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Explaining the Thinking Particles (TP) workflow

From: CINEMA 4D Essentials 9: Particles and Dynamics

Video: Explaining the Thinking Particles (TP) workflow

In the previous chapter we took a look at the Basic Particle System in CINEMA 4D. In this chapter we're going to take a look at Thinking Particles. Thinking Particles is a part of the Studio Bundle of CINEMA 4D. If you don't have the Studio Bundle, and you only have Prime, or Broadcast, or Visualize, then you'll need to get Studio Bundle in order to take advantage of Thinking Particles. What Thinking Particles is, is an Advanced Particle System that's based on XPresso. XPresso is the visual node-based language for writing scripts and establishing links between Objects in CINEMA 4D.

Explaining the Thinking Particles (TP) workflow

In the previous chapter we took a look at the Basic Particle System in CINEMA 4D. In this chapter we're going to take a look at Thinking Particles. Thinking Particles is a part of the Studio Bundle of CINEMA 4D. If you don't have the Studio Bundle, and you only have Prime, or Broadcast, or Visualize, then you'll need to get Studio Bundle in order to take advantage of Thinking Particles. What Thinking Particles is, is an Advanced Particle System that's based on XPresso. XPresso is the visual node-based language for writing scripts and establishing links between Objects in CINEMA 4D.

Because Thinking Particles is based on this scripting language, it's both incredibly complex and incredibly powerful. So the Thinking Particles workflow starts off with a Null Object. Let's add a Null to the scene, and this Null I'm going to name Emitter. It doesn't have to be called Emitter, it can be called anything you want, but I'm going to call it what it's going to be. Then we'll add an XPresso Tag to the Emitter Object. Let's right-click on the Emitter Object and go to CINEMA 4D Tags and then go to XPresso.

And in the XPresso Editor that pops up, we're going to need to do a couple of things. First off, we're going to add in the Emitter Object, let's make that a little bit larger. Now we need to add a new node, a Thinking Particles Node, and that node is going to be called PStorm. Let's go to new Node and Thinking Particles, and under TP Generator, let's add in PStorm. The PStorm Node is a Thinking Particle's Emission Node. If you look, it's got a bunch of parameters that all look like the kind of parameters that you'd see on a Particle Emitter.

Let's bring the XPresso Editor down a little bit and hit Play. You can see that our scene is in fact spitting up particles now. The problem is, is if we move the Emitter Object, the particles don't follow the Emitter, so we have no way of controlling the position of these particles, where they are emitting from. Let's undo that Cmd+Z or Ctrl+Z. The way we fix that is by linking the Emitter to the PStorm by the Emitter Position. Let's go to the Emitter Outflow, click and go to Coordinates, Global Position, and adding Global Position. Then let's link the Global Position of the Emitter Null Object to the Emitter position on the PStorm.

Now when we move the Emitter Object, the particles will follow with it. So let's move that over there, and then let's hit Play. You can see that these particles are just leftover, when it recycles, you'll see the correct particles. Now we've got control over where the particles are going to emit from. Next, we want to create particles to emit. Just like the regular Particle Emitter, these particles don't render. If I hit the Cmd+R or Ctrl+R on the keyboard, you can see that I've got nothing in the scene. Let's hit A to redraw.

Let's start off by adding a Cube to the scene for our particles to emit, and I'll add a Cube to the scene. Let's make it little bit smaller, so it's smaller than our Emitter. And I'll just hit the letter T on the keyboard and scale the Cube down, here we go. A crucial object in the Thinking Particles workflow is something called a Particle Geometry Object. Under the Simulate Menu, under Thinking Particles, is Particle Geometry. And the Particle Geometry Object is a Generator Object that allows you to spit out particles. Now if we drop the Cube under here, and then let's rewind back to 0 and hit Play.

You see that nothing is happening. That's because the Particle Geometry Object needs a couple of things to actually make it work. The first thing it needs, if you click on the Particle Geometry, under the Object Properties, is something called a Particle Group. Underneath the Simulate Menu, under Thinking Particles, are the Thinking Particle Settings. And the Thinking Particle Settings are where you control different Particle Groups. One of the powerful attributes of Thinking Particles is that you can divide your particles into multiple groups. So the same Emitter can spit out particles in different groups and those groups can be made to do different things.

For now though, we're just going to use one group, and that group is called All, that's the Default Group. You can always make a new group in here and call it whatever you like, but for now we're just going to use All, and we'll take that word All and drag it across into the Particle Group Field. Let's close up the Thinking Particle Settings Window. Let's rewind and hit Play again. And you can see that nothing's happened, and that's because we still have another step to do. I'm going to zoom in here just a bit, so we can see what's going on. Let's orbit around. There we go.

The step that we have to do is we have to tell Thinking Particles that this Particle Group, All, should generate particles. The way we do that is by passing the Particle Group into a PShape Node. Now that may sound like gibberish, but it's a very important step. Let's right-click in the XPresso Editor and go to New Node > Thinking Particles, and under the TP Standard, we're going to add PShape. And the PShape Node is asking for an Object. And we're going to pass all the Objects from the All Group, into the PShape Node.

And the way we do that is by using a P Pass Node. So let's right-click again, and go to new Node, let's go to Thinking Particles, and then TP Initiator, and grab P Pass. And then, you'll notice that the P Pass already has the All Group listed there. And so what we can do is take the group from the P Pass and drag it out and attach it to the PShape. And when we do that, let's rewind back to 0. Let's hit Play again, and you'll see that still nothing has happened, that's because we've still got one more step to do.

Let's go in the XPresso Editor and drag that up, and you see on the PShape Node that there's no Object there. What we need to do is take the Object that we want to have the particles emit and drag it into that Field. When we do that, now suddenly we can see those objects. Drag the XPresso Editor Window down out of the way for a moment, and hit Play. You can see, now we're spitting out Cubes. They're very tiny right now, but there they are. To make those Cubes larger we can go back to the PStorm Node, and if we select that PStorm Node, under the Parameters here is a Size, and let's go to the Size Option and change it from 10 to, say, 30. And that make our Cubes much larger.

All of these options here can be changed. We're not going to go through them now though, because this workflow that I showed you, where we build a Particle Emitter from scratch, is really, quite frankly, not necessary. I wanted to do it though to show you just how intense the Thinking Particles Workflow is. There are a lot of steps to it and it can be very intimidating. But thankfully, there are a lot of Thinking Particles presets that will allow you to jumpstart this process. In the next movie, we'll take a look at a basic preset for the Thinking Particles Emitter.

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CINEMA 4D Essentials 9: Particles and Dynamics

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Rob Garrott
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