Getting Started with Cinema 4D, Part 06: Introduction to Deformers

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In this video, you will be introduced to the concept of Deformers and how they can allow you to manipulate existing geometry.

In this video, you will be introduced to the concept of Deformers and how they can allow you to manipulate existing geometry, like using a Bend Deformer to bend our submarine scope element and creatively utilizing the Wind Deformer to deform and animate our seaweed.



So far in this series, you've been introduced to primitive objects, which are your basic 3D shapes and generators that allow you to create geometry or generate geometry based on existing objects or splines. Now we're going to talk about a different type of object known as a deformer. Now deformers are different from generators as they don't actually create geometry, but they deform existing geometry. So deformers don't do anything unless they're applied to a piece of geometry. So let's go ahead and cover some of the most commonly used deformers and how we can go about using them to deform some of the geometry making up our scene. So let's navigate to our Deformers menu, which you can find right here. It's this little bent over cube. And if I click and hold, you're going to see that these are all of our deformers available to us. There's a lot of them and notice that they're all color coded purple. Okay, so sticking with the color coded nature of some of these objects, remember generators are green, primitives are blue, all the deformers are purple. So let's go in. First, utilize a bend deformer to bend this piece of the submarine scope to actually make this look like an actual submarine scope that kind of bends at the top to be able to scope out stuff. So right now it's just sticking straight up looking at the sky. That's not how scopes work. So let's go ahead and add a bend deformer. Okay? So what you're going to notice that a bend deformer is basically a bounding box. And depending on what's inside of this bounding box is what gets deformed. Now, if I go in, adjust the strength, here you can actually see that box bending okay? And for a deformer to act upon another object, you actually need to make it a child of whatever object you want to deform. So we actually want to deform this whole scope shape here with little divots and welding bits and all that good stuff. So what I'm going to do first is because this fishbowl group is getting in the way, let me just go ahead and Cmd or Ctrl+Z to undo that. I'm just going to hide this fishbowl group from my viewport view. And I can do this very easily by clicking on this little button here, this little dot. If I click it once, it's going to turn green. Now, if I click it again, it's going to turn red. And basically, what that allows us to do is hide this from our viewport view, okay, so that very first top dot is what you want to be clicking, not the bottom because actually hide things from render. Okay? So let's go and twirl down our submarine group and let's just go to our scope. Okay? So we actually want to deform not only this scope bit here, the cylinder object, we actually want to deform and bend this entire group of objects. So what I'm going to do, again, is to group things together. I'm just going to select all the objects I want to group. So we got the scope glass, the base, the weld bits, and then the actual scope itself. And with all those objects selected, I'm going to right-click and go down to Group Objects. And that will create a null with all of those objects underneath. So let me just rename this null by double-clicking and call this "Scope group." Okay? So now I can actually bring this bend deformer and make this a child of the scope group. Okay, so there's one very important thing to know about deformers. They can to form an object two different ways. So they can either deform an object by being a child of that object. So let's just say, I'll make this a child of this scope and I'll go ahead and bend this. And you can see that something's going on here. We're actually deforming and moving this scope cylinder here, but it's not deforming anything else. And that's because this deformer is only deforming the object that it is a child of. Now, if you wanted a deformer to deform multiple objects, say all these objects underneath this scope group, all I need to do is just click on this bend deformer and just drag it so the cursor turns to the left arrow, and not the down arrow to make something a child, but just the left arrow. And now that it's in the same level of hierarchy as all of these other objects, and you can see that it's actually collapsed inside the scope group. So same level of hierarchy as all these other objects. Now if I go ahead and adjust the strength, you can see that we're actually deforming and moving all these other objects here. So I'm just going to go ahead, delete the strength percentage there. And what I can do now is basically reposition this deformer. Hit T to scale everything down. Basically, what I want to do is just bend the very top of this scope. Now what you're noticing is when I'm bending this, you can see that the bend bounding box is looking as it should but our scope is doing something very weird. And the reason why this scope is not bending as we expect it to is due to the amount of height segments or subdivisions that make up this piece of geometry. So if I go into my Display Gouraud Shading lines, you can see that we have quite a bit of segments on the rotation. You can see right here we have a rotation segment number of 36 but only one height segment. Okay? So there's one segment between the bottom and the top of this cylinder. Now, watch what happens when I actually increase the height segments here. As I increase the height segment, I'm adding more cuts here or more segments and it's actually smoothing out and rounding out our geometry. So I'll need to crank this up quite high for our bend to look nice and smooth, maybe something like 65, okay? So basically, what I want to do now is this bend is looking nice and smooth but this bend is way too big, okay? So what I'm going to do is just hit T to bring my Scale tool back and just scale this all the way down. And I can actually move this up or down to basically dictate where this bend is occurring. So think of this bend deformer as this is basically where the bending is occurring from the bottom of the bend deformer on it's being deformed and bent and then from this point of the bounding box, it just continues on. So if I go to the bend deformer here and change this strength to negative 90, you can see now we have a full 90-degree bend and now our submarine scope is actually bent as we would expect it. Now something kind of funny is going on in that if you zoom in right here, you can see that it's actually deforming and stretching this little weld toros. Okay? And what's actually happening is it's just kind of deforming and stretching out these polygons here. And if you don't want to do that, we have this option in the bend deformer that says Keep Y-axis length. And that's going to then squash everything down to the original Y-axis length of your object and now you can move this as you like and reposition this. Now I don't want this little weld bit to be deformed or squashed like that. So what I'll do is just make sure that the bend deformer is not actually deforming one of those weld pieces right there. So what that might require me to do is just move this bend deformer down. And maybe I adjust how the scope welds are spaced out along this actual scope here. So maybe I'll move this down on the Y and hold the Shift key and maybe bring this down 20 centimeters. And then for the other two welds, or Toruses or Tori, I'll bring those down 20 centimeters as well. And maybe I'll decide that these weld pieces are too spaced out from one another. So I can just go ahead and move this up 10 and maybe move this weld markdown 10. And again, they're evenly spaced. Again, holding the Shift key to increments of 10 centimeters. So now I can more adjust this bend deformer without worrying about deforming any of these little weld marks. I'd say that's looking pretty good. And I can scale this up or down. I can also adjust the size of this bend deformer and adjust that bounding box sheet by adjusting the size here. And if I wanted to, I could change the different types of modes here. So right now, the deformation is limited to all the geometry only inside this box. Within box is completely different, where it bends your object but then afterwards, it does not continue that deformation, it just stops in snaps back to its original position. Very rarely will I use this mode. And then the final mode is unlimited. And basically, what happens is, instead of the bending occurring just at the top and continuing, it actually keeps going. So it follows that bend angle all the way around so we get more of a circular type of bend. So limited is going to be perfect for us. The deformation just happens at the very top and continues on and is perfect for our little bend here. Now that is the bend deformer. We can now go back to our Gouraud Shading, get rid of those lines. Now we can start to cover a few more deformer types that will help us continue modeling and more fine-tune our model here. So let's check out the scope base here. We have these two cubes here. They have the fillet active. And basically, what I want to do is make this a little bit more interesting, and not just a rounded cube by maybe adding something like a taper. Now, a lot of these deformers are very, you know, aptly named and even give you a nice little icon representation of what that deformer does. So a taper basically just tapers the object and has the top part kind of shrunk down. So basically, I want to taper both of the scope base parts. So let me just go and grab a taper. And let me make this a child of this first base object here. Now, one very handy feature is this Fit to Parent. And if I click this, you'll see that the size or the bounding box of this deformer actually conforms to the overall shape and boundaries of the actual shape you're deforming, which is really handy. You don't have to manually adjust the size here. I'll just go ahead and undo that. Now if I adjust the strength here, you'll see that this is actually, you know, tapering the top of the object. Now, typically, this would have a kind of curvature here unless you just bring the curvature level all the way down to 0. And you can see how that's adding that nice little bowing effect. And I actually like that. But again, if I go back to my Gouraud Shading Lines, you're going to see that we have a lack of definition here of geometry to actually have that curvature occur on our object. So if I go to the scope base and adjust the segments and increase the segments in the Y direction here, so you can see as I'm adding some geometry, you can see now we're seeing that nice little curvature that's occurring coming from that taper curvature. Okay? So if we didn't have those segments, if I just brought this back to 1, you can see that it's fairly, you know, flat and linear. If I bring this back to five, we got this nice little bowing shape and I really dig that. So I'm going to keep that. And I can go ahead and I like this kind of taper. I can just Cmd-click and drag to, again, duplicate this taper or apply it to the top part of the scope base. Maintain all the same strength on curvature amount, and just click this Fit to Parent. And this will then, again, constrain and adapt this taper deformer to fit the boundaries of this actual scope base cube. And, again, I can adjust the segments to increase the segments in the Y to add that nice curvature to that part of the base as well. So now instead of having some just boring old rounded cubes, I now have some nice tapered rounded cubes that add for a lot more interesting look for our scope base there. So next, let's go to our pretty boring looking propeller here and let's add a different type of deformer to this little guy. So, I got my propeller. I can go to my Deformers menu. And for this, let's actually create a bulge. Okay? So again, the bulge deformer just comes in at the default size of 250 by 250 by 250. Let's go ahead and make this a child of the propeller. A little capsule here. And again, use this handy little button Fit to Parent and now I can zoom in here. And let's see what this does by increasing the strength. You can see that's bulging everything out if we add a positive strength. But one thing that's interesting is if you go negative, you can actually give this a negative strength or it bulges to the inside basically. Now while this is looking a little bit more like a propeller with this bulge, our actual capsule size is getting smaller. So let's increase the radius here to make this a little bit bigger. Now you can see what I was going for is now if we decrease the bulge here and bring this into the higher negative numbers, you can see a little bit more of a propeller type of shape. Now, propellers are typically flat, they're not pretty bulgy at the top of the bottom, like that. So what we can do to flatten this propeller out is going into the Coordinates tab and going into the Z scale. And again, this is Z, the Z direction. And if I just bring this scale down, you can see that, you know, maybe a size of 0.4. So you get this nice shrink down effect. And you can see now this looks a lot more like a propeller blade. So we can actually go and, you know, turn on the Fillet here. And you can see what the Fillet does. It just adds this nice little curvature happening there. You can also adjust the size of the bulge in the Y here. So X, Y, and Z centimeter size and even more fine-tune control what this looks like. Okay? So we got a lot of control here. Again, we can maybe adjust the segments for the height to smooth things out. Because, again, if you don't have enough segments, it's going to look pretty chunky, at least the geometry. We also have the cap segments which adjust the subdivisions on the caps of the capsule here. So with all that said and done, I'm thinking this looks pretty good, just like this. Okay? So look at the before and after, just a plain old capsule. We added the bulge and we shrunk that propeller down in the Z scale. And this is looking a lot more like an actual propeller. Let's go back to our Gouraud Shading to remove the lines. And I think we're done with deforming bits and pieces of our submarine. So we can just collapse the submarine group. Let's bring back our fishbowl by just clicking this top red dot and clicking it so it's just back to its default gray. And now we can see our fishbowl back in our viewport. Now let's go in, unfold all the fishbowl group elements here. And let's give some love and more detail to our very boring looking seaweed that are just capsules at this point. So, again, if we want to be able to select those little elements, our fish bowl is in the way. So if I just click this little checkbox, change it to an X, it'll deactivate the fishbowl lathe object. And now I can just be able to click all these objects as I want. And let's start on this little seaweed object right here. So just like we added a bulge deformer for the little propeller here, let's do the same thing for our little boring seaweed object here. And let's go to our Deformers menu. Go to Bulge. Make it a child of this little seaweed object, again, by dragging this so that the arrow points down, making that a child of that capsule object. Again, let's go ahead and use this Fit to Parent button. Okay? So there's our little bounding box. Let's go ahead and adjust the strength of the bulge. Okay? And if I go and adjust the size in the Y here, we just bring this down, you can see this is looking a little bit more like some kind of plant life. Not sure what type of plant life, but if we bring this radius down to maybe 2 and maybe adjust the bulge even more here. Now we're getting a little bit more of kind of like a seaweed type of object here. Now, right now this looks too thick to be seaweed. So just like we went ahead and flattened the capsule that makes the propeller in the Z direction and the Z scale, we can do the same thing with this seaweed. So here's the Coordinate tab of our capsule object. And if we just shrink this down in the Z to maybe, you know, 0.1, get this really nice flat looking piece of geometry here, maybe that's a little bit too flat, maybe a little 0.5 in there, maybe even 0.2. Give it a little bit more thickness. And this is looking pretty good. Again, I can adjust this bulge strength however I'd like. Adjust the size here as well. So maybe we have a little bit more of the bulging on the top or we can, you know, maybe have it like this as well. Turn on the fillet if we'd like. However you want to craft or mold your seaweed. I'd say this is looking pretty good. But again, seaweed kind of has that ripply kind of effect. Now luckily, there is the deformer that allows us to create that kind of ripple effect that you would perhaps see on a piece of seaweed and that deformer is the wind deformer. Now a lot of these deformers are super useful. Some even have their own animatable properties. Now a wind deformer, if I make this a child of my capsule seaweed object, unfortunately, the wind deformer does not have that Fit to Parent button here. So we have to manually kind of place this and you'll see this little dot. And basically, what this dot does is allow us to control the size of the ripple. So think of a flag billowing and rippling through the wind. Basically, this is what the wind deformer does. Now, if I hit Play, you can actually see some slight rippling happening here. The only problem is, is that the rippling is happening in the wrong direction. We actually have waviness going horizontally. We actually want this to happen vertically. So I'll just hit the R key and just rotate this upwards. Okay? Now, if I rotate this 90 degrees, you can now see we have some rippling occurring but in the wrong direction and way too much of it. So if I bring the amplitude down here, you can see that's basically the strength of that flapping that is occurring from our wind deformer here. And if we bring this…maybe just center this up to our capsule. And one way to actually center this up perfectly is to see that in the coordinate manager, we can actually zero out the X and the Z and this will actually be perfectly centered to the object that it is a child of. So now what we can do is just rotate this again and now you can see we have the…if we rotate this negative 90 and maybe adjust the amplitude even more, we have this really nice undulation happening from the wind deformer. It's already animated. No key frames are required, which is really great. But if we adjust the size here, maybe adjust the amplitude even more. Again, I'm holding down the Alt or Opt key to be able to adjust this in increments of a 10th. And now you can see we have some really nice rippling happening. If I have the flag deformer up here, it's actually going to billow out both directions. But if I have this axis center right at the bottom, it's almost going to act like it's a flag where, typically, the left side of the flag is pinned down and the rest of the object can flap in the wind. Same thing where if we have the axis centered at the bottom, it's kind of pinned down and stationary and everything else going upwards can undulate. So if I just hit Escape to stop the playback, I can go ahead and see that there's actually not enough subdivisions on this capsule. And you can see that if we go to the Gouraud Shading Lines. So if we go to the seaweed object, we can go ahead and increase the segments to maybe 15 segments to smooth out that geometry there and go back to the Gouraud Shading there as well. And we can just maybe scale this down a little bit. Make this seaweed a little smaller. I'm going to adjust the bulge size here, too. If we go to the wind deformer and if I just hit Play again, you can see that if we wanted to do a 90 frame or 3-second animation or a 3-second loop, which is really the end goal of this entire animation, you can see that the wind deformer movement is not looping perfectly. Okay? So what's going on with all these options here? I showed you what the amplitude was and what the size was. But these other options like frequency actually control the speed of the undulation here. So if I bring the frequency to 5, you're going to see that the undulation is much quicker. Now, the thing to know and understand about the wind deformer is that the frequency needs to be 10 and the turbulence needs to be 0. So no turbulent, no turbulent noise occurring. But as long as the frequency is 10 and the turbulence is 0%, it's going to perfectly loop every single second or every 30 frames. Okay? So by itself, you know, maybe this looks okay, but for my taste, it's going way too fast. So what we can do is basically divide this by the number of seconds in our animation to have the animation go a little bit slower. So the cool thing about each of these fields in Cinema 4D is we can use these kind of as a calculator. So if I say plus 5, it will actually do the math for you and change that to 15. Similarly, if I want to have the frequency of 10 and I want to divide it by 3 for the 3 seconds that our animation is, I can just put the forward slash for the divide symbol, and then hit Enter, and it'll do the math for me. So if you're horrible with math, just like me, this is going to be very cool for you to use the built-in calculators that are in each of these number fields. So now we have a much slower undulation. We have a nice perfect loop over three seconds of the entirety of our animation, and that's looking pretty good. So the one thing I want to cover is when you are stacking deformers, it's very important the order of the application of the deformers in the hierarchy. So how deformers work are basically the same way that After Effects effects work, where if you have an effect stack in After Effects, that top effect will be applied first, and then all the objects underneath it. So if you had a blur effect and then a glow, you would blur the layer, and then the glow effect would be applied second. The order in which you apply these deformers or the order in which they are applied in the hierarchy is very important because we have the bulge deforming our seaweed and then the wind deformer is applied after that. Now watch what happens if I just switch so that the wind deformer happens first, and then the bulge. Things look completely different and kind of wonky. So be sure that you have the correct order of hierarchy here to ensure that your object looks and acts the way you expect it to. So instead of applying this bulge and wind deformer to all the rest of the seaweed pieces, I can just delete these other seaweeds and just duplicate this one that we added all the effects to or all the deformers to and just Cmd-click and drag, scale these down, and just reposition these all throughout my scene. Now, after adjusting all my seaweed pieces, this is what I came up with. Now, once you start having a bunch of deformers populating your scene, they can be a little bit distracting. Now if you ever want to just remove all the deformer bounding boxes from your view, you can easily go to your Filter menu and uncheck the deformer to be able to remove all of the deformer bounding boxes in your scene. Now, if you want to just remove certain types of deformer bounding boxes from showing up in your scene, you can select on whatever deformer you want to hide, and again, click the top dot here until it turns red. That indicates that it will hide from view. So you can see how powerful deformers are, giving you a ton of control over your geometry, allowing you to model shapes without needing to learn traditional modeling methods. Just as there's many generator objects, there are many, many deformers for you to explore as well. And the jiggle deformer is actually one of my absolute favorite deformers. So, again, be sure to use that Show Help in the Help menu to learn about and explore all the other deformers on your own.
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