We sat down with Emmy award winning motion designer EJ Hassenfratz, a well-known member of the online Cinema 4D community who has extensive and varied experience in the motion graphics industry.

EJ runs his own freelance business, eyedesyn. In addition to being a Lynda.com Cinema 4D course author, he frequently works for MAXON, representing them at trade shows, user groups, and beta testing CINEMA 4D.

Thanks again EJ for providing us with some useful C4D quick tips on Vine and for patiently answering our many questions!

Renderfeed: EJ, how did you start out in motion graphics? Was this your childhood dream or did you decide to go into motion graphics later in life?

(EJ) Thanks for having me! My background in motion graphics is unique I’d say. I know a lot of designers who wanted to become a designer after being inspired by an artist or seeing some amazing graphics piece in a movie or on TV. My main inspiration to become a motion graphics artist was mainly through my dad and my uncle. Both are amazing graphic designers and art directors, so growing up my dad would take me to his work in the graphics department and I’d be sitting there messing around drawing on the Quantel Paintbox. I would draw a ton and never really got into Photoshop or After Effects until college, really. My dad gave me my first internship at his TV station he worked for and I just tried to soak up all the knowledge I could considering my major was in Fine Arts, I never learned After Effects or any 3D in college so I’m 100% self taught in motion graphics.


Renderfeed: Your background is primarily in broadcasting – how is this helping you now that you run your own business?

(EJ) I think the biggest thing that helped was that because I worked for about 8 years in TV news, most of the projects I worked on were quick 1 or 2 day turnarounds, at most maybe I’d have a week to work on a project (aside from station rebrands which I’ve done 3 of them during my time working at ABC). Most of the time I had at least 2 or 3 things going on at once so quick turnarounds and multitasking was just a reality of the job and became the norm. I’ve found that has really helped me in running my own business because you need to learn how to take on multiple clients at once sometimes. With that comes challenges because clients don’t always stick to schedules and you have to do your job meeting and exceeding client expectations all the while running your business and trying to make sure you’re putting feelers out there looking for your next project.


Renderfeed: What exciting projects are you working on at the moment?

(EJ) I just wrapped up a quick, fun project for Twitch.tv for their E3 coverage, as a video game nerd that was pretty cool! Currently, I’m working with a super talented studio based out of Dallas called AlreadyBeenChewed that I collaborate with a ton and we’re just wrapping up some show branding graphics for Nike’s Street League Skateboarding that has been awesome to work on. Nike and Fox Sports has been great to work with as they kind of let us run with the creative vision and have fun with it.

Renderfeed: When did you start working with Cinema4D?

(EJ) I started working with Cinema 4D around version 10.5, one of the first versions where they introduced their Mograph Module which to this day is one of my favorite features of any creative software out there. I find myself wanting to ask Adobe everyday to add something like that in After Effects!


Renderfeed: What do you like about Cinema4D as a 3D software package and why do you choose to work with it?

(EJ) As I mentioned before, the Mograph Module and just the small learning curve. Although I think back when I first started learning C4D, Greyscale Gorilla wasn’t around yet, nor where there many tutorials on the subject. I think Creative Cow had a handful of tutorials on the subject so that used to be where I’d learn as I went. But then GSG came out and there was this explosion of knowledge that soon followed and, man, I just get jealous of all the people trying to learn now, so much information out there at your fingertips, it’s so easy to learn it now. It’s sort of why I started doing tutorials myself. When I started out, so many people took time out of their day to make these resources for the community and helped me along, if I can just help 1 person out there to do something, I’m happy! Just trying to give back to this amazing community anyway I can. The amazing C4D community is another reason why I love the software. The folks at MAXON are like extended family, so much fun to be a part of their NAB presentations the past 3 years.


Renderfeed: What features do C4D users struggle with the most and how can your tutorials help?

(EJ) One feature I love showing people is the Inheritance Effector in Cinema 4D’s Mograph Module. It’s so much fun using it and it’s so powerful. It’s why in every single one of my MAXON NAB presentations, I demo different ways to use it because I think it’s one of the most underused effectors out there! So I think the main thing people struggle with is knowing some of the tools but maybe being afraid of or just not having the time to learn how to push the software further. I know one thing I struggle with is overthinking how to do something. I think of this overly complex solution when I realize “Oh, there’s this other tool that I didn’t know much about but does exactly what I need”.


Renderfeed: If you were in charge of designing the next C4D version, which features would you add or enhance?

(EJ) Oh man, hands down I’d love the Mograph Module to be enhanced and new functionality be added. It hasn’t really been improved on or had anything groundbreaking added to it in about 4 or 5 years. There’s so much room for growth, I know on the Maxon beta forums I’ve bombarded them with a bunch of Mograph Effector ideas so I hope we see some additions to the Mograph Module in the coming releases. It’s the most powerful and most used features in Cinema 4D, aside from Dynamics maybe. I think it’s the reason why most people get into and learn C4D, I know it was for me. Would love to see more added to it!


Renderfeed: What is your view on how to efficiently learn C4D given our busy schedules as artists? Is it necessary to set aside a few days to really work on new skills or can we improve our skillset just by watching tutorials and tips on a regular basis?

(EJ) One thing I always try to do everyday is to try to learn something, even if it’s the littlest thing. Whether that’s through a tutorial, or trying to push my work to the point where OK this will look great, but how the heck do I do that now? When you do that, you’re pushing your creative vision along with your technical abilities. I think it’s important to take any chance you have to force yourself to learn something for a project. It’s a great feeling when you work on something that you’re proud of creatively, but also knowing you figured out how to do it technically. Something that I know I am guilty of, and I’m sure many of us are, is that it’s so easy to get caught up in just blowing through tutorials and trying to soak up as much knowledge as you can but really it’s like learning a language. Unless you speak that language everyday, you’re going to quickly forget what you learned. So it’s a balance, definitely learn and watch tutorials but the best way for it to sink in is to see a technique out there you want to learn and immediately apply it to your own idea or concept so you can actually work through all the kinks. You retain way more information when you actually do it yourself instead of just watching someone else do it. Heck, I sometimes find myself going back and watching my own tutorials because I forget how I did something a year or so ago!

Cinema4D Quicktip: To create Roving Keyframes like in AfterEffects

Cinema4D Quicktip: How to Invert a Weight/Vertex Map c4d

Renderfeed: Aside from watching tutorials and tips, what are other creative ways to sharpen your C4D skillset that you would recommend?

(EJ) Like I mentioned before, working on projects that force you to learn a technique. Do you want to learn X-Particles or Hair? Then think of some personal project you could work on that will force you to do just that. You’ll have hands on experience with that and have a much more intimate knowledge of the process than you would just watching a tutorial. Aside from my Lynda.com courses, many of my tutorials don’t have “end results”. I focus more on showing the viewer a technique and leave it to them to figure out how to apply it to their own project and try to empower the viewer to get creative with it. I think many people fall into a rut where they see a technique and an end product and they just emulate the entire technique to that same end result and don’t think “OK, how can I take this technique and apply it to my own work or my own ideas.” It’s important to take what you learn and make it a personal learning experience, the information sticks so much better. It’s the whole “Give a person a beer, they drink for a day; teach a person to make beer, they drink for life.” Or was it fish? I forget.

Cinema4D Quick Tip: Hold CMD, click & drag to copy objects inside the viewport window

Cinema4D Quicktip: How to Fix issue when a HDRI image shows up in a materials Alpha Channel when you render

Cinema4D Quicktip: Clone onto multiple objects using Connect Object

Renderfeed: You are busy man, working on motion graphic projects, teaching, preparing tutorials, being a very active member of the C4D community… How do you manage to fit this all into your schedule and how do you keep your priorities straight?

(EJ) People ask me how I do it, but to be honest there are so many people doing it way more than I am! I’d ask those people the same questions! And I don’t even have kids! But I think the main thing is most people have a decent amount of free time in their day and have hobbies and whatnot, it just so happens that learning and doing mograph is my “video game” or “hobby”. I have a passion for it so it’s fun for me and doing tutorials helps me have a deeper understanding of the software and motion graphics because not only do you have to show someone how to do something, you have to talk about how or why you’re doing it. I worked so, so hard to be able to go freelance. Working 8 hour days at work, eating dinner with my wife, then working more until 2AM, waking up at 8AM, going to work, repeat. It was a pain, but so rewarding being your own boss. Being freelance, I have final say on how busy I am and how much work I take on. Sometimes I overbook myself and I’m working nights and weekends, but I try to limit that. And if I do work a ton, I make sure I set aside time to recharge my batteries and unwind with my wife and my pug, relax and sip on some good craft beer. (It’s not alcoholism, it’s a hobby!) You need to balance all that work with fun. I also work out about 6 days a week, it’s important to step away from the computer and let your mind wander. I get many of my ideas when I go for a jog. It’s also important to just move when our jobs require we sit on our butts for 8 hours or more each day. As far as fitting in time for teaching, I have a unique situation where I’m lucky enough to work for Lynda.com and have all these speaking and teaching opportunities where it’s my job to be the best speaker or teacher I can be and to keep getting better. Man, go watch my first tutorials; they’re terrible! (Actually, don’t…haha) And as far as being active in the community, I work in my office with only my pug, Gus, to keep my company. While’s a good little assistant, it’s important for me to have that connection to other creatives out there so Twitter is one of those places where I can connect with people and not feel like an antisocial hermit. And place like Twitter are great to just ask questions and get really quick help if you’re ever stuck on a technical problem in Cinema 4D or After Effects.


Renderfeed: Have you ever used a render farm and if so, which factors influence your choice of farm?

(EJ) I haven’t worked on too many projects that require a farm, but since I just bought my new Mac Pro, I now have my own mini-farm with the new Mac Pro, my old 2009 Mac Pro, and a 2012 Macbook Pro that’ll do the job on most occasions but I’m sure a time will come where I’ll need a farm, and I’ll be sure to mosey on down to your farm and kick the tires on your render rig!