View Full Version : Tutorial: Creating a Lightsaber in Cinema.

20th Nov 2008, 17:16
Hey guys. I'm here to teach you something thats probably really simple. How to make a Lightsaber in Cinema 4D. Every tutorial I write (which is a very little number lol), I go by the belief that you shouldn't have to have prerequisite knowledge in the aspects used (if that makes sense, lol). So I'll try to cover everything used in the tutorial to the best of my knowledge (I've only started using Cinema this year).

In this tutorial we'll cover some basic aspects like:

Bezier Curves
Lathe Nurbs
Texturing without UV Mapping*

I say this because I've no knowledge in UV Mapping in Cinema.

Okay. Here we go.

Step 1. Setting Up

Okay, unless you're doing this off the top of your head (which if you are, good luck to you), you're probably wanting a reference picture. I recommend visiting this topic (http://www.scifi-meshes.com/forums/2d-gallery/42620-saga-lightsaber-hilts.html). I'm going to be using shepard137's Kit Fisto Hilt (http://img385.imageshack.us/img385/4563/kitfistozh9.png), mainly because it's a good and easy hilt to model without worrying about extra attachments.

Okay. Open up Cinema, and magically you'll be met with a blank modelling space. There is no cause to worry that there is no Lightsaber there. Thats the part that we have to do :p, but first, we'll set up our reference pictures.
Go into your Right view. This is achieved by pressing F3. Now, go into Configure (view port's Edit>Configure or pressing Shift+V), and click on the "Back" tab.


The optional parts are Size X, Size Y, Offset X, Offset Y, and Transparency. I set my size so it is big enough to see without grid lines interrupting too much. The offset is just to ensure that the center point of the hilt is at the Z axis. I set the transparency to 50 because the background of the ref. image is white, which makes the splines harder to see.


We're almost finished with Step One. Congratulations! Okay, now hit F2 to go into the top view. Do basically the same thing except making changes to the Offset and rotation to bring the center of the hilt to the Y axis. If you're using the same ref. pic. as me, then the changes are:

Offset X: 245
Offset Y: 0
Rotation: -90 deg.

Step 2. Bezier Curves

Still with me? Okay, let me go a little into Bezier Curves. These are the best curves in my opinion, with the ability to make perfect curves. The best thing about it is the flexibility, for instance, you can perfectly replicate things like Chess Pieces with them.

Alright, go into your Right view (F3). Go into your Draw Splines icon, this is achieved in two ways. Go to Objects>Create Spline>Bezier, or by clicking the icon and selecting Bezier.


If you've had no experience with the Bezier Spline, I encourage you to take a minute to mess around with it. Click anywhere in your viewport, then click a second point, but hold down the left mouse button and drag around to create a curve (as seen by the spline and the black handles (red in my case)).


Okay, now we can also offset the curve of the next point by holding Shift while dragging our mouse.


When we click the next point, it will have curved according to our last point.


To complete our curve, we simply connect it to the first point, or if you want open curves (like the lightsaber curve will inevitably be), just click anywhere outside the view port.

You can also Select individual points when your curve is finished by selecting the points with one of the Selection tools. These are found by clicking (and holding) this icon. http://img74.imageshack.us/img74/3528/sabtut07yj5.jpg From here, you can select and move each points individually, either using the move tool or by editing the Coordinates. This is very important later in the tutorial.

Okay, that should show you enough of the ropes with the bezier. Delete the spline in the Object tree and return to the end of the saber picture. I'm going to start at the knub at the bottom (far left) and work my way up. Remember to place points at the start and end of each curve to accurately capture the curve.


Remember, in the long run, the more curved the points are, the more polygons you'll end up with. So decide now whether you want this to be a high-poly render, or a low poly game model. I decided to go with the Hi-Poly render, so my final render turned out to be over 6000 poly's.

Okay, for the parts that require 90 degree changes, you can put anywhere for now, because in the next step, we'll go through and fix these points up. For example, this first 90 degree change, my point can be way off, but for ease of the situation, just place as close as possible on the Z axis to match the last point.


For parts like these. http://img74.imageshack.us/img74/3294/sabtut10fe9.jpg I recommend using 3 points, one at the top/center and the other two at the bottom like so:

http://img241.imageshack.us/img241/9073/sabtut11pg1.jpg (Remembering the curves = more polys rule.)

A note: you can make points without curves by just clicking the location of the next point without holding down and dragging your mouse... just in case you didnt get that by messing around with the bezier tool earlier.

A second note: when you come to these jolly little buttons http://img74.imageshack.us/img74/5644/sabtut12kk6.jpg. Ignore them, just create the spline at the next point. The reason for this is that they are part of the extra's covered later in the tutorial.

Okay, if you've been following closely, you should end up here.


This is the first of the two most time consuming parts of the Bezier Curve stage. Just put the points in their closest places according to the picture. We'll fix them up in the next stage.


Now continue forward, ignoring the two buttons, over two rings and over a helluva lot of spiky ring things. When you're finished making the splines for the outline, and are at the end of the lightsaber, make sure you do this before ending the spline creation.


Click anywhere outside the view port, this will stop the spline creation. We're not connecting this to the start point.

Thats it! You now have the basic outline to your saber. There's still a long way to go, so dont celebrate... too hard. :lol:

Step 3. Spline Point Alignment

Okay, still with me? Great. Next we need to align our points. To do this, re-click on the Spline in the object tree, and pick a selection tool http://img74.imageshack.us/img74/3528/sabtut07yj5.jpg. I prefer the Rectangle Selection Tool, but thats just me lol (to access, just click and hold on the Selection Icon). To align the points, we need to select one, copy the appropriate coordinate, select the next point and paste. For example, for our first point, the next point is supposed to be on the same point in the Y axis, so copy the Y coordinate and paste into the second Y coordinate area.


I hope you're following so far. The final look should be roughly this.


Step 3. The Model

Okay, looking at this boring old line is pretty impressive. But what'll make it impressiver (I make up words, too), is if we can wrap the line around the axis... like some sort of lathe...

"But Kyle, does such a tool exist?", you say.
"Yes!", I say.

Alrighty, we need need to select the Lathe NURBS tool. A lathe NURBS takes a bezier spline, and wraps it around a selected Axis. Hence why the first and last point must always be 0 on the Z axis.


So, we've selected the Lathe NURBS tool... but nothing has happened. This is because we need to drag our Spline INTO the Lathe NURBS object. Like so:


Now, we've done this but there is still a problem. It looks nothing like a Lightsaber hilt, if anything it looks like a good pothole coverer. This is because it defaults to wrapping around the Y Axis. To fix this, Rotate the spline 90 degree's so the top is facing upwards. Then select the Lathe object and rotate it back to its normal position. There's no easy way around it lol.

After we've done this, go to perspective view (F1), and prepare for magic!


Now, we'll go over something crucially unimportant, but it's great to keep up as a good work ethic. This is grouping. Double click the Lathe NURBS object in the object tree, this will let you rename it (or right click and select rename. Whatever tickles your fancy). Rename it to "Hilt" and press Enter/Return. Now hold Alt+G to put it into a group. Name this group from "NULL Object" to "Hilt".


Step 3. Adding Buttons and Belt Clip

This part is easy. Just do a bezier spline, Move the spline so it's top point is roughly at the Y axis, and drag it into a Lathe NURBS of it's own. Rename to "Button_01" and add it to a new Group. Name this group "Buttons" or "Bits_n_Things" or whatever will help you remember. Duplicate the "Button_01" object 3 times (renaming them as you go). This is achieved by clicking the "Button_01" Object, and dragging it down immediately below it while holding Ctrl. You'll know if you're doing this right if you see your cursor change into a mouse cursor with an arrow pointing to the right and a + symbol.


Go into your Top view (F2), and now move the buttons to their proper places on the Hilt.


The Dial things are basically two Cylinder primitives that have been resized using the orange handles. Drag into "Bits_n_Things" group, rename, duplicate, re-rename, reposition. Viola.

Belt clip is a spline paired with our good friend, Lathe NURBS. Rename to Belt_Clip, drag into "Bits_n_Things" group. Viola.

If misunderstanding hasn't hindered your progress, or an unruly mouse in my case. Then it should look like this.


Now. Onto texturing the suckaa.

Step 4. Texturing the Suckaa

Okay, in your Object Tree, select all of your objects and press Alt+G and rename the Group to "Work Files" or something. This is just a back up in case something goes wrong. Duplicate the group, and select all of your Objects again, and press the "Make Editable Object" Icon http://img74.imageshack.us/img74/1369/sabtut26yc8.jpg. Rename to "Editable Files".



Drag the "Belt_Clip" object outside the "Editable Files" group.
Then select the remaining objects in the group.
Right click and select "Connect".
This makes all selected items merge into one Object.Rename this object to "Hilt" and then Delete "Editable Files" group.


Alrighty. Now we make a new material, this is done by double clicking the empty area in the Materials box. The new material that shows up should be a grey sphere. Double click on the Sphere and you should end up in the colour section of the Material Editor. Bring the Colour down to about 23 R, 23 G, 23 B. This gives a nice black colour, but also has the ability to absorb light.


Go into the Specular section of the Material Editor and edit your stats to about mine.


Now, select your Belt_Clip object. Select all the points of the object. Now click your material and drag it onto the belt clip in the view port. Your Belt clip should go black. And you should notice a small icon of your material and a Orange triangle icon appear next to your object on the Object tree. Remember these.

View me in full size.

Now, select your Belt_Clip and Hilt object, connect it and delete the two previous objects. You should notice your Textures and selection (orange triangle) have moved across with it.

Now go into Right view (F3). Go to the Rectangle Selection tool, and in the attributes area, uncheck "Only Select Visible Elements".


Make multiple selections on all the ring like sections Making sure you select all of the ring. Then drag the Black Material onto one of the rings, effectively all the rings will be coloured black as a result. For this, you must be in Perspective view (F1), I have no idea why this is so.


Make a new material, and edit this one to be the red glowing switch.

The specular is left default.

Duplicate this material but make the colour green.

Select all your red buttons like we did with the black rings and drag the material into the orange selected area (in perspective). Do the same for the remaining Green switch.

This is not the final render.

We're soo close, all we need is a nice metallic texture. I've found one that looks really nice for a Lightsaber. Create a new material, and in the area that says Texture, click the White Triangle button, go to Effects>Lumas. Click the Lumas name to go to its attributes. Make the colours in ALL the tabs, White. In the Anistropy tab, click active, and change the projection to "Shrink Wrap". Turn on some reflection, but bring the brightness down to about 25%.

View me in full size. Leave Specular to default.

Drag this new material onto the lightsaber with nothing selected. But you'll notice that all your coloured area's are now silver. In your object tree, bring the new metal material mini icon (try saying that 20x quickly) in front of the other materials, this is done just by clicking and dragging it across to the left.

Now hit that render button, and watch the beauty.


MAN that was long... I hope that was a substantial enough first post lol. :p

Massive credit to shepard137 for posting those super awesome 2D lightsaber renders.