Cinema 4d Handbook: Chapter 7

All through September I am going through the Cinema 4D, r10 Handbook in hopes of gaining a new skill and better understanding of 3D modeling. I plan to (from here on out) cover two chapters a week (longer chapters will be broken into multiple posts). Stay tuned for new chapters.

Chapter 7: Basic Animation

Animation is one of the key reasons why people use 3D modeling programs. The basic steps to animate in Cinema 4D are relatively easy, especially if you’ve ever worked with After Effects. There are two forms of basic animation: Object Animation and Camera Animation. Object animation is moving an object around within a scene. Camera animation is moving created cameras around an object to add to or create movement. All animation uses key frames, which is the main reason why this skill-set is so similar to After Effects.

When you use Cinema 4D to animate, there are a few things to make sure you’re aware of. First, you’ll want to go into the Animation Layout (Window> Layout> Animation). Once in the Animation Layout, double-check that you are using the Object Tool not the Model Tool. The Object Tool will allow you to animate easier. “It is best practice to model with the Model Tool and animate with the Object Tool.” Lastly, you need to know the difference between Size and Scale. Every object has both scale and size. “If you change the size of a house, you haven’t changed the scale.”

Tutorial 7.1: The Bouncing Ball

This tutorial covers the basic of Object Animation. “Hierarchy is critical to any successful animation.” Each property you want to animate, or change, should be connected to its own Null Object Controller. A Null Object is an invisible item that you can link other items to in order to work on them together more efficiently. By breaking each action out into separate controllers, it becomes easier to track and maintain your project. Basic animation through the Animation Layout is easy.

The Animation Layout is made of ive pieces: A) The perspective view, B) the Objects Manager, C) the Attributes Manager, D) the Animation Palette, and E) the Timeline.

Animate the Ball Bounce:
1) Select the ball object through the Objects Manager. Then click on the Coord Tab inside of the Attributes Manager.
2) Control+Click on the circle next to the coordinate you wish to change. This creates a key frame on the timeline.
3) Scrub through the timeline to a later point and go back into the Coord. Tab.
4) Change the coordinate and Control+Click next to that coordinate. That will create a second key frame. *NOTE: An empty black circle represents no animation for that attribute. An empty red circle means there is animation for the attribute but not at that frame. And a full red circle means there is animation on that frame.
5) Continue this process to bounce the ball.

To play back your animation, go into the Animation Palette and press the play button controller. As it stands right now, the way the ball falls isn’t realistic. You can use F-Curves to make it look better. F-Curves in C4D work almost the same as in AE. They allow you to speed up, slow down, ease in, or ease out of specific key frames.

To Enhance the Animation Using F-Curves:
1) Click on the Key/ F-Curve button or use the space bar to switch between modes.
2) Select the key frame(s) that you wish to change.
3) In the Timeline choose Key> Zero Angle to flatten the selection handles. Then Key> Break Tangents to be able to modify either side of the point independently.
4) Use the handle bars to adjust the F-Curve.

Create Forward Motion:
The ball now bounces straight up and down in a realistic manner. But now it needs to move forward.
1) Select the ball object.
2) In the Coord. tab, of the Attributes Manager, set the X-Axis to “0” and Control+Click the key frame circle.
3) Move the timeline slider to another point.
4) Change the X-Value and Control+Click the key frame circle again.

Add Squash and Stretch:
When a real object bounces it squashes and stretches upon making contact with the floor. To create this effect, create a null object and link the ball to it. Then you can apply squash and stretch to the balls attributes.
1) Select only Scale in the Animation Palette.
2) Change into Key mode and move the timeline slider to the first contact point.
3) Click on Record Active Object in the Animation Palette. Then move the slider to a second point.
4) In the Coord. tab change the values for scale and click the Record Active Object to create a second key frame.

Rotate the Ball:
It makes sense that the ball would rotate a bit while it bounces and moves. To do this create another null object and link the ball to it. This will become the rotation controller.
1) Select the ball and Control+Click next to the rotation option in the Coord. tab.
2) Move the slider to a second point.
3) Back in the Coord. tab, change the value for the rotation and Control+Click to create a new key frame.

Rendering the Animation:
Rendering an animation takes a few extra steps. Doing this will allow you to see an animated scene instead of a still image.
1) Go into Render Settings and change “Output” to “All Frames.”
2) Go into the “Save Options” and change “Format” to QuickTime Movie.


Tutorial 7.2: Camera Animation

The second way to animate is with the camera. While animating the camera may look good, it comes with many potential downfalls. “The simple fact of the matter is that most of the time, especially if you are relatively new to cinematography, you shouldn’t animate the camera at all.” Just like with live action, unless it is motivated, you shouldn’t move the camera.

Auto Key:
There are a few ways to animate the camera. The easiest way is through Auto Key. With Auto Key all you do is move the object (or camera) and it will automatically create the key frames. However, when you Auto Key you have to think four-dimensionally. It may become difficult to figure out where you are in three-dimensional space. “Another limitation of Auto Keying is that it will not work with camera pan, zoom, and dolly controls.” So you must use a Null Object for the camera.

Animating the Camera:
Simple pans, lifts, tilts, and zooms are easy. They all roughly go like this:
1) Go to the Animation Layout. Window> Layout> Animation
2) Select the camera object and double-check that only Position is selected in the Animation Palette.
3) Click the Record Active Object button to create the first key frame.
4) Move the slider to a new frame and use the Pan Controls to move the camera.
5) Record another key frame.

You can create many cameras for each scene, then render them individually or edit them together in C4D.
To Create and Modify a Camera:
1) Create a new camera object. Objects> Scene> Camera
2) Select the new camera in the Objects Manager and go into the Coord. tab of the Attributes Manager.
3) Make adjustments to the camera’s position.
4) Link your object to the camera. *NOTE: Linking an object that already has animation on it (in this case from another camera) it will automatically key frame.

Camera Editing:
The book doesn’t suggest editing within Cinema 4D. It instead suggests rendering out each camera angle individually and then using a program like Final Cut Pro to cut them together. By going through another editor, you will have increased mobility in what you can do. C4D only has limited editing ability.

To Edit Between Cameras:
1) Import a new stage object. Objects> Scene> Stage
2) In the Attributes Manager go into the Object tab.
3) Drag and drop your first camera angle onto the “Camera” field.
4) Control+click the key frame button next to the field.
5) Move the timeline slider to a new frame.
6) Drag and drop a new camera angle into the “Camera” field.
7) Repeat to achieve more cuts.


Animation, whether if it’s object or camera animation, is an important skill to have when working with 3D. It’s got a steep learning curve. I went through the tutorial a few times to make sure I got it all right. Now for more modeling; Chapter 8 is on Character Setup.

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