Incorporate maps, sections and drawings in Cinema 4D

In this short article, we want to learn how to incorporate plans, sections or other kind of drawings in our Cinema 4D file, in order to use these as background images for modelling. I will show you two ways of doing this, depending on what you need.

Method 1: Background image in the Viewport

The easiest way of incorporating an image as a background, is to use the background function of your Viewport. First, store the image you want to connect in the same folder as your Cinema 4D file or in the subfolder ''tex''. Then go into your Viewport where you want to use that image as a background. For Topview press F2, Sideview F3 and Frontview F4. Once you selected your Viewport, find the menu on top of that window and open up the Options menu. At the bottom you'll find Configure.... Alternatively, you can simply use the shortcut Shift+V.

In the Attribute Manager, you'll find the tab Back and on the second position the field Image. Press the three dots beside it and open up the image you want to use as a background. The fields Offset X, Offset Y, Size X and Size Y control the position and size of the image in your Viewport. The question remains on how to scale the image to correct dimensions, so your model will have them too. Here, this method has its drawbacks. We will not be able to work very exactly with this, but for the most cases, this method will suffice anyway. So to find the correct dimensions, we need an object with which we can compare the image with. For this, we create a Cube, that has the standard dimensions of 2x2x2 meters. We then move the Cube to the position of the scale of the drawing we use.

Now, we need to adjust the background plan to the size of the Cube, so the dimensions of the scale correspond to the dimensions of the Cube as exactly as it is possible. You can zoom in to a high degree and try to fit it as best as possible with the help of the fields Offset X, Offset Y, Size X and Size Y. This is a bit fiddling, but finally, you will have a result that you are happy with.

Remember, you can not be very exact with that, but in the most cases, this method will fulfil your need for incorporating a background image. This method has also an advantage: As this image is in the background of the Viewport, it will not disturb your modelling process, as it will be always be behind everything you want to build. The second method however will utilise another way, with which we can be way more accurate, but which requires us to put the plan on a virtual object within our 3D world. This object can disturb the modelling workflow from time to time, so you need to decide, which method works best with you.

Method 2: Plan on a plane

This second method is way more accurate, as we can utilise the Measure & Construction tool. First, we need the plan, section or drawing as a texture in the Material Manager. Make sure, like in the previous method, that you copy your image into the same folder as the Cinema 4D file, or even better in the subfolder tex. Then, create a new material by double-clicking in the Material Manager. Double-click the new material to open its properties. Give it a proper name and under the Color category on the left, find the field Texture and click the three dots beside it, to open your image file. Turn off all other channels and for better distinction, right-click on the preview sphere on the top left and choose Plane Backlight. The preview changes from a sphere to a plane, which corresponds better to our plan. Don't close the Material window just yet, as we need to copy the image dimensions from it in a minute.

We now create a Plane object, that needs to have the same dimensions as the image we want to attach. In the Attribute Manager you'll find the fields Width and Height. These need to correspond to the resolution of the image, which you can find right in the centre of the Color category of the still open material. Just copy the first value into the Width field and the second value into the Height field. Set the Width Segments and Height Segments to 1. You can now close the material window and drag and drop the texture onto the Plane object. As you can see, the dimensions are correct, which will help us a lot. You can also see, that the quality of the image is not that good. By default, Cinema 4D uses a very memory-friendly display mode, but we can change that, to see our plan better. For this re-open the material window and search for the Editor category on the left. In it, you'll find the Texture Preview Size field, which is set to default. Change that to 2048x2048 (16 MB) and close the material window. Everything should be clear to you now...

We now need to find out what dimension the image has at the moment and need to calculate the scaling factor to correct that. For that we need to change to the Topview by pressing F2. If you can't see your texture, it is due to the Shading option. Press N~C to make the texture visible. Zoom into the scale to get a better view. We will utilise the Measure & Construction tool from the Tool menu. With the tool activated, click on one side of your scale, preferably where the 0 is located. A red arrow appears, which starts at your selected point and points to the absolute zero point. Zoom out a bit to find the end of the arrow. You can click it and move it by drag and drop. Find another point on the scale, where you can read the measurements of the plan. In my example, I choose the 5m point. In the centre of the arrow, you'll see the actual dimensions, in my case: 789,793cm. This value has to become 500cm.

To do this, we will utilise the scale function of the Coordinate Manager. Find at the bottom of the screen the Coordinate Manager right in between the Material Manager and the Attribute Manager. The central column is set to Size by default, but you can change that to Scale. Naturally, the scale is at 1 at the moment. In order to calculate the correct scale to get our 789,793cm to 500cm, we need to perform a simple calculation. Inside one of the scale fields (X, Y or Z) we can use this for calculation. We simply enter 500/789,793 as 500 is the value it should become and 789,793 is the value we measured. When we hit the Tabulator-key, we change the field and the calculation is performed, in my case: 0.633. Copy that value into the other two fields and hit Apply. We now have to adjust our measurement again, as the Plane object did move due to the scaling. But when we measure again, we have a pretty accurate measurement of our plan now! You can position the Plane object now where you see it fit, but have to make sure to don't move it anymore. This can be done by the help of Cinema 4D. Right-click on the Plane object in the Object-Manager. Under the sub-menu Cinema 4D Tags you'll find a tag called Protection. If you click it, the object will get a new tag in the Object-Manager. You will notice, that you can't move it anymore. So accidental displacement of your precious plan, will not happen.

This page was last edited on 2024-04-11 14:28

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This page was last edited on 2024-04-11 14:28

Sebastian Hageneuer
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