A Cinema 4D Primer for Maya Artists: Creating Primitive Polygon Objects

Photo of Edna Kruger

Instructor Edna Kruger

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Create some trees using primitive polygon objects, add materials to them, duplicate them, group them, and then make them editable.

This video shows how to create primitive polygon objects and change their attributes, add materials to them using the Material Manager, duplicate them, group them, and then make them editable.

Tip: To have all new primitive use the same settings, create a primitive, modify its attributes as you like, and choose Edit > Set as Default in the Attribute Manager.
To delete or reset this, open the Content Browser and choose Presets > Defaults, and delete the preset you created.



In this video, we'll add some trees to our landscape using primitive polygon objects. And we'll create a group, add some materials, and duplicate the trees to grow a little forest. Primitive polygons are the basis of most 3D lifeforms in Cinema 4D. Everything is available here in the "Create Objects" menu, but the easiest way to create a primitive is to open this palette and click an icon. Let's just move our little guy out of the way, since he just got swallowed by a donut. And everything else we're going to create will show up here at the origin. As you can see, there's lots of primitives in C4D to give you a leg up, including a human figure to give you a template to help set up your own character or just have handy for testing out stuff. But we'll just get rid of these, since we want to make trees. This scary-looking tree isn't the kind of vibe we want for our little guy's world. So, we can hide it for now by clicking the top circle beside its node in the object manager. When it turns red, the tree is gone. Now we can grow some new trees using primitives, so let's start with the cylinder for the tree trunk. Creating primitives is pretty much the same as in Maya, but you'll soon see that things are a bit different in C4D. Primitives are parametric at first, which means that they're created on the fly and don't exist as real geometry, because all their components aren't available. You can adjust their size by dragging the orange handles here and also set the attributes here in the attribute manager. We'll just change the radius to make it a bit smaller and the height to make it a bit shorter. And let's change the display to show lines to see the geometry subdivisions. We want to keep the tree looking a bit cartoony and angular, so we'll change the number of segments to six so that it's a hexagon. You may also want to set the object's orientation to get the object pointing in the direction that you want from the get-go. If the tree has fallen down, we could have it point along the X or Z axis instead of the Y. This way you can keep the rotation coordinate values at zero, which is a good base to have for starting. But we want our trees to grow upright, so we'll change back to Y. You can change a lot of attributes while the primitive is still parametric, including caps and filleting. And with cylinders, you can decide to create only a portion of it, such as if you want a tree to be already chopped. Now let's create the treetop using a cone, and we'll just increase the height. We'll change the number of segments to eight for an octagonal treetop and crank the height segments down to one, since we don't need any definition there. Cones have similar types of attributes as cylinders, but other primitives will have different attributes, so make sure to check out all the tabs when you're creating them. You can actually leave the primitives as parametric until you want to edit their components. You can still move them around as you like, as we'll just move the tree parts up here. And you can apply materials to them as we'll do by dragging materials from the material manager and dropping them on each object. You can see and select an object's node in the object manager, which is like the outliner but with more information. Let's double-click the nodes and give our objects more meaningful names here before things get too far. One major difference to know between Maya and C4D is that an object is a single node and not composed of a transform node and a shape node. We could create a hierarchy here with these two objects, but it's not clear which one should be parent. To solve this dilemma, we'll create a group that acts the same way as it does in Maya. Just select the objects and choose "group objects" from the objects menu here or press alt+G. This creates a null, or a locator, as you know it, as a parent for the objects you selected. This acts the same as the empty transform node does in a group in Maya. And let's just rename that null to "Tree". Now we can do some reforestation. Just press ctrl and drag to duplicate the trees in either the object manager or in the viewport. As in the attribute editor in Maya, attributes are always shown in the attribute manager for the selected object. But you can also select multiple objects as we'll do with the treetops and edit their attributes all at the same time. On the caps tab, make sure that caps is on and then select "bottom" to give the trees a rounded bottom with a fillet. So, when you're ready to edit the object's geometry, you can make the primitive into a real polygon. We don't really need to do this for our trees, but we'll do one just to show you. Select the primitives you want and then click the "make editable" icon or press the C key. This makes all the information we set in the attribute manager into the object, sort of like when you delete an object's history in Maya. And you notice now that they're polygon objects. One thing to mention is that for any primitives that have caps, such as cones and cylinders, the caps don't stay attached to the main body when you make them editable. You can see when we select the points here and move it up. The top cap is removed from the body. To keep the caps on the object, get back into model mode and choose "Mesh Commands Optimize" or press "UO" to merge the cap's points with the body's points where they join up. Now you can see when we move the selected points, they're all part of the same object. So now that your primitives are real polygons, you can start modeling them in any way you want. Using the point, add, and polygon component modes. So, that wraps up primitive polygons. You can keep on experimenting with the many different types of primitives available and discovering their attributes. And here's a cheat sheet of all the keyboard shortcuts we used in this video. In the next video, we'll look at how you can move, scale, and rotate these objects including a look at pivots, or axes, as they're called in C4D.
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