You want to make a quick change to a 3rd party vertex object in Carrara, head over to the Modelling Room, but all your favourite tools are greyed out. What’s going on?
Carrara has a feature called Protect Topology, and there’s a good chance it’s switched on for items you bought from a marketplace. It’s there so that you can’t accidentally deform a sleeve of a t-shirt or worse. Here’s how to switch it off so you can edit 3rd party vertex objects as if they were your own.
First, make sure that you select the correct item in the Properties Panel. In this example I’m using the Brodie 6 Casual T-Shirt.
Once loaded into the scene you’ll find a hierarchy of items. The first two aren’t going to open in the Modelling Room at all (Tshirt_BC and Tshirt_Brodie in my example). This is where Carrara is different from other apps. The third item (Actor) is the one you want to select. Sometimes it’ll be called Model. It’s the “real” object, just before the first bone item starts.
When in doubt, keep an eye on the little wrench icon in the top left corner: when it turns white you can edit this object. If not, keep looking.
Enter the Modelling Room by clicking either one of the wrench icons: the left one lets you edit your object inside the Assemble Room, and the right one switches to the Modelling Room and shows you the item on its own.
You may receive the above message, telling you that the object is protected. You can switch it off in which case it will never come back, and therein lies the problem – because in a couple of months you’ll have forgotten all about the Protect Geometry feature. Click OK and notice that none of your editing tools are active:
To unprotect the geometry and make our object editable, head over to View and untick Protect Geometry. Now all your tools are back and you can go to work on this object.
Some objects may not be Vertex Objects and open with more or less a blank screen in the Modelling Room, the only option being Convert to Other Modeler. This is also available from the edit menu in case you’d like to use vertex tools with a primitive or a spline model.
Converting – when available – will turn your object into a Vertex Object, no matter what it was before. Doing so will change your geometry though.
Carrara lets you turn any object in your scene into a Soft Body object with the help of a Soft Body Modifier. To create a waving flag we need to use a combination of two modifiers: one that makes the object a “soft body”, and one that attaches it to something else, such as a flag pole.
Here’s how to do it in Carrara 8.5.
The objects in my scene are:
a thin cylinder for the flag pole
a grid (or squished up cube) as the flag
optional: to create some wind I’m also using a Directional Force, but that’s more of a fine-tune
All our work is happening in the Assemble Room.
Select the flag, head over to Modifiers and add a Soft Body modifier. This is where you can setup the physical properties of your object, such as stiffness, how it reacts to air flow, how much internal surface pressure it has, and if you would like it to collide with itself in case it folds.
The values here are largely self-explanatory and require a bit of experimentation. Notice that nothing appears to happen if you change any of these. To see your object take on the new properties of this modifier, click on the Simulate Physics icon at the top left (the “bone in a dotted circle with an arrow” button).
As soon as you click it Carrara will go to work with all physics calculations in your scene. It will render an animation which is governed by the duration you’ve set with the little yellow arrow icon in the timeline (not the actual animation duration). By default this is set to 4 seconds. If you want to see what happens beyond this, simply move that little yellow triangle in your timeline, then hit Simulate Physics again.
The flag is not attached to anything yet, so it will either stay in place, drop to the floor, or if you’ve already added a directional force it may drift away outside your scene. To attach it to the flag pole we need to add another modifier, this time it’s a Soft Body Attach Modifier.
With it we’ll tell Carrara which other object our flag is attached to. In the first box, select your Flag Pole Cylinder. In the second box (edit) you’ll open a kind of paint mode. This will let you select which vertices you’d like to attach. In our case, we only want the points closest to the pole to be attached to the pole. Red points are selected, white points are unselected.
Selection can be a bit tricky: I’ve not managed to find a way to change the size of the paint selection brush – I’m sure there is one, but I find it easier to select too many at first, and then choose the little minus icon and unselect what I don’t need.
Notice the three new icons in the top left corner: those are “select points” (plus), “deselect points” (minus), and “we’re done here” (tick icon). When you’re done, select Simulate Physics again to see your result.
To render one particular image, simply drag the animation playhead to a desired position and select render. You can also render the entire animation of course.
The quality of physics relies on the amount of points your object has: the more points, the more accurate the waving will be, but at the same time the longer it will take Carrara to calculate the effect. Especially with cloth type objects, increase the tessellation for better results.
Replicators and Surface Replicators allow you to duplicate single objects and make it look like you have an armada of “stuff” in your scene. For example, you could replicate trees on a landscape or a group of people, but only load a single object into your scene.
The difference between a Replicator and a Surface Replicator is this: Replicators duplicate (replicate) your objects along all 3 axis and only need a single source object. In fact they can accommodate several source objects, but they don’t replicate along anything.
Surface Replicators on the other hand only replicate along a given surface, like a terrain or another object. Surface Replicators only obey a twi dimensional plane along whose normals your replicated objects will be aligned.
To use them, simply drag an object onto the replicator in the Assemble Room. This can be tricky: make sure the source object turns green rather than yellow – which seems to happen when you drag it too far towards the right. Click and drag it further to the left, as shown below.
As soon as you do, you’ll see your object outlined many times over in the scene as bounding boxes.
To adjust the replicator, select it and click the Wrench Icon to enter the Modelling Room. Here you can tweak the behaviour of your Replicator: along which axis you’d like to replicate how many objects, if you’d like to add some distance or rotational changes to it, that sort of thing.
You can also add other source objects here if you would like them to have the same behaviour (in case you don’t like the drag and drop action described earlier).
Carrara has a very cool sunlight / moonlight feature that comes as part of the Realistic Sky option. With it you can transform your default distant light into the sun or the moon and reposition it in your scene.
Morph Targets are these little sliders in 3D objects that can move geometry without changing it. For example a door can open and close, or a character can open and close their eyes.
To create one in Carrara, head over to the Vertex Modelling room and select an area in which you’d like to create the morph. Choose soft selection if you like. In the sidebar, in the Morph Tab, click Create and give your morph area a name (mine is called Top).
A Morph Area can have several Morph Targets inside it. To create a target, click that super tiny drop down indicator next to your Current Area. This will bring up a menu from which you select Create Target. Give your target a name that adequately describes what it does (like Open Door).
This creates a little slider which does not appear to do anything at present. Click Edit and you’ll see your morph area in green on your object. Notice that you can only select from that area now, so select away and tweak vertices to create your morph. Don’t worry, none of those changes will destroy your geometry.
When you’re happy with your morph, click Validate – and all your changes seem to disappear again. That slider here is still not working – not to worry.
To see your Morph Target in action in the Vertex Room, you’ll have to switch over to the Animation Tab (it’s the little man icon under Edit Mode in the sidebar). You’ll see a very similar slider with your name on it which is working. Move it around to see your morph acting on the geometry.
Your morph is also accessible in the Assemble Room: select your object in the scene, then in the General Tab select the Morph Area and see your morph, complete with working slider.
Many features from Hexagon have been ported over to Carrara, but not all of them are obvious and easy to find for Hexagon users.
Here are my favourite features from Hexagon, and how to access them in Carrara:
Tweak / Stretch Tool
The one Hexagon tool I was missing most was Vertex Modelling – Tweak, which is very similar to the Utilities – Stretch tool. I was looking all over Carrara and couldn’t find anything equivalent.
Until I realised that this function is enabled by default! As long as you’re in Carrara’s vertex modelling mode, Move Tool enabled (T) and Paint Selection deselected. Simply hover over a polygon, edge or vertex and start moving it just like in Hexagon.
All movements happen perpendicular to the camera. For most accurate results, work in 4-view mode. If the manipulator gets in the way, simply hide in the sidebar (Manipulator – Hidden):
Utilities – Lay On lets you align two faces against each other in Hexagon. Carrara doesn’t have such a tool, but you can get the same results by using a combination of two functions in the Assemble Room: Edit – Align and Collision Detection.
For this to work, both objects must be individual objects, they can’t be two cubes that are part of the same vertex object for example. But they can be two unrelated objects (say a primitive and a spline object).
Position them loosely they way you want them, then select them. Next head over to Edit – Align (this option is greyed out if only one object is selected).
From the modal window, select all axis you’d like to align, as well as how you want to align them. Hot Point or Center works well. Now the objects are in position, but not quite touching. To make that happen, select the little “three ball icon” in the title bar of the current document.
Collision Detection is not related to the physics engine. Instead it’s a positioning tool you can use in your scene. Extremely handy!
Copy On Support
In Hexagon you could create an object, then select a path, and have a copy of your object made x times along that path. Carrara doesn’t have this option, but its Duplicate tool has a hidden feature that can work well for such tasks:
When you either select Edit – Duplicate, Carrara remembers the changes you’ve applied to your first copy. Don’t select any other object in between, simply make your first copy, apply a change, then duplicate again. The next copy will have your changes automatically applied.
Here I’m building simple stairs using Collision Detection to place the first copy on top of the other one. Then I’ll simply select Edit – Duplicate again until my staircase is tall enough.
Grouping the many parts of a Vertex Object
Hexagon takes care of giving each new 3D object an automatic name (like Form3, Line20 and so forth). This happens automatically as soon as you create a new object. With Carrara and its modellers it’s a little different.
Instead of creating one Vertex Object, and then adding several parts to this object (Construct 3D – Cube, then Construct 3D – Sphere, etc), create each part of your model as a separate object. In fact, mix and match kinds in a single object by amalgamating several parts from different modellers. Then select all items that belong together and select Edit – Group.
If you add two cubes in the same Vertex Object, Carrara will see them as a single object. To split them apart, select Edit – Split Object and a group will be created from all those separate parts. Very neat!
The key thing to note is that an object and its components are created in the Assemble Room rather than in one of the modelling rooms.
Twister / Bender
Carrara has those and many other deformers under the Modifiers Tab in the Assemble Room. Click the plus icon to add a modifier, then tweak the values as you like. You can even combine multiple modifiers and animate them if you like. Twist and bend are only the beginning. Wait until you try explode!
Quick note of caution though: Modifiers work great inside Carrara. However if you intend to export geometry created with those, forget it: even though it works, the amount of unnecessary vertices you get is rather frightening.
What’s missing from Carrara’s Vertex Tools?
Not all features have made it across, and perhaps never will. Here’s what I’m missing in Carrara:
1 over n selection
a knife or quick slice tool
Why not just use Hexagon instead?
As much as I love Hexagon, it hasn’t seen a major upgrade since 2006. Even though Hexagon’s feature set is rather complete, it has numerous bugs that can cause the app to crash frequently – depending on your system and what you’re doing with it. DAZ have chosen to keep the much more feature rich Carrara under development, but it appears that Hexagon has turned into abandonware.
Don’t get me wrong, I find it rather charming that the software still looks and feels the same as it did many years ago, but there is a danger that on future operating systems Hexagon may stop working altogether – you never know if and when this may happen.
Therefore it’s good to have a “backup solution” for your 3D modelling needs. Until then, when using Hexagon, save early and save often. Make use of the Incremental Saving feature or use Version Control.
To close a Vertex Object, first select the edges around the opening. In this example it’s a sphere with its top sliced off.
Now head over to Model – Fill Polygon. It’s equivalent to the Close function in Hexagon.
Empty Polygon on the other hand will remove the polygon, much like pressing the Delete key does (or Selection – Delete). The difference is that Empty Polygon leaves your selection intact, delete does not.
A Motion Path is a line in 3D space which an object can follow over time. Each path is specific to an object. This is useful for creating animations and is an alternative to keyframing motion.
In the above animation I’ve applied a Motion Path to the camera and made it fly through Greeble City. Where the camera points was done with standard keyframes – so you can use both in tandem.
Here’s how to setup a Motion Path.
With an object selected, head over to the Motion Tab and switch the top drop-down to Motion Path (the default is Keyframe).
A notification will warn you that Carrara will do its best to convert existing keyframe animation data over to the Motion Path but it can’t make any promises. You can choose to skip that dialogue in the future (since there’s nothing you can do about it).
Notice a few new controls popping up. Those are path control tools much like in other parts of Carrara.
Click with the Pen Tool to create new points and draw your path. Click and drag the Pen Tool to create Bezier Points on the fly to turn sharp edges into smooth round curves. I find it much easier to create a rough path first and then use the convert point tool (little white square) to turn standard points into Bezier points. Tip: dragging against the path when converting points shapes the curve in the right direction along the path.
The plus and minus signs add and remove points on the path respectively, and the little arrow at the bottom selects the entire path so you can move it. Use the standard selection tool to tweak individual points (big fat arrow).
Animating along a Motion Path
With your path created use your animation scrubber and position it at the end of your animation. Now head back to the Motion Path tab and drag the “Distance Along Path” slider all the way to the right. This will line up the end of your path with the end of your animation. Drag the scrubber and see your object move along the Motion Path. It’s magic!
You can of course position the scrubber at any point in your animation and line up that position with another position on the Motion Path. For example, half way through the animation your object may have only travelled 20% of the distance.
If you do, keyframes are created in the Sequencer. Those can be moved and tweaked, and they do obey tweeners too, making animation behaviour along a path extremely easy.
Since I bought the Microsoft Touch Keyboard for my 1st Generation Surface Pro, 3D usage has become even better than before (I went for the purple one). Many functions have keyboard shortcuts that make life quicker and easier when it comes to navigating a scene in 3D Space.
Before I forget how this works, I thought I’d take some notes.
Hold down ALT while dragging the stylus onscreen to dolly the camera around the selected object.
Hold down ALT, press the stylus button and drag onscreen to pan left/right/top/bottom
Pinch with two fingers to zoom in and out
All the above Hexagon controls will also work in Carrara, but we have a few extras at our disposal:
Hold down SPACE while dragging to pan
Hold down ALT + CTRL, then drag the stylus up and down to zoom in and out (just in case you don’t like touching the screen while you’re holding a pen).
Hold down ALT while dragging the stylus onscreen to dolly the camera around the selected object (same as in Hexagon and Carrara).
Hold down ALT + CTRL to bank the camera
Hold down the SPACE bar while dragging to pan left/right/up/down
Hold down SPACE + CTRL to zoom in and out
For best results with Surface Pro and Wacom Tablets, make sure to enable Tablet Mode under Mouse Input in Preferences.
Carrara has a built-in physics engine which is very capable of calculating dynamic animations. Here’s how to setup a basic scene with physics.
Physics are already setup in every new scene with a default gravity. Feel free to change the Simulation Accuracy and Geometric Fidelity different results before messing with each single object. You can find these properties under Scene – Physics:
All we have to do next is to make our objects participate in the engine and have Carrara calculate the physics. Select an object, then head over to Motion and change the drop down menu to Physics (it’s set to Keyframe by default).
Here you can change the starting behaviour of your object, but the defaults work well for a quick test. Repeat this setup for every object you’d like to participate.
To change the properties of an object (such as weight, bounciness, etc) head over to the Effects tab and look for a section called Physical Properties. There are some materials to choose from (such as Clay, Ice, Metal, etc) or you can create your own based on Density, Bounce and Friction.
Animate this thing
Once setup, decide how long you’d like the simulation to be and adjust your animation duration accordingly. The default is 4 seconds, but you may be interested in events that happen beyond that. Simply drag the little yellow triangle in the timeline to change the duration.
Now we need to ask Carrara to Simulate Physics by pressing that “bone dipped in sauce” icon on the far left side in the top bar, next to the greyed out hand icon. You need to do this every time you make a change to the scene or the objects that participate in the physics engine.
Either move your timeline scrubber to a desired frame, or render the animation out.