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Enhanced Character Animation with Mixamo in Cinema 4D R21

By EJ Hassenfratz and Ryan Plummer
Cinema 4D

New Mixamo Character Rig in C4D R21 Enables Easy Applying, Adjusting and Mixing of Mocap Data

Mixamo allows you to rapidly create, rig and animate unique characters for your design projects — and with the addition of the Mixamo Control Rig to Release 21 of Cinema 4D there's now a powerful, streamlined process for leveraging Mixamo's animated characters in your C4D motion designs.
Previously, we demonstrated how to rig and apply motion capture data and extra hand-keyframed animation to your 3D character with Mixamo in Cinema 4D; in this tutorial from our 3D Creative Director and Cinema 4D Basecamp instructor EJ Hassenfratz, we break down the new and improved way to use Mixamo characters and animations in the latest version of C4D.

The Mixamo Control Rig Tutorial Video

The Mixamo Control Rig Tutorial Project Files

To follow along, download the project files used in EJ's tutorial video.

Download the Free Mixamo Cinema 4D Project File

Download Goodies

Nine Steps to Mastering the Mixamo Control Rig in Cinema 4D R21

With Adobe Mixamo, you can:
  • Select from a vast collection of pre-rigged 3D characters or use Adobe Fuse or Cinema 4D to custom build your own character (read more on creating characters here)
  • Automatically rig your 3D character, allowing Mixamo to calculate skinning weights and adjust bones on your behalf
  • Select from thousands of customizable motion-tracked animations, using Mixamo's editing interface to fine tune the animation to your specs
Then, you can import your Mixamo character into Cinema 4D for use in your motion design project.
Mixamo Splash Screen.png
Below, we walk you through the nine steps you'll take when using Mixamo's characters and animations.

1. Choose Your Character

At the top of the Mixamo website are two tabs: Characters; and Animations. To select your character, click the Characters tab and then pick from the collection of zombies, robots, goblins, medieval knights and others.
Character Selection in Mixamo.png

2. Choose Your Character Animation

To choose a starting animation for your selected character, click the Animations tab. Then, scroll through the more than 50 pages of pre-set character animations, and pick the one that best fits the role of your character in your motion design. Do you want them to fall over? Swing a sword? Drunk stumble? Mixamo's got it.
Mixamo character animation example grid.gif

This is a helpful resource for developing quick mockups to preview for your clients what they can expect to see in your scene.

3. Download Your Character

Once you've decided on your character and animation, you'll want to import them into Cinema 4D. To do this, you'll need the file.
Click the Download button at the top right of the Mixamo screen, and you should see the following dialog box popup:
Mixamo Download Prompt Example FBX.png
For the purposes of this tutorial, at least, there's no need to adjust the default settings. Click the orange button to download your .fbx file.

4. Import Your .Fbx File in Cinema 4D

To start working with your Mixamo character in Cinema 4D, launch the C4D app. Then, click to view the File menu, click Open, and navigate through your file browser to find and select your recently downloaded .fbx character file.
The following Import Settings prompt will pop up:
FBX Import options cinema 4D.png
Leave the settings as they are, and click OK.
The Mixamo model should now appear in your Cinema 4D scene and, if you press Play, your character should act out your chosen animation.

5. Set Up the Mixamo Control Rig in C4D

In earlier versions of Cinema 4D, the process of animating imported characters was laborious, to say the least. To bend a single joint, you had to navigate through your entire layer hierarchy.
Not anymore. In Release 21, there are three steps to prepping your C4D workflow:
A. Fix the Take Layer B. Reset the Character Rig Pose C. Disable the Animation Track
When importing a Mixamo rig, it's uploaded as a Take Layer; to start editing, using keyframes, this needs to be changed.
To do so, click the Take tab on the right side of your user interface. Find and select only the layer, then open the File tab and click Current Take to New Document. This will open a new project file.
How to Fix the Take Layer Problem with Mixamo character cinema 4D.gif
The next step in preparing your rig for use is changing the pose.
Select both of your weight tags in the Objects panel and then click the Reset Bind Pose button. This will produce the T pose.
How to reset a character to the t pose - reset bind pose cinema 4d.gif
The third and final step is disabling (not deleting) the keyframes used to animate your downloaded Mixamo character.
To disable an animation in Cinema 4D, open the Window tab and click Timeline (Dope Sheet).
How to disable the animation in Cinema 4D-Optimized.gif
In the Timeline window, find your model's layer and click the yellow film strip. This will disable the animation.

6. Apply Mixamo Controls in Cinema 4D

To start animating your Mixamo character in Cinema 4D, you'll first need to apply the Mixamo Control Rig.
Navigate to the Character tab at the top of the program window, and select Character. Then, to access the controls, select the Character object in the Objects panel at the top right, and select the Object tag in the Attributes tab at the bottom.
How to add a mixamo control rig in cinema 4D-optimized.gif

7. Add Mixamo Leg and Arm Controllers

Next, use the Mixamo Control Rig template to add the necessary components for animating.
In the Attributes tab, select the Object tab. Then, in the Object Properties tab, select the Build tab.
Hold CMD/CTRL + SHIFT to add legs and then, still in the Build tab, click CMD/CNTRL to create arms and hands.

8. Align Your Character Controls

When a Mixamo Control Rig is imported into Cinema 4D, the bone structure is straight, so C4D doesn't know which way the rig should bend.
To set your joints, start — with your character still selected — by clicking the Adjust tab within the Object tab. Your controllers should snap to your joints, automatically retargeting the Mixamo Control Rig component controls to the Mixamo joint rig.
Next, click the Binding tab next to the Adjust tab, and delete the object in this tab.
Then, to set your joints, independently of the rest of the rig, hold down the 7 key and move your joints in the direction you want them to bend.
Bending an individual joint in cinema 4D.gif

9. Retarget the Mixamo Controls to the Mixamo Rig

The last step to setting the Mixamo Control Rig to control your rig in Cinema 4D is to connect the Character object to the Mixamo joint rig.
To do so, click the Character object and then select the Root object. With that object selected, navigate to the Attributes window, then the Control tab, and click Retarget All. This establishes the relationship between the Control Rig and the joints — but not the character geometry, since the weight tags on the joints are not yet properly referenced.
To transfer the weights of the joints to the Mixamo Control Rig, select the Root object and then click the Controls tab. Then, drag and drop Character Mesh into the Weight Tags field and click Transfer Weights to apply the changes.
Now we have the Mixamo Control Rig controlling and deforming the rig!

Become a Cinema 4D Expert

Adding 3D to your toolkit is one of the best ways to up your value and expand your capabilities as a motion designer.
With the new pricing options and enhanced features of Cinema 4D, there's never been a better time to master the world's leading 3D animation software — and there's no better way to learn than with School of Motion (our approval rating is higher than 99%!).

Cinema 4D Basecamp

Taught by our very own EJ Hassenfratz, who created today's tutorial, Cinema 4D Basecamp is designed for artists with little to no experience in the software; in mere weeks, you'll know your way around.
Plus, when you sign up for a session of Cinema 4D Basecamp, Maxon will provide you with a short-term license of Cinema 4D for use in this course!