Intro to X-Particles 4: Creating Abstract Images in Cinema 4D R26 | Davide Frusteri | Skillshare

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Intro to X-Particles 4: Creating Abstract Images in Cinema 4D R26

teacher avatar Davide Frusteri, Motion Graphics Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

15 Lessons (45m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Emitter

    • 3. Follow Surface

    • 4. Custom Emitter

    • 5. Trails

    • 6. Turbulence

    • 7. Groups

    • 8. 07 Collider Tag

    • 9. Avoid Modifier

    • 10. Quick Recap

    • 11. XpMaterials

    • 12. Trail Materials

    • 13. Light

    • 14. Camera and Render

    • 15. 14 Compositing

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About This Class


In this class you will learn the basics of X-Particles, an amazing plugin in Cinema 4D. Use any 3D model of your choice and generate organic streaks using this dynamic tool

Let's create some beautiful abstract images or videos.

You’ll learn:

  • The Emitter
  • Modifiers: xpFollowSurface - xpTurbulence - xpSpeed - xpAvoid - 
  • Generators: xpTrail
  • Tags: xpCollider
  • Materials: xpMaterial and Hair Material
  • Render settings: Export image and Multipass
  • Compositing: in After Effects [Optional] 

The course is for beginners to intermediate level animators, and it requires some basic knowledge of Cinema 4D.  I will guide you through the whole process. 

Software required: Cinema 4D and 3rd party plugin X-Particles 4

Meet Your Teacher

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Davide Frusteri

Motion Graphics Designer


Hello there! 

I am Davide Frusteri, I am a freelance Motion Graphics Designer based in London. 
Freelancing has been a fantastic opportunity to meet people from all over the world and to work for many international studios in the United Kingdom.

My main tools are After Effects | Cinema 4D | X-Particles | Redshift

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1. Intro: Hello everyone. This class will be an introduction to the x particles for plug-in for Cinema 4D S 26. And we aren't going to use some of the basic tools to create an abstract image. We are going to start from a simple emitter and turn it into a custom shape, a meter. Then let's explore the trail generators and some of the modifiers. To make an interesting look. You will learn how to use the groups and subfolders to keep the project well-organized. We're also going to check the X Particles and hair material and some of them multi-pass options in the Render Settings. At the end of the class, you will improve your x particles scales and you would be able to apply our setup to Juran model. Let's get started. 2. Emitter: Let's begin our class. The first thing is to create is an X particle system. Click on the insidious menu and select XP system. This will generate an hierarchy with a default emitter. Under emitters. Once I press Play, x particles will start to generate particles. I want to change a couple of things to our emitter, the speed and the radius. First, let's extend our timeline a bit more. Under the Emission tab, let's set the speed to 50. You can see the particles are now moving slower. To visualize any changes on the radius, you first need to change the display mode rather than squares to circle. Back to the Emission tab, set the radius to. The viewport will automatically change the visualization in real time. 3. Follow Surface: Now let's create our customer emitter shape. If you see here, our emitter shape by default is set to rectangle, but we can use a custom object to be our emitter. So let's import our 3D model. Click on File and merge objects to import your object. For this tutorial, it's a human head. If you want to use your own model, try to keep it more or less the same size as this one. Otherwise, you may get different results on stuff like the thickness or the turbulence. Let's turn on the wireframe. Select the emitter and change the emitter shape to object mode and assigned to the object field, the model. If you now press Play, you can see that the particles are now emitting from the object. There is one thing I want to show you under the Emission tab. If, for instance I increase the number of particles to 100,000. You can see more clearly that they are emitting from the center of the polygons. If you look at the field, emit from it is set to polygon center. Once we select polygon area, automatically the particles are distributed in a much nicer and evenly way all over the modal. Go back to the Emission tab and turn back our emission to 1,000. Now I want to introduce the first modifier. Select modifiers. Under motion modifiers select Fall of surface. Once created, the modifier wants to know which objects to follow. If we drag and drop the head model. You can see that our particles are now moving along the surface of it. I want to take accurate. This will make sure no particles can fly away from the surface. Okay, one last things to do. Under the Emission tab. The emission mode is set to rate. This means the particles are emitting every single frame. I changed emission mode too short. And the particles will be emitted just once at frame one. And this will be enough for our project. 4. Custom Emitter: Instead of having the particles emitting from every single polygon of our surface, what we want to do next is to create a selection of polygons and have the particles emitting only from that selection. Let's go to the polygon mode to create a selection. Our selection will be the eyes and the nostrils, and the lips. Let's select the first AI. Then the second. Now, let's select the nostrils and now the lips. Once we're happy with our selection, what we need to do now is to go to Select store selection. You can see that Cinema 4D automatically created a tag which we can rename to emission. Let's now go back to model mode and select again the emitter. And under the Object tab, let's drag our tag in the selection field. The meaning is that our emitter is the object, but the emission is from the selection. If we press Play now, you can see that the emission is happening only from the polygons. So we selected and this is starting to create a nice dynamic movement from the front of the hand towards the back. Let's turn off the work plane. If I switch to the side view, you can start getting an idea of where we're heading. 5. Trails: The next thing that we are going to create are the trails in the Hierarchy. Select generators, and then select XP trail from the list down below. Once it is created, we need to tell the XP trail which one is going to be the emitter to trace. So once we drop the emitter into the field, now you can see that every particle is generating splines all over the surface. Few things XP trail. First, I would like to change the display color to the same color as the ammeter one. This is because later on we will create another trail and another emitter. So I prefer to have the color of the trail to be similar to the one of their own particles. So let's select a light blue color. Now you can see that the particles and the trails match nicely together. And the second thing I would like to show you is how to change the length of the trails. By default, the length is set to time and the full scene trail. I change time to length and I assign any custom length to our trail. For instance, if we set it to 50 and press Play. Once they reached their value, the trails will stop to draw the splines. For this tutorial, I set the value to 350, but you can experiment as much as you like. And that's it for the trade-offs now. 6. Turbulence: It's time now to introduce a new modifier. As you can see, our particles at the moment are moving in a very regular way. And so are the tracers that are following our particles. I would like to see a more organic movement of our trails. And in order to do that, we will need to use a modifier called turbulence. Under motion modifiers select turbulence. Once created, you will see that the turbulence is spreading the direction of the particles in a random way and the picture gets a nice way. We look the main parameter to play with the scale, the frequency, and the strength. You can see that if we change the strength, the turbulence will get stronger and the look more wavy. Same as we change the scale and frequency, we always get different interesting results. One thing that you may notice, the toolbar lens changes the speed of the particles. It doesn't matter how the particle speed is set. This modifier will always add its own speed. You can see that the particles are moving very fast compared to how they were moving before. It doesn't matter if we set the speed of the particles to zero, there will be always an acceleration created by the turbulence. A workaround to solve this is by using another modifier that it's called speeds. So select Motion modifiers and then speed. By default, the operation of the speed modifier is set to increment the speed over time. But if we set it to an absolute value, for instance, 50, the particle's acceleration is now gone and the particles are moving again at a constant speed. So let's do a comparison. The particle speed is set to 50. If I deactivate the speed modifier, we can see that there is a very strong acceleration. If I reactivated the speed in an absolute way. Now the particles are moving again at a constant speed. For this tutorial, I put the turbulence, the strength to five, and scale and frequency to 50. The result is a very subtle way we movement of our particles and trails. 7. Groups: Now that we're happy with our particles and the trace running through the surface. I want to create another emitter and trail to fill the volume of our model. First, let's quickly create a simple material to better see our particles. Click on plus, assign the material, and pick a dark gray color. Now, let's tidy up our project. I renamed the emitter to emitter surface and do the same for the trail. Instead of creating an emitter from scratch, I will just duplicate it. The parameters will be exactly the same as the emitter surface, and I will rename it to volume. I will do the same with the trail surface duplicate and then rename it as volume. Let's not forget that the trade volume needs the ammeter volume. Another thing that we can do is to change the display mode. So let's select display mode. And we can change the color to green. And maybe rather than having the editor displays set as a circle, we could change it to a box. Also, we can assign a different color to the trail volume. Let's pick a light green. Now we have just duplicated emitter and trails. So they're going to behave exactly in the same way. If you zoom in, you can see that the particles are displayed in two different ways. And at the moment the traits are just overlapping. You see if I deactivate one or the other, they look exactly the same. Now it's time to introduce the groups. The cool thing about the groups is that we can assign different modifiers to different groups. So let's start creating our first group. Selected a surface emitter. Go to groups, and click, create and add a group. Here, our first group. Let's rename it to group surface. Now select the emitter volume and create another group. You can see that the group will automatically pick the particle scholar and displayed in the icon. So let's call this group volume. Now, if we go to modifiers, we can keep the project even tidyr by creating subfolders. Click on create a subfolder and rename it as a shared. And then I drag and drop the turbulence and the speed modifiers. They are applied to both groups and both amateurs. While the surface modifier will be applied only to our Surface group. Click here to create another sub folder and name it surface. And then I'm going to drop the fall of surface inside it. The reason for creating a folder is to keep the project tidy is not strictly necessary, but it's useful as a reminder of a which modifiers are applied to which group. Now, how do we tell the fall of surface modifier that it must be applied only to the surface group. So if you see here, there is a tab called groups affected. If I drag and drop the group surface to the groups affected, it means that the fall of surface, we'll work on that group only. So let's press Play now. And you can see that our particles rounding on the surface are exactly as they were before. They have the speed, turbulence and the fall of surface. While the volume ones have the speed and the turbulence, but not the fall of surface. 8. 07 Collider Tag: It's time to play with the volume emitter. Let's turn off the surface for now. And let's change the display mode two lines. It will help us to see what's going on inside the model. The first things to do is to change the direction of the particles. If you remember, the emitter at the moment is emitting from the head and from our polygon selection. If you see here, there is a parameter called particle direction. If we click Invert and press Play, you will see that the particles are now emitting inside of the model. Our next goal is to keep the particles within the model. To do that, we need to add the collider tag. Right-click in CDM tags. Xp collider. So once created, don't forget that we need to drop the group volume to the group affected tab because we want the collider to ignore the surface group. Then we need to change the collision from the outside of our model to the inside. So now if we press Play, you can see that the particles are trapped inside our model. 9. Avoid Modifier: You may have noticed that thanks to the collider tag, once the particles reach our surface, they start to bounce. But this creates a lot of sharp corners when the direction of the trails changes. To avoid it and to get a smoother look, we can use another modifier. If we select again modifiers, motion modifiers, and then we click on a void. Don't forget that the group of our avoid modifier is going to be the volume group. So we're going to create a subfolder. We rename it volume, and we drop the modifier inside. If we scroll down a bit, we need to drag the model to avoid and double-check that under on detection, they change direction is ticked. If we press Play now, the particles are now trying to avoid our model. You can see that obviously there is a big gap between the surface and the trails. This is the detection distance parameter. So if we reduce it to 20 cm. Now you can see that the particles are almost reaching our surface, but then they will avoid it. This is a much cleaner result because we don't have any more bouncing and the sharp corners are gone. 10. Quick Recap: Let's do a quick recap of our particle system. We have two emitters generating particles and two trails. Then we created the two groups, the surface and the volume. The sheriff modifiers are the speed and the turbulence because they don't have any specific groups affected. Then the fall of surface is applied only to the group surface. The void is applied only to the group volume. And the collision tag is applied only to the group volume. And this is great because we kept everything under one system with a nice and tidy hierarchy with all our objects. 11. XpMaterials: Okay, let's add some materials and work on the look. If you hit the render, you can see that nothing has been rendered. What we need to create is an XP material. Click on create extensions, x particles material. Let's assign the material to our emitters. And if we exclude the head from the render, you can see that the particles are now generated and the colors are the ones we have assigned as the display mode. Let's have a look at the material. You can see here. The color mode is set to particle color. If you want to override the display mode, select single color and pick a light yellow. Now, this color will overwrite all the display colors. Another tab to check is the size. By default, it is set to particle radius. And personally I don't like this way because I always need to check the particle radius from the emitter tab. If instead I select the world. Now we have a proper dimension field that we can set here directly. If I keep 1 cm, we now have all our particles with one Custom Size. Third parameter is the illumination. By default, delighting mode is set to flat depending on the look, there are a bunch of options you can play with. The one I've chosen is neon. This will give a glow to our particles. Obviously this looks too much, but we can drop the width of our glow to 25%, which will give our particle the look, I'm happy wind. In the next lesson, we'll create our trail material. 12. Trail Materials: Now let's jump on the materials of our trails. For the trails we are going to use the hair material because the render is super-fast. First, I renamed the particles material as x p dots. And let's create a new shader here material and rename it as trade one, and assigned it to the trail surface. By default, the hair material comes with a brown look. And if we hit render, you can see is quite ugly. Let's activate the interactive render region, extend its area, and set it as the highest quality. Let's have a look to the hair material. Here you can see the default color is a gradient with the dark and light brown. So let's change it. For the surface, I've used a preset. If we click to load a preset, we will have a bunch of pre-made color palettes. The one I picked is the scheme seven. And by selecting the colors, we can change the interpolation to smooth. Now you can see the look is much better. Now, let's jump on the thickness. By default, we have a big root which is set to 1 cm and a tiny tip at the end. I preferred to change the route to a smaller one. This way, we will get more density and more details in our emission area. The end of the tip could be 0.5. So it's slowly get sicker while it's growing. Now, duplicate the material and rename it as a trail to let's assign it to the trail volume. So at the moment, both of them have the same look. Now let's choose another gradient. I want to show you how I load the color palette from an external file. You can find it in the project assets or build your own. This little icon is called the color from picture. Click on Browse to select the image. And you can see that the image is now loaded. There are four colors, so we can remove these two. Now let's pick the colors with the eye dropper. And then we can select the blue, green, yellow, and red. We need to adjust the position of the color. This one will be 33.3 and the second will be 66.6. So it's evenly distributed. Now we have a nice combination of the two gradients. But at the moment is still looking flat because we haven't had that any light to our source, which will be done in the next tutorial. 13. Light: Now let's work on the lighting of our scene. Right now, the overall look is very flat. This is because at the moment, there is only the Cinema 4D default light. So let's create our light. I'm going to do a very simple setup, just one area light for this project. You can see straight away that it's already getting better. Let's work a bit on the light. First, I want to add a target tag. And let's use the head as a target. Now, we can move the light around and it's always pointing at the subject. Also, I want to activate the shadows because by default they are off. Now the Luke is getting much nicer. For small tweaks. I'm going to turn off the particles and work a little bit directly on our subject because it's easier to understand where the lights and shadows are. Let's move the light a bit up and round up the numbers. Another thing that I want to add to our light is the fall of go to the details and add the inverse square, which is a physically accurate fall off. Let's turn back on the particle system and turn off our model. I think we are close. Maybe it's a little bit too bright. We can drop the fall of 2300. Now is not overexposed. I press play and let the particles grow a bit more. You can also forward frame by frame. This is enough because it's close to the back of the head, but not reaching it yet. We can start to create our camera in the next tutorial. 14. Camera and Render: In this lesson, we are going to create a camera and set the Render. Click on the camera button to create it and make it active. In the Object tab, change the focal length to portrait 80 millimeter. Let's move the camera to frame the subject to a side view. And tweak the coordinates of the camera. Let's set all the values to zero except the rotation at 90 degrees. This value will be 2000 to make sure we have enough space at the top and at the bottom. I can forward frame by frame and stop once I'm happy with the frame to render. Turn on the interactive render region to double-check. And now it's time to open our Render Settings. So let's change the file extension to PNG and activate the alpha channel and straight Alpha. Click here to choose the destination folder. I'm going to name the file as XB had. In the Output tab, look the ratio and set the render to 1920 by 1080. I also want to render an extra pass with only our particles. To do so, we need to activate the multi-pass. The particle will be in the atmosphere paths. Click back on the Save tab. And you can see that under the regular image now there will be the multi-pass image. Select the same folder and name the file as particles. And as a file format, let's choose again PNG eight bits per channel, exactly the same as per the regular image. Now we can finally hit Render, and this is going to open the picture viewer. Cinema will start rendering very fast. And if we click on the single bus, you can see there is the atmosphere and the alpha channel information. While in the image there will be the full RGB file. So let's sit for Cinema 4D and we will jump in after effects for the compositing. 15. 14 Compositing: In this final class, we are going to do a bit of compositing in after effects. Double-click in the project window and import that two images generated by Cinema 4D. Select XP head and drop it into a new composition. This is going to create a new composition with the same size and same name of the image. And if we click here, you can check the alpha channel. First. Let's create a background color. So right-click and select New Solid and rename it background. Select a very dark blue with those value 15, 25, 40. Once created, drag it below. Second, I created a fake source light to add a bit of variety to our background. Once again, new solid. And name it Light. And I picked a slightly lighter blue with those value, 25, 35, 50. And drag it between the two layers. Select the Mask tool and double-click and scale it until it looks like a circle, but it doesn't have to be precise. Unfold the mask option and feather 500 pixels and change the blending mode to add. This will match more or less the light from Cinema 4D. Now, a bit of color correction. If you zoom in, you can notice here the shadows are too dark and I want to blend the image and the background. I'm going to use an effect called the selective color. Double-click, and it's applied automatically to the image. Here, you can select all the different tones plus the whites, neutral and blacks. By selecting the blacks, we can tweak the shadows. Let's add a bit of cyan. Also, removing the yellow means you are adding blue. You can see now that the image is more blended with the background color. Now I want to use our particle atmosphere image to make the particles more visible. Drop the image on top and change the blending mode to add press T and change the opacity to 25%. You can see it's adding a bit of touch to the scene. Now let's create another solid to add some vignettes. It will be black, and let's name it. Vignette. Double-click on the ellipse masks. And this time the operation will be subtract. You can see the solid is now on the coordinates of the composition. Change the feather to 300 pixels and set the blending mode to multiply. And the opacity to 25 per cent. This will add an extra vignette to the compositing. Create an adjustment layer and name it blur effects. Let's type fast box blur and blur three pixels. Tick, Repeat Edge Pixels to remove the black lines around. One more time, the Ellipse Tool and set it as subtract feather 200 pixel. Now, if we press and hold control, the scale of the mask will be on both sides. What is doing is adding a bit of blur at the top and at the bottom. Now let's create another adjustment layer to add some contrast. Name it levels, type in levels, and change the Gamma 2.85. Finally, one last adjustment layer to add some grain. Grain is very useful to remove the bending caused by any gradient. We viewing mode from preview to final output. Otherwise, the grain will be only visible to the small square in the center of the screen. As a preset, I use the second one, which is a small grain pattern, and change the transparency to 50 per cent. To render the final frame, go to Composition. Save frame as file. It will automatically open the Render Queue. In output mode, select PNG sequence and press OK. Name the file XB head. Final look. And let's hit Render. Okay, that's it for this class. And I really hope you enjoy it. Thank you very much for watching.