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Learning character/organic modeling in Cinema 4D

This is my third week using Maxons Cinema 4d and I've been posting my thoughts and first images all over the place. I thought it was about time I brought all my comments together in one place. I've started a thread at CGT that covers all this off and I'll continue to post my findings as I get more familiar with the software and toolset.

First things first. I have not abandoned Silo3D in any way. In my eyes it is still the best value sub-division modeling package on the market. I explained why I was moving over to Cinema 4D in this blog post here. I have spent a long time working with Silo as my main modeling solution and it will take a very special piece of software to make me move on.

A large amount of my first few weeks with C4D has been spent configuring the layout and shortcuts to suit my needs as an organic character/creature modeler. I wasn't thinking about getting heavily involved with the modeling tools at first but as the days rolled on I started to like the toolset and more-so the configurable palettes and layouts. Add to that the power hidden in the scripting and the ability to add those scripts to buttons and the modeling experience becomes very attractive. I remember doing all this with Maya back in version 6.5 but I have found C4D much easier to learn and therefore I want to keep going.

Lots of tools work as you would expect. A character modeler
needs a different set of tools from hard surface modeler. For example I can't remember the last time I used a Boolean operation. The common tools that I use in most 3D modeling packages work as expected including things like extrude, move/scale/rotate/face/point/edge/face/object etc. All very familiar and quickly mapped to my own liking. There are a few quirks and oddities that frustrate me but most can be overcome with tweaks, scripts or plugins.

Symmetry. For a character modeler one essential feature is having the ability to model with symmetry on and all central point to be locked to Zero on X. This is a 'given' to successfully model creatures, characters and heads. In R11 I've only found a symmetry tag which gives me a partial answer but I had to resort to two plugins to get what I needed. Symmetry clamp and Cactus Dans CD Symmetry had what I needed.

Selection of Tri and NGons. Towards the end of a modeling project I like to clean up the mesh removing Ngons and Tris. I have a process where I model a section (an arm for example) then check it and remove what I can using tools like spin quad (an old Lightwave term and favorite of some) or by deleting edges and cutting new ones. Then onto the body, check it, remove what I can etc. If you get into a habit like this you end up with very few stray 3 and more-than-four sided polygons to deal with at the end of a session. I still live by the mantra that the only good mesh is 100% Quadrangles. It is so frustrating to be nearing the end of a mesh and find that you have a stray triangle sitting right on the botton of a foot. To remove it you have to split all the way up the leg giving unwanted edges and poygons. It's much better to keep checking for Ngons and Tris throughout the modeling process and eliminate them whenever possible. To do this quicky and efficiently I like to have the two buttons at hand and mapped to keys (Alt+T and Alt+N)

Select NGons was from Bobtronic here

Select Tri's suggested by VDP at CGT :)

var cnt = op->GetPolygonCount();
if(!cnt) return;

var i;
var poly;
var bs = new(BaseSelect);

for(i=0; iGetPolygon(i);
if(poly->c == poly->d)


Knife. This is a powerful tool and one that I loved in Lightwave and missed in Silo. However, to make it a fast and efficient addition to the toolkit I recorded a couple of scripts with the knife tool with certain settings switched on for example:

1. A Cut button and keycommand (X) which gives me the point to point or edge to edge cutting.

2. The Loop cut button which gives me the full split loop function.

These are all there to be had in the Knife attributes but having them on buttons and keys speeds the modeling process up. You can of course just double click the button to call the tools attributes then adjust them to get the desired effect but, again, this slows down modeling. To keep the processing flowing and more artistic these tools need to be accessable and available at the click of a button. One thing that slows a new modeler down is remembering which menu a tool is located in.

Knife Tool in Loop Mode:
CallCommand(1016030); // Knife

Tweak. The definition of tweak (for me!) is the ability to move componant parts (point, edge and face) in 3D space without having to select them first. In C4D you have to enter Tweak Mode and leave Default mode. Then when you've finished the tweaking go back to default mode. I am mush more comfortable having Tweak assigned to a Key hold so that you can quickly enter and leave the mode with the press/hold of a key. An analogy I use is that if you were writing a book you would not want to repeatedly press CAPS LOCK on and off all the time when you could simply hold down Shift for a capital letter. To improve things slightly I recorded a script that enters Tweak mode and also enters move mode. It only saves a single keystoke but you do use tweak with Move for 90% of the time.

Brush increase and decrease. This is a must and was achieved with a simple script from here. I much prefer mouse-wheel-roll for this sort of stuff but that is not implemented in the latest release. I got it here

Smooth (Average vertices): This is a vital modeling feature for me and it took me a while to get familiar with it in C4D. My favorite way to do it is to have a selection with an area effect and fall off (example: Select a nose and the effect falls off onto the face). Once selected I like to call the smooth command using a mouse wheel roll to run it incrementally. This isn't available in C4D so I use a combination of things to achieve the same effect. I use Live select in edge or face mode. Select the area I wish to tighten then call Brush>Smooth from my palette and click the area. This tightens the mesh giving the smoothing effect in the selected area. The other way is to call and use the 'Iron' tool. This is pretty much a tighten/average verts command but it feel clumsy at first.

Using the HUD. The HUD allows you to add certain menu items to the viewports. I like to add relevant sliders (Soft selection radius being a well used example) to a viewport to keep things flowing. You can save the document as template.c4d and that retains these HUD items but I'm still undecided if that's the best way to do it. The jury is out on this one so far as I am finding new and better ways to do this every day.

Retopogise: This is a great little script (a few lines of code is all that's needed) from Thomas Paleka at CGTalk. This little retop feature gives me a powerful little tool that allows me to generate my new geometry onto an existing high poly mesh. This is the best way to make clothing that fits a character and change bad edge flows. It is essentially the create- polygon tool with added oomph!!!

Loop and ring select. These work well and are well used.

Extrude/Smooth Shift/Matrix extrude all work perfectly and have lots of settings. I keep them handy in my modeling palette and have them mapped.

I intend to keep adding to this blog post so please check back if you are new to C4D. Please add your comments/additions/amendments below if I've missed something or you know of a great tool for organic modelers in Cinema 4D.

I need to say a massive thanks to everyone at CGTalk and on Twitter that has supported me in learning Cinema4D in recent weeks. And a couple of special thanks to Rob Redman from Pariah Studios. His tutorials have been a godsend. And to Dave Davidson who has put up with me pestering him for years now. Follow these guys all on twitter! It's well worth it!


Draw the Line time again!

"Draw the Line" is a growing creative Liverpool art social event aimed at the everyman and artist alike to unite under one roof and enjoy a casual scribble.

Check here for information on upcoming events, look at photos from previous sessions and spot your own artistic contributions. Stay tuned and get involved.

Next Events:

Thursday 5th November - Django's Riff - 8PM onwards

Remember Remember the 5th of November, as we'll be having a

little give-away bonanza of some Art software DVDs

generously provided by Glen Southern, don't miss out!

Thursday 13th November - The Masque - 10PM onwards

A new and exciting venue to add to the list of places most doodled,

cheers to "Eat your Greens" for the invite!