Cinema 4D Marble Machine (Proof of Concept)

September 22, 2009 - By 

Not the prettiest thing in the world, but it works! I’ve always been obsessed with marble machines, mousetrap machines and rube goldberg devices. Now with Mograph 2 Physics, I figured I could finally build one. The only animated part is the screw lift. Now that I know it’s possible, I’m going to try to build a more complicated one.

  • This Mousetrap concept would make a great idea for a 5 second project

  • Neat! Hopefully we’ll get to see the finished product.

  • Man! I gotta get an upgrade!! Great job, Nick!!!

  • Sweet! What kind of physics / expresso type stuff did you have to apply to the corkscrew to get the marbles to travel up it? Did you create the corkscrew with a NURBs object?

  • very cool. i think i’m a victim of the same obsession.

  • Damn sweet! Alright, time to upgrade.

  • How long did that take to render out?

  • Dude! Looks so awesome, can’t wait till I get my mitts on Mograph 2.0! On another note I’m STILL having problems with this sites RSS feed! I use Safari and I bookmark the RSS page but although it’s updated when I get it it doesn’t update in my browser. Does anyone else have this problem? All my other RSS’s work fine.


    • Don’t know why you bookmark the rss site. try using like googles igoogle as an startsite. but even that is a bit strange with GRG. Sorry for not coming with a final solution

      • Cheers, yeah I think I’m going to try a reader of some sort, I think it’s not updating because the GSG RSS is designed for them or something.

        Thanks again,


  • Hy Gorilla,
    I’m here today to of course, congrats you for all work posted here, it’s really cool all teh stuff on the blog.
    Second, i want to ask you for a tutorial showing more about the mograph sound effector, because all tuts i’ve found are kind of messy and missing some steps, they are not so good and well explained as yours.
    So if you have some interest, it would be nice!


  • need…. 11.5 ……

  • Nice work Nick – now the real “rube goldberg” question is: can you create a perpetual motion machine by lining up balls throughout the device and setting up a water wheel mechanism to drive the screw lift, so that the balls falling through the machine powered the lifting which caused more balls to fall through the machine etc. etc. etc…

  • Brilliant!

    Not related to this but if I could request another tutorial? Multipass Render Layers for AE. Would love to know how to separate the reflections,shadows and even specific objects to have more control in AE. If someone could perhaps recommend existing tutorials out there it will be great too, I just can’t seem to find any. thanks!

  • Go Gorilla, go!

  • cool stuff πŸ˜‰

  • This looks fun! It’s like playing a game, but you can say to your boss or wife that you are actually working πŸ˜€

    Next time you could use different colors for the balls because the “machine” are shuffling them.

  • Very cool.

    What are the render times on something like this? I know C4D 11 and 11.5 have drastically improved render times so, how long from set-up to output on this? Did I miss that in your post?

  • haha i used to love those as a kid

  • I bet you could make a really nice icecubes falling into a glass animation with that.

  • Nice work, Nick. I just built a loop-dee-loop and it worked out pretty nice. I’d post but I’ve only got the demo and I haven’t activated it yet.

    I had to give the balls an intial force of -5000 on the Y axis, otherwise it was almost done with a single click!

  • Nick,
    Was this possible in 11? Or is it just that much simpler to accomplish now?

    Also, in the glowing marbles you posted last week you kept making reference to GI? What is GI?

    Lou …

    • Hi, Lou. The new physics engine in 11.5 and Mograph 2 makes this stuff WAY easier.

      GI refers to “Global Illumination.” That’s what allows the luminance spheres to actually light the scene.

    • GI bounces the light around the scene. Essentially simulating real lighting. You turn on a lamp in your living room and it bounces light around into other adjacent rooms in your house because the light bounces and reflects off walls and other surfaces to illuminate areas that aren’t even in line of sight of the lamp.

      Just in case anyone else was wanting to know more about GI that is just reading this.

  • Hey Nick, very nice.
    You could have used CS_MoveNull for the screw if you wanted to keep the whole thing keyframeless (is that a word?)

  • love it! πŸ™‚
    Actually, very often this kind of physics look like they work into water, don’t you think? I think you should speed up everything and give it a bit more gravity so it’d look more real! πŸ˜‰
    good luck with the bigger one!

    • Generally the problem is not gravity, its a question of not working to scale. 1cm balls view from a metre away react quite differently to 100m balls viewed from 3k away, although the scene may look the same. Not saying thats the case here but its a mistake many make, then they try and rectify by changing gravity and other settings.

    • mine is scaled down, the marbles are just 11 millimeter and are still moving way to slow… I am trying to figure this out, but no luck so far..

    • try reducing rotational mass of the balls and playing with the density settings of the balls and whatever they come in contact with, once they are to scale and their mass is correct, changing rotational mass and density is a great way to adjust the overall speed

  • Very cool work. I love that its a continuous loop; its a very nice touch.

    A Rube Goldberg machine was my first project done in maya…so I know the infatuation you feel.
    You can check it out if you’d like…
    …but like I said, first project, so the rendering and video export is a bit rough.

    I see a lot of people in the motion graphics field using C4d…whats the draw over something like 3ds or maya?

  • hey !! it’s really awesome
    fine light fine texture
    simply but really cool !!

    p e r f e c t ! ! !

  • Great example.
    So Mograph 2 Dynamics has physics properties like gravity and collision. Must finally get Mograph. Would be a great tutorial. How does it compare with ‘Silver Bullet’?

  • I don’t know how to make the spheres roll. They just move like balloons over the floor.

  • Hej Nick,
    if you like marbel machines check out the danish artist Jeppe Hein and his work “the curve”(
    he is exhibiting in Γ₯rhus/denmark right now(

  • hi~

    do you know how can i export .mov file with
    alpha channel in cinema 4d export setting ?

    because i want to edit in After effect but
    i failed ~

    i’m so uppset

  • Hey Nick,

    I’m a great fan of your work, to say the least, and I’ve been trying to recreate this great machine you’ve built. But after hours and hours of trying I’m kind of stuck. Could you maybe consider publishing your scene file? I would really appreciate it! That lift system is so brilliant, but I can’t seem to get it to work.

    I hope you’ll consider πŸ™‚

  • Could you build a more complex one?

  • I rally need to know how you made that screw thing rotate constantly! D:

  • Well I finished my version, it was tough to figure it all out but very satisfying.

    • nice stuff. I know there’s a way to make an object move or rotate in a direction/speed/whatever constantly, infinitely. but I don’t know how, I just know Nick most probably used it.


    is what i was testing. The marbles seem to roll ok now, don’t ask me waht I changed to make em roll like this, I changed about every setting I could find…

  • ive been furiously working with a combination of this idea and your complex dynamic object workaround to create more intricate rube goldberg type animations and im running into a problem camera-tracking a single object within a cloner, is there a way to have a target tag track a single clone in modynamics?

    this would really save me a TON of camera animation.

    keep up the awesome work and thanks for all the tutorials, they’re a fantastic learning tool

    thanks in advance to anyone with a solution

  • ok well ive yet to figure out the answer to my question, but I have payed it forward so to speak and created a tutorial (2 actually) on how to create the screw lift a bunch of people were asking about, so here is the link to that, and there are also some other related cinema tutorials there too, check em out!

  • Was the issue with the camera follow ever resolved? I’m having the EXACT same issue. I can’t get a camera to follow the ball without manually animating…There HAS to be some way to sort it out…

  • hey, I love it, this inspired me to do something similar, using my own knowledge of cinema 4D (which isn’t great, I am a real beginner at this shit) and would you please check out my version

  • A tutorial would be nice right about now. Especially on how to model that rotating bit.

  • just getting into the 3d world after a few years of 2d and i must say i really enjoy all of your tutorials and tips. never thought of doing this kind of machines / mechanisms , it looks very fun πŸ™‚ im hooked on c4d and gsg. much appreciation for all of your work here!

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