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Understanding material channels

From: CINEMA 4D Essentials 4: Materials, Texturing, and Lights

Video: Understanding material channels

In the real world, every object has a surface, and we perceive that surface not by the surface itself, but by the light that bounces off of it. Different surfaces refract different wavelengths of light, and so that allows us to perceive the color based on the wavelength of light that it reflects. In the 3D world, you have the ability to create your surfaces independent of the light. That gives you tremendous control. You also have to understand a few things about the way materials work. I'm going to create a material by double- clicking here in the Material Manager down at the bottom left of the interface.

Understanding material channels

In the real world, every object has a surface, and we perceive that surface not by the surface itself, but by the light that bounces off of it. Different surfaces refract different wavelengths of light, and so that allows us to perceive the color based on the wavelength of light that it reflects. In the 3D world, you have the ability to create your surfaces independent of the light. That gives you tremendous control. You also have to understand a few things about the way materials work. I'm going to create a material by double- clicking here in the Material Manager down at the bottom left of the interface.

You could also go to Create menu and select New Material. So I'll just double-click and now I've created a new material. The properties for this material show up here in the Attribute Manager. Now a material object is one of the few things that you can have in your scene and not have in the Object Manager. You notice that I have nothing in my Object Manager, my scene is empty, and yet I still have a material. In order to be able to see what material does, I need to have an object to apply it to, so let's click on the Primitive objects and add a sphere to the scene.

So I'll take the material from the Material Editor and drag it on to the sphere in the Object Manager. When I let go, my sphere turns a different color. It turns to default color, which in this case is a white. In order to see the properties of the material again, I need to click on the material here. I could also double-click on this tag. You notice that I now have something called a Texture Tag applied to my sphere. This Texture Tag represents how the material is applied to the 3D object.

In the material, there are some properties; the Basic properties, Color, Specular, Illumination, Editor, and Assign. We're going to start off with the Basic properties, because it's the Basic properties that tell us the most about how materials behave. Whenever you're creating materials in CINEMA 4D, or any other 3D program, you should first ask yourself some important questions about the object that you're going to apply it to. What is it that I want the viewer to know about this object? Is it bumpy? Is it smooth? Is it transparent? Is it opaque? What color is it? Is it shiny or reflective? Those answers will tell you which of these material channels you want to turn on.

Each of these checkboxes represents a different material channel. The defaults are Color and Specular, but we've got others: Luminance, Reflection, Fog. As I click on these checkboxes, you'll see more properties will appear at the top here. I'm going to turn Luminance off now. Within each of the properties, there are some attributes that you can change. So, for example, in the Color, I have a Color section here and I have a Brightness and I have a Texture. The Color section allows me to change the color of the object, and I have several ways I can do that. I can change the sliders.

I could also click on the swatch and bring up the color picker. If I wanted to get to the system color picker, I can click on this swatch right here and that will take up the Apple color picker and you would see the PC color picker if you were on a PC. I can cancel that out. I can also change the model that's being used. Right now I'm using the RGB model. I can click on this and I can use several other models. I can use HSV or Color Table. I'm going to use HSV for now. And within this, I can now slide the Hue to change the hue of the color. I can change the Saturation level of that hue.

I could also change the Brightness value of that. When I do that, you'll see the material update here in the Material Preview, and you'll see it also update on the object. One thing about making materials is that you should never trust the Editor window when you're making materials. The view that you see here in the Editor window is an approximation based on the capabilities of your video card. In order to actually see what's going on, we need to render our scene. There is two ways we can do that. We could click on the Render in Active View button, but each time we make a change, if I change the color here and shift the hue, that redraws the frame and I have to click that button again.

A better way to work is to use something called the Interactive Render Region. If I click and hold on this icon here in the middle, this has several different render options under it. At the very bottom is Interactive Render Region. When I let go, I get the Interactive Render Region on my document. The quality level for the Interactive Render Region is over here on the side. By moving this Quality slider up to the top, I can improve the quality of my rendering. Now, this is the situation where it looks like really nothing change; that's because I don't have much going on in this material.

Now let's deselect the sphere and we can see what happens in the window. Every time I make a change here, the Interactive Render Region will automatically update. The Brightness slider controls the brightness of the material. I can darken it down. The Texture area allows me to add texture to a given channel. In this case, I'll add texture to the Color channel. I can click and hold on this button right here and I've got a bunch of different options for different shaders. The shader that I'll use is something called Noise, and Noise is a shader that's generated by the software.

That is, it's a procedural shader. Anything that's generated by the software is considered to be procedural. The great thing about Noise is it has a ton of parameters that you can change. In order to see those parameters, I have to click on this swatch here. This represents the Noise Parameter. It's also represented by this bar here. If I click on the swatch, that takes me into the parameters for the Noise. If I change, for example, the type of noise I'm using by clicking on this pulldown, these are all the different types of Noise. I can change it to this Noise pattern.

You see that it automatically updates. A lot of times within the Shaders themselves, there's a lot of hidden gems. One of the hidden gems about the Noise Shader is that if you click on this little button right here, it shows you a pictorial representation of all of the different Noise types, and this is a much better way to choose them. Each of these noise pattern represents a different sort of situation in nature, and you can create a lot of interesting effects by combining them together. So to get back to my Material properties, I could either click on the material here or I could use this up arrow.

If I click the up arrow, I'm not out of the Noise parameters, back to the Color channel. The Mix mode becomes available when you add a texture to your channel. The default is Normal, but I can select, for example, Multiply, and that will multiply this texture into the color that you have here. The Mix Strength controls how much of that texture mixes back into the color. So if I adjust the Mix Strength down, then I get less of that multiplying in. So those are the basics of the material properties. In the next movies we'll take a look at how materials are applied, and then look at some specific examples of the material channels in action.

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