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FormZ to C4D Workflows

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Hello:

 

I have a client who is wishing to render my FormZ models in Cinema 4D. Can anyone advise of efficient workflows for export settings out of FMZ to C4D in such a way to make management (material, object, groups) within C4D?

 

Thanks in advance for any tips anyone may have.

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I have usually model in Form Z and export to C4D using .OBJ

 

The scale and object hierarchy remain in tact. Be prepared to rename your objects, C4D doesn't import the names.  Don't even bother texturing in Form Z, it's rather basic.

 

Texturing and rendering in C4D is much better.  For example you can have multiple texture layers and control the interaction between them.  C4D's physical renderer also looks a hell a lot better than Form Z's too.

 

If AutoDesSys had nodel texture mapping and a bad ass renderer, I'd be in 3D heaven.

Edited by Gumby_Doyen

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I'd tend to agree that OBJ is the best option, especially with 8.5's high quality export option which controls shading errors on smooth geometry. And as Gumby states, it best to only assign colors for surfaces (and also disable ambient lighting in your FormZ materials) and then perform all your texturing/materials set-up with whatever rendering engine you're using in C4D. It's a pretty much pain free workflow.

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At the time when I created the Cheat Sheet, LWO retained formZ's layer information and other formats did not. I'm not sure how OBJ handles this. You should probably check into it if that's important to you. In large architectural scenes, it makes a big difference.

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At the time when I created the Cheat Sheet, LWO retained formZ's layer information and other formats did not. I'm not sure how OBJ handles this. You should probably check into it if that's important to you. In large architectural scenes, it makes a big difference.

 

I wasn't being critical of your suggestion Evan. DAE and OBJ are now better options in 8.5 because they offer the 'high quality' export options to ensure that there are no smoothing errors in C4D. I have a personal preference for OBJ as DAE isn't being maintained by Autodesk since FBX has become their main interchange format of choice.

 

Over the years I've found the file interchange between different different DCC packages to always be a process mired by more difficulties than need be. Even when using FBX to transfer assets between 3ds Max and Maya you have to ensure that both packages are set up correctly for the process to be friction free even though they're both Autodesk products.

 

And with C4D something that works in R15 may not work smoothly in R16 or R17 so my advice would be to download the C4D demo (without activating it). This was you can keep it installed beyond the initial 30 days and treat it as a save disabled non commercial version. That was you can test out a variety of FormZ export options before sending a file to your client. But as I said, be careful and ensure that you're testing the same version of C4D as your client. Import options in R17 seem to be causing C4D customers a fair few problems as some of the 'improvements' have changed expected behaviours.

 

I set up a quick test scene in FormZ to see the best options for C4D R17.

 

YeiK.png

 

The scene has three distinct objects, two distinct layers, and three distinct materials.

 

Here's the result of the import via LWO (using the methodology as detailed in Evan's Cheat Sheet).

 

1kIrf.png

 

As you can see only one material has been brought across and the geometry is suffering from smoothing artifacts (created by the rounding on the edges of the main body object). These artifacts can not be fixed by altering the phong tag as they are caused by problems with the vertex normals.

 

Here's the result of the OBJ export.

 

18PYH.png

 

Glitch free geometry and material assignments as they should be.

 

There are however some gotchas with the OBJ methodology that need might catch you out so my key recommendations would be as follows:

 

Use these OBJ export options as a starting point. It's vital that you use the objects display resolution as part of the export (in faceting options). Most things are fine at the default 50% organic forms will need a display resolution of 100% if they're to have enough polygonal geometry in C4D.

 

1c57c.png

 

Follow these Import options in C4D as a starting point (note, these OBJ import options are new to R17, I can advise for R15 and R16 if need be). The important setting is split by object, that way you end up with a scene management that retains both object and material names (you can split by layer too if you choose to organise your scene in that manner).

 

1g4rI.png

 

Some geometry may still be garbled on import as FormZ screws up the normal maps for geometry without smooth elements such as the rounding when it's mixed in a scene with smoothed geometry. Ver simple fix, you just delete the normal tags. I've detailed this process in a couple of screens here.

 

1fa6k.png

 

1d0dP.png

 

As you can see I removed the normal tag on the walls to make them display correctly.

 

Once FormZ integrates FBX functionality this process should be a little smoother (but only if AutoDesSys and Maxon maintain their FBX integration, it has a very frequent upgrade cycle).

 

I should have provided a little more detail in my initial response so hopefully these tips help explain my recommendation a little more. The process for R15/R16 is actually a little easier but the material colours don't get imported automatically. These are easy to set up as the material tag allocation does exist (it's just that all materials appear to be the same colour).

 

One final tip while I think about it. All materials need to be flattened so that they are only export a diffuse value. Otherwise you end up with ambience values being translated as luminosity and specular values that are too high and these look horrendous in the C4D viewport.

 

1iMvM.png

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Hi Jonathan,

 

If you check the Fix Smooth Shading OBJ Export Option, does that fix the "blue cube" shading for you?

 

It screws up other parts of the geometry (the parts with rounding) so I've found it best to keep it disabled with the new R17 Obj import options (which are an improvement but still not without problems). R17 gets more accurate shading information from the vertex normals than it does from a fixed phong tag on OBJ imports. But this sometimes screws up some aspects of the geometry (which are usually easy to fix by deleting the normal tag and relying on the fixed phong tag).

 

It's unfair to target either FormZ or C4D as being at fault though as every set of geometry you transfer has individual needs will need slightly different tweaks to work without error.

 

The best importers I've used are those in 3ds Max. Probably why it's so popular in the arch viz sector. Far more reliable than the C4D ones but Maxon have improved things with R17 as they seem to be positioning R17 as a hub application where smooth IO operations are vital.

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Thanks for the thorough post Jonnathan. I'll try your workflow.

 

I regret even having to go thru this but my client is using C4D exclusively for renderings despite my trying to convince them a more efficient workflow would be to render in the same application (RenderZone). I've been able to produce some pretty nice renderings as I've been using Z since 1998. I'm not trying to sound boastful, but when you have used an application that long, you can't help but get pretty decent. I've pushed the RZ render engine as far as I can, but when you do a side-by-side comparison to other applications, RZ looks inferior. The killer application would be able to model, render and produce line drawings. Thus far, there's not one product that does this well enough. Exports/imports to other apps becomes so inefficient when your work requires constant revisions. I use Maxwell when I have to but render times usually eliminate that as an option. I'm very hopeful Thea Render (and maybe others?) will move the ball toward this goal.

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Thanks for the thorough post Jonnathan. I'll try your workflow.

 

I regret even having to go thru this but my client is using C4D exclusively for renderings despite my trying to convince them a more efficient workflow would be to render in the same application (RenderZone). I've been able to produce some pretty nice renderings as I've been using Z since 1998. I'm not trying to sound boastful, but when you have used an application that long, you can't help but get pretty decent. I've pushed the RZ render engine as far as I can, but when you do a side-by-side comparison to other applications, RZ looks inferior. The killer application would be able to model, render and produce line drawings. Thus far, there's not one product that does this well enough. Exports/imports to other apps becomes so inefficient when your work requires constant revisions. I use Maxwell when I have to but render times usually eliminate that as an option. I'm very hopeful Thea Render (and maybe others?) will move the ball toward this goal.

 

No problem at all. These are more pointers as different scene geometry will require different tweaks.

 

Texture maps should carry over with R17 but it best that you strip out any Renderzone/Formz material information (such as specular/ambient settings as I described before) other than the diffuse/texture channel. Whatever your client wants to use to render the scene in C4D will have very different material setup parameters so it's best to keep things plain and simple as this will aid the conversion process. 

 

One other tip is to break your scene down into chunks as this can help troubleshoot problem geometry (but this is only really necessary on larger scenes). And having the C4D demo on your machine will save a lot of headaches so you can test most things before sending over to your client. If the client is a long term client and likely to want this kind of thing on multiple projects it may even be worthwhile buying a copy of C4D Prime (and billing it back to your client). 

 

You may have spied that I have Thea for FormZ installed on that final screengrab. This will definitely provide you with more options natively within FormZ when it's commercially released. The Cuda powered Presto engine will provide speedy results and the more flexible BSD biased engine provides great options too, especially for interiors and such like (still very fast in comparison to the unbiased engines TR1/TR2 which are Maxwell in speed terms) and involves none of the compromises of the Presto GPU engine.

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Thanks Jon, I just thought I should explain a bit further. I wasn't being defensive :)

 

And thanks for your thorough post. It will be helpful for many people.

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as for getting UV maps and textures from and to C4D via OBJ+MTL, i can recommend to use the riptide pro plugin for cinema for importing and exporting OBJ - far better than the inbuilt OBJ files translators! even the free version offers a lot of improvements. see here:

 

https://skinprops.com/riptidepro.php

 

i'm using this also a lot to get commercial assets into C4D and writing them out for a proper import into lightwave. works extremely well.

 

cheers

 

markus

Edited by 3dworks

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as for getting UV maps and textures from and to C4D via OBJ+MTL, i can recommend to use the riptide pro plugin for cinema for importing and exporting OBJ - far better than the inbuilt OBJ files translators! even the free version offers a lot of improvements. see here:

 

https://skinprops.com/riptidepro.php

 

i'm using this also a lot to get commercial assets into C4D and writing them out for a proper import into lightwave. works extremely well.

 

cheers

 

markus

 

Definitely recommend RipTide Pro too. R17 should negate the need for Riptide but if you're exporting for an earlier version of C4D it's a superb plugin. Not sure if it's been maintained over the years but it was always a great aid in the past.

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I still use 3DS to get from Z to C4D.  I've had issues with OBJ's where it screws up holes in geometry like a window opening in a wall.  Never figured out why.  

 

3DS is easy:  open the file in C4D, delete the cameras, group by materials (I have a plugin), un-triangulate the geometry (with create N-gons checked) and your good to go.  Usually spend less than 5 minutes importing a file.  One material tag per group so it's easy to manipulate.

 

Also had luck with DAE but haven't played with it too much because of schedule. Wouldn't it be great to have a native C4D export in Z... not holding my breath.

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i've recently switched over to C4D and LWO seems the best solution so far for me if you are coming from a lightwave based workflow.

just as an additional tip when using LWO: for some reason, latest versions of FZ for some reason don't export a 'clean' LWO format which is directly accepted by C4D. the workaround is to use LW modeler 2015 or earlier (2018 /19 LWO format will not be accepted by C4D at this point), open the exported LWO and just resave the file. then import this copy into C4D, using the "split selections" option to keep proper layer naming and material assignments easier. works like a charm.

the problems i've found when importing FZ into C4D R20 with the other solutions presented here are:

with OBJ is that you cannot keep layers as in your FZ scene. unfortunately, riptide pro is not yet available for R20, so maybe this plugin can solve this issue when importing an OBJ generated by FZ.

DAE seems not to work at all, i only get an endless objects list with all items named 'node', also all materials are set to a shiny chrome ball.

3DS seems not to work at all, there seems to be a fundamental precision / scale issue

DWG works well (C4D R20 imports this natively) but all object / layer names will be lost.

FBX has huge issues (no correct layer / object names)...

there seems unfortunately still no viable / reliable way to bring lights and camera into C4D from FZ. i thought DAE would be the solution, but it seems to have rudimentary implementation and honestly i don't know if it's C4D fault.

 

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I will add that using .FBX export from FMZ is extremely efficient and reliable. Simply import into C4D. All materials/textures come in as they are in FMZ. I add cameras and lights, adjust bump and/or reflectivity and hit render.

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