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There are a wide array of objects that can be created with CINEMA 4D, but regardless of what they do, objects all fall into two broad categories in CINEMA 4D: passive objects and active objects. Passive objects--cubes and null objects and that sort of thing--don't do anything when we add them to the scene. They just sit there. No animation is created, no magical powers, nothing like that. They simply sit there doing what they do, which is being passive. Active objects, on the other hand, create something when they're added to the scene.
Now, usually that's in conjunction with a passive object, but sometimes that's not the case as well. Active objects will almost always utilize some sort of passive object to generate some sort of effect. So I'm going to add a cube to the scene, and a cube is a prime example of a passive object. When I add it to the scene, it doesn't do anything; it just sits there being a cube. Now if I click and hold on this, the most important passive object is something called a null. Just because an object is passive does not mean that it's not powerful. One of the awesome things about a null object is that it can be used to organize your scene, but also to do generate animation effects, and to create special types of relationships.
So what I mean by that is let's say for example, I wanted to have this cube orbit around a central location. I could take the cube and move it on its positive X axis and then I can parent it to the null. When I do that, if I select the null object now and hit R on the keyboard to bring up the Rotation tool, I can now see that the cube orbits around that central location. Now, that's something that wouldn't be possible without that null object. And that's really the power of all of the objects in CINEMA 4D is that they can be combined together. Let's delete these two objects and start over.
Now I'm going to add an active object to the scene. So let's go to the Simulate menu and go to Particles and add something called an Emitter object. Now the Emitter object has a green icon associated with it. There is a little patch of green right there. That indicates that the emitter object is a generator object, and the generators are all active objects. If I hit play, you can see that now it is without any modification from me, spitting out particles. I'm going to stop playback by hitting F8 on the keyboard. That's really the magic of the Emitter and a lot of the active objects is that they do things automatically on their own.
But one of the things you'll notice about the Emitter, if I orbit around here a little bit so I can see the particles, I'm using the 1, 2, and 3 keys on the keyboard to navigate around. Now the thing you'll notice about the Emitter object, if I click the Render in Active View button, you'll notice that I am not seeing any particles; even though this shows that they're there in the scene, I don't see them. That's because even though the Emitter is an active object, it still need some passive objects to spit out in order for it to be effective. So let's add a passive object to the scene. I'll click and add a pyramid; that sounds good. It's kind of big right now compared to the size of the emitter, so let's hit T on the keyboard to use the Scale tool. And I'm going to click anyplace in the gray area and drag down to the left and make that pyramid nice and small compared to the emitter.
Now that I've got that pyramid nice and small, let's make it a child of the emitter. I'll click and drag the pyramid on top of the Emitter object. Now when I hit play, it looks like nothing has changed. That's because there is a very important setting on the Emitter object, and that's the case for a lot of the active objects. Oftentimes there is a setting that you need to change in order to make the properties that it's generating visible. In the case of the emitter, when I select it, underneath the Particle Options at the very bottom is Show Objects. When I turn that on now I suddenly see the objects that the emitter is spitting out.
When I hit play, you can see that those objects are being spat out of the emitter. So active objects and passive objects are the two broad categories in CINEMA 4D, but they really don't exist in a vacuum. Many times you'll be combining them together to get the results you're looking for.
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