CINEMA 4D Essentials 3: Cameras, Animation, and Deformers
Illustration by John Hersey

CINEMA 4D Essentials 3: Cameras, Animation, and Deformers

with Rob Garrott

Video: Working between keyframes with the F-Curve Manager

The F Curve Manager is where you control what happens in between keyframes when you're animating. The in-between of the keyframes is where all the personality of the movement of the animation comes from and it's crucial to get an understanding of how to manipulate that information before you can really become an advanced animator. I've got a series of words here all lined up along the X axis and I'm going to hit Play here, and you can see that they hold there for a moment and then they all advance at the same rate and hit their mark along the X axis here at 0.

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Watch the Online Video Course CINEMA 4D Essentials 3: Cameras, Animation, and Deformers
1h 46m Beginner Sep 13, 2012

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CINEMA 4D Essentials with Rob Garrott is a graduated introduction to this complex 3D modeling, rendering, and animation program, which breaks down into installments that can be completed within 2 hours. Cameras, Animation, and Deformers focuses on the basics of animating in CINEMA 4D, including setting keyframes, moving the camera, and adding movement and interest with deformers. Rob shows how to use these tools to manipulate animations with curves, create varying depth of field and smooth shots, and create warped type and shapes.

Topics include:
  • What is a keyframe?
  • Working with the F-Curve Manager
  • Pausing an animation
  • Working with the Editor Camera vs. the camera object
  • Adding movement with a spline wrap
  • Creating custom shapes with the Melt deformer
Subject:
3D + Animation
Software:
CINEMA 4D
Author:
Rob Garrott

Working between keyframes with the F-Curve Manager

The F Curve Manager is where you control what happens in between keyframes when you're animating. The in-between of the keyframes is where all the personality of the movement of the animation comes from and it's crucial to get an understanding of how to manipulate that information before you can really become an advanced animator. I've got a series of words here all lined up along the X axis and I'm going to hit Play here, and you can see that they hold there for a moment and then they all advance at the same rate and hit their mark along the X axis here at 0.

Now, I'm in the F Curve Manager right now. If I hit the Spacebar I can get back to the KeyFrame Editor and if you're already in the KeyFrame Editor then leave it there. You can see that my keyframe don't start until frame 20 and they stop at frame 70, so I know exactly where my objects are going to be at 20 and where they're going to be at 70. What happens in between these points is handled by something called Interpolation. CINEMA 4D tries to figure out what is going to happen in between those keyframes, it does that automatically for you. The default method for that is something called Soft Interpolation.

Right now all of the objects have soft interpolation assigned in them, because they're all at the default and you can see that. In fact, they all do move in the exact same way. I'm dragging on the Time slider here in the timeline in order to make these objects move. So how do we change that? We changed that by going to the F Curve Manager. Right now they all have the same and we're going to take a look at some different types and we're going to change them one at a time. The first one we're going to change is LINEAR. So let's highlight the LINEAR by selecting it in the object manager and you can see that it's still got its animation keyframes on there, and as we scrub backwards in time, there's our object moving.

The default interpolation in CINEMA 4D tries to create smooth movement between keyframes and that's what creates the ease out of motion, as it starts off on its journey and the ease in to motion, when it hits its mark. We can change that by manipulating the curve, so the first curve we're going to manipulate is the Linear Curve. If we hit the Spacebar to move over to the F Curve Manager and select the word LINEAR here over on the left-hand side, these are the F Curves associated with that animation for that object. Let's hit the letter H on the keyboard to frame up our animation.

Now we can see these curves nicely. If I take and draw a rectangle around all the keyframes, I can hit Command+A or Ctrl+A on the keyboard. I can see these black handles. These black handles are Tangency Handles; they control the tension of the curve between the keyframes. I can manipulate them by dragging them up and down in the timeline. You can see, as I do that it changes the behavior of the object. If I leave them down like that and I hit Play, you're going to see that object do a crazy wiggling animation. Let's Rewind back to 0 and hit Undo.

So I'll hit the letter H again, I accidentally moved my F Curve Manager. What I want to be able to do is to convert this into a Linear Movement. A Linear Movement is one that has no curvature. It travels in a straight line from one keyframe to the next. So what I can do is right-click and tell these curves to be linear. That kills those Tangency Handles and now I have a straight path from one to the other. Let's hit Play and see what that looks like. Now, in this context, it looks as if the word LINEAR is doing a funny movement that's because all the other objects in the scene are starting off slow, picking up speed and finishing slow.

LINEAR is traveling at a constant rate. Let's check that optical illusion. I'll stop the Playback and let's hide all these other objects. So I'm going to hold down the Opt or Alt key and click twice on that default status, and then I'm going to hold down the Opt key and click twice and hold and drag down and that hides all the others. Now, when we hit Play, you'll see that LINEAR moves smoothly in a linear fashion from one point to the other. That optical illusion is gone.

So let's hold down the Opt or Alt key and click and drag up and un-paint all those objects. So now we can see that our animation has changed just by changing these lines here in this F Curve Manager. Now let's take a look at Ease In. The Ease In Option is where we ease into a keyframe. The keyframe information that you see in here can be thought of as a spreadsheet but that spreadsheet only moves in one direction. It moves from time 0 forward. You can play animation backwards, but it really analyzes the data from time 0 forward in time.

And so the data travels into the keyframes from the left and out of the keyframes to the right. So when you're talking about an Ease In, you're talking about data traveling into a keyframe from the left. So the only place we have data traveling into a keyframe from the left is right over here. So in order to get in a true Ease In, I'm going to select all the keyframes and then I'm going to go right-click in there and go to Spline Types, Ease In. When I do that nothing happens. The reason that nothing happens is because this was already eased in over here.

This had an ease out on it already, so that didn't really change anything. So let's Undo that. You notice that the black handles on the tangency has changed, but that's all that happened. So in order to get the real thing, let's take these keyframes here and then right-click and tell them to be linear. You can't do that because the Linear Button will linearize the entire curve and that's not we want. So let's Undo that. Now I did that to prove a point. Let's right-click one more time and then this time, instead of going to LINEAR, what we want to do is to go to Zero Tangent Length, and when I do a Zero Tangent Length, now I've linearized just that one keyframe and now I've created an Ease In just on this keyframe.

So it's going to start off hard and then ease in to its motion right here. And if I hit Play, you'll see it happen. Let's select that one, so you can highlight it, so it starts off fast and then catches up slow. Let's take a look at the next one, Ease Out. Ease Out is going to have a similar problem as Ease In and that the curves are already setup by default. Let's go to Ease Out. Remember data flows out of the keyframe so easing out of this keyframe and into this keyframe. So to get a true Ease Out on this, we have to go to this keyframes over here, right-click and do a Zero Length.

Now we've got a true Ease Out of this motion. We're easing out of this keyframe; we're doing a hard in on this keyframe. So let's hit Play and see what that looks like. You see it starts off smoothly, and then bam! Hits its mark at frame 70, boom! So let's stop Playback again. Let's check Easy Ease. Easy Ease was designed originally to behave much the same way that Easy Ease were in AfterEffects, but the default behavior that we see in CINEMA 4D creates an Easy Ease when you have just two keyframes.

We don't really don't need to change anything on this, because we already have an Ease Out and an Ease In. The next one up is CLAMP, and if we select the word CLAMP and if we click on it down here on the F Curve Manager as well, right now, we've got the default Interpolation. What we want to do is create a small pause here. The way the CLAMP works is that it's going to clamp the values that are in the tangency handles. So let's say for example, I'm going to use the 2 key on the keyboard to scale my F Curve down. Now, if I take this F Curve right here, I'll grab them all and I'm going to drag them up and you can see that when I dragged it up, it does a wild animation on my object.

Let's hit Play and see what that does. So it's going to take off -- whoa, and then come back down eventually, so it takes off really fast and then hits its mark really slow. So now what I want to do is Clamp these value, so if I draw a Rectangle around all those keyframes, right-click and do a Clamp, you see that it clamps the value down to flat, and I can't move these anymore. They're locked in place. They're clamped and I can no longer move them. So Clamp is something I don't normally use because I don't necessarily want to be limited.

I don't want the computer to tell me what I can't do. I want it to be able to do anything and then choose not to do it. So I don't normally use Clamp, but it's there if you need it. Last up is CUSTOM keyframes and CUSTOM keyframes are where you manipulate the actual curves by hand. In order to see what that looks like, we're going to add a third keyframe into the mix. And so let's click on the word CUSTOM here and click on Custom here. And then about halfway through the animation, somewhere around 45, we're going to add a keyframe on the Y axis.

So let's take our object and drag it up on Y, and then hold down the Ctrl key and set a keyframe for all of these. So I want to click on the word P, hold on the Ctrl key and then bam! I've just set a parameter for that. What I've got now is a curve that has three points on it, and let's make this smaller so that we can see what's going on. And see our animation, our object travels up on the Y axis. Custom handles are ones that you adjust the tangency for yourself. So to adjust the tangency, let's hit the letter H on the keyboard, so we can see all our curves and now we can take and manipulate these handles.

So I can grab this keyframe on the Z for example. Got a little bit of a dip right there, so I'm going to smooth that out, to make sure that I've got a nice smooth tangency traveling through there. Now this Y value, I want to move that up or down to get a little bit more motion in it. And you can see that it's going to overshoot its mark, hit the keyframe and then continue downward to undershoot and then eventually slide to 0. If I want to create a sharp movement in this animation, I can select these handles like I've done, hold down the Shift key and I can break the tangency.

And now what I have the ability to do is to create a bouncing motion. Let's orbit around this little bit so we can see what's going on. You can see that my curve on Y reflects the motion that the object is going to do here. So now as I Play the animation -- I'll just scrub through it, you can see it, it hits mark right there and then it goes over the hump and then back down again, if I hit Play. And you can see that they all take off at the same moment in time, but they all have subtle variations in how they move and that subtle variation is controlled with the F Curve Manager.

And that's the beauty of it; it allows you to control what happens in between the keyframes.

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