14 essential Cinema 4D plugins

Maxon’s Cinema 4D has a vibrant and well-supported plug-in ecosystem, providing all manner of extensions for the app – from filling holes in its toolset to streamlining the workflow. And because of the way that Cinema 4D is structured, not only are these plug-ins nicely integrated into the app (often seamlessly at times), they all play well together.

So you can find Cinema 4D tutorials that mix third-party Modifiers and Effectors with native tools, use Turbulence FD to convect X-particles and then visualise them with the Hair shader, shatter meshes with Nitroblast and then animate them with Signal... the combinations are endlessly creative.

In this feature we’ve rounded up a few of our favourite plug-ins (although not all of them by any measure!). There’s something for everyone here.

01. X-Particles 3.5

The latest version of X-Particles includes support for MoGraph Effectors

The latest version of this amazing particle system can now be combined with Cinema 4D’s Effectors, enabling you to colour, scale, randomise and distort the particles with the familiar motion graphics toolset.

02. TurbulenceFD

This heavy sim was rendered at 2560 x 1600. The default settings took 46 seconds; by tweaking the settings we got it down to just 13.

TurbulenceFD is a voxel-based fluid dynamics simulation system for making fire and smoke. TFD is used in movies, TV shows and video game promos, and you only need to use the plug-in and see the end results to agree it’s pretty special.

03. Nitroblast

Nitroblast can be applied to animated characters

Lazaros aka ‘NitroMan’ has created many useful plug-ins, but he says Nitroblast is probably his best. This great little tool automatically shatters objects and lets you blow them to pieces using C4D’s dynamics.

04. Scroll Roll Deformer

The Scroll Roll Deformer can be used for more than just rolling out the red carpet

Scroll Roll was designed to help create rolling paper and carpet-like effects, says Daniel Fitzgerald, developer at Curious Animal, but he found it was also a fun way to create sprouting animations. Scroll Roll also turned out to be perfect for growing sprouting objects and growing feathers.

By scaling these objects up from nothing as they unroll he was able to transition them on smoothly, but in a much more interesting way than a simple scale.

05. Lumen 2

The Falloff shader describes areas of different slope

Lumen 2 was created by Chris Montasano, and although he’s no longer actively developing it, it still works fine under C4D R17 and has loads of useful functionality. Chris says that one of the cool things he likes about Lumen 2 is the ‘visibility’ adjustment, which is useful to quickly populate an area with random objects.

06. Motion Stretch Deformer

Models can be animated with and without the Stretch Deformer applied

The second entry from Curious Animal, aka developer Daniel Fitzgerald, is Motion Stretch Deformer. When applied to a mesh, Motion Stretch Deformer – as you might guess – stretches the geometry according to its movement, creating things like motion trails.

07. Signal

The Signal plug-in allows easy procedural animation for any parameter inside C4D without using the timeline

Signal is a GSG plug-in that’s aimed at automating the animation process. It’s applied as a tag to an object or deformer and you simply drag any animatable value into it (including colours). It’s then a matter of setting some values and letting Signal do its thing, generating random, noise- based animations and seamless loops.

08. Effex 2.7

These images show the impact of deformers on an object

Effex 2.5 is a framework for physics-based simulations, able to create fire, smoke and fluids of various viscosities while also combing these effects with Bullet rigid body dynamics. So now, for example, you can have objects that fall, hit one another, create splashes and float or sink depending on their mass and densities.

09. SplinePatch 3.0

This image is an example of a Solid Extrusion to a SplinePatch on a transparent material

As its name suggests, SplinePatch 3.0 brings spline patching to C4D, which enables you to create smooth, curved surfaces from intersecting splines. This is ideal for creating complex forms, such as cars, clothing, characters, packaging or other convoluted shapes, that remain editable and animatable.

10. EdgeShade

EdgeShade can be applied to multiple intersecting meshes, despite being separate objects, and works across different materials

Chris Montasano says that there are a few tricks for EdgeShade’s Soft Edge shader that keep surprising people, even though he’s posted information about them. The main features are a Ray Traced Render Mode, which lets you soften edges, even those between objects. The Ray Traced mode also allows you to adjust angles.

11. Forester

A selection of Forester rocks with the various texture maps applied

Reviewed in issue 202 of 3D World and receiving a five-star recommendation, Forester is a procedural vegetation creation plug-in that makes an endless variety of grass, trees and plants, and that also comes with a rock generator and a scattering function, called the Multicloner.

12. Transform

Transform works really well with objects shattered using Nitroblast.

GSG’s Transform is a neat plug-in for generating animation without the need for keyframes. It provides a set of 65 presets for various animation sequences, which can then be tweaked to suit. It works well on text, clone arrays or fractured objects made using Nitroblast.

13. Unfolder

With some clever workarounds, you can cache Unfolder’s animation ready for other effects to be applied

This tool by César Vonc unwraps an object as strips of connected polygons, like peeling a banana. It’s a very cool effect with plenty of options to alter the way it unfolds and disappears. However César explains that you can’t easily cache the effect as Unfolder changes the point and polygon count by default, and the PLA cache needs them to be the same.

14. Difference Map

Here we’ve used the Difference Map with Curious Animal’s Impact deformer to generate a layer mask in the colour channel.

The Difference Map is a handy plug-in that enables you to layer effects on
top of your deformation by creating a vertex map describing the effect of the deformer on each point in your model. So, if using Impact deformer to create ripples, you could use the Difference Map tab to create a vertex map that you reference in a material to give those ripples a different colour to the rest of the object.

This article was originally published in 3D World magazine issue 210. Buy it here.