Chapter 2: Basic functionalities

Here, we will dive into the basic features of Cinema 4D. This should teach you how to create some objects, move around in the 3D space as well as manipulating some basic features inside the program. The easiest way to learn this is by showing.

User Interface

When you start Cinema 4D for the first time, you'll see an interface like in the image on the left. Besides some tools we will learn in later lessons, you'll find four main windows. The biggest one is the so called Viewport which displays your current view of your scene. By default you'll have a perspective view, but we can change that later. Below that, you'll find the Materials-Manager, where you can see your materials. On the right you'll find the Object-Manager on top. Here, you will see a list of all the objects created and you are able to organise them, tag them or arrange them. Finally, below the Object-Manager, you'll find the Attribute-Manager, where you are able to set all the parameters of different tools or objects. The Attribute-Manager changes to what you have selected.


If you want to change the Perspective View of the Viewport you can do that by pressing the F-keys 1-5. Pressing F1 will show the Perspective View (Default), F2 will bring up the Top View, F3 the Side View and F4 the Front View. By pressing F5 you can see all four views at once. Basically you are very free to configure your views as you want, but for now, it is important to understand how to change the views with the first five F-Keys on your Keyboard. In order to go through the next step, we change back to the Perspective View by pressing the F1 key. As you will learn throughout the semester, shortcuts are a very important tool in Cinema4D, especially if you want to work fast. Please always try to use and remember the shortcuts, it will save you a lot of time. Below, you'll find a handy but equally beautiful list of the five shortcuts just mentioned above.

F1 F2 F3 F4 F5
Perspective Top/Bottom Right/Left Front/Back Overview of all Viewports

At the moment, our scene is empty, as we cannot see any objects inside of it. We have several possibilities to create objects, but the easiest way is to click on the blue cubic icon at the top tools row (see red border on the screenshot), which should create a cube in the center of the scene. We now will learn, how to navigate the scene, in order to move our view dynamically. In order to move, you'll need the keys 1, 2 and 3. 1 is for panning, 2 is for zooming and 3 is for rotating. Simply press and hold one of these keys, click the left mouse button somewhere in the scene and move the mouse. You will immediately see how this works. After a while you will also recognize that depending on where you put your mousewheel, the tool behaves differently, but it is very intuitive.

1 2 3
Pan/Move Zoom Rotate

If you don't want to move the view, but the object, you'll need other tools. These are basically Move, Rotate and Scale. You can select the tools from the toolbar on top or use the corresponding shortcuts E, R and T. When you have selected the desired tool, you can move, rotate or scale the object freely by clicking somewhere in the Viewport, keep the mouse button pressed and move your mouse or you can be more precise by using the Gizmo or Axis. If you want for example to move an object along the X axis, you simply select the Move tool (E) and click on the red arrow of the Gizmo. Now you only move in X direction. Remember: X is red, Y is green and Z is blue.

Move Rotate Scale

Coordinate System

This brings me to my last point of this introduction. You have already seen, that there are three axes: X, Y and Z. Each axis is represented by a corresponding color: Red, Green and Blue. You have the same coloring when you rotate, but here red means to rotate around the X axis, green means around the Y axis and blue around the Z axis. You can work with the Gizmo to selectively move, scale or rotate your objects.

Another important point is, that there is a world center with the absolute coordinates of 0, 0, 0. This is the center of your virtual world or scene. When you open up a new scene, this absolute zero is in the center of your screen. If you create new objects, they will be put exactly there. Additionally to that, objects each have also an object center, meaning that the center of an object is not the same as the center of a scene (absolute zero point). Obviously, when you move an object, the zero point of that object is no longer at the zero point of the scene. This opens up a whole world of absolute and relative coordinates. For now, it will suffice, if you understand that there are different zero points (for the scene/world, for each object, for parent objects) and that they do not have to be the same necessarily.

Primitive Objects

The most simple way of creating an object is with the Primitive Objects button at the top. You have already created a Cube in this chapter, but if you press and hold the Cube-button, it opens up a whole sub-menu with more objects to choose from. We'll stick with the Cube though, as this is the most easiest object in this list. You already know how to move, rotate and scale the object. In addition, you can use the little golden handles to alter its dimensions. Just try to grab and move them. Please note, that you can't select individual points of that 3D object, like its corners. As this is still a Primitive Object there are no real points, edges or polygons. Primitive Objects are calculated shapes. So in this case, we have the shape of a cube with certain dimensions and a position. Later on, we will see how we can transform a Primitive Object into a Polygon Object. Go ahead and create a bunch of other objects and have a look how they work and what you can do with them. In the Attributes-Manager on the lower right side, you will find a bunch of options to play with, depending on the object you have created.


Right beside the cube button, you can see a Pen Tool, which when selected and pressed opens up a whole sub-menu of objects, that we call Splines. If you create for example a Helix Spline you'll see a spring-like line in your scene. Note, that Splines are not real 3D objects, as they are simple lines. Also, these Splines are also primitive objects, where we can alter certain options and values, but not select individual points. Splines are used for constructing 3D objects with the method of Spline Modelling. To do so, Splines always have to be combined with a Generator. In the following exercise, we will use this technique. First, we will create some Splines and then we will connect them through a so-called Generator to create a full 3D object. The advantage of Spline Modelling in contrast to Box Modelling is the flexibility in modelling in 3D. Once set up, a system of Splines and Generators can be manipulated very easily without worrying so much about individual points, edges or polygons.

This page was last edited on 2024-04-10 11:26

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This page was last edited on 2024-04-10 11:26

Sebastian Hageneuer
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