(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)
Before we begin
Most of the tools we’ll be featuring here are only available in the Broadcast and Studio installations of Cinema 4D.
As discussed, this article will cover the basics of MoGraph objects and introduce a couple of sample animation ideas, but as you continue to learn and grow as an animator, you’ll most likely be taken aback at how many possibilities there are! MoGraph allows you to create objects with a basic set of parameters and combine them in endless ways to create unique animations. Let’s dive in and start imagining!
The backbone of MoGraph objects is the cloner object. At its most basic level, it allows you to create multiple clones of an object in your scene. These clones can then be influenced by effectors, which we will discuss shortly. All MoGraph objects can be accessed through the MoGraph menu at the top of your screen. Your menu should look like the following screenshot:
Let’s open a new scene to explore cloners. Create a sphere, make sure it is selected, then navigate to MoGraph | Cloner. You can parent the sphere to the cloner manually, or hold down the Alt key while creating the cloner to parent it automatically:
We’ve cloned our object, but it doesn’t look much like clones so far—just a bumpy, vertical pill shape! This is due to the default sizes of our objects not playing well together. Our sphere has a 100 cm radius, and our clones are set 50 cm apart. Let’s change the size of our sphere to 25 cm to start. You should now see three distinct spheres stacked on top of each other.
As we create more and more spheres to experiment with cloner settings, you may find that your computer is getting bogged down. We’re using a sphere here, but a cube would work just as well and creates far less geometry. You can also reduce your segments on the sphere if desired, but using a simpler form will probably be the most effective method.
Let’s take a look at the cloner settings in the Attributes Manager:
The Basic and Coordinates tabs follow the same standard as the other object types we’ve encountered so far, but the Object tab is where most of our work will happen.
The first step in using a cloner is to choose a Mode:
Object mode arranges clones around any specified additional object in your scene. If you switch your cloner to Object mode, you’ll see that you still have an object selected, but the clones have disappeared. This is because the cloner is relying on an object to arrange clones, but we haven’t specified one. Try creating any primitive—we’ll use a Capsule for the following example, then drag it from the Objects Manager into the Object field in the Attributes Manager. Since our sphere is relatively large compared to the Capsule, for the moment, let’s change its radius to 4 cm. Your objects should be arranged as shown in the following screenshot:
By default, the clones are distributed at each vertex of the object (specified in the Distribution field). If you want more or less clones while in Vertex mode, select the capsule and change its height and cap segments accordingly.
Also, the visibility of the clones is linked only to the cloner, and not to the original object. If we turn off visibility on the capsule, the clones stay where they are.
Vertex: This aligns clones to all vertices (objects can be parametric or polygonal).
Edge: This aligns clones along edges. Edge will look relatively similar to Vertex but will most likely have significantly more clones. Also this can be used with selection sets to specify which edges should be used.
Polygon Center: This will look similar to Vertex, but with clones aligned to each polygon. This can be used with selection sets to specify which polygons should be used.
Surface: This aligns clones randomly to the surface; number of clones is determined by the count value.
Volume: This fills the object with clones and requires either a transparent material on the original object or turning off visibility:
Now that we’ve explored distribution, let’s take a look at the different cloner modes. Linear mode arranges clones in a straight line, while Radial mode arranges clones in a circle—you can think of it as a more advanced version of the Array objects we used when creating our desk chair. Grid Array mode arranges clones in a 3D grid, filling a cube, sphere or cylinder, as shown in the following screenshot. Sounds simple, right? Grid Array, when partnered with effectors, is one of the most powerful tools in your MoGraph toolbox.
Let’s take a look at the settings. The Count field allows you to specify how many clones there are in all three directions. The Size field will specify the dimensions of the container that the clones fill. This is the key difference from the Duplicate function we learned previously; Duplicate will arrange instances that are spaced x distance apart, while the Size field on cloners specifies the total distance between the outer-most and inner-most objects. Note that if you change the count of any objects, it adds additional clones inside our cube rather than adding additional rows at the top or bottom, as shown in the following screenshot:
Cloners are incredibly versatile, and you may find yourself using them as a modeling tool as you become more comfortable with the software.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics of cloners down, let’s add an Effector and see why this tool is so powerful!
Effectors are, very simply, invisible objects in Cinema 4D that influence the behavior of other objects. The easiest way to learn how they work is to dive right in, so let’s get started!
With your cloner object selected (and set back to Grid Array, if you’ve been experimenting with the different modes), navigate to MoGraph | Effector | Random as shown in the previous screenshot. You should see all of the clones move in random directions! If you did not select the cloner before creating an effector, they will not be automatically linked. If the clones were unaffected, select the cloner, switch to the Effectors tab, and drag the Random effector from the Objects Manager into the open window as shown in the following screenshot:
The Random effector is set, by default, to move all objects a maximum of 50 cm in any direction. This takes our clones that exist within the 200 cm cube and allows them to shift an additional 50 cm at random. We’re even given an amount of control over that randomness, allowing for endless organic animations.
Let’s take a look at the settings for the Random effector:
Click-and-drag on the Strength slider. As you approach 0 percent, the spheres move closer together. The Strength field works directly with the Transform parameters, so if you change the strength to 50 percent but leave the Transform values the same, your positions will be identical to a Random effector with 100 percent strength and 25 cm in all directions, as demonstrated in the following screenshot. The cloner on the left is having 50 percent strength, 50 cm x 50 cm x 50 cm, while the cloner on the right is having 100 percent strength, 25 cm x 25 cm x 25 cm:
The reason these appear identical is due to their Seed value. True randomness is near impossible to create, so random algorithms often rely on a unique number to determine the position of objects. If you change the seed value, it will change the random positions. If you create a Random effector and dislike the result, clicking through seed values until you have a more desirable configuration is a quick and easy way to completely change the scene. This value can be keyframed as well, which can be combined with keyed transformation values to create complicated organic animations very quickly.
In addition to position, you can also randomize scale and rotation. Scale values represent multipliers, rather than a percentage—so a scale of 2 equates to a potential 200 percent increase. 1 is equivalent to 100 percent, meaning a 25 cm sphere may be up to 50 cm—a 100 percent increase. Clicking on the Uniform Scale option prevents distorting the sphere.
If you want to test the rotation option and are still using spheres, you may want to create a basic patterned material and add it to your object as shown in the following screenshot – otherwise it’ll be impossible to tell that they’re rotated!
Cloners can have multiple effectors as well. With a cloner selected, navigate to MoGraph | Effector | Time. In the Attributes Manager, choose the attributes you’d like to manage over time—perhaps leave the position attributes to the Random effector and add Scale and Rotation to Time—then scroll through the timeline to see how the objects are affected: