A Cinema 4D Primer for Maya Artists: Organizing the Objects in Your Project

Photo of Edna Kruger

Instructor Edna Kruger

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Organize the objects in our scene into hierarchies and groups, and also into layers for easily selecting objects, keeping a viewport uncluttered, and improving playback speed.

This video shows how to create hierarchies and groups, and how to create layers using the Layer Manager. It also shows how to add materials in the Material Manager to the layers of the objects to which they’re applied. In the Layer Manager, you can perform tasks to all objects in a layer at once: solo them, set their visibility in the viewport or Object Manager, set their renderability, lock them so they can’t be selected and manipulated, and disable their animation, generators, deformers, expressions, and Xref objects.



In this video, we'll organize the objects in our scene into groups and hierarchies and also into layers for easily finding and selecting objects, keeping the viewport uncluttered, improving playback speed, as well as a few other goodies. These things all work pretty much the same way in Cinema 4D as they do in Maya, but there are a few differences that you'll see. Groups and hierarchies let you select, manipulate, and animate multiple objects together as you see with the top group null of our little character and with the different body parts that are parent objects. You also use groups and hierarchies for propagating materials and other properties and tags, down from parent to child. Here, only the landscape parent null needs to have a material so that all its children can share it. Tags are not something that you find in Maya, but they work the same way with propagation. This is a display tag that is inherited by all the landscape parents' children. In C4D, hierarchies also matter with generators and deformers. Generators are always the parents of objects that they're affecting, such as the sweep and extrude generators, who are the parents of these stem and flower splines. And deformers are the opposite. They are always the children of the objects that they're deforming, such as with this bend deformer under the treetop, which it's bending. All tasks relating to groups and hierarchies are done in the object manager. To create a hierarchy, we'll drag the left and right pupils to be children of their respective eyeballs or eye cylinders in this case. And now they can be transformed together, and let's create a group for our trees. First, select all the tree objects, then right-click and choose group objects. Or you can also choose objects, group objects or press alt+g. This creates a null parent, similar to the empty parent transform node that is created for a group in Maya, and we'll just rename it to "Trees." To remove a child from either a group or a hierarchy, drag its node anywhere else, such as into the empty area in the object manager. As we'll let the right pupil go live on its own. Or, we'll dag the left pupil to the glasses parent node so it can go live there. But that's a little weird, so we'll return them both back to their respective eyeball parents. The other main way to organize objects in your scene is in layers. The same way as you do with display layers in Maya. Remember that scary tree that we hid in a previous video? Well, another way to do hiding is to display it again, then select it and create a layer for it. Just click on the gray box here which is the layer icon, and choose add to new layer. It's layer icon changes color to let you know that it's in a layer and to see the layer, you have to open the layer manager by clicking the layers tab. This manager is pretty much the same as the display layer editor in Maya. If you want to put a whole hierarchy into a layer, first right-click and choose select children to select all the children, and then choose add to new layer from the edit menu. You can also right-click and choose this command from the context menu. And you'll see that layer commands are available in several places, so you can choose whichever is the most convenient method. If you select only the parent node without also selecting the children, only the parent object will be added to the layer. Once a layer exists, you can add more objects to it. We'll select the flower copy's parent and all its children, and then choose edit, add to layer and select layer where the other flowers are stored. Another way to create layers is to select objects and then right-click in an empty area of the layer manager and choose new layer from object selection or choose this command from the file menu here. And one final way to create layers is to double-click in an empty area of the layer manager to create an empty layer. And then you can drag objects from the object manager and drop them on this layer. The file new layer command also does the trick to create an empty layer. And this time, we'll add the tree parent with all its children by simply pressing the control key while we drag it to that layer. Double-clicking and using the control key seems to be the fastest way to do this, so let's create another layer this way. And we'll just control-drag our little character's hierarchy into it. Finally, we'll do the same thing for the landscape hierarchy which is the last piece of the puzzle. As in Maya, you can add selected objects to any layer, but an object can be in only one layer at a time. So if we added the scary tree to another layer, it's removed from its original one, but that layer remains there even though it's empty. We'll just put it back in its original home. To remove objects from a layer, click it's layer icon and choose "Remove From Layer" or choose it from the edit menu or right-click and choose it there. We'll just bring it back. As you can see, the layers are color-coded in both the object manager and the layer manager which is nice for quickly identifying which objects are in which layers or if they're even in a layer. But we need to identify them even more, so let's give our layers some more descriptive names. Just double-click the layer name and start typing. You may want to keep the same prefix to identify them all as layers. Let's rename all of them here, and we're done. To change a layer's color, double-click its color icon and pick a color from the spectrum. Or use the eyedropper to match a color from objects in that layer, which reinforces the color as identity. Again, we'll change the colors for all these layers. We can change the layer order by dragging a layer up or down in the list. We'll put the scary tree towards the bottom, and our little guy and the trees closer to the top. You can even make nested layers by dragging one under another as you would children in a hierarchy. And then drag the child layer into an empty area to unparent it. If you want to merge layers, select them, and right-click and choose "Merge Layers" to do just that or choose this command from the edit menu. This creates a new layer and removes the old ones. We'll just undo that. To delete a selected layer, just press the delete key or choose delete from the edit menu. This, of course, deletes the layer itself but not the objects in it, and we'll just bring that back. So, let's say that you've been created a whole bunch of layers and moving things around between layers, but now you're not sure if there's anything in some of these. If you want to clean up, just right-click and choose remove unused layers or choose it from the edit menu. Now that we have a whole bunch of layers of objects, we can add those object's materials to their layers, and here's how to do it. We'll start off by selecting the boy layer, and then right-click it and choose select from layer to select all its objects. You can also find this command in the edit menu. In the material manager, choose function, select materials of active objects, and you can see them highlighted down here. Right-click one of those materials and choose add to layer and select the boy layer. And this creates a tab in the material manger that's color-coded to your layer. Just click on it, and you can see only those materials which is pretty handy, and you can see that these materials are still on the all tab. With the flowers and trees layers, you may notice that there is the treetop material that is shared among objects on both those layers. In the case of a shared material, that material goes to the last layer to which you assigned it. Which, in this case, is the trees layer. So, now all of the materials are mapped to their respective layers, and the no layer tab is empty. Now let's look at what you can actually do with the layers in the layer manager. These little letters at the top actually mean something, and let's go through them Sesame Street style. S is for solo. Using it, we can see only the little guy and maybe add the flowers. V is for visibility of objects only in the viewport. You can still see the hidden objects node in the object manager, and if there are generators and deformers on the object in this layer, they're still calculated. So there's no playback performance advantage of hiding them, and you can see that objects are still rendered, even though you can't see them in the viewport. A quick way to set the same option for multiple layers, such as visibility here, is to just click and drag down any column. R is for renderability. All the objects in this layer won't be rendered with any preview rendered or when you render to file. You can still see the objects in the viewport and the object manager, but we don't need to see our scary tree, so let's make it not-renderable, and let's just turn off the visibility too. M is for manager, as in removing nodes from the object manager so as to not clutter it up, and here we'll hide all the trees and flowers. Notice that it also hides the corresponding materials in the material manager when you do this. L is for lock, and this makes objects unselectable in the viewport and the object manager which is a good thing for the sky and landscape objects so we don't keep accidentally selecting them. Block is sort of like the reference mode in Maya, because the objects remain in whatever display mode they're in. A is for animation and, more precisely, muting it. In this layer, we have our animated camera, which we'll play here. You sometimes want to mute animation on specific objects to see other object animations or to help the playback performance in the viewport. G is for generators, which includes Mograph generators. Clicking the icon mutes them, and in this layer it affects the flowers since their geometry is generated from splines. You may want to mute generators to declutter a viewport or to improve playback performance. D is for deformers and muting them, which also helps the playback speed. In this layer, the bend deformer on our one tree won't be enabled when we click this icon. E is for expressions as found in the expresso editor and also the Mograph affecters. Just click the icon to disable them for any objects in this layer. And finally, x is for xrefs which disables objects that are brought in as xrefs. You can decide which columns are displayed in the layer manager, so if you never use e or x, you can just disable them from the view menu. So, now you know how to organize your objects for different reasons in your Cinema 4D project. And here's the cheat sheet for all the functions and keyboard shortcuts we used in this video. In the next video, we'll do a basic setup for rendering.
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