Tuesday, July 09, 2013

C4D Tips & Techniques #1

In my last post, I mentioned that this one would include all the notes I've accumulated regarding Cinema 4D. I wasn't lying, however as I prepared this post I realized just how extensive my notes already are. So I've decided to split them into two parts.

What follows are the first half of all the Cinema 4D tips and techniques I've written down for my own benefit. Some I came across on my own, while many came from blogs and tutorials posted by other awesome C4D users, and I've included reference links in such cases.

I hope some of these will be useful to you. Please let me know (here or via Twitter) if you have better alternatives for anything I've written, or have a tip of your own you'd like to share.


Creating a Default Project Template

In order to create a default project template (which contains render settings, layers, material, etc.) that will automatically get used whenever you create a new project, simply save a .c4d file to your Cinema 4D user directory (AppData > Roaming > MAXON > CINEMA 4D) using the file name "template.c4d", or simply use the stock "Save as Template" script within Cinema 4D. Placing a copy named "new.c4d" in the main Cinema 4D program directory is a good idea as well, as it will persist through multiple new documents in a single session.

Set Bodypaint texture format to .PSD

For the best combination of file compatibility and features, set Preferences > BodyPaint 3D >Texture Default Format to "Photoshop *.psd".

Configure the Viewport Guides

To enable the viewport guides (such as Action Safe and Title Safe regions) or the colour border of the rendered area; within the viewport you wish to adjust, select Options > Configure... (or Configure All...) to reach the Viewport attributes.

Keyboard Shortcuts

  • To easily delete parent hierarchies, assign a key command (such as SHIFT+DELETE) to Delete without children.
  • Bind common Adobe shortcuts to do the same operation in Cinema 4D so you can work more naturally between programs. (ex: ` = Full-Screen Mode)

Linear Workflow

Use linear workflow to ensure colours are properly represented on screen and when moving from one application to the next.


CTRL+F1 for Help... anywhere

To get help on anything (including menu commands) simply press CTRL+F1 while pointing to it.

'V' for the Global Popup menu

To access all the global popup menu, simply press the V key. To customize the global popup, follow the tutorial in the link.

Use the Commander to find any tool or function

To bring up the Commander, simply hit SHIFT+C. From there you can access any tool or function within the program by typing it's name (or part thereof).

Toggle display of the axis

To toggle display of the axis control, simply hit ALT+D.

Maneuvering the camera

When manipulating the camera via the ALT key combinations, if you click and hold on an object your camera will move about the point in which you clicked (highlighted with a crosshair marker). However, if you click and hold on an area of open space the camera will move about the center of your viewport.

Grouping objects

When grouping objects, the group's axis will be placed at the average of all the selected object axes.

Lock an object's position with the Protection tag

The position, size, and rotation (PSR) of an object can be locked on a per-axis basis by applying a Protection tag. This can be especially useful for scene objects like lights and cameras.

Changing multiple coordinates at once

In the Object Attributes you can select multiple coordinates or click on the coordinate type (P = position, S = size, R = rotation) to select all of the coordinates of that type. Entering a value into a coordinate field and pressing CTRL+Enter will apply that value to all the selected coordinates. CTRL+scrubbing will adjust all the selected coordinates to the same value, while CTRL+SHIFT+scrubbing will adjust all the selected coordinates while maintaining their ratios to one another.

Using formulas in parameter values

All value fields accept formulas as a form of data entry. This can be ideal for multiplying or dividing a value, setting a random value, and the like. Use "x" to designate the current value of each object if manipulating multiple objects at once. A full list of acceptable formulas can be found in Help (Manual > Reference > Cinema 4D > Cinema 4D Prime > Appendix > Formula)

Resetting a parameter value

To reset a parameter value, simply Right Click the spinner button. ESC will also cancel the entry of a value before it is entered.

Manipulating parent objects

To manipulate a parent object but not it's children, hold the 7 key while manipulating.

Toggle Parent generator

With an object selected which is either a generator or a child of one, use the Q key to toggle the generator on/off.


Object Manager powertips

  • CTRL+ALT+Click an item in the Object Manager to set it as the current root
  • Use Bookmarks to save your filter and search settings so you can return to them in the future

The Naming Tool quickly batch-modifies object names

The Naming Tool (Tools > Naming Tool) allows you to batch replace object names, or append them with prefixes and suffixes. To append a number to an object name, use the operator "$N".

Selecting a parent and all its children

To select a parent object and all it's children, Middle-Click the parent object in the Object Manager.

Use Selection Objects to save selections

You can save selections of groups of objects using a Selection Object. With desired objects selected, choose Select > Selection Filter > Create Selection Object. You can then re-select that group of objects by double-clicking on the icon of the created selection object. You can also add and remove objects from the selection from Attribute Manager > Object.

Add notes to objects

Use the To Do tag to add a note to any object. You can then view a summary list of all To Do notes in Project Settings.

Making an object (such as a Sky) invisible to the camera

To make an object invisible to the camera, add a Compositing tag to the object. Within the tag there is an option Seen by Camera which - when disabled - will allow the object to be seen by reflections and such, while not actually being visible directly by the camera.

* NOTE: This same tag can be used to make an object cast or receive shadows despite it's visibility status.


Aligning objects to each other

To quickly align a deformer to the object you wish to deform, use the Center to Parent command (under Mesh > Axis Center). The Center Parent to command can likewise be used to align NURBS and modelling objects to their children.

NOTE: Be aware that some types of are inherently tied to their axis and will move if their axis is moved. Use a parent Null object if you need to align such an object's axis.

Locking the Knife tool

When using the Knife tool in plane, loop, and path modes, press SHIFT to lock the preview. You can then adjust the settings of the cut in the attribute manager to what you desire before committing the cut (by clicking back in the viewport).

Freezing Transformation

To freeze transformations on an object and zero-out the coordinates, select the object and in Attribute Manager > Coordinates toggle open Freeze Transformation, then select the transformations you would like to freeze

Creating Polygons

When using the Create Polygon tool; create the points in a clockwise direction if you want the polygon Normals to face the camera, or in a counter-clockwise direction if you want them to point away from the camera.

Convert a parametric object to a single polygon mesh

Simply making a parametric or NURBS object editable and using the Connect command to merge the parts into a single mesh will result in the points along the seams of the original components remaining unconnected. To get around that and truly make a single mesh, do the following:
    1. Convert the original object to poly objects via Make Editable
    2. Create a Connect object and place all the individual components (caps, bevels, etc.) into it un-parented
    3. Select the Connect object and select Current State to Object
Make sure to first set the Cap Type to quadrangles (or triangles) — preferably with Regular Grid enabled — if you plan to perform any deformations on the resulting mesh.

Separating polygons from a mesh

To cut polygons from a mesh - creating a separate mesh from those polys - use the Split command with the desired polygons, points, or lines selected. This will create a new mesh with those polys, while leaving the polys on the original mesh. You can then simply delete the current selection.

Creating a spline from points of a mesh

To create a spline from points of a mesh, use Edge mode to select the edges that will define your spline, then select Edges to Spline (under Mesh > Commands).

Adding points to a spline

To add points to a spline; with the Move tool selected:
  • Ctrl+Click: add point at the end of the spline
  • Ctrl+Shift+Click: add a point at the beginning of the spline
  • Ctrl+Click on the spline [or] use the Knife tool: add a point along the spline

Spline Projection

A quick way to wrap splines around another object. Place the desired spline in front of object you wish to project it onto, and with it selected in Point Mode use the Project command.

The Correction deformer

The Correction deformer allows you point-level deformation of an object. This is a powerful tool that allows you to test modifications to a mesh without changing the original object, deform parametric primitives and NURBS objects, or animate an object at the point-level (it's primary purpose). Just note that if modifying parametric objects, new points added to the original object (such as by adding subdivisions) will not reflect in an already-applied Correction deformer.

Boolean Tips

    1. Simplify the geometry
    2. Prep the area to be modified
    3. Clean up the geometry that's left over

Add thickness to a single-layer mesh

To add thickness to a polygon mesh that only has a single polygon layer, use the Explode deformer. Ensure you set Time to 0 (zero) under the Object tab, and then set the Thickness (Cluster tab) to an appropriate amount.

More intuitive Array object manipulation

To make manipulating the specifics of Array objects easier, place the source object in a Null before dropping it in the Array. This will allow direct manipulation of the object to affect how the array creates the instances.

In part 2, I cover tips and techniques regarding texturing, hair & fur, Xpresso, rigging, animation, and rendering. So read on in C4D Tips & Techniques #2. 

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