Migrating from 3ds Max to Cinema 4D
I have always been an avid user of Autodesk’s 3ds max software. With that I was always a Microsoft Windows kinda guy. All that changed when I got my first MacBook Pro. I absolutely fell in love with the operating system and hardware. I began to explore different 3D modeling packages such as Maxon’s Cinema 4D and Autodesk’s Maya. Cinema 4D has always been an easy to learn package and works great on both Windows and Mac. Since I found myself using my Mac more than my PC, I wanted to find something that worked under both Windows and Mac OS…Cinema 4D does just that.
One problem with 3ds max is that it is a Windows-Only package. After waiting almost three years for Autodesk to hopefully port it to the Mac, I decided it would probably never happen. Don’t get me wrong, I love 3ds max’s modeling tools…I think 3ds max has an edge over Cinema in this area. Cinema, however does contain a few tools I think are better than 3ds max. For example, the material editor and the physics engine inside Cinema. I’m writing this article to hopefully make it easier for people who are in the same boat as me…switching from 3ds max to Cinema 4D.
If you’re using a version of Cinema prior to release 13, the first thing you’ll probably notice when navigating the viewport is that the orbit/navigation is reversed. To fix this, open up the Cinema’s Preferences under the Edit menu and select “Navigation” on the left. Notice the “Reverse Orbit” option. Go ahead and select that to match how you were used to moving around within the viewports in 3ds max. Please note that in release 13, it is now defaulted to deselected and works the same way as 3ds max.
One of the great things about Cinema 4D is that you can customize its interface and keyboard shortcuts so that it is fairly similar to that of 3ds max. A few of the big ones I used fairly often was switching between Select, Move, Rotate and Scale. In 3ds max, it was Q, W, E and R respectively. It’s easy to set up this same functionality in Cinema 4D. In Release 13 of the top menu, go to Window → Customization → Customize Commands. In release 12 and earlier, go to Window → Layout → Command Manager. Then find the functions in the list and assign a new keyboard shortcut to them and click Assign.
Under the Editable Poly modeling mode of 3ds max, I always thought it was easy to switch from Vertex, Edge, Border, Polygon and Element sub-object modes using the 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 keys. You can also set this up with matching keyboard shortcuts using the above method.
The same goes for any other tools (Extrude, Connect, Weld, Cut, etc). Find the option you’re looking for in the Command Manager and assign them new keyboard shortcuts.
Customized keyboard shortcuts are saved to a file called c4d_shortcuts.res. You’ll find this inside your Cinema 4D install directory → resource → res.
Here are a few other keyboard shortcuts in Cinema 4D that you may find useful when switching from 3ds max:
C – Make Editable (Convert to Editable Poly)
Enter – Cycles through Sub-Objects (Points, Edges, Polygons)
K – Knife Tool (Cut Tool)
D – Extrude
O – Focus on Object
S – Frame Selected Element (Zoom Extents Selected)
H – Frame all Geometry within the Scene (Zoom Extents)
N~G – Wireframe, meaning press ‘N’ first and then ‘G’
N~B – Gouraud Shading (Lines) (Smooth + Highlights)
In Cinema 4D a few of the modeling tools work a bit differently. Here are a few of the common ones I used frequently.
In 3ds max, an easy way to create new polygons was to select an edge, hold down Shift on the keyboard and then move the transform gizmo (x,y,z) in the direction you wanted in order to form a new polygon. Unfortunately for release 12 users of Cinema, this functionality is not possible. But release 13 makes this possible using the Control key. Select an edge you want to extrude, hold down Control, then move the axis in the direction you want new geometry, and Bam! you have a new polygon.
If you’re using version 12 of Cinema, the only way to extrude edges is with the Extrude function. Make sure the offset is set to 0 in the Attributes Manager, then use the Move tool to position the edge to the desired position.
Target Weld and Weld Selected
Another powerful tool in 3ds max is Target Weld. With this, you’re able to select a vertex and drag it onto an adjacent vertex and it will instantly merge the two together to create a single vertex. You can do this in Cinema as well. Select a vertex, enable the Weld tool, hold down Control, then click and drag the selected vertex to an adjacent vertex. There you have it…vertex weld.
To weld multiple points in Cinema 4D, use the “Optimize” command. You can adjust the tolerance, (or weld threshold/proximity) in the dialog that comes up.
If you’re familiar with the Connect tool in 3ds max, you’ll know that you can select two or more adjacent edges and click Connect in the command panel, and it will create a new edge perpendicular to the two edges.
In Cinema 4D, the Connect function is identical to 3ds max. Select the edges you want to connect, then select Connect Points/Edges (release 13) under Mesh → Commands. If you’re using release 12 or earlier, it’s under Structure → Connect.
If you need more fine-tuning control, you can do this using the Edge Cut tool. Select the edges you want to connect, enable the Edge Cut tool, then in the dialog make sure that Create N-gons is not selected. Click on Apply, and you’ll see a new edge is created in between the edges you selected.
Constrain Vertex to Edge
In 3ds max it was always nice to constrain vertices to edges so as to not mess up the flow of geometry. You could “slide” a vertex along an edge to keep it in the same position. In Cinema, you can do this as well using the…well…Slide tool. Select a Vertex, enable the Slide tool, then move it in the desired direction.
Creating a New Element from a Polygon
In 3ds max, it was easy to create a new element from the same object. You could select a polygon, hold Shift and drag one of the axis arrows. A dialog would come up asking if you wanted to make the new polygon an element (belonging to the same object) or create a new object altogether.
Creating a new element from the same object works slightly different in Cinema. First select a polygon, then click on the Split function under Mesh → Commands, under release 13. You’ll see in the object manager that a new object was created. You’ll have to move the original object in order to see the new one in the viewport. If you want the new object to be part of the original object (two separate elements), select both objects in the object manager. Under the Object menu of the object manager, click on Connect Objects + Delete (release 13 only). This will make it one object. If you’re using release 12 or prior, you’ll have to click on Connect Objects under the Object menu and then manually delete the original two objects.
One thing about Cinema is that it does not have Border and Element modes. This is one thing I did like about 3ds max. Element was nice to quickly select all the polygons touching eachother within an object. In release 13 of Cinema, there is a quick way to do this. Once you enable polygon editing mode, if you have Move, Scale or Rotate enabled, just double click the polygons of the element you want to select. You can also do this by going up to Select → Select Connected. If you’re using release 12 or prior, this is under Selection → Select Connected.
By default, in 3ds max, multiple edges/polygons rotate on each individual axis. This is based on the “Use Pivot Point Center” option in 3ds max. In Cinema 4D, when you select multiple edges, it will create an axis to rotate around based off the midpoint of the selected edges. To get this same functionality in Cinema 4D, click on the Rotate Tool, in the Attributes Manager click on the Modeling Axis tab. Make sure Axis is set to Selected, and Orientation is set to Normal. Then check the Along Normals check box. This should emulate the way 3ds max handles multi-edge and polygon rotations.
Note that 3ds max still handles it a bit differently. For example, if you select multiple edges that are adjacent or touching each other, it treats those edges as one axis. In Cinema 4D it is somewhat the same, depending on how many edges you have selected and how far apart they are from each other.
For the time being, these are the main functions I can think of when making the transition to Cinema 4D. There are still some things I wish they’d bring to Cinema. For now however, I’m content with the workflow.
I plan on adding to this article as I discover things about Cinema that I wish was similar to 3ds max. As for now, this is what I have come up with. Feel free to leave your comments below if you can think of anything else that may be helpful to other people and I’ll be happy to add it in.