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CINEMA 4D Essentials 9: Particles and Dynamics
Illustration by Richard Downs

Breaking down the TP standard emitter


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CINEMA 4D Essentials 9: Particles and Dynamics

with Rob Garrott

Video: Breaking down the TP standard emitter

Because Thinking Particles is based on the XPresso scripting language, it's fairly complex to set up. As you saw from the first movie, the creation of a basic Emitter was a fairly long ordeal. Fortunately, there are some great presets that ship with the Studio version of CINEMA 4D that will help you jumpstart the process. I'm going to go into the Content Browser and under the Presets--this inkwell is a preset-- before I click on anything, I'll go to the View and change it to As list. And I'll click on Presets, and then I'll scroll down to Studio. And in the Studio I'll click onto Simulation and then Thinking Particles, and under Presets, under Emitters. Now that's a lot of folders deep, but there's a bunch of great emitters in here, and the one that we're going to take a look at is the TP Standard Emitter.

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CINEMA 4D Essentials 9: Particles and Dynamics
1h 27m Beginner Sep 28, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

CINEMA 4D Essentials with Rob Garrott is a graduated introduction to this complex 3D modeling, rendering, and animation program, which breaks down into installments that can be completed within 2 hours. In this installment, Rob introduces particles, a cluster of objects used to simulate effects like snow, sparks, fog, or fire, and dynamics, which allow you to define how objects interact with their environment. The course covers creating a splash effect with particles, working with more advanced Thinking Particles, and how to understand the difference between the dynamics system's rigid bodies and soft bodies.

Topics include:
  • Working with particle forces and the Emitter object
  • Using Thinking Particles with the MoGraph Tracer
  • Understanding the Dynamics engine
  • Combining Thinking Particles with Dynamics
  • Creating dangling objects with spline dynamics
Subjects:
3D + Animation Textures Video Motion Graphics Materials Visual Effects
Software:
CINEMA 4D
Author:
Rob Garrott

Breaking down the TP standard emitter

Because Thinking Particles is based on the XPresso scripting language, it's fairly complex to set up. As you saw from the first movie, the creation of a basic Emitter was a fairly long ordeal. Fortunately, there are some great presets that ship with the Studio version of CINEMA 4D that will help you jumpstart the process. I'm going to go into the Content Browser and under the Presets--this inkwell is a preset-- before I click on anything, I'll go to the View and change it to As list. And I'll click on Presets, and then I'll scroll down to Studio. And in the Studio I'll click onto Simulation and then Thinking Particles, and under Presets, under Emitters. Now that's a lot of folders deep, but there's a bunch of great emitters in here, and the one that we're going to take a look at is the TP Standard Emitter.

So I'll double click on that; that adds to the currently open scene. Let's go back to the Object Manager, and you could see that I now have this TP Standard Emitter Null Object in the scene. When I hit play, I'm getting this little plus signs. So those little plus signs are the Thinking Particles. I'm going to click on the TP Standard Emitter Null Object and under the Thinking Particles attributes, these are simply a whole bunch of user data fields that have been added by the programmers at Maxon. And these all correspond to a various settings on the PStorm node.

And if you double-click on the XPresso tag--and let's use the 2 key and back out just a bit-- you can see that there's a fairly complex arrangement of XPresso nodes in here. Over here on the left, this long node represents all of the user data that's on the TP Standard Emitter, and these different fields on the user data are all being piped into different locations. Some of it is going to the PStorm node, and others are going to other supporting nodes that all help to support the different features that are listed underneath these settings in Thinking Particles.

The good news is that you don't have to understand all of these connections, as long as you understand what's going on in these fields over here. I'll close the XPresso Editor up; it's kind of making me dizzy anyway, looking at all those lines. Over here on the right, in the Thinking Particles Attributes of the TP Standard Emitter, we've got a lot of the same control that you'd see on a regular particle system emitter. Now let's rewind back to 0 and hit play again. And you can see we're spitting out those plus signs. If I render, Command+R or Ctrl+R, you can see that there is no particle in the scene when it renders, and that's because we need two things: we need to have a particle to spit out and we need to have the Thinking Particles Geometry Objects.

Let's rewind back to 0. And then let's start off by adding a cube to the scene, and this will be the particle that we spit out. I'm going to make that cube a very obvious color. Let's double click in the Material Manager. Let's make that material a very bright green. So let's drag that material from the Material Manager onto the cube and let's make the Cube smaller. I'll hit T on the keyboard to bring up the Scale tool and let's click and drag any place in there and make it smaller than the emitter. That's pretty good right there. The next part is to add the Thinking Particles Geometry Object, so let's go to the Simulate Menu, under Thinking Particles, and add the Particle Geometry Object to the scene.

In the Standard Emitter is a field for Particle Shape. Let's drag the Cube into the Particle Shape field and then I'll rewind back to 0 and hit play. And you can see, there's our cubes being spit out. Let's rewind back to 0 and take a look at some of these fields here. Particle Group relates to the grouping of particles, and these particles in the scene can be made to interact with each other or do different things than other particle groups. And so it's a way of controlling and organizing your particles.

Next step is the Particle Number I want to take a look at. I'm going to adjust from 100 down to about 50 to reduce the number of particles in our scene. And let's hit play again. You'll see that we've got much fewer particles. I'll orbit around here. The Spread Angle is very important. That controls the angle of orientation for the Particle Emitter, and it's set to 45 degrees right now. If we drag that open, you'll see that the Spread Angle particles will come out at a wider angle. If we bring that tighter, you'll see that they will come more in a straight line out of the emitter.

Let's leave it on 4 degrees for now. The Type is Circle, but we can set it to a Rectangle as well. We'll leave it set on Rectangle. And the Size controls the size of the Emitter. I'll bring that back down to 100 units. Let's hit Stop and take a look at the Speed. Under the Speed we've got Inherit Emitter Velocity. If you're actually animating the position of your emitter, you might want to turn that on, to have the particles inherit some of the speed from that emitter as it's travelling through the scene.

The Speed is set to 1,000 units and if I hit play we can adjust that speed down. I will cut it into half, to something like 500. You can see the particles will come out slower. And the Speed Variation adjusts the variation of the speed of the particles. Let's leave the Variation at 75% and change the particle speed back to 1000. Now, the Lifetime - there is a very important checkbox here: Use Document Length. That's on by default. That means the particles will live as long as the document is.

Right now our document is looping back at frame 90, so the particles don't exist beyond that, but if we change that, then the particles will match whatever document setting we have. Let's uncheck that for now, and we can the control the length of our particle lifetime now. Let's change it from 30 frames to something like 60 frames, and let's suggest the Lifetime Variation and I hit play. And you can see that some of the particles are dying out after 60 frames. Let's hit Stop.

If you scroll down, you've got spin and the Spin field controls how much the particles are spinning. I'll hit Play and drag this out a little bit, and you can see that the particles are spinning very fast. This is a little bit counterintuitive. The longer this slider is the slower the objects will spin. So let's drag this out here. And you see that now the particles are spinning out at a slower rate, and the Spin Variation of course controls how much variation, the randomness in the spin. So some will be spinning faster, some will be spinning slower. Let's hit Stop. And then under the Advanced field, you've got a Random Seed. If you have multiple Emitters in the scene, the Random Seed will control whether or not the particles come out the exact same way between the two emitters.

Next step is Size, and we can increase the size of the particles. We can also have some variation in the size. I'll do that, and hit Stop. So all these controls closely resemble the settings that you'd see in a basic particle emitter. That begs a question: What can you do with Thinking Particles that you can't do with a regular particle emitter? Well, one very important thing is that you can have particles collide with other particles. You can also detect those collisions from other particles and create additional particles based on the collisions of other particles.

A great of example of that would be sparks coming off a welder. As those sparks fly off the welder and strike the ground, they spark other sparks, and they break into smaller pieces. That's the kind of thing you can do with Thinking Particles that you can't do with the regular particle emitter. Let' take a look at how to make the particles collide with one another. I'm going to Ctrl+Drag a copy of this TP Standard Emitter, and I'll end up with two standard emitters in the scene. And I want to make a second piece of particle geometry and I'm going Ctrl+Drag a copy of the cube down and the Cube 0.1 object.

Let's make it a different color than the original cube. Let's drag all the green out of there and then apply it to Cube 0.1. I can drag that right onto that material Tag and replace it. Now to get the Standard Emitter 0.1 object to emit that cube, then we have to drag that into here. And then let's take that emitter, hit E on the keyboard for the Move tool, and drag it over here to the right. And then when I rewind back to 0 and hit play, you see we have two emitters coming up.

Now these two emitters are spitting up particles in the exact same way. Let's stop playback and then go to the Standard Emitter and scroll down to the Advanced options and change the Random Seed. Now Random Seed value doesn't have to be a big difference between what the original value was. It just has to be different. Let's just change this to, say, 125, and what's going to happen when we rewind back to 0 and hit play, and now you see that the two particle steams are a little bit different than each other. So now, how do we get them to collide? I'm going to grab the TP Standard Emitter 1 and hit R on the keyboard and rotate it around.

Let's do it 90 degrees. I'll hold down the Shift key to get an even increment, and then I'll hit the Move tool and drag it on its X axis. Let's rewind back to 0 and hit play. You can see that now these two particle streams are intersecting each other. Let's orbit around just a bit, so we can see things a little bit better and stop the playback. Now you notice that the particles are not colliding yet. We have to do a little bit of work here to get the Thinking Particles to notice one another. Fortunately, once again, there's a great kick starter in the Content Browser.

So let's go back to the Content Browser. We're inside of the TP Emitter subfolder right now. Let's go up one level and go to Interaction. Inside the Interaction is TP Particle Collision. Let's double-click on that to add it to the scene and go back to the Object Manager, and now we have this Particle Collision Object. If you select that, this also has a whole bunch of user data on it that's been added ahead of time, and the most important things are Particle Group A and Particle Group B. So remember I mentioned those Particle Groups earlier.

We need to divide these two Particle Systems into two different groups, so that this particle collision object can parse them and make them collide with one another. So step 1 is to create two different groups. Let's go to the Simulate menu and go to Thinking Particles > Thinking Particle Settings. And in this, if we go to Particle Groups window and twirl that open, you can see we have Original. Let's make a second group, so let's select the Original and right-click and go to Add, and now we have another group. Now, I actually should have right-clicked on the All, and that would have added it as a peer of this. And the Groups can have parents and children.

We don't want that in this case, so let's take this Group 1 and drag it up out of that. And so let's call these Groups A and call this second Group B. And these two groups now need to be fed into Particle Group A and B over here, so let's drag the A into the A field and Drag the B into the B field. Now what we need to do is to tell these emitters to be parts of these groups. So if you look at the TP Standard Emitter, that's these green particles.

Let's drag the A from the Thinking Particle Settings window into the Particle Group here. And then on the TP Standard Emitter 0.1, let's drag the B into the Particle field. Now if you go back to the Particle Collision, that's pretty much all we need to do. So let's rewind back to 0 and hit play, and now you can see that the particles are not colliding. So let's hit stop. And the reason that the particles are not colliding is because of something called the Distance. And on the Thinking Particles Collision Object is this field right here, the slider called Distance, and Distance relates to the size of the actual particles.

Thinking Particles looks at these object as these little tiny crosses, and you have to tell it to look a little bit larger, a little bit farther around the actual particle for the collision. So as we expand the Distance outward-- let's rewind back to 0 and hit play--and you'll see that as I scrub these forward--let's go up to about say 40 or so--you'll see our particle start to collide with one another. Let's orbit around a bit so we can see that particle collision just a little bit better. I'm going to look at it from the top view and then I'll rewind back to 0 and hit play again.

You can see that those particles are now colliding with one another. Hopefully that gives you a good overview of the TP Standard Emitter and how you can combine it with other objects to get some great results.

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