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Understanding the Emitter object

From: CINEMA 4D Essentials 9: Particles and Dynamics

Video: Understanding the Emitter object

Particles can be an amazing part of both Motion Graphics and Visual Effects. CINEMA 4D has actually two particle systems. It has the basic Particle Engine and Thinking Particles built into it. In this chapter, we're going to take a look at the basic Particle Engine and how it works. At the heart of the basic Particle Engine is something called an Emitter Object. An Emitter Object spits particles into the scene. Let's go to the Simulate Menu, and go to Particles, and add an Emitter Object to the scene. An Emitter Object looks like a rectangle.

Understanding the Emitter object

Particles can be an amazing part of both Motion Graphics and Visual Effects. CINEMA 4D has actually two particle systems. It has the basic Particle Engine and Thinking Particles built into it. In this chapter, we're going to take a look at the basic Particle Engine and how it works. At the heart of the basic Particle Engine is something called an Emitter Object. An Emitter Object spits particles into the scene. Let's go to the Simulate Menu, and go to Particles, and add an Emitter Object to the scene. An Emitter Object looks like a rectangle.

Now, it has a Green icon, that means it's a generator. And it is an active object. Let's hit Play and you'll see that it's now spitting particles into the scene. I'll just hit Stop. Let's orbit around our Emitter and take a look at those particles. Let's zoom in on them. You can see that the particles are represented by a little dash line. This dash line indicates the speed of the particles. These particles are going kind of slow so the line is short. The longer the line, the faster the particles are. The important thing to remember about the Emitter Object is that by default, the Emitter Object doesn't render.

And if I hit Cmd+R or Ctrl+R on the keyboard, you see I have nothing in my scene. That's because the Particle Emitter does not spit out objects, it just spits out representations for the location of the particles. We have to tell it what to spit out. Let's hit A on the keyboard to redraw the frame. Let's add in a Cube. Now the Cube comes in larger than the Emitter Object. So let's scale it down, hit T on the keyboard and scale it right on down. Make sure that it's smaller than the Emitter. It doesn't really matter how much. Now let's take that cube and drag it and make it a child of the Emitter.

Now let's render, Cmd+R or Ctrl+R. And you see that now we see our Cubes. There's a very important button on the Emitter Object under the Particle Properties, at the very bottom, and that's called Show Objects. We want to turn that on, so we can actually see our particles here in the Editor Window, as well as the Render. Let's activate Show Objects. And now you can see that our particles show up in the scene. And as we orbit around, there they are. If I Rewind back to 0 and hit Play, you can see that our particles are spitting into the scene.

Let's advance forward in time to a point where we can see more particles. There are a lot of controls on the Particle options for the Emitter Object. The birthrate in Editor and Renderer controls how many particles you'll see when we're in the Editor Window, and how many particles you'll see when we hit Shift+R or Render to Picture Viewer. So let's crank up the value here. Let's change the birth rate in Editor from 10 to, say, 20. You'll see we have more particles. Let's Rewind back to 0 and hit Play. And let's crank up the Birthrate in Renderer to say, 50.

We're seeing about 20 particles emitted per second here, and if I hit Shift+R on the keyboard, to render to the Picture Viewer, you'll see that I now have a lot more particles in this rendering than I did over here. You can see there are more particles. And that's the difference between those two settings. The reason for the setting is that you want to have more control here in the Editor Window, so by giving you fewer particles in the Editor Window, it gives you a better playback response. Visibility controls the visibility of the particles, and if I drag that down, it looks like nothing happened here, but when I hit Cmd+R or Ctrl+R, looks like nothing happened there.

But when I hit Shift+R, you see that we now have fewer particles here. This is basically a way of filtering out particles. It's not something I normally use, so I'll leave that at 100%. Start Emission and Stop Emission control when the Emitter is spitting out particles, and these are very important. You don't take keyframes for the Particle Emission with the Emitter Object, you change the Start Emission and Stop Emission frame. So right now our Emitter will spit out particles from 0 to 150. If I Rewind back to 0 and hit Play, you'll see that it continuously spits out particles.

Let's rewind back to 0. I'm going to change the Emission time for the stop, down to frame -- let's make it 30. And you'll see that at frame 30, our Emitter stops spitting out particles. If I wanted to have a little burst of particles, here to start at frame 30, I've changed the start time to 30 and the end time to, say, 45, and you'll see that when I hit Play, I get a little burst of particles, and that's it. Now when you do a burst of particles like that, let's crank up the value on the Birthrates.

Let's make that, say, 50 x 50. I'll hit Play. You can see we have a lot more particles. The Seed allows you to randomize this. If you're going to have multiple Particle Emitters in the scene, you can change the Seed value, that way you have no two Particle Emitters that will spit out the same particles at the same rate. If the Seed value is 0, Particle Emitters with the same settings will spit out the same particles in the same way. The Lifetime controls how long the particles live. Let's bring that Lifetime down from 600 to, say, 30.

And I'll Rewind and hit Play. And you can see that our Particle Emitter spit out and then they all die at the same speed. The Variation introduces randomness into the Lifetime. Let's crank that up to 100% and then hit Play. You can see that now they don't all die at the same rate. The Speed controls how fast they're coming out. Let's change that Speed up from 150 to, let's say, 600. Rewind back to 0 and hit Play. Now we got the particles flying out of there really fast.

The Variation introduces randomness into the speed. Let's crank that up to 100%, Rewind and hit Play. Let's back out a little bit. You see we end up with one little guy that's just stuck right there. And so, I'll decrease the randomness, and now we should get one little particle that doesn't get stuck. There we go. Rotation introduces rotation to the particles. Let's crank that up and you'll see that each of the particles now will rotate, and by default the Rotation is random as well.

I really like that. The End Scale controls how big the particles are at the end of their life. Let's change that down to 0. What you'll see is the particles now die off really tiny. Let's scrub through that so you can see what's actually going on. And Pause here. You can see the particles as they come out of the Emitter are much larger, and as they die, they're much smaller. We can actually increase the size of the particles overall by increasing the size of the object here. So if I go to my Cube and change the size from 13.6, let's make it, say, 40 x 40 x 40.

So now they're much larger. When we rewind and play it back again, you'll see that they'll start out much larger and then die off really small. The Tangential option relates to animating the Emitter along a Spline. And Render Instances is a way of saving memory. Let's go to the Emitter options. And the Emitter options, these control the shape of the Emitter. By the default it's a Pyramid, and we're going to increase the size here and make the Emitter much larger. I'm scrubbing these values.

You can put in numeric values if you like. And then the Angle Horizontal and the Angle Vertical control the direction that the Emitter is spitting out. So by default, it spits all along the Z-axis. And if we want to have it spray out in all directions, we can increase the Angle Horizontal and Vertical. The Angle Horizontal maxes out at 360. So now, what's going to happen is the particles are all going to come out in an arc around the Y-axis. Let's hit Play. You'll see that, boom! They all come out in an arc around the Y-axis.

Now if we change the Angle Vertical, that maxes out at 180, you'll see that now they're flying up along the Y-axis as well, so now it's flying in all directions. If we change the X-Size and Y-Size to, say, 1 x 1 we're going to end up with a little tiny point source. Let's Rewind back to 0 and hit Play. Boom. And now we've got a great little burst of particles. We'll talk about the Include options in the next movie. The Include options allow you to determine which Particle Forces affect the Emitter.

In the next movie, we'll take a look at the Particle Forces and how they can be used to modify your particles after they come out of the Emitter.

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CINEMA 4D Essentials 9: Particles and Dynamics

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Rob Garrott
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