Create your own stunning ring-shaped space colony in Cinema 4D with this epic, 16-hour tutorial by award-winning digital artist Adam Benton.
This 11-part tutorial gives you a rare insight into creating stunning sci-fi images. Adam walks you through the project from start to finish, covering modelling, sculpting, materials, lighting, rendering and more.
Cinema 4D is 3D animation software that is used for all kinds of artwork. It is regarded as one of the easiest to use professional 3D applications that can handle any 3D task.
Adam has been fascinated by the idea of space colonies since childhood, when he would spend hours studying NASA's concept images. At the age of 17, he made his first attempt to visualise a space colony, using acrylic paint.
Adam's second attempt came about a decade later, using the 3D software Bryce 3D. Unfortunately, Adam was not happy with the results. He later began to use Cinema 4D and started experimenting again, resulting in the stunning cylindrical-shaped space colony image below.
Earlier this year, we asked Adam if he'd be interested in doing a Cinema 4D tutorial for the MAXON UK YouTube Channel, which is how Adam's latest colony image came into being - this time based on a ring-shape.
In the 11 parts below, Adam takes you boldly where no Cinema 4D tutorial has gone before. We hope you'll have great fun following along and will feel inspired to create more epic renders! Keep an eye out for Part 7 in particular, where Adam shares some great techniques for texturing any type of terrain in Cinema 4D.
Part 1: Basic Ring
In Part 1, you'll create a portion of the ring structure, then replicate it to form the rest of the ring.
To do this, first you'll create a cross-section profile using the Pen and Spline Arc tools, then you'll place this inside a Sweep object to create a 3D portion of the ring. You'll then place this inside a Cloner object to replicate it multiple times to form the rest of the ring.
Thanks to the Cloner, any changes you make to the ring portion will be applied to the rest of the ring automatically, saving lots of time!
Part 2: Doors & Windows
In Part 2, there's a bit of preparation work to do before adding doors and windows to the accommodation. It will be easier to work with the ring structure if it's split up into different parts. You'll use the polygon selection tools and the Split command to separate the ring structure into three different objects: Habitat Section, Glass, and Hub Section.
It's then onto the doors and windows, which you'll create using the Loop/Path Cut, Extrude and Extrude Inner tools. You'll learn how to change the number of cuts and how to place them accurately.
You'll create Polygon Selection tags for certain parts, such as the windows. Thanks to these tags, you can then quickly reselect the polygons later on should you need to edit them, and you can apply materials to the selected parts only.
Part 3: Frame & Balconies
In Part 3, you'll create a framework to support the ring structure, railings to keep the colonists safe, and lawn areas and balconies.
To create the railings, you'll first select edges of the Habitat Section where the railing should go, then generate a spline from these edges using Edge to Spline. You'll use this spline with a Sweep object and Rectangle to create the railing.
To create the structs of the framework, this time, you'll use two Sweeps. To create the main splines, you'll edit a cylinder and convert some of its edges to splines.
For the balconies, you'll select some of the polygons for the accommodation, move them outwards, then round some of the edges using Bevel.
Part 4: Staying Motivated
In Part 4, you'll focus on materials, lights and render settings, to get a better feel for how the project is shaping up. Some artists do these steps closer to the end of the project, but for big projects like this, Adam finds it very motivating to get a taste of the final result.
For materials, you'll add colour bands to the accommodation that will be used to signpost the various blocks. You'll create a white material for the walls, using Mod noise to give an impression of panels, and Wavy Turbulence noise to give the walls a weathered appearance. You'll make the windows look more realistic by layering up a few Noise shaders to give the impression of interior lighting and details inside the rooms.
For the main glass structure, you'll add a hexagonal pattern using the Tiles shader.
It's then onto lighting. You'll add an Infinite light to simulate the Sun, and a blue Omni light to simulate bounced light from the nearby (out of shot) planet Earth. You'll render out some test shots using Physical Render and Global Illumination.
Adam then shares a tip on how to simulate atmospheric perspective inside difficult shapes. The usual way to simulate this effect is with Environment Fog, but that won't work here as the fog needs to be inside the ring shape only. Objects seen in the distance in the ring colony will pick up a blue tint from the atmosphere, adding realism and a sense of depth.
Part 5: Details, Details
In Part 5, you'll add more details to the space colony's main structure, in particular, the framework and spine. You'll also add a transport section. You'll make the rods in the framework much more detailed, using tools like Loop/Path Cut and Extrude.
You'll also refine some of the materials used in the scene, add water vents to the ceiling, and prepare the scene for adding the landscape in Part 6.
Part 6: Landscape
In Part 6, you'll focus on creating the landscape. You'll start with a Plane object, fit it to the ring, then use the sculpting tools in Cinema 4D to create a complex terrain.
You'll create hills and a river using tools such as Inflate, Smooth and Pull. To model rocky terrain on the hills, you'll use the Pull tool with a stone texture.
Part 7: Landscape Textures
Part 7 focuses on techniques to texture landscapes in Cinema 4D that you can easily apply to other projects, such as arch viz shots. You'll create realistic rock faces, grass, sand and water.
To control where textures appear, you'll use shaders in the alpha channel. For example, to restrict the rock face texture to the steep sides of the hills, you'll use the Falloff shader in the alpha channel of the rock material.
Adam also shares some great tips, such as how to make seamless textures work well over large areas, by using Noise shaders and the Layer shader in the Diffusion channel to help break up the colour and have more variation in the texture.
In this part, Adam also begins using the Magic Preview plugin to speed up test renders.
Part 8: Baking Textures and Adding Trees
In Part 8, first you'll bake the textures for the terrain, then you'll add trees to the terrain.
Adam doesn't often find the need to bake textures, but in this case, because the terrain is being bent to fit the ring structure, it affects the coordinates used by the shaders, so baking is ideal here.
Next, you'll use the Cloner object to clone trees over the terrain. To follow along with this part, you'll need tree models. You can get these either from your own collection, or fetch some from Cinema 4D's Content Browser - the trees available will depend on which version of Cinema 4D you are using. A quick way to find trees is to go to the Content Browser and type "tree" into the Search bar (to show the Search bar, click the Magnifying Glass icon).
To control where the trees appear, you'll restrict the cloning area to selected polygons of the terrain. You'll use Random Effectors to vary the size and angle of the cloned trees, to prevent an obvious repeating pattern.
Part 9: Lush Lawns
In Part 9, the next major thing to do is to add texture to the grass lawns outside the apartments. You'll also add some blossoming trees and ornamental plants to the lawns. Again, you'll be using Cinema 4D's Cloner to make it easy to replicate and vary the plants.
You'll also resolve a few issues with the scene: the fog is not in the right place, the terrain needs to be extended, and the UVs for the main walls need to be redone.
Part 10: Holiday Resort
In Part 10, you'll focus on giving the space colony a holiday resort feel. You'll add swimming pools, and you'll create bridges to connect the two accommodation sides together. To create the bridges, you'll use a Sweep object, an Arc spline and a U-shaped Profile spline.
You'll also refine a few other areas: you'll make the vents look more interesting, you'll give a look of panels to the ring's support arms to break up the highlights, and you'll add wooden decking to the balconies.
Part 11: Finishing Touches
In Part 11, you'll complete the space colony, mainly adding people to bring the colony to life and give a sense of scale. There'll be people chilling out by the pool, lazing on the beaches, taking a boat trip, and what exotic resort would be complete without someone selling timeshares?
To add the people, Adam dives into Cinema 4D's Content Browser, and also makes use of some great models available from renderpeople.com.
Congratulations on making it to the end of this tutorial! We hope you've had fun and feel inspired to create more epic renders! Please comment below and let Adam know how you got on.
Check out Adam's beautiful space colony renders.