Cloth Simulation, Part 06: Flying 3D Ribbons

Photo of Donovan Keith

Instructor Donovan Keith

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Animate a silk ribbon flying through space by connecting a ribbon to a cylinder that is flying along a helical path.

Animate a silk ribbon flying through space by connecting a ribbon to a cylinder that is flying along a helical path. Art-direct the shape of the helix by attaching it to another spline with the Spline Wrap deformer - similar to the plugin Multiple Spline Attache. By simulating the ribbon we get beautiful fluttering as the ribbon flies through the air.



We're gonna go over how to create a silk ribbon flying through space using cloth simulation. We're gonna start by creating a path for our cloth to fly down by using a helix spline and the spline wrap deformer. And we're going to, then, send a cylinder down that path and strap our cloth to it, adjust some setting so it looks like it's swimming through perhaps some water or very lightly flowing through the air to give it a more silken appearance. So if you would, open up Cinema 4D if you have not already and create a new scene file. In your scene file, we want to create first of all a path for our flag to go down. So go ahead and add a helix spline to your scene and this gives us a nice corkscrew effect. I want to double the amount of twists so that our cloth is doing lots of interesting stuff. So in angle I wanna hit asterisk two, to multiply by two. Cinema 4D'sreally great in that it will do the math for you. And then what I wanna do is draw out a path for this thing to follow. So I'm gonna take my Bezier spline tool and I'm gonna turn on snapping for just a second so I can snap to this very first point. And I'm gonna have it start by going down and then I'm gonna draw my next point all the way over here and then I'm gonna have it sort of arc up in between and then go down. So we'll just get this sort of hump shape. Let's call this path whatever that text was and helix. Now, I wanna wrap my helix onto this shape. So what I'm gonna do is add a spline wrap deformer and child that to my helix. My helix or rather my spline wrap is gonna automatically fit it but it's not fitting it as I want. It's right now, see this arrow, that's pointing the direction of sort of the length of my object. I wanna change that from plus x to plus z and see what that looks like. It's going the opposite direction of what I want so now I'm gonna go to minus z. And here we have the arrow pointing in the direction that I think it should. Next up, I want to say which spline to wrap my helix on. So the spline right here, I'm gonna pick my path and now we see that our helix is going along this path. The issue for me at least is that it's a fairly even shape the whole way around. I want it to go from a small point to maybe something larger at the end. So in my spline wrap object, there is the size pull down. There's a spline here and you can adjust the initial size. So I'm gonna keep the initial size here very low, and then I'm gonna let it grow up over time. And you can sort of play around with your handles here. You can also play around with how it's coming into that final pass. I'd say this is pretty good. If you want, you can even add in come control points in the middle to have it go out a little bit sooner. But I'm trying to get a straight launch out of the very beginning as that will make it a little bit easier for my cloth to flow along this. Next up, we wanna create our cloth. So to do that, I'm going to add a plane to my scene and I want something that's maybe 30 feet long, something crazy like that. So I'm going to type in 30 ft for 30 feet. This gives me a value of around 900. I'll just round that up to 1,000 just to make my math in centimeters easier. And let's adjust the width to something smaller like, say, 50. And what I want is an even division of polygons along the length of this object. And because I'm trying to create silk, I need a lot of segments. So width segments, I think I might be able to get away with lowering it just a bit to 10. But as we get into height here, I'm gonna have to do something much larger like, say, 200 which if you look at the math, hey, hey, I must done this before. And what we've got is some nice squares shown up. So we've got nice uniform shapes. Next up, I'm going to move my plane back and I'm gonna hold down my shift key. So I'm moving it back 500 units. So it's lining up very neatly with the start of my animation here, or rather the start of my spline. I'm gonna rename my plane here from plane to ribbon. And let's just duplicate it, hide it underneath, turn it off and hide it and make this top one editable. And I'm doing that so that my ribbon is now cloth ready. Again, you can only use cloth on polygon objects. Next step, I wanna create a cylinder at the front right here that's gonna serve as a rod that will hold onto the cloth and suck it along the spline. So I'm gonna change the orientation here to plus x, so now it's horizontal. And let's set the height here to 60 and the radius to 10 or 5; something nice and small. And my general goal here. . . Let's go into display, I want to go to the wire frame. I just want the height segments to line up roughly with the segments of my plane. And it seems like that's doing that nicely. And I'm gonna reduce the number of rotation segments here to six as we will not be looking at this object. And now I have a cylinder that I can strap to my ribbon with a cloth belt tag. Before we do that, I wanna get the animation of my cylinder looking good. So from past experience, I know that 90 frames isn't gonna be enough so let's crank this up to 180 frames. And let's take our cylinder and add an align to spline tag to it. So right click, Cinema 4D tags, align to spline. And I'm now going to choose my helix. Now when I do this, you may notice, as I have, that it's popped over to the side. So what that's telling me is that it's not updating in time with my spline wrap there. There's something about the priorities here that's a little bit off and I could fiddle around in my priorities. Maybe it could get it to happen after generators but it's just not working. So what I have to do is take my helix and make it editable in such a way that it takes the shape and keeps it. And that is what the current state to object command is for. So it's like my helix, I'm gonna hit shift C and type in current state to object. And what that does is it takes my helix and turns it into a sort of baked version of it. I'm just gonna turn off this one, the spline wrap deformer and hide both. This is again sort of a backup object and I'll hide that inside of my helix. Next up, let's get this cylinder flying along this new path. So select the tag, your tag here, we're gonna choose this new helix up top and what do you know, lines up nice and neatly with the beginning. I'm gonna turn on tangential so that it is rotating to match the shape of that curve which also looks pretty good. And now, I want to make it editable and I'm doing this because cloth needs poly objects especially for the belt tags. I'm gonna take my cylinder, make it editable, grab my ribbon and now I wanna start building up the cloth and the relationships between the cloth and the rod. So I'm gonna right click on my ribbon, simulation tags, cloth. And on my dresser tab I'm gonna set my dress state here which is going to back up the pristine shape of my cloth. I'm gonna turn off dress modes so now I just have a backup just in case I, at some point, mess up my polys. And I'm also going to add my ribbon a cloth belt tag. So right click, simulation tags, cloth belt. And now, I wanna look for my rod, my cylinder right here, so click on pick, choose that. Nothing is really happening yet, that's because I haven't told you which points to belt. So I'm gonna go into points mode, I'm gonna live select these points in the front. On my belt tag, I'm going to choose set. You see that the points have changed color and that means that with any luck, when we press play, our cloth, our ribbon here is going to follow our spline. Well, couple of things going on here, one, our cloth settings are just wack and two, our cylinder isn't moving along the spline. So, let's take our align to spline, here, and animate the positions. So frame zero, 0%, frame 180, 100%. Record and let's press play, see what happens. All right, we're moving along here. It's kind of doing something. That's interesting-ish, but our cloth is just droping like a lead weight and it's really distorting in some crazy ways. And that's because our settings aren't right. So click on your cloth tag, go to the forces tab or rather to the tag settings here. We have to crank up the number of iterations. We really want it to respect this stiffness, flexion I'm going to lower to about 5%. Bounce, I'm gonna kill because I don't want it bouncing off of anything and mass, I really wanna lower because I'm planning on using some air settings. I can set this to .1. Then on my forces tab, I really want this thing to just sort of hang in the air. I want it to be affected by the air that it's in and that will help to sell that it's silky. So I'm gonna crank up my air resistance here to something like 100. So now when I press play. . . see what this looks like. We're getting a silkier, better looking cloth. But gravity is still acting on it faster that it can move around this path. So there are a couple of options, I can have it fly faster or I can just say to gravity, "You know what, we've been working too hard lately. Go ahead and take a day off. Take it easy, gravity." Let's do negative three. So now, we've got a softer looking animation maybe negative one. There we go, now, we're getting something. And if I come in here and look at it from the front, let's say, we start to see our cloth moving in an interesting way. It's starting to look like a ribbon flying through space. What do you know? Now, I would recommend hiding the cylinder here and this way you're just looking at the cloth, you can start adding in some better materials for it, giving it an interesting environment. And once you do, you can get a pretty nice and convincing piece of red silk flying through the air. And you can really add in a camera movement, nuance it a bit, play around with your settings, but that's the gist of it. So what we've done, again, is we created a long plane and we've belted it to an object that's animating around a helix and we've really cranked up that air resistance setting.
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