Pro Tips, Tutorials

How to Build a Scene With 3D Models in Cinema4D


Many aspects of the 3D animation process can be extremely tedious, and creating all the assets for your scene is no exception. Even the best 3D modelers can spend days on assets that only end up existing as background fluff.

Fortunately, pre-made, high-quality 3D stock assets are becoming increasingly easier to find online, and with the launch of the TurboSquid collection, Pond5 has become a go-to resource for locating them. This short guide will demonstrate the process of importing 3D models into Cinema4D and how to use them to quickly build up a complex scene.

Choosing your Assets

The same way footage and images can come in a wide variety of file formats, so too can 3D models. On Pond5, the included formats are listed in the description section on the item’s page. Always make sure to give this a quick glance on the off-chance that there won’t be a compatible file format with your software. In general, formats like Alembic, OBJ, and FBX will work for most 3D packages. These formats store not only the 3D geometry data, but can also include other information like UVW coordinates.

Often, many assets will be provided as scene files for various programs, as well. This is usually the safest choice if you have the corresponding 3D program, as it can include geometry, UVW coordinates, animation, and even fully built materials.

Find that perfect hourglass model? Add it to your cart, check out, hit download, and you’re ready to get started.

Importing Assets with Cinema4D

Once you’ve downloaded some 3D models, make sure you know where they exist on your computer. It’s not a bad idea to create an “Assets” folder specific to your project and store all the models you will need in there. Another idea is to store all your frequently used assets in a common folder, to quickly find them while you work.

Cinema4D makes incorporating models into your scene an absolute breeze — let’s have a look at some of the options you’ve got when it comes to doing this.

Using the Content Browser to Import 3D Assets

Cinema4D’s built-in file explorer is certainly not its sexiest feature, but it can be a massive time saver as you start aggregating more and more frequently used assets on your hard drive.

  • Find the Content Browser tab below your Objects tab in the default Cinema4D layout.
  • Click on “Computer,” then navigate to the location of your assets on your hard drive. (Ex: Computer > C: > User > Desktop > myasset.c4d)
  • You’ll notice a small thumbnail preview of your asset. Click and drag this thumbnail into your viewport.
  • Now the asset should be in your scene. You can use the Move, Rotate, and Scale tools to manipulate it as you wish.

Take some time to explore the model. Remember, there are many different artists who create 3D assets, and they may organize things differently. For example, the motorcycle I used below consists of many pieces of geometry grouped by the material each one has applied. This is helpful if you need to make new materials, but not so helpful if you need to rig the motorcycle for animation, which will require a little more work.

Another method of importing 3D models is to go to File > Merge. This will open up your file browser and let you navigate to your asset location to drop the selected asset into your current scene.

Rebuilding Materials

You may encounter some errors when rendering the materials for some of your assets. This is a common issue when using assets someone else created, as texture paths can get mixed up between computers. The Pixel Lab has a great video on how to find and re-link missing textures, but rest assured, all assets come with a textures folder that will contain all the images you need to rebuild the material (in whichever renderer you prefer).


Common 3D Workflow Use-Cases for 3D Models

There are many scenarios you may encounter where using pre-made models will prove a massive time saver, but for the purposes of this post we will highlight two:

Stock models as secondary assets
Building out believable scenes often calls for dozens of little assets sprinkled around the composition. Think of your living room — besides the big TV, couch, and coffee table, how many little peripherals, decorations, books, and other objects do you have laying around? These secondary and tertiary details go a long way toward selling the realism of your scene, despite not being the focus of your composition. Blender artist Gleb Alexandrov has a great talk on breaking compositions down by primary, secondary, and tertiary shapes.

In this scene, the assets were imported one by one into the scene using the Content Browser method. Then, using the Move tool, they were positioned at an appropriate location. When placing a bunch of models in your scene, the built-in snapping tools can help you make sure things are properly aligned.

Sure, many of these assets aren’t technically very difficult to create for some, but if you factor in UV unwrapping and texturing, they would consume a lot of time.

Stock models as hero assets

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… no, that my friends, is a McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle 2 Fighter Jet. The point is, stock models don’t need to be used as background fluff. High-quality models with textures like this could take even an experienced modeler weeks to create, but can be purchased for a fraction of your day rate. The math is easy on this one.

Pro-Tip: The default Cinema4D Figure Object is a good approximation of an adult human scale. Put one in your scene during asset import so you can get a better sense of the scale of the models and adjust them accordingly. While not necessary, it’s often a good idea to build your scenes to be close to real-world sizes.

For this example, I’ve created a moody bumper for a new Pond5 TV show. The scene itself is fairly simple: a motorcycle with a helmet in a concrete garage environment. I even opted to remove the materials and textures that came with the model for a more stylized matte-black and rough-gold texture.

All we need to do in this scene is add a few Cameras, which will be framing up the helmet and motorcycle assets, and use a Camera Morph to easily animate between these. To create a Camera morph:

  • Select two or more Cameras in your Object Manager
  • Go to Create > Camera > Camera Morph
  • This will create a new Morph Camera in your scene with a special Camera Morph tag
  • Animate the slider in the Camera Morph tag to blend between your two cameras

Camera Morphs are a super intuitive way to animate cameras in your scene. Simply set a few regular cameras, making sure everything is framed the way you want, and then use the camera morph to blend between them. You can even use more than two cameras!


Other Perks of Stock Model Ownership

Like the buffalo, we can use all parts of the model. The motorcycle alone is composed of dozens of individual mechanical objects which we can pull apart and rearrange for other projects in the future, not to mention just reusing the whole model outright. Building collections of small 3D models has become increasingly popular for kitbashing, where concept artists recombine these ready-made assets to quickly create new works.

Clicking through the hierarchies of different assets will highlight the individual components. Simply make a copy of that part using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V and use it however you wish!

Likewise, the various textures that accompany stock models are also great resources to have. While some of these can be very specific to the models they came from, there are often high-quality seamless textures included which can be reused over and over again.

Do you have more questions about using 3D models in your projects? Tell us in the comments below!