A Cinema 4D Primer for Maya Artists: Creating Splines and Objects from Them

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Instructor Edna Kruger

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Explore the spline drawing tools and spline primitives by generating and adding some flowers to the landscape.We’ll also show how to download and use the CV-ArtSmart plug-in to make 3D objects from Illustrator artwork.

This video shows how to use the Pen and Sketch spline drawing tools, how to create spline primitives, and how to use the Extrude and Sweep generators with splines to create 3D polygon geometry. It also covers how to install and use the CV-ArtSmart plug-in to make 3D objects from Illustrator artwork.

For information on installing and using the CV-ArtSmart plug-in, see this video: CV-ArtSmart: Download and Install

For more details on using the Pen tool, see this video: What's New in R17: Spline Tools for Drawing, Sketching, Smoothing, and Combining Paths

For information on using the CV-Splines plug-ins which let you easily create objects from splines, see this video: CV-Splines Introduction



In this video, we'll add some more elements to our little character's environment by generating 3D objects from splines, or curves, as you know them in Maya. There are lots of primitive pre-sets for splines in cinema 4D, as you can see in the Create Spline menu, and these same primitives are found in this pallet. All primitives are shown in blue. If you want to draw your own spline, you can use any of these tools that are in orange. Let's take a look at how to do that first. We'll choose the pen tool which is your main tool for drawing any type of spline. Splines are automatically oriented to whichever plane you're drawing in, so we'll switch to the top view and start clicking to draw points for the spline. We're starting with a linear-type spline, but you can easily change that at any time in the pen tools attributes, which is pretty cool. B spline is most like using the CV tool in Maya to create a spline where the control points, or vertices, lie off its surface. As you click, you can see the preview of what the curve will be before you have to commit to it. Now let's switch to béziers which gives handles for adjusting the curve at each point. If you change your mind about the last point you just drew, just press the delete key and then click on the end point and continue drawing. Notice that the gradient shows the end of the spline in blue and the start in white, so you always know which end is which. The starting point acts a bit like a magnet to help you close the curve, if that's what you want to do. You can click and drag on a point to move it, or double-click and drag an edge to change that segment. You can also double-click a point to toggle between hard and soft interpolation, or right-click it and use the interpolation commands in this menu. You can delete a point by pressing the delete key, or right-click and choose delete. If you don't want your spline to be closed anymore, right-click on the last point and choose disconnect. Then you can move the start and end points as you like. When you're done drawing with the pen tool, just switch to any other tool, such as the move tool. You can still tweak the spline in point mode after you're done drawing it, but if you press control and add points to the end of the spline, or press ctrl+shift to add points to the start of the spline, the line segments that get create may not be the same type of spline that you have. So it's best to use the pen tool for doing that. The sketch tool is great for drawing free-hand splines. Just click and draw wherever you want like a pencil. As you see, it gets smoothed out by default. But if you want to smooth it more, you can use the spline smooth tool, which really does what it says. You can use this tool on any type of spline. We'll just increase the strength a bit to smooth out these sharper corners. Just be aware that this tool is destructive, because it adds and deletes points in order to create smooth lines. Let's delete these splines, because we don't really need them in our scene, and now let's add some 3D flowers to the landscape using some primitive splines and generators. We'll switch to the front view to create our spline since the generator likes the spline to be drawn on the XY plane. And appropriately, we'll use the flower primitive spline. Let's reduce the inner radius and outer radius, since we don't want monster flowers, and bring down the number of petals. Okay, so, now we need to make the spline three dimensional. You can find the 3D generators in this pallet. Let's turn this menu off, and then right click and choose icon size, and make the icons larger so that they're easier to see. And just so you know, you won't be creating a nerve surface object from the curve as you do in Maya. The geometry you'll be generating from the source spline is actually a polygon object. The highlighted splines on these icons give you an idea of how many, or the arrangement of source splines you need for each generator which is handy if you're not sure. We'll use the extrude generator which just needs a single spline and gives a similar effect to the bevel tool in Maya. To automatically apply the generator to the selected spline, press the alt key and click the extrude icon, and we have a big, gray flower. Let's turn on the lines for the display to see the geometry subdivisions. The spline becomes a child of the generator, which is how it knows what to extrude, and this is how all generators work in C4D. They need to be the parent of the splines that they're affecting. If you would have clicked the extrude icon without pressing the Alt key, the generator would have been created, but nothing would have happened, and you would have though it wasn't working. If this does happen, it's a pretty easy fix. Just drag the spline to be a child of the generator, and it will work. We'll just delete that and go back to our original extrude. Let's turn off the grid for now to see the flower better. In the extrude generator's attributes, we'll reduce the extrusion's thickness in Z so that the flowers aren't quite so chunky. Let's add a nicer edge to the flower by clicking the "Caps" tab and adding a fillet cap to both sides of the flower. We'll just decrease the radius of those areas and change the fillet type to engraved to give a little definition. Gray isn't the best color for flowers, so let's just drag and drop in orange material from the material manager, and we have flower power. Now, let's say we wanted to change the flower's shape a bit. To edit the spline's points, we have to select it and make it editable. Just as we did with the polygon primitives. We're going to disable the generator, temporarily, so that we can see the spline on its own. Click beside the generator's node in the object manager so that it turns to a red "X." We'll go into point mode and select the five inner points, and then scale them inwards to get sharper petals. Click the X to enable the generator again, and notice that that the generated geometry also changes as you would expect. And we'll just pop back into model mode. Now the flower needs a stem, so let's grow one. This time using arc and circle-primitive splines with the sweep generator which is like the extrude operator in Maya. We'll start by switching to the right view so that the plane is YZ, which is perpendicular to the flower. Click the arc-primitive icon which will be the path for the sweep. Then make its radius much smaller, and make the end angle shallower. Note that if you don't create the arc in the correct view, you can always change the plane here. Now let's go back to the front view, which is the XY plane. And we'll create a circle-primitive that will form the surface which sweeps along the arc. And again, we'll just make the radius a whole lot smaller. And if you didn't draw the circle in the correct view, you can change it's plane to XY to make it perpendicular to the arc. With the splines ready to go, you can click the sweep icon and move the two splines to be children under its node. Their order is important here. First, drag in the arc and then the circle, so that it's at the top, and the arc, which is the path spline, is below it. And there it is. Let's just make a few adjustments to the circle. We'll change it's intermediate points to uniform, and lower the number of divisions, since we don't need so much detail. And now we can finish up. First, we'll add a bright green material to the stem to make it look alive. And move the flower up a bit, and then move the stem so that it's behind the flower. And then we'll rotate the flower a bit so that it's pointing to the Sun. Finally, we'll select everything, and put it all in a group by choosing objects, group objects, or press alt+G, and rename the group null to "Flower." We could duplicate the flower as we did the trees by pressing control and dragging. But let's use instances instead, which are similar to what instances are in Maya. With the flower in null selected, choose tools, arrange objects, duplicate. We'll keep eight as the number of copies we want and select instances as the clone mode. On the options tab, we'll choose to put them in a circle, but we'll make it a half-circle by using 180 degrees. On the tool tab, click apply, and voila, an instant garden. Note that we could have also used the mograph cloner generator, but then we couldn't select each flower and manipulate them individually, such as how we'll move each flower in place and rotate each one. And there we have it. We'll shift gears now to show you another way of working with splines that is pretty awesome. If you're going to be working with motion graphics in C4D, there's a great tool you're going to want to use called CV Art Smart. It shows up in the plugin menu after you install it. CV Art Smart is a plugin that you can download for free from the information tab on this tutorial on cineversity.com. Using it, you can bring in art work from illustrator as AI or PDF files, and then create 3-D objects with it such as with the extrude generator. Because you can animate any of the attributes, you can create some really nice mograph effects with it. And one really cool thing is that it keeps a live link to the AI file, so that if you change it in Illustrator, you just have to reload it in C4D and those changes will be there. To learn how to use CV Art Smart, you can watch these videos on cineversity.com. So, that's how you create splines and generate polygon geometry from them using generators. Make sure to check out the other generators to see what you can create. And if you want to install some plugins that make it even easier to create spline-based objects, check out this video on cineversity.com. Here's the cheat sheet for all the tools and keyboard shortcuts we used in this video and links to the plugins that we mentioned. In the next video, we'll look at organizing all the objects in our scene using layers for different purposes.
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