A Cinema 4D Primer for Maya Artists: Transforming Objects

Photo of Edna Kruger

Instructor Edna Kruger

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Move, Scale, and Rotate the trees in our scene. Change the objects’ pivots and freeze their transformations.

This video shows how to use the Move, Rotate, and Scale tools, explains the difference between the Size and Scale attributes, how to change the position and rotation of an object’s axis (pivot point), and how to freeze transformations.

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In this video, we'll take a look at moving, scaling, and rotating objects, and also add freezing transformations and modifying pivots, or axes, as they're called in cinema 4D. Many of these things will be familiar to you from Maya, but there are a few gotchas that we'll try to cover here. So, our mission today is to move these trees so that they look more like a forest instead of a tree farm. When we change the Display Mode for the landscape, you can see that the trees are also stuck inside the hills, so we need to free them. Let's start with the Move tool. You can click its icon in the top palette or press the E key. In fact, it's active by default when you open a scene, so you can immediately click on an object and move it which is pretty handy. Just the treetop is moving so we need to select the parent null in the Object Manager if we want the whole tree to come along for the ride. Let's change the viewport arrangement so that we have an aerial view to help place the trees along the X and Z axes. If another tool is currently active, such as the Rotate tool, you can hold down the Forward key to temporarily switch to the Move tool even though the manipulator doesn't change. When you release the key, the previous tool takes over again. These are called "Sticky Keys" in C4D. As in Maya, you can drag along each individual axis or click the plane handle and drag to move along only that plane. One thing that's different from Maya is that you can move an object by just dragging freely without touching the manipulators and without using any modifier keys. If you don't want such a sense of freedom, you can easily lock any of the axes using these buttons in the top palette or the X, Y, and Z keys. For example, we'll lock the Y axis or press the Y key so we can move the trees in only the XZ plane. again, without needing to use the manipulators or any modifier keys. And we'll just move each of the trees here on the left side. Now we'll unlock the Y axis and lock the X and Z-axes or press the X and Z keys. Now we can move these trees only in the Y axis so that they sit on top of the hills. And when you're done, remember to turn off the locks. You can see that transforming the parent object also transforms its children in the same way. But let's say that the parent wants a night out without the kids tagging along, all you have to do is hold down the 7 Sticky Key and instant freedom. This is the same as the "Preserved Child" option in Maya. We'll just undo that, because the parent feels guilty and needs to get home. By default, you move things in World Mode, which you can select here in the top palette or press the W key to toggle it. World Mode is the same as World Mode in Maya and transforms any object in relation to the Global Axes. Object Mode transforms the object according to its own coordinate system. You can see that its axis has changed orientation so that the leg moves along these lines instead of straight up and down. There's no Parent Mode in C4D for objects so children do their own thing and follow their own axes in Object Mode. Whether it's the same as the parent's or not, as with the foot here. When you transform an object's components, however, they always follow the parent object's axis in Object Mode. As you can see for the selected points on the foot. As in Maya, the transformation values in the Coordinates Manager here represent an object's local values that will be keyed regardless of whether you're in World or Object Mode. The manager shows Object Relative Mode by default, but you can also see the values in World Mode or Object Absolute Mode. But we'll leave this in Relative Mode for now. And this manager is like a mini-version of the Channel Box and lets you enter more precise transformation values than you get with the manipulators. You can just type in a value and press "Enter" or drag up and down on the arrows. You need to click "Apply" or press "Enter" to execute these values. You can press the Shift key while you drag the arrows for larger increments of 10 units and press the Alt key for smaller increments of 0.1 units when you're fine-tuning. Math operations are also supported in these fields as relative operations. For example, you can append +60 to add 60 units to the current position X value. Or append *2 to multiply the Y value by two. And a /2 to divide and bring it back down to earth. Basic math is just a beginning for what you can enter in these fields. Let's say you want to move the tree back by 2 feet, but you don't know what it is in centimeters, which is the current unit in this project. Just append +2FT, and it adds the correct amount of space in centimeters. If you want to see all the possible functions and operators you can use in these fields, check the "Appendix Formula" topic in the Online Help. You can also change transformation values on an object's Coordinates tab in the Attribute Manager. Here the effect of your changes is immediate when you use the arrows. The position and rotation values are the same in both managers, but the S that you see in the Attribute Manager represents scale and not size. Why are these different? It's because size and scale are two sides of the same coin in C4D. The size is an absolute value in the unit of measurement that you have chosen, as you see in the Coordinates Manager. When you're in Model Mode and setting up the size you want for the base object, you can alter an object's size using the Scale tool or press the T key. But this doesn't change the object's scale values. You can also hold down the 5 Sticky Key to temporarily switch to the Scale tool if another tool, such as the Move tool, is active. Then release the key when you're done, but we'll just switch back to the Scale tool. You can scale uniformly by just dragging anywhere in the scene or scale on a particular axis or a plane. And here's a nice tip if you want to see the total size of a parent plus its children. Click this button and select "Size Plus". You can see that it shows the total size of the tree which includes the treetop and the trunk. The scale values in the Attribute Manager use these size values as their base and then multiply them. So when you change the scale value, as we'll do here, you can see that it changes the object's size values as well. When you're modeling, you want to keep the scale values at 1 so that your original model will have a nice clean base for animating. And when you're ready to animate, switch to Object Mode which allows the Scale tool to change the scale values. And doing this also changes the size values here, which are the ones that will be keyed. Let's say that the Attribute Manager was closed, but you still wanted to see the scale values. Just click this button again and select "Scale." So, that's all fine and good for polygon objects, but when you're using the Scale tool on a parametric primitive object in Model Mode, it only scales uniformly even when you try to scale on an individual axis. Why is that? Let's use a primitive cube to make this clearer than with a cone. It's because parametric primitives are actually just a single point in space, so there's no real size as defined by each individual X, Y or Z axis. What you see here is the math that's calculated to create the primitive in the viewport. So if you want to change the size of the primitive per individual axis, use its attributes on the Object tab in the Attribute Manager. Or drag each of the orange handles in the viewport, which does the same thing. And this is what you want when you are defining the object's original state in Model Mode. You don't want to affect the scale. The Rotate tool is a little more straightforward, but it has other special concerns. You can click its icon here or press the R key, and you can hold down the 6 Sticky Key to temporarily switch to this tool. We'll just switch to Object Mode, because it makes more sense to rotate around the object's own axis. You can drag on each individual ring to rotate on only that axis or drag anywhere in the scene to rotate parallel to the camera so that it changes with the camera angle. And this is shown by the gray ring here, or if you want to rotate like you'd use a trackball, you can click anywhere inside the manipulator and drag. To have each multi-selected object rotate on its own axis, open the Rotate tool's Attributes and select "per object manipulation." And to prevent the dreaded gimbal-lock, select the "gimbaling rotation" option, or you can also change an object's rotation order on the Coordinates tab in the Attribute Manager. Or use quaternion rotation. One of these methods should work for you depending on your workflow. One thing that's different from Maya is how the rotation axes are marked in the Coordinates Manager and the Attribute Manager. These axes aren't shown in XYZ but instead as HBP. It's the same thing, but it's just using terminology whose roots are in aeronautics. Heading, sometimes called "Yah", is rotation around the Y axis. Pitch is rotation around the X axis, and Bank, sometimes called "Roll", is rotation around the Z axis. When you rotate and scale objects you often need to change the location or a rotation of its pivot point which is called the "axis" in C4D. We'll just switch to Hidden Line Mode to see it better. To modify the axis just click the Axis Mode button in the left palette or press the L key, and then you can move or rotate the axis independently. You'll also find some handy axis tools in the Mesh Axis Center menu. We'll choose the Axis Center tools and then drag the Y slider to its lowest value which aligns the axis to the base of the object when we click "execute." But if you want to just pop in quickly and change the axis while you're working, hold down the L key while you're changing it, then release the key when you're done. This is sort of like pressing the D key to use the Edit Pivot tool in Maya. Note that you can't move the axis independently with parametric primitives, because they're simply a point in space represented by the axis. So if you move the axis in Axis Mode, its geometry goes along with it. Now you can see that our treetop rotates and scales from the bottom instead of its geometric center. If you want, you can freeze an object's transformation values to set them as the zeroed out position, the same as you would do in Maya. On the Coordinates tab, expand the Freeze Transformation section and select which type of transformation you want to freeze or freeze all of them at once. You can also choose "Tools, Coordinates, Freeze Transformation", which does the same thing as clicking "Freeze All". When you freeze, the position and rotation values appear changed to 0 and scale changes to 1. And notice that the axis doesn't move to the origin, but C4D creates a Null under the hood that stores your original values as a reference that is shown in the Freeze section. So when you change your mind and click "Unfreeze All," those values are returned as the current transform values. So, that was a lot of stuff to cover, but hopefully, this video helps clear up any issues you have with learning how transformations work in C4D. And here's the cheat sheet with all the keyboard shortcuts we used in this video. In the next video, we'll grow some flowers for the scene, this time using splines.
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