A Cinema 4D Primer for Maya Artists: C4D in a Nutshell

Photo of Edna Kruger

Instructor Edna Kruger

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A whirlwind tour of the basic features in C4D that you’ll need to get started.

This video gives you a quick tour of C4D’s basic features, including the Content Browser (presets), changing the layout, selection tools, camera navigation in the viewport, primitive polygons, Attribute Manager, Object Manager, hierarchies, groups, transformation, Coordinate Manager, setting keys, Material Manager, and render previewing features.



Hello, and welcome to Cinema 4D. In this video for Maya artists, we're going to take a whirlwind tour of the basic features in C4D so that you can jump in and start using it right aways. Details will be in the other videos in this series, so don't worry if this goes a bit fast. So, go get your pumpkin spiced low-fat decaf latte and enjoy the ride. Here, we have a C4D project already loaded of this little guy made with primitive object. In C4D, what's called a project file is actually more like a scene file in Maya. You can use the usual File Open and load in any type of file into C4D, or just drag it in from a browser as we'll do here. If you want to bring in scene files from Maya, they need to be in the FBX format. Notice that the animation works fine when you bring it in this way. If you want to get started with some C4D files right aways, you can use the many, many presets C4D files that live in the content browser. Just click on this tab on the side, search through a bunch of folders, and then double-click a file's icon to load a preset. A cool thing in C4D is that you can have multiple files loaded at the same time, as you can see in the window menu. To switch to another file, just select it here or press the V key and select file from the Project menu. Now, let's take a look around the C4D interface. It's divided into panels that give you access to the different icons, and tools, and managers, the same basic idea as in Maya. If you open the Layout menu in the corner, you can see that there are lots of preset layouts for different workflows. Try them all out to see which ones that you might want to work with. And if you want to rearrange things a little as you can in Maya, drag this little square icon in any panel to an edge and then release it to docket there. Or choose undock from the icon's menu and leave the panel as a floating window. Drag on the icon back to any edge to re-dock the panel. Now, as you're dragging panels around, there's a good chance that you're gonna mess up your layout or at least end up with some weird layout that you don't want. When this happens, and it will, just choose the Startup Layout again to reboot. You can think of this as your layout safety net. Unlike Maya, there are not multiple menu sets. Just a single menu bar with everything in it. The menus show the commands in their usual functional groups, and you can tear off the menus, as you're used to doing in Maya. So, let's say that you forget where a command is, or you just can't find it in the menus. All you have to do is press shift+C to open the commander and start typing a name. Not only can you find that command, you can press enter to execute it which is pretty nice. You can find other commands in contextual menus when you right-click on objects or components as we're doing with polygons here. These are pretty much like marking menus in Maya. There's no hotbox in C4D, but if you press the V key as we did earlier, you can see that you get a pop-up menu of frequently used commands. Most of these commands are in the pallets that are along the top and down the left. You can think of these as simpler versions of the shelf, status line, and toolbox in Maya. The view panel contains separate viewports with the familiar perspective and ortho views of a default camera. And this icon toggles between the single and multiple viewports. Or you can middle-click in a viewport to toggle, the same way that you use the spacebar in Maya. From the display menu, you can change how the objects look in each viewport with the different modes such as gouraud, constant, and hidden line, and even change the wireframe style. And we can even make our character look a bit like Elvis. Something your muscle memory won't have to relearn are the keyword shortcuts for camera navigation. Press Alt+left-click to tumble or orbit, as it's called in C4D, Alt+middle-click to pan or track, and Alt+right-click to Dolly. You can also hold down these icons in the viewport's corner while you drag to navigate in the same way. To select objects, make sure you're in Model mode which is like the Object mode in Maya and then just click on them. This works when any of the transform tools are active, move, scale, and rotate. The actual select tools are hiding in this menu. Rectangle select is most like the select tool in Maya when it's in Marquee mode. You can also press the 0 key to switch to it. Live selection works like the Paint selection tool in Maya, but you can select both objects and components with it. You can also press the 9 key to switch to it, and press the spacebar to toggle between the current selection tool and the last tool that you used. And the last tools that you used are all in this list which is pretty handy. The component selection modes are all down the side here. Points, and we'll just paint over the hair to change the selection here, edges, just do the same thing, and polygons, which is what faces are called in C4D. And you can press enter to switch among these modes. When you're ready to start creating stuff in C4D, it's easy to make primitive polygon objects. Just click on an icon from this menu. There are lots of primitives to get you started, including a human figure and a landscape. And just to note that if you want to frame selected elements in the viewport, just press the S key. C4D doesn't have nerbs primitives but you can easily create your own spline-based objects using these splines and then generators, which we'll cover in another video. Primitives in C4D are a bit different because they're parametric at first. This means that they're created on the Fly and don't exist as real geometry as you note. You can adjust their attributes with these orange handles and here in the attribute manager. As in the Attribute Editor in Maya, attributes are always shown in the Attribute Manager for the selected object. You can actually leave the primitives as parametric until you want to edit their components. When you're ready to make them into real geometry, just click the "Make Editable" icon or press the C key. You can see in Select the Objects node in the Object manager which is like the outliner but with a lot more information. You'll find that this manager is like home-base in C4D, and you'll use it to do a lot of work. Objects can be in parent-child hierarchies, the same as in Maya. Just drag a child node on to the node that you want to be the parent, as we'll drag the landscape onto the figure node here. And drag the child node anywhere outside the hierarchy to unparent it. Groups in C4D are essentially the same as in Maya. We'll select the landscape and figure objects and then choose objects, group objects, or press Alt+G. This creates a null or a locator as you know it, and makes it the parent of the selected object. And so let's add a little color to all this grayness using the material manager which is like a simple version of the Hypershade in Maya. Adding materials to an object is super easy. Just drag them from the Material Manager here and drop them onto an object's node in the Object Manager or on to its geometry in the viewport. To copy a material, just press the Ctrl key and drag in this manager. Then edit it by double-clicking its shader ball which opens up the Material Editor. We'll rename it and change its color and then drag it onto the landscape to make it look a bit healthier. So, you must be wondering by now, "How do I move stuff around in C4D?" If you didn't notice them earlier, you can find the transform tools in the top pallet. The keyboard shortcuts for each tool are close to what you know from Maya, but you'll have to shift your fingers over from the WER keys to ERT. The move tool is the E key, rotate tool is the R key, and the scale tool is the T key. You'll see that the manipulators work in pretty much the same as in Maya, with uniform scaling, rotating on an axis, and moving along certain axes or planes. An object's transform coordinates are found on this tab in the Attribute Manager and also in the Coordinate Manager here which is like a mini-version of the channel box. To set keys for the active object on what's key-able here, click this icon or press the F9 key, the same as you'd press the S key in Maya. Notice that a motion trail shows up which is kind of handy. All attributes that can be animated have a little circle icon beside them. Just press Ctrl and click that circle to set a key for it. One final thing we'll look at is preview rendering, and you can render directly in the active viewport by clicking this icon or pressing Ctrl+R. Or render to a picture viewer window as in Maya by clicking this icon or pressing shift+R. If you want to preview just part of a scene, choose Render Region and draw directly in the viewport. Or choose Interactive Render Region or press Alt+R. Then you can drag this little arrow to change the resolution and move the region around and resize it as you like. And it updates with whatever is in the box. Press Alt+R to close it. So, that wraps up our little tour of C4D. Of course, there are many more tools and managers that you'll discover as you work, but this should make it easier to jump in and get going. And here's a cheat sheet of all the keyboard shortcuts that we used in this video for you to have as a reference for later on. So, have fun playing in C4D, and we'll see you in the next video.
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