Cinema 4D / BodyPaint 3D Program Documentation Tutorials Animation Tutorial (basic)
Function available in CINEMA 4D Prime, Visualize, Broadcast, Studio & BodyPaint 3D

Animation Methods

We will begin by getting to know the user interface elements used to create, edit and control animations.

Manual and Autokeyframing

A keyframe can be recorded manually by either using the Animate menu’s Record Active Objects command, clicking on the Key icon (Record button) in the Animation Palette or by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + F9 on your keyboard. This will create a keyframe at the current frame for the following filter parameter(s) Position, Scale, Rotation and Point Level Animation (Punkt Level Animation), which can be activated or deactivated individually. These filter parameters can also be found in the Animation Palette and can be activated and/or deactivated when creating an animation.

Autokeying works similarly only that you do not have to click on the Record button. Each time you change an activated value the keyframe will be automatically modified accordingly. Automatic Keyframing should, however, be used carefully since object parameters can easily be animated inadvertently. If this mode is enabled, a red frame will be placed around the Viewport window and animatable parameters will be displayed with a different text color.

These filters offer a function that makes it possible to restrict the recording of a key to a specific object selection using the methods mentioned above. This is a good way to animate specific objects only, to prevent keyframes from being defined for specific objects or to more easily and quickly switch between objects to be animated (e.g., to switch between Joints that use FK and the character’s IK controllers).

A special button in the Animation Palette is the button with the encircled P. If enabled, a keyframe for a specific selection can be defined using the defined parameters. Both of the aforementioned functions are geared more toword experienced users. You should first use these after having gained some experience animating in Cinema 4D.

Recording Keys in the Attribute Manager

Next to most of the parameters in the Attribute Manager... (as well as in other Managers, e.g., Material Editor, Edit Render Settings..., etc.) you will find a small empty circle (the keyframe button). This means that each of these parameters can be animated. You can easily set a keyframe for such a parameter by Ctrl/Cmd+ clicking on it. This will turn the circle to a red dot to show that a keyframe has been created for this parameter at this frame.

This keyframe can be deleted just as easily by Shift + clicking on the red dot. If the red dot is replaced by red or yellow circle it means that at least one additional keyframe exists on another frame in the animation. This means that only the keyframe was deleted and not the Track to which it belonged. If a yellow circle appears, the value displayed in the Attribute Manager does not reflect the parameter’s actual value it will have based on the remaining keyframes’ settings.

An animation track contains all keyframes for a particular parameter.

To delete all information for a specific parameter from the Timeline, Ctrl+Shift+click on the parameter’s circle. Use this function carefully, though, because this will delete the keyframes for the element’s entire animation - not just for the current frame! In the following you will find a brief explanation of each status type that this indicator can have:

Tip:
If you want to record multiple parameters, this can be done by Cmd/Ctrl + selecting (or removing) multiple elements (the settings’ names will turn orange when selected) and then left-click on one of the indicator points to record.

The Powerslider and the Timeline Ruler

The Power Slider can be seen as a simplified version of the Timeline Ruler which offers a more flexible editing of keyframes and a better overview of animated parameters. To create a keyframe in the Timeline Ruler, Ctrl/Cmd+click on the Timeslider. Note that the Timeslider (the green slider) does not have to be located at the frame at which the keyframe is set. The Timeline Ruler can, however, only be used to record global parameters such as Position, Rotation, Scale and PLA (Point Level Animation) and not individual element parameters.

To delete a keyframe from the Timeline Ruler simply click on it to select it (the keyframe will turn orange) and press the Del button on your keyboard. Keyframes can be moved by clicking+dragging them along the Timeline.

Tip:
You can use the mouse wheel to scroll back-and-forth along the Timeline Ruler and the keyboard shortcuts for zooming in/out can be used to enlarge or decrease the Timeline Ruler’s preview size.

To edit multiple keyframes simultaneously, click and drag across an empty section of the Timeline Ruler to select a range. All keyframes within this selection can now be modified simultaneously. These keys can be deleted, moved (gray region) or scaled using one of the handles and the end of the selected range.

Tip:
You can also create a selection when a single keyframe is selected. A gray handle will appear on each side of the selected keyframe. These handles can be dragged to expand the selection. The selection can be deselected by clicking on an empty area of the Timeline Ruler. If you want to copy a selected keyframe Ctrl/Cmd+drag the keyframe and drag the copy of the keyframe to the desired location. Keyframes can also be copied, cut and pasted using the normal keyboard shortcuts. The keyframe(s) will be inserted at the location of the Timeslider.

Attention!
The Timeline Ruler is referred to by many users as the Powerslider. The Powerslider, however, is actually the slider which is located below the Timeline Ruler and is used to define the visible range of the Timeline Ruler. The Timeline Ruler shows the position of the keyframes and the keyframes can be edited here as well.

The Timeline Ruler also offers a mode in which keyframes can be displayed and edited differently. You can try this mode out if you like but this tutorial will use the standard mode.

The Timeline

The Timeline is where you will do most of your animation work. It offers the most control over your animation as and also lets you interpolate keyframes. The Timeline has three modes: Dope Sheet Mode, F-Curve Mode and Motion Mode.

Dope Sheet mode is used for basic work with keyframes and offers the best overview of your animation. Keyframes can be added, moved, scaled, copied, pasted, duplicated and more. If you want to adjust certain parameters an F-Curve can be displayed under each Track by clicking on the small arrow next to the track name.

The F-Curve mode can also be used to edit the interpolation of individual keyframes. Before a Track’s F-Curve can be displayed the F-Curve must be selected in the Object area (if you select a parent Track all subordinate Tracks will be displayed simultaneously). If a keyframe is selected, handles will appear with which you can modify the shape of the selected interpolation.

So what is an Interpolation? A single keyframe contains the parameter values of the current frame. What occurs between two frames that contain different parameters is an interpolation of the modified values, e.g., acceleration, deceleration, increase or decreasein size, etc. Values that do not change from one keyframe to the next will be interpolated accordingly. The Interpolation is important in that it helps create a smooth animation, which also keeps the animation from looking too "mechanical".

The Motion Mode was introduced with Release 11.0. This system lets animation sequences be easily repeated, mixed or transitioned. This mode is mainly used to edit motion capture animations but can also be used for any other animation project. In this tutorial we will only demonstrate the basic functions of the Motion Mode using a simple example, which will show how a Motion Clip can be added and modified.

At first glance the number of available options can seem a little overwhelming. This is why we will concentrate on those functions mostly used and configure the Timeline as simply as possible. Start by switching to the Animate layout via the Window | Customization | Layout menu. In this view the Timeline and the most commonly-used commands are made available in the GUI in the form of Palettes.

The Timeline’s filter is set to Show Animated by default. If an element is not visible, switch to the menu and change the options in the View | Show and View | Hide menus accordingly.

We recommend you start by restricting your animation to a single object and to configure your Timeline accordingly. Select the Link View to Object Manager command (View | Link) to make the object selected in the Object Manager visible in the Timeline.

The following example shows the selected foot controller at the top of the object hierarchy and its subordinate (Child) objects. Such a hierarchical overview makes working with more complex objects and animations much easier.

To make sure selections are updated automatically make sure the Automatic Mode in the View menu is enabled.

Make sure the Track Color parameter in the Timeline Preferences... menu is set to Pos/Scale/Rot. This will give each Track its own color and provide a better overview of the hierarchy’s Child objects when opened. Also enable the Cursor Indicator option. Doing so will display a crosshair next to the cursor, which makes it easier to follow the cursor and select Tracks and keyframes more accurately.

You can also enable the Dopesheet Mode option, which will place the keyframes between two guide lines instead of on top of one. This can be helpful if you are used to animating in Flash®.

Tip:
The Dopesheet Mode only applies to the Timeline and not to the Timeline Ruler.

Continue …