Ring My Bell

Not long after being introduced to Cinema 4D, student artist Matthias Ries created a short film that features a complex animated character on a unique emotional journey.

Matthias is studying media design at the University of Münster (Germany) and focused primarily on illustration in the first four years. His interest in 3D was sparked after taking a course in storyboarding and by the fact that many other students were working with 3D software packages. When the school offered a course for character animation and rigging with Arndt von Koenigsmarck as the teacher, Matthias jumped at the chance.

Initial curiosity quickly turned to full-blown enthusiasm and Matthias decided to develop a complete character and feature it in a short film for his semester project. Matthias put a lot of thought into designing his character. It went through various phases of evolution, ranging from an egg-shaped wombat-like character to the final design – a marionette with a jingle bell head. The final character design in fact was a reflection of Matthias’ self: overwhelmed by constant restlessness, in search of his own inner peace.

After putting his ideas to paper, Matthias started to model his character in Cinema 4D, making sure it would be fully animatable. This included modeling the bell’s opening so that it could be transformed using the Morph Target function without compromising its shape. The character’s knees and coat had to be modeled correctly, e.g., so the legs looked correct when they were bent at the knee. Due to the coat’s bell-like shape, Matthias was not able to animated using a cloth simulation, which also would not have provided the desired degree of control during animation. So Matthias simply developed his own bines setup for more control.

Matthias also developed his own rig for the rest of the character. The fact that he only had about six months experience using Cinema 4D is a tribute to Matthias’ skills as well as to Cinema 4D’s easy learnability. Another important factor was the expertise of his trainer Arndt von Koenigsmarck. After completing Arndt’s course, Matthias was able to get fast and comprehensive support from the Maxon support team. Matthias says that he “… got to know Cinema 4D as a software that can be easily learned whereas other applications virtually prevent beginners from learning how to use them!

In fact, Matthias learned everything he needed to know on-the-fly whenever he needed certain skills for the project. Matthias explains how he learned the non-linear animation system: “I more or less stumbled across this feature when I began creating the first walk cycle. I noticed that it would be helpful and spent that day learning how to use the system. After only one day I was able to save the walk cycle to several Motion Clips that I then applied to the character in a different file and mixed with other movements."

This approach proved to be somewhat nerve wracking at times simply because of the lack of experience, which resulted in the odd beginner’s mistake. Once Matthias spent a whole day working on a new and useful feature he’d discovered in Cinema 4D. “In the end, this helped me achieve an efficient workflow that in turn helped me make up for lost time, which was a great help whenever something went wrong or had to be fixed near the end of the project.”

After everything had been modeled and set up, rendering was done using network rendering on six Mac Pros. With render times of six to ten minutes per frame, it took six days to finish rendering – and all hard drives were full. “The system admins were pretty upset because I clogged up the computers with my external hard drives,” remembers Matthias.

The layered renderings were composited in After Effects and sound was added as a final touch. A local musician provided sounds that were recorded at his studio.
The result of about six months of planning and development plus six months of Cinema 4D training is very respectable and has been highly praised by everyone who’s seen the final animation. “3D animation didn’t play a major role in my studies but now that I’ve learned how to use Cinema 4D and know what can be done with it, I will definitely use it for future projects!

Previous slide
Next slide