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Creating a model with primitives and nulls

From: CINEMA 4D Essentials 1: Interface, Objects, and Hierarchies

Video: Creating a model with primitives and nulls

The process of creating models in CINEMA 4D can be incredibly complex or amazingly simple. It really depends on the type of object and how much detail or realism that you're going for. Normally, I'd be starting this process with a sketch, but I'm actually starting off with the finished model, because I want you all to understand and see the type of hierarchy we're going to be building. I think it's going to be easier to understand where we're going for if you can see the objects themselves. So what I've got here is a very simple flying saucer and I've got two null objects as parents: one that's at the ground level and one that's in the center of gravity of the saucer.

Creating a model with primitives and nulls

The process of creating models in CINEMA 4D can be incredibly complex or amazingly simple. It really depends on the type of object and how much detail or realism that you're going for. Normally, I'd be starting this process with a sketch, but I'm actually starting off with the finished model, because I want you all to understand and see the type of hierarchy we're going to be building. I think it's going to be easier to understand where we're going for if you can see the objects themselves. So what I've got here is a very simple flying saucer and I've got two null objects as parents: one that's at the ground level and one that's in the center of gravity of the saucer.

And then I've got something called an Array Object for the legs; and then I've got the antenna, which is sticking out at the top; and then I've got the cockpit, which is a sphere and another object underneath it; and I've got the body. And when I twirl open the body, the body contains all those other components. Now the way I've organized this hierarchy is based on my idea of how I'm going to be animating it. And we'll talk more about that at the end of this movie, organizing the hierarchy. But really the important thing to understand is what we're going for. So let's start off with the Body object. We're going to be creating a body out of something called an oil tank.

So let's make a new scene and let's start off by making an oil tank. If we click and hold on the primitive object, you'll see there is the Oil Tank. And the Radius I'll leave at 100 and I'll change the Height to be 50. And what that does for me is that gives me an object that is much flatter, like the body of a flying saucer. So let's zoom in here just a bit. Now the Oil Tank is going to become the body of our ship, and you'll see that the edges are really sharp, and so I wanted a little bit more of a twilight feel to it, so we need to round off this edge.

But rather than try and model this in, we're going to use another object to create a rounded bead around the edge of this ship. So if I click and hold on these guys, a Torus object will do nicely. A torus is a fancy way of saying a donut. And so when I first add that to the scene, if I back out a little bit, you can see that the donut is much larger than my Oil Tank originally was. So what I need to do is use the Scale tool. So if I hit the letter T on the keyboard, I get the Scale tool. Now I can scale that down until it's just touching the outer edge.

Now, these little handles here can be used to change the shape and if I click and drag those, even if I have the Scale tool, when I click and drag those handles, I can grab that and make it much, much smaller. I think that's looking pretty good right there. Now I can use the Scale tool again to scale it down till it matches up with the edge. If I zoom in a bit, you can see what's going on here. Now, a lot of times it's very important to look at your object from other angles. And so I'll middle-mouse-click and look at it from the top view, and I'll zoom in.

I'll click and drag right there and drag right there. And if I deselect, you can see that I've got little bit of a gap between there. And so I'll take that torus, hit T on the keyboard again to get the Scale tool, and scale it down until there's just a little bit of overlap. I don't want to go in too far. I want to have it just be overlapping just a bit. And now I've got that lined up nicely. Now that I've got the Oil Tank and the torus lined up, I can parent those two together. Let's do a quick save. I'll go to the File menu and do a Save As. And in the project files, in ch02, I'm going to call this one flying saucer working.

So now that I've saved that file out and I can move on to adding the extra details on the saucer. So the next thing I want to add, if we go back to our reference model, are the little bits that go around here, these little guys that are highlighting white. And these are just simple capsules that are being arranged around the body using the Array Object, and that's what this thingy array does. I've changed the name of it and called it thingy array, but it's really an Array Object. And we can use the array to create a circular arrangement of objects around the ship.

So let's switch back to our scene. Go to Window and then go to flying saucer working. And I'm going to middle-mouse-click again to get back to the Perspective view. Now let's add a capsule to the scene, and the capsule is a little bit too big, so let's scale it down. Again, T on the keyboard to bring up the Scale tool and then scale it way down. Now, I know from experience that I want to be able to rotate this capsule underneath the array. In order to do that, I need to have the capsule as a child of a null object. So let's add a null object and parent the capsule to the null, and then let's add an Array Object and parent the null to the Array.

When we do that we end up with an array of these little capsules all around our ship, and that's being controlled by the Array Object. The number of copies controls how many there are, and the Radius controls where they are spread to. So let's create about 23 copies, sounds about right. That will give us 24 total items. And now we can use the Radius. Let's drag that in, go in to right about that far, and now I want to take the Array Object and raise it up. And I want to raise it up until those guys are about halfway out of the surface of the ship.

Now what I can do is take the Capsule, select it, and use the Coordinate Properties in the Capsule and adjust the Pitch. And I can change that Pitch to about 75 degrees or so. Let's call it yes, 75; I think that will look good. And what that does, as you can see, is that aligns those little capsules up around the edges of the flying saucer. And now we've got a great little surface detail with not a lot of effort. So let's take this array and parent it under the Oil Tank, and our body is just about done.

Now, what we need to do is make the cockpit that's going to be on top of the saucer, and that's going to be a simple sphere object. So if we go to the Primitives and grab a Sphere--and it's going to start out really big, so we need to make it smaller, so let's get the Scale tool out again, T on the keyboard, and scale it way down. It seems to be about right. And then let's raise it up on the Y axis. Now, this is a situation where I need to middle-mouse-click and switch over to one of the other orthographic views. I want to look at it from approximately the side, so let's zoom in. There we go.

And now I'm going to scale down again. Hit T on the keyboard and drag to get that scale down, and that's pretty good right about there. Now I can take it and drag it up until it's about halfway exposed out of the top of the ship. Now this is going to be the cockpit, but if you switch back, we can see that on the sides of the ship-- let's deselect that-- you notice that there is a little bit of a straight edge where that cockpit meets the ship. It will look a lot more interesting if we had a little bead that would show up right there on the edge.

So let's grab the torus that we had made from before--rather than starting with a new torus it's easier to grab this one and change it. So let's select that, hold down the Ctrl key, and then click and drag a copy of that torus up near the Sphere. Now what we've got is a second torus in the scene and if we drag that up, you can see that there is our old torus there and here's our new torus. So let's switch again to the orthographics and bring the right-hand view full screen. And let's raise that up until it lines up roughly with the intersection of the sphere and the ship.

Now, we can use the Scale tool, select the letter T, click and drag any place in the gray area to scale that thing down. Now when you get in a little bit smaller, let's go back to the Perspective view and then take a look at how big that is. Now, sometimes it's hard with this little overlay, the selection overlay that appears, if we deselect that, you can see that we've got it a little too big still. And so let's take the torus--sorry, wrong torus. Let's grab that torus and go to the Object Properties, and let's adjust the Ring Radius.

The Ring Radius controls how big the whole thing is. The Pipe Radius controls how thick the pipe is that surrounds it. So let's go to the Pipe Radius and now I'll make that just a--oops! That's a little too big. I accidentally click and held. So I'll hit Command+Z or Ctrl+Z, and now we can just use that to arrow up. And that's a little too thick, so let's take that slider right there and just drag it down just a bit, and that looks pretty good right about there. You notice I'm not using numbers for this process, and that's because I'm really trying to get you into the idea of just eyeballing things at this point.

There's times to be numerically precise, and there's times where you can just free-form and really have fun with it, and that's what this process is all about. So there's the cockpit. Let's take the Torus and parent it to the Sphere. Now we can make our antenna. The antenna is going to be simply just another sphere. So let's take this existing sphere, hold down the Ctrl key, and drag a copy up. Now the Torus that's there we don't need anymore, so let's select that and delete it. And this is going to be our antenna base. Now so that we don't get it confused with the other sphere, let's double-click on it and call it Antenna base.

Now the Antenna base is going to be in the same location but just above, so let's raise it up and in the side view, let's get it so that it intersects with the top of the other sphere. Now we can use our Scale tool and scale it way down again. There we go. And now we've got this nice little dot sticking out at the top of our cockpit, and I think that's pretty good. Now we can make the antenna itself, and the way we'll do that is by using a Cone Object. So let's click and hold on the cube and select the cone, and the cone now is going to become our antenna. So it's too big of course.

So let's start off by making it smaller. Click and drag with the Scale tool and now we can raise it up on the Y axis. I just hit E on the keyboard to bring up the Move tool, and we can drag it straight on up. That's pretty good right there. And I'm going to middle-mouse-click again to get to the side view. Let's take an opportunity to save--Command+S or Ctrl+S--and now we can go to the cone and we can go to the Bottom Radius and scrub that in until it's very, very thin. There we go.

And now we could take that and move it down. Hit E on the keyboard to get the Move tool and now we can insert that in right there. You can see now we've got that antenna sticking out of the top. Now what we want to do is have an antenna top, so let's take the antenna base. Let's drag it right up here above the cone and call it Antenna tip. So now the Antenna tip needs to be at the top of the Antenna and much smaller, so let's switch back to the Side view and middle-mouse- click again and drag that straight up on the Y axis. Now you notice I'm being very careful about which axis I do that on.

Let's drag it up there, and let's hit the T on the keyboard and scale it way, way down. There we go. And now we've got our antenna tip right there at the top. Looking good. Let's take those guys and parent the Cone to the Antenna base and the Antenna tip to the tip of the cone so we've got that kind of hierarchy going on. Now we can close that up and close that up. Let's rename the Sphere and call it Cockpit, and let's rename the Oil Tank and call it Body. Now the last thing we need to do are the legs, and so the legs are going to be a combination of objects.

So before we do that, let's add a new null object to the scene, and that null object is going to become our Ship Parent. And that Ship Parent if I select all of these objects and drop it underneath there, that Ship Parent is at the center of gravity of where the flying saucer needs to spin from. So now when we take that Ship Parent and move it around--I'll hit E on the keyboard--you can see that the whole flying saucer moves together. Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. Now, we don't want to be able to see this for this next process. We want to hide this in the scene, and that's where this middle status column comes in.

These two gray dots in the middle column of the Object Manager are the Visible in Renderer and Visible in Editor icons, and if I click twice on the top one, my ship disappears. It's still there in the scene; all I've done is hidden it from view. So now we can draw our leg out. So let's start off by making a nice cylinder, and let's grab a cylinder. It's going to be a little too big. So let's use the Scale tool and scale it way down, and then let's make it really thin. Let's make the Radius of it about 1.

That's pretty good, and now we can go back and grab another sphere. So this sphere, now we are going to make the little foot that's on the end of the cylinder. But we don't need a whole sphere; all we really need is a hemisphere. And so if we go to the type under the Sphere Object Properties, we can select Hemisphere and that gives us a perfectly flat sphere. Now, don't worry that the Sphere is hollow underneath. We're not going to be seeing that in our ship, so we're going to just leave it as is. So now if we take that Sphere and hit T on the keyboard and use the Scale tool and scale it way down, we end up with a nice little foot.

We could take that Cylinder, raise it up on Y, just hit E on the keyboard and raise it up, and now that becomes our leg. Now we can add another null object to the scene, and this is going to become our Leg Parent. Let's rename that Leg Parent. Now we could take the sphere and the cylinder and parent them up, and now with our Leg Parent, we've got a solid object that we can move around. Let's make our ship visible again by clicking once on that gray dot, and now we've got our ship ready to go.

In order to make copies of this Leg Parent, we're going to use another array object and so if we click on the Array Object--and let's take the Leg Parent and parent it right up there. And you see that we instantly get a whole bunch of copies of that leg. We really only need two other copies, so if we go to the array object and change the number of copies from 7 to 2, we end up with three legs. And every great flying saucer only has three legs. Now that's the awesome thing about them. So now we could take the array and change the Radius down until the legs are inside the flying saucer, and that's a pretty good range right there.

Now what we can do is take the whole flying saucer and raise it up. So before we parent the array up, let's take the ship parent and raise it up on Y until the legs are inside the body. Now you can see that our saucer is sitting on the ground plane with our legs firmly embedded in it. We can add one more null object and then we can call that one ship uber. I like to call things at the very top of the hierarchy uber, which is part of my CINEMA 4D German heritage. And I'll call the Ship and then I'll hit the Option+U, in particular, an umlaut, and then u-b-e-r.

Now we can take this array, put it inside the Ship Parent, and call it Leg Array, and then take the Ship Parent and put it inside the Ship uber. And now we've got a way to make our ship stand on the ground. So now matter where we move that ship, we can have it land on the ground firmly by just changing the Y value of that null object when we animate. Let's save this, Command+S or Ctrl+S. So that's really great look at the process for creating a very simple model out of primitive objects. As you can see, it wasn't that difficult and really, it was a lot of fun.

The important thing is to have a clear vision of what it is you're trying to create.

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