Thinking Particles is a rule-based particle system that offers tremendous power and flexibility, but there is no doubt that it will take some time for you to understand how to use the package. For any particular job there will be many different approaches and a number of solutions.
Thinking Particles is node-based and uses the Cinema 4D XPresso Editor for the creation and editing of its various nodes; so please ensure that you understand how to use XPresso before proceeding. The other concept to master is that, once a particle has been born from an emitter, the emitter no longer has any control of it. That’s why it is important to group particles together so that you can then apply further rules and operations to the group.
OK, so first to generate some particles - you do this with the PStorm or PBorn nodes. PStorm has many inbuilt parameters which means that you can give the particles speed, size etc. straightaway; once you have created a PStorm node you will see particles in the viewport. PBorn is simpler and you will need to apply some other rules to its particles before you can use them; you can do this with, say, the PSetData node.
Unless you have created a new group for your particles they will be placed in the All group (not really a group but the root of the particle tree).
Now you can add other rules (nodes) into your particle system to affect the particles; the rules are organized under headings like TP Condition (apply conditions such as age), TP Standard (for particle shape, size, mass etc.), TP Dynamic (effects such as gravity and wind) and others. Every node will affect the particle stream attached to its input port - you can see how important it is to group particles.
So it is easy to, for example, give your particles shape by associating them with Cinema 4D objects using the PShape node, or to affect them with gravity (give them weight and use a PGravity node) or have them collide with one another (use the PRepulse&Bounce node). Connect nodes via wires between their ports, as explained in the XPresso section of the Cinema 4D Reference Manual.
Finally, please remember to plan ahead and try things out before committing yourself to a large, complex set-up. Also, keep in mind that adding shape to your particles will, naturally, slow down the viewport display speed, so it’s best to experiment before adding shape to your particles.
Baking particles / Thinking Particles
First off: Thinking Particles themselves cannot be baked (why bake?
There is, however, an unofficial workaround for those who own MoGraph. This workaround should be used carefully and selectively since it doesn’t work with all constellations and only works if the Thinking Particles were created using the Matrix object (Generate option set to Thinking Particles):
If you subsequently assign a MoGraph Cache tag to the Matrix object and bake it the Thinking Particles will be baked as well. You may have to use this method (first clue) to make sure that the geometry is rendered as well.
Thinking Particles limitations
Thinking Particles have a problem with motion blur (for the in-between motion blur as well as the Physical Renderer’s motion blur). Therefore, Thinking Particles should not be used with these effects, if possible.