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How to use the Tracer Object in Cinema 4D 184 Comments

In this tutorial, I show you how to use the Tracer Object in Cinema 4D. The Tracer Object allows you to trace your animation or to connect clones together. I show you how to set up the Tracer Object with a Sweep Nurbs object to make dynamic lines in your composition.

Final Renders

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  1. Shawn B

    hah Nick! I see the Patricks Gun range poster you shot at while in Savannah, GA. I used to run the screen printing shop at that place while I went to school there.


  2. WHAT! I JUST figured this out the other day on Had I know you had this in the works I would have just sat back and waited for you to put this out. hahaha

  3. I haven’t seen this much possibilities of creativity in any kind of software and there is no friendlier and more relaxed community like the C4D community with the Gorilla on top. 🙂 Thank you for the time you put in and can’t wait for the next one 🙂

  4. pedro soto

    great nick….really thank for your work and the time you spend making this tutorials …you help a lot of people….keep on the good work…with the mistic youput in every new tut, I reallize something about you…you are the gorilla!

  5. GSG Tuts are becoming better and better. Thank you Nick! Awesome technique!

  6. Erick

    I think I’ve found my wall art for my new office! I see a poster series in here somewhere. Very nice abstract look.

  7. Hey Nick! you rock, i see these technics on “AOL phase 2” by UE. Nice with CS tools its a good trick. i will tryed with a rigid body and a little bit of turbulence or with an *.fbx

  8. Craig

    Thanks Nick. Another great tutorial !

    I noticed the speed of your instruction workflow has increased significantly which, although it wasn’t an issue before, is very much to my own speedy style. Lots of info in a short time.

    Thank you again.


  9. Vince

    Thanks Nick. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this for some time. Great tutorials and all-around site.

  10. Alan Adamik

    Thanks again Nick !

    Trying to pull some cool shit from that with MoSplines, it can lead to something awesome.

  11. iacopo

    oh, this is so cool!
    I’m having a lot of fun with the tracer now but I don’t know how to make it interact with rigid bodies… any suggestion?

    • iacopo

      stupid stupid me, I put the wrong tags, of course it works with the proper rigid body tag 🙂

  12. Jonny

    Hey….here’s a given scenario.

    scene contains spheres being cloned across an Object (not linear, array, etc). And that object happens to be a platonic one. So when cloned the clones appear at each vertices of the platonic object, which is what we want. Now the problem arises when we do the whole tracing thing. It comes out nicely, but we want to have all the traced lines connect to each individual sphere so that the the final render looks Like a platonic object but only lines and no actual volume…..follow me? if not i can try to clarify further….

    if any one knows any other way of turning an objects segments(edges) into linear splines please let me know! thanks

  13. Mike Mott

    Hey Nick,

    Would really appreciate a brief rundown on all the renderers available for C4d especially
    OCTANE ARION and any other GPU/hybrid software. This OCTANE looks sick!!!!

    • Hi, Mike. I have never played with any of those. I still haven’t mastered AR3 yet and have no need to try any others quite yet. Have you tried Octane? What do you think?

    • Skandar

      Hey Nick and Mike!

      this one’s a very nice render engine:

      perhaps you already know it, but i can just recommend it. i use it a lot, gives great lightning at a very nice speed!

      plus it’s made in Austria 😉

      Greets from here

  14. Hey Nick,

    your tutorials are always very inspiring.
    I digged a little into expresso and found it pretty easy to make the sound effector control almost every aspect of anything you want. So I made a pulsing ball of connected spheres reacting to a soundfile. Unfortunatly, rendering out would take around 10 days as I use almost anything that makes rendertimes skyrocket.
    Nonetheless I rendered out a still to contribute to your awesomness.


    • That shouldn’t be taking so long, remember to add all your glows and blurs etc in after effects. You seen the discussion over at about the_monkey’s NAB presentation? Lots of good stuff about xpresso based sound driven stuff

    • Very cool render. One of the best things you can learn is how to optimize your scene for rendering. Turn each render hogging setting on and off to isolate what is taking so long. Then turn down the settings until you start to see a noticeable difference.

      Great stuff. Keep it coming!

  15. Awesome and free tutorial Nick!

    What really caught my eye was the freakin formula effector. Could make some really crazy organic maybe monster things.

    Reminds me of some of Umeric’s snazzy monster creature things:

  16. amr mohsen

    you are great man , i love the videos really i wish you the best 🙂

  17. mark F

    Hey Nick – you could have skipped the Formula effector and used the options in the Random effector instead- in the Mode pull down (instead of the default Random) choose Turbulence or Gaussian. These setting cause the Random Effector to self animate.

    Just a thought. thanx as always.

  18. You always make me happy young man…
    I love the colour scheme on the tests… you even made the strange people object look hip and/or cool
    thanks tiger

  19. Belgar

    Very good tutorial. There is a way to do this in after effects?

    • It wouldn’t be as easy, but you can use some scripting or expressions to connect objects. Maybe try using the beam effect attached to objects.

  20. I am getting the results i want in the preview window but when i render to picture viewer, the tails have shrunk and are short, anybody know what causes this?

    • Christian Schmid

      i have exactly the same proglem with rendering. is there a workarround?

    • I did some research online,.. seems that there is a buggy problem with the version I have which is V11.0 I tried to update the software but this did not fix the problem. I guess I cant use the tracer object now.

    • misra

      null for cam?
      put a cool shape for n gon with the sweep nurbs?
      animated the sweep nurbs growth?
      shader for the color change?
      kewl textures. then ae for finishs?

    • David Godwin

      thanks. it’s just a cam with a slow push in and the shape thing is in a null with the rotation on it. sweep nurb with a grow and i used the star spline for the trace. the color is a gradient on the color channel and duplicated on the luma channel. everything was exported with and object buffer for more control in ae.

  21. Alex Wright

    Nick, did you get the idea for this tutorial from Beeple’s files? He had something exactly the same.

    • I got the idea actually from trying to build abstract scratches like in the example above. Beeple’s file is a great way to get it started though.

  22. Dear Nick, thanks for the great tut.
    I wanted to go further and create sort of thought connection of an object to a Tracer trails: for instance, a roll of tp (an object) and a trailing piece of rolled off tape.
    This would require a more accurate tracking of two points, not just the object center.
    How can it be arranged to make the two resulting trails from each clone act like two rails for a single Sweep NURBS?

    • Justin

      haha i just watched that today and was so impressed. I spent all day wondering how to make something like it, then i check out greyscale tonight and boom, there it is


    • No tracer objects were used in the Onesize “quants” video. Only atom arrays and hair were used.

  23. Hey just thought i’d throw in a little tip about the cstools vibrate null i worked with recently. If you want to move the null itself rather than your object to get it to vibrate around a certain point, i found if you drop the vibrate null in a null object and then move that instead and it works. Then drop your object in the vibrate null et voila! Had myself frustrated for a while because i couldn’t seem to move the vibrate null itself.

    Good tutorial nick and v.nice renders!


  24. pokeit

    Hey Nick,

    Great tutorial as always- I’m trying the tracer with modynamics and getting a frustrating result…

    the tracers do what they are supposed to in the preview window (tracers follow the bouncing balls) but when I render to the picture viewer the tracers are suddenly straight and all go to some focal point above (though they still animate with the ball)…


    Any help or ideas greatly appreciated!

    • pokeit

      Ok… so you have to make the sweep nurbs editable for it to render correctly- only then you can’t have the animation it only works with a single frame (wherever you made the sweep nurbs editable) I’m a noob- anybody see an easy way round this?


  25. Hey, kind of random, but you were in my email this morning! I opened it up, and there was the Gorilla in a nice yellow shirt with a camera on it… very fitting. Might have to get one myself 😉

    As always, keep up the great work, we all appreciate it!!!

    • Agent Orange

      Carl nice work. Can you post a screen shots of your object manger? or better yet the c4d file 😛 I like how you randomize the types

    • I forgot to say it’s a gorilla, I mean, one of us :=)

  26. Hi Nick, hi folks,

    here is what i came up with:

    I simply traced a particle
    system with some
    effectors emitting lights.
    Imagine what you could do using
    Thinking Particles. 😉

    Some final touches in AE… et voila.

    The lensflare was created using my own
    free lensflare project “Free Flare v1.2”.
    You can download it at my site

    Feedback appreciated. 🙂

    Cya, Pi

  27. how did you achieve the second screen shot from the top
    i can’t get mine to match that spherical shape and density

  28. Joe Ball

    Cool tutorial…I feel like this function would be good for mapping out info-graphics (gonna keep it in mind)

    This is what I came up with. I’m happier with the edit than the actual C4d material, but whatever.

  29. Would be possible to link a null to a cloner element. May be an ID for eaxh element—?

  30. Nick, man. Thanks for encouraging us peasants to play. You make some of the best, down-to-earth C4D tuts around.

  31. I was wondering if anyone can think of a similar way to apply a ‘tracer object’ like effect but totally within After Effects? or would it be more of a script based work around?

    I’d like to have two shapes move independently of one another yet have a connection (line) traced between them, like in the tutorial above.

    Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    (great tutorial btw, simple and easy to follow with a satisfying result)

  32. Tyler

    Hey there everyone. I’m just getting into 3D an finding these tutorials amazing. I am, however, having a little bit of trouble getting past a certain point in this tutorial. It’s when I try and do the sweep NURBS on the splines that is created on the tracer object. I’m not getting the same result at all. As you can see from these following images:

    I’ve re done the tutorial a few times now just to make sure that i’m doing things properly yet I get this result every time. Any ideas why? Thanks for the help.

    • Looks like you have your tracer and circle spline in the wrong order. The circle should go first. Hope that does it.

    • Tyler

      Gawww… can’t believe i hadn’t noticed that… especially after starting the tutorial over from scratch on the 3 occasions. Really appreciate the help!

  33. spankie

    Can anybody help me?

    I have the tracer connected to the Fracture Object. I tried to make the trick with NURBS and a little cirlcle as you did, but unfortunately in the moment of connecting the whole stuff to NURBS… I kinda loose my MoDynamics. The elements I have in Fracture Object don’t fly anymore (THEY SHOULD!). How can I make it look alright?: @ Thanks for any help.

  34. Goran

    Hey GSG i have a question about this tut “the tracer object”
    Can i at the end of vibrate thing turn this shape into the letter? So at the end some copyline is made from this shapes.
    TNX a lot and once again great tuts….

  35. Cheebachops

    For creating trails on many objects i use the hair tag.This improves render speeds hugely (no geom.)and offers lot’s of animation options on the tag for shape(thickness spline)etc.
    You can even add a hair object for even stranger trails.

  36. Is this sorta like what linkin park does in their new video. It resembles constellation

  37. jablalex

    hey there,

    i cannot get the tracer to work with dynamic objects. is this a bug or does this need a special setting??


    • Chris

      I would like to know the answer to this as well, for example particles in a tube bouncing around, the tracer doesn’t respond to the bounce and continues to go in the initial direction and continue going in that direction.

  38. Wesley


    First, thanks for this tutorial !

    Next, i need to do the same thing but with differents words also connected by tracer.

    If you have an idea, thx to reply.

  39. Tristan

    Hi Nick. Great tut. I’m doing my own thing with hypernurbs on tracer and I can’t get the nurbs to render correctly. On screen render is fine but render to picture viewer renders them as straight lines when they’re actually curved. Anybody have any ideas?

  40. Takasaurus Rex

    There seems to be a Priorities issue with the Connect Objects or Connect Elements option. The splines don’t stay connected to the objects or follow exactly. I’ve been trying to solve but can’t find a solution. Anyone else notice this or have a solution?


  41. I’m trying this without the cloner object as I need them placed in specific positions, but the spline seems to wrap around the ball and not pin point the centre which looks a little sketchy, anyone have any ideas?


  42. First time I’ve ever used C4D, and I was able to complete this without any issues. You are awesome! Thanks so much for this site!

  43. hi nick
    i can see the tracer object in viewport, but when i render, i only see my spheres, without the tracers… please help


  44. Randle

    Everybody who has Cinema 4d bug with Mograph tracer that shows black screen in picture viewer: try to render the image on local disk and it should appear correctly.

  45. Hi Nick, first thanks for the tut, very nice as always.
    Is it possible to change the clonned objects anchor point? Actually I want to change the way the trace meets the object.

  46. Hey Nick.
    I’m using tracer object in my project + GI and AO.
    The major problem is…render time. Why the hell it takes so much time?
    Few objects on a scene – even with low GI settings (very low) it can take forever.
    One frame in a “hot” moment took me over 4 hours to render.
    And yes it is an animation.
    Any suggestions?


  47. Hello Nick!
    Hope your reading this and answering!!! God I hope!
    I can see the tracer object in viewport, but when I render, I only see my spheres, without the tracers???

  48. Yuriko

    Hey Nick,
    I’m working on a final for one of my classes, and I’m trying to create an Icosahedron using this method. I’ve played quite a bit with the settings but I am not getting the desired result.
    I want to make the “shell” of the icosahedron with spheres on its points and use the tracers to connect them but only to create a “shell”, so that it looks like an atom ray.
    Now, as you may suspect, the tracer connects the spheres seemingly randomly, and I can’t find a way for it to just look like the atom ray version of the icosahedron.

    Do you know of another way I can do this, maybe manually select where the tracer connects?

    I want to animate it, and I know I can using the atom ray but I’m trying to use new methods as I’ve just started c4d (4 weeks ago, but I am rather strong in Maya). Plus, this way seems inefficient.

    Please please please help.

  49. Marc Foster

    Quality! was searching for ages to find out how to add geometry to traced particles. This works.

    Great stuff and Thanks

  50. I have a complex animation, and/if/when c4d crashes i have to render from the beggining or else the tracers reset, is there a way to pick up the render from where it left off with the tracers in place?

  51. Joe Tinsley

    Hi Nick

    Having some trouble getting this to work in r13?

    Whenever i add the tracer and circle spline into the sweep nurbs, i just get a big horrible mess, and the circle is swept…

    Any ideas?



    • James

      Hi there,

      I was having this exact same problem on R14 and think i solved it and thought i’d post here for anyone else that runs into it.

      It just seems to be a bug that happens if you put the circle into the sweep nurbs before the tracer.

      Putting the tracer in first solved it for me.



  52. Hey Nick,
    awesome tutorial!!
    But here is a question. Is there a way to change the anchor point for the tracer?? I want to trace some letters but I want the trace “line” to begin from the bottom of the screen while the letters are at the top!!
    Thanks in advance,

  53. You break the mystery of tracer object for me. Thanks Nick

  54. hida0

    thank you!!
    i have one questionwhen rendering, how can i effect??

  55. vijual

    can i bake tracer object ? i want to put it in cloner object source so that i can clone them , but it seems not work

  56. Alfred Sadler

    ok so i love all of these tutorials and have a huge interest in the power of cinema 4d but i had no idea who else to ask

    this video

    i have spent days trying to work out how its done and i think Nick you are the only guy who can answer my question

  57. Hi,
    I have a problem with Tracer, i want create light painting with, everything works but when the null rotate (tangential) i see all the line rotate with…
    I want, the begin stay fix versus the end of the line.
    Do you know the tricks ?

    • I reply myself ^^
      i saw on your tuto :Tracer Swarm Effect Tutorial
      Turn OFF Banking in Sweep.

  58. Nova Asser

    This was a very nice tutorial, but how can i like loop it? because the animation is sort of random…

  59. Hi,

    Thanks for your tutorials!

    Where can I get CS tools for this one?


  60. Subver

    Very handy tutorials – thanks! Quick question – is it possible to have ALL the cloner objects attach to ALL the other cloner objects with tracer? So it’s not just two lines attached to each cloned object, it would be more like a web.

  61. hey can any one share a link where i can get cs tools for r17?


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Comment Rules

This is a friendly community. Please treat everyone with respect. We don't all have to agree, but we do have to be nice. Criticism is fine, but rude comments and name calling will be deleted. Use your real name and don't be spammy. Thanks for adding to the conversation.