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Understanding the interface

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

Video: Understanding the interface

The CINEMA 4D interface can seem a little bit daunting when you first open it up, but it's divided into some logical segments that we'll talk about now. The first thing you should notice about CINEMA 4D is that it is contained entirely inside of a shell window. That window allows the programmers to make the application nearly identical between Mac and PC. If you walk into a situation and you find yourself, as a Mac user, having to work on a PC, CINEMA 4D behaves exactly the same, except for the Command or Ctrl key, and the same holds true for the PC.

Understanding the interface

The CINEMA 4D interface can seem a little bit daunting when you first open it up, but it's divided into some logical segments that we'll talk about now. The first thing you should notice about CINEMA 4D is that it is contained entirely inside of a shell window. That window allows the programmers to make the application nearly identical between Mac and PC. If you walk into a situation and you find yourself, as a Mac user, having to work on a PC, CINEMA 4D behaves exactly the same, except for the Command or Ctrl key, and the same holds true for the PC.

This makes things much easier for both the programmers and for the users. So right across the top of this shell window is something called the main menu bar, and you'll notice that in all of the windows in CINEMA 4D they all have their own menu bar. I'm going to be very specific when I talk about which menu bar I want you to click on. For example, if I say click on the main file menu, that's this File menu in the upper left-hand corner. When I click on it, I see all of the options related to opening and saving and merging files. If I say click on the File menu in the Object Manager, that is this File menu right here.

If I say click on the viewport view menu, that's this menu right here. So you could see I'm going to be very specific about which menu that I tell you to click on. So right below the main menu bar is the main toolbar and the toolbar contains tools and also undo buttons, elements for changing the viewport, render buttons, and then icons for creating objects inside of C4D. Now these are not all the objects. These are just the most important ones that you can see listed here. Now if I click and hold on an icon that has a black triangle, you can see that below that black triangle are a whole bunch of additional objects.

Any place you see a black triangle in C4D, that means if you click-and-hold on it, there's additional elements that are listed underneath that. Going clockwise around the interface, next up is the Object Manager. The Object Manager is where you're going to be manipulating and observing all of the objects in your scene. As a good general rule, if it doesn't show up in the Object Manager, it doesn't exist in your scene. Now there are some important exceptions to that. For example, the Layer Manager allows you to control what elements are showing up in the Object Manager, but for the most part, if it's not in the Object Manager, it doesn't exist in your scene.

To the upper-right of the Object Manager is the Layout pull down. If I click and hold on that, I've got a variety of different layouts that I can choose from. And we'll be switching through these in different parts of the course, but for now we're going to leave it set on Startup. Just to the right of the Object Manager are some tabs, and these tabs allow us to click between managers. It's right now set on the Object Manager. I can also switch to the Content Browser or the Structure Manager. We'll leave it set on the Object Manager. Now right below the Object Manager is the Attribute Manager. The Attribute Manager is probably the most important window next to the Object Manager.

The Attribute Manager shows you the properties that can be changed for just about everything that you have selected in CINEMA 4D, and the Attribute Manager will change constantly throughout your working experience in CINEMA 4D. What I mean by that is right now, because I don't have anything in my scene and I've just opened a brand-new project, it's showing me the project settings. There's a lot of different properties I can change in the project settings. If I add a cube to the scene by clicking on the Cube icon, you could see that now the Attribute Manager shows me the modifiable properties of the cube that I have selected.

If I click on the Move tool, I now see the properties for the Move tool. So as you could see, the Attribute Manager changes all the time. It's really important that you get used to looking at that, to understand what it is that you're manipulating. Right next to the Attribute Manager is the Coordinate Manager. The Coordinate Manager allows you to manipulate the coordinates not only of the object, but of the actual elements that make up your object in some cases. It's very important in the modeling process. Right above the Coordinate Manager is the Time area, and the Time area has two main components.

It's got the Time slider and then it's got the Time bar, and the Time bar has the preview range, the VCR controls, the record controls, the record categories here, as well as some settings for the project frame rate. Now right below the Time area is the Material Manager. The Material Manager is where you'll create and manipulate the materials that you'll be applying to your objects, to give them color and texture. On the left-hand side of the interface are the Modes icons. The Modes icons change how you interact with the objects in your scene.

The default mode is something called Model mode; and right below that is Texture mode, which allows you to manipulate the textures on your object; and the Workplane mode and Point, Edge and Polygon mode, as well as Axis mode, and then the Snapping tool is right below that. You notice that when I hover over the Snap, for example, you see a little pop-up help shows up and that pop-up help will be throughout the interface, and you can use it to remind yourself of what these icons mean. There's another very important section of the interface that I want to talk about, which is the Help window, and the Help window is down at the very bottom of the interface.

Right now it says Enable component snapping. This area right here at the bottom of the interface, as I move over icons, it will show you what the name of that icon is. So it's an additional place that you can look for for information in the interface. Next up are some important keyboard shortcuts. CINEMA 4D has a lot of them, but I don't know them all. The ones I do know I use all the time. The most important one is the spacebar. The spacebar allows you to move between the Selection tool and the last tool you had selected.

Now if I hit the spacebar, it moves me to the Selection tool. I had the Move tool selected before. If I hit the spacebar again, it takes me back to the Move tool. If I click on the Scale tool and hit the spacebar, it takes me back to the Selection tool. If I hit the spacebar one more time, it takes me back to the Scale tool. Now the Move, Scale, and Rotate tools have some important keyboard shortcuts, and they are E, R, and T. E is for the Move tool, R is for the Rotate tool, and T is for the Scale tool. So, E, R, and T.

And then when you hit the spacebar, you can always get back to the Selection tool. Now if I hit the spacebar and go back to the Scale tool, if I click and drag in the interface, I can make my cube larger or smaller. And I can tell it's getting larger or smaller because the grid around it is not changing. That's very important to understand the viewport and what you're seeing there. That grid really helps to ground you in the scene and understand the relationship between your objects. Now that you have a basic understanding of the CINEMA 4D interface, we can move on to some key application preferences.

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