial, the only thing I’m not sure is, do I have to set the grid of the scene, to match up with the floor before placing my planes?


    • Josh on Oct 20, 2011 Reply

      Hi Martin, thanks for the kind words. Well, you have to ‘find’ the camera for each scene. Which you would do most of that in SynthEyes or with something like Photomatch a plugin for camera mapping in C4D. You could do this by eye in C4D too. That sounds like another tutorial all together though. If you have a Cineversity account they have some helpful tutorials there. Some I created and few other Camera Projection tutorials that would be helpful to you.

  • nicole on Oct 18, 2011 Reply

    oh thanks mate, I have to do composites like this on an almost weekly basis and it can be a bit of a faff, this works a treat though

    • Josh on Oct 18, 2011 Reply

      Thank you, Nicole! I’m glad you found it useful. Btw, just checked out yours stie. Love your style of work.

      • benjamin on Dec 30, 2012 Reply

        great job. but I don’t know how to make this on vray i use cinema 4d…
        could somebody help please.
        happy new year… best wishes

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