I was spending my long vacation recently and I’ve got an urgent request regarding the ArchiCAD to Cinema 4D export workflow. An artist got a c4d scene which was exported from ArchiCAD but all textures were black when he opened the scene in Cinema 4D. This was not the first ‘complain’ about an export where something went wrong.
But in eventually, it was a user error on the client side. Often clients don’t notice the ‘tex’ folder next to the c4d file and forget to send it along with the c4d file to the 3D visualization artist.
Here, in this post, I wrote about the different export methods to transfer geometry from ArchiCAD to Cinema 4D.
The most common way to export a c4d scene is from Window menu > Palettes > Photorendering Settings then clicking on the arrow next to the photograph icon and select ‘Export to CINEMA 4D’ on the palette.
Next, the save dialog lets the user specify the file path. It’s a common practice to save onto the desktop or in a non-empty folder. At this point it’s easy to miss the ‘tex’ folder.
If you are an artist and your client sends you only a c4d file, check first in Cinema 4D Window menu > Project Asset Inspector (version R21+ or Texture Manager in earlier versions) if there is any missing texture.
If there is one, don’t hesitate to ask for the ‘tex’ folder from your client.
Scene export from ArchiCAD to Cinema 4D
Built-in CineRender is good for rendering quick visualization of your project but if you want to have more advanced possibilities to compose a multi-pass image or render a video with Teamrender then you might want to use Cinema 4D for that.
There are two ways for exporting a c4d file from ArchiCAD:
- Go to Window menu > Palettes > Photorendering Settings and open the palette where all CineRender render settings can be found.
- Click on the arrow next to the photograph icon and select ‘Export to CINEMA 4D’.
- Specify the path for the c4d file then click on Save. (You can enable ‘Start Cinema 4D after save’ checkbox if you don’t have Cinema already open)
- With this method, you will save your ArchiCAD model (all elements which are visible in your AC 3D window) with its materials and also you render settings and environment will be included
There is a possibility to update your exported scene with a second version if you have to modify the geometry but you’ve already made some changes in material settings in Cinema 4D on the first version. Therefore, you won’t loose your adjusted materials if you use update merge with the following settings shown on the below screenshot.
- Open your previously exported c4d in Cinema 4D
- Adjust a material or assign a new one to an element
- Export a second version from ArchiCAD (which includes your changes in the geometry for example)
- In Cinema 4D, go to File menu > Merge and browse for the second version of your model
- Disable the material flag if you don’t want to override your previously made change with the ArchiCAD material, click on OK
ArchiCAD Scene Combine
When you open a c4d scene file which was saved with ArchiCAD 18+ there will be a pop-up message asking if you want to combine the project.
This feature will help you to simplify the object structure in a way that it keeps the possibility to adjust the materials or environment because it combines polygones which has the same materials.
If you would like to use Update Merge functionality later on because you know there will be change in the geometry, then don’t use this feature.
This feature is useful for simplifying the latest version of your model so you will have a ‘cleaner’ object structure in Cinema 4D Object Manager.
- Download the Add-on from here (make sure you use the version which belongs to your ArchiCAD installation) and also the User guide
- Install it
- After installation you will be able to open native Cinema 4D files from :
- File > Open dialog (or from welcome screen while starting ArchiCAD)
- from Cinema 4D : File > Send to ArchiCAD
- live link exchange with ArchiCAD 3D window via File menu > Interoperability > Cinema 4D > Edit an element or Create new element
More about Live link
Enable 3D window, then go to File menu > Interoperability > CINEMA 4D. Here, you have 2 possibilities:
Create new element in CINEMA 4D or Edit selected elements in CINEMA 4D
After selecting one of the above options, the user has to select the path for the Cinema 4D installation first, then the scene will open in Cinema. (temporary file: \Documents\ArchiCADC4DTempFolder)
Add your cinema model to the scene and select File menu > Send to ArchiCAD (temporary c4d file in C:\Users\e_kallai\AppData\Roaming\MAXON\CINEMA 4D R18_62A5E681\temp). Alternatively, you can use ‘Send project back command’ too
Save your new GDL object in ArchiCAD then check it in 3D view.
If you choose the ‘Edit selected elements in CINEMA 4D’ option, it will turn into GDL element after sending back to ArchiCAD even if it was a parametric ArchiCAD object before the modification.
LIMITATIONS in current version of the Add-on
- Limitations at importing CINEMA 4D models into ARCHICAD by loading, merging c4d type files and by freeform modeling:
- During the import process only the material and geometry data is being converted.
- Objects with polygon count more than 20 000, are slowly imported
- Only Color, Transparency, Luminance channels are transmitted with the material:
“CINEMA 4D offers much more material setting possibilities than ARCHICAD does. There are a large number of parameters for setting the materials’ visual behavior when affected by direct or indirect light or like glowing, transparency, etc. Some of these parameters have according material settings with exactly the same functionality in ARCHICAD, some others can be converted, but there are some that cannot be interpreted by the rendering engine of ARCHICAD, these are simply ignored.”
- CINEMA 4D also offers textures that are based on singular algorithms that are computed during rendering. These cannot be converted, while these algorithms are not implemented in ARCHICAD. The only textures one can convert are the bitmaps loaded from image files (jpg/png/bmp). While in CINEMA 4D textures can be applied to many kinds of settings (like luminance, transparency), ARCHICAD use textures only for determining object colors, so even the bitmap textures are ignored during the conversion when applied to non color material properties.
- Textures have to be set with relative path in the c4d scene file and tex folder has to be right next to the c4d file
- Beside the default material model structure there is the possibility in CINEMA 4D to create materials based on different lighting model. In these cases parameters and parameter categories are used that are not known by the converter, so these settings are ignored, and if there is not any parameter among the material’s settings that could be converted, the whole material conversion is skipped, and no material is assigned to the converted object in ARCHICAD. One should use the default material model for creating materials for conversion.
- There are differences in the texture projection algorithms of ARCHICAD and CINEMA 4D, and CINEMA 4D also offers more projection methods than ARCHICAD. Those projections for that it is possible will be converted into the corresponding projections in ARCHICAD, in other cases UV mappings are computed from the projections, and these mappings are used in ARCHICAD. As UV mapping cannot be used for solid models in ARCHICAD, one should use convertible projections for objects that should take part in solid operations, and for the other situations, one should set the resulted GDL objects’ model behavior parameter to ‘Preserve textures’.
- Limitations at exporting ARCHICAD models to CINEMA 4D by saving 3D view and freeform modeling:
- During the export process only the 3D geometry data, materials, lights and the 3D view are being converted.
- When using the ‘by Class’ option for element grouping in the CINEMA 4D Settings of the Add-on, all texture projections are converted during the export, but because of the differences in texture projections algorithms of the two programs, some projections in CINEMA 4D do not get displayed the same as in ARCHICAD. To avoid this situation, the UV mapping information should be used, which is also exported. When using the ‘by Material’ option, only the UV data is being exported, because of the object hierarchy, so this option is recommended to be used only for quick rendering tasks.