C4D -Ergonomics- (Long)


I am surprised by all these new Schemes. I think, doing decisions regarding lights and materials are bound to fail big time if the reference around is anything but 50 percent grey at an average on the screen. That is my experience from doing print-work where colors are vital in the CMYK sphere. It was -my- responsibility to deliver correct colors to various print-services.

Much the same is true now when doing work for film, TV , visualization of events and making Digigobos used by light-crews around the world.

What -could- be interesting (I think) is to take a look at the ergonomics. Most of our work is done for many long hours in front of the monitors. Leaving good chairs, fresh air and adjusted light conditions aside there are -many- things that could help the work flow by trimming the functions of Cinema and placement of you monitor/s for instance. A few bucks more for a better monitor will pay of. Setting the ratio correct is another one. My monito,r set to 1152 x 870, will give me a 1:1 ratio in real life. One centimeter -in- screen is one centimeter -on- the screen, using Illustrator or CAD apps.

First, our eyes are super precision organics with muscles that need to workout constantly not to detoriate. So having the focus set to a few feet for a long time will wear them out, - fast. A good solution is to have about two meters of space behind the monitor so you can look at something from time to time, changing focus.

Second. We are very sensitive to -contrast-. It is easier to spot a white dot on a dark surface than the other way around. You will “see” a bright object on the sides of your head very early. This means that any point of interest should be brighter than the rest. ( This is all regarding active/backlit sources, such as TV´s and monitors. Passive/reflected sources, like paper, are the other way around, for the same reason - contrast. A “proof” of that might be that spellchecking documents that are printed goes way faster than on screen.)

This might lead to: A medium dark screen (that shoots little light on our faces, not blending us) with “white spots” where the “action”/point of interest is, would suit us fine. These spots could be: Active Tabs, Menus and edit-fields. And any Point Of Interest (POI) should be lighter than its own background.
So starting with the desktop and Cinema interface at 50 percent (grey). Then the Viewports at maybe 53-55 percent (3-5 percent lighter) to give us a big soft focus at our work.
The next level would be inactive Tabs and Manager Menus. Add a few percent so we can locate them, but not more.
Time for Active Tabs/Menus. Make a bigger jump. We might be up to 65-70 percent by now. I suggest here that all not selectable fields should be at 50 percent. ( Since they are not a POI)

At all these levels I have the text set at all most black (around 10 percent). The text , per se, is not a POI. But it is still easy to read since we are not blended.

Time for our “Top Level”. That is when we make active choices. Opening a Menu would be a Top Level. Since we don´t want to go brighter, we will now “swap” and use the best tool we have: Contrast. When opening a menu we are searching for some thing. So here, and only here we use white text on dark background on the field that is under our mouse pointer. The other fields ( in the same menu) keep their medium dark w black text.
The dark field lead our eyes in our search and what we see is an easy readable highlighted text.

Thats my view of that anyway.

Next big issue: The distribution of Managers, Viewports and Tools on the screen/s.
I´m right handed so these ideas goes from that fact.

By default many of the important tools are at the most left side of the screen. So having to “cross” the whole screen to pick up Tools is somewhat stressfull for our mind and body.
Picture having the shifting rod at you left/wrong side in your car…
They have to be somewhere else. To the right maybe? Maybe not. A common movement ( at least for me) is between the ViewPort and the Object Manager. The area in between them are a good placement, since I´m there all the time anyway.

Next issue could be: What is needed -all- the time. Both visually and selectable. I´m trying to have no Tool or Selection more than one “layer”/click away. I do use two monitors so it is not -that- hard, putting up a third when animating gets hard.
Also I gradually fill the contextual menus as needs arise, making me have more and more directly under the mouse buttons.

That´s it for now. I´d love to hear any other experiences.

Take care of your eyes and bodies



I agree with what you have said. As a software or middleware designer, I’m always amused at myself when the project is finished and it looks like something Discreet would have made. I love Discreet’s interfaces. Flame, Flint, Inferno, even Combustion all have that greyspace feel to them and you can stare at them for hours.

Well put.



Yes, I agree. I couldn’t imagine using one of those brightly-colored or dark schemes. IMO the worst part of the default scheme is the lack of contrast in the XYZ lock buttons. Second is the lack of contrast in selected OM and MM elements, although that can be adjusted in preferences. And don’t get me started on the organization of the BP2 default menus and layouts, the lack of formatting in the AM, or the whole Xpresso interface. Otherwise, though, I think basic GUI is pretty good (no sarcasm intended).


I swear I just realised today for the first time that children of a selected object are a different color. Only took me three or four years of constant use! So yes I think some thinks could do with a little more contrast, but otherwise there is no way I would use some wacky color scheme. If you have that kind of time then I think it’s much better to work on the layout, where the real action is. I agree about trying to get everything you use within a click away, and since I use two montitors too, it’s not that hard, but I’m always refining it to current needs and workflow. BP2 menus are a wreck though, and it’s a lot of trouble to go setting up your own menus.


so who’s up for making the best c4d layout? i wish i had the time.

good points, intersting topic.


I think having anything other than a shade of grey in an interface is a bad idea,

and I hate bevelled buttons, it makes a program look like some 5 minute photoshop disaster, so if someone here makes one, nice 2d flat buttons please :smiley:


Interesting post, Lennart, and I will definitely reconsider my workspace after reading it.

Squid: I’m using the default scheme with Cinema but this flat bluey scheme by mt_sabao looks very tempting. When I get the time I will recolour it in various shades of grey instead of blue but I like the idea behind the original – it’s flat :slight_smile:



Yes Lennart, totally agreement! When someone makes this scheme (ergonomicscheme) I would surely install it! Although I´m very familiar with the default colorscheme…
But one Question:

Originally posted by tcastudios

Setting the ratio correct is another one. My monito,r set to 1152 x 870, will give me a 1:1 ratio in real life. One centimeter -in- screen is one centimeter -on- the screen, using Illustrator or CAD apps.

Lennart [/B]

Interesting! But the Question is, what monitor (inches) do you have? 15, 19, 24? I think it depends on that or am I wrong?
I hope you have a small monitor, I prefer 1280/1024 on my 21 because of more space for tools.


Cartesius: I´m glad you liked my sheme :thumbsup:

Like Squid said, 3D or bevelled buttons are so 90´s.
Flat, sober interfaces are so much nicer to work in. I tried to remove every trace of relief in the interface, not only in buttons and scrollbars, but also in the dropdown menus, and division lines. Well, at least this is how i prefer to work. This was my first attempt on doing a sheme, and not being a designer, i think this could be improved a lot, if anyone wants to give it a try!



Good post, sounds reasonable indeed…

Why don’t you share your optimal theme/layout with us? :bounce:


well i’m glad you took time to raise this issue…makes a lot of sense what you are saying and would take a bit more research me thinks…all to often software development doesn’t spent enough time or resources on UI…of course like all things this varies.
what i have noticed in all these schemes…they rarely change the iconongraphy…this may basically because it take alot of effort…
but i’m curious as to people really feel the icons for buttons actually represent what they expect the button to function as…on the whole i think they probably do…but maybe there is room for improvement. for example…and i’m not sure if this would improve it or not but will get you thinking about the whole thing.
move scale rotate…currently icons…but could supposedly be just letters M S R? might sound funny…but would fit with current x y z axis buttons next to them…dunno.
ould like to know which icons you think are confusing or could be improved though…don’t forget its less about style and more about function.


Replacing icons with characters won’t work for C4D. It exists in 6 different languages, so you would have to use 6 different sets of icons. Not a good idea. Besides, it takes more time for the eye to trace a character than it takes to trace the current icons.



Yes, icons are probably the best option. Letters can be interpreted as icons as well (and probably will be, if you start using them), but specific icons representing specific actions are more intuitive even for someone unfamiliar with the application.



ok i think you missed my point really…the letters were supposed to be an example of changing icons…you make a good point about letters and languages…but icons also can mean different things in different regions/languages…:shrug: …
i agree this is not what i want to see…
BUT: what i wanna know is do you think those icons we currently have fulfil what the function does? can they be tweaked/changed to better represent function? if so how? and i’m not just thinking about M/S/R but every icon?
for example i don’t like select all and deselect all…this is of course a preference…but it does represent to a degree what it does…i think the icons in c4d are very good actually but i’m curious what others think really.



Very interesting stuff indeed!

I particularly agree that the majority of pixels belonging to the GUI itself definitely should be around 50% grey. Otherwise one might end up with a skewed ‘eye bias’ (hmm… ok) - the thing is that our eyes are very very adaptive. Look at a pastel blue for several hours, and after a while your brain will start to consider this as a neutral color on the black->white scale, eventually making your perception of other blue hues a bit warped.

Just think about how we interpret normal indoor lighting in our homes - we consider it to be rather white, when its temperature in fact is yellow/orange… A tinted interface would probably cause the same problem.

Join the 50% grey club! :smiley:


well, while there are some true points in there, i’m going to mostly disagree.

firstly, you don’t want a high contrast interest with “medium dark” area and “bright points of interest” this would only be usable if there were one or at maximum two vital areas, however the fact is this is not the case, the suggestion of bright tabs makes little sense, in fact in the overall interface things like tabs are of minor concern, consider how often you go to a tab as opposed to an icon palette/menu/manager area. and in fact the main vital area (viewport) can be argued that it should be as dark as possible, like an empty stage waiting for lights and props, to retain maximum contrast and focus till elements are filled in and the scenes natural light and contrast takes over.

then black/dark text? on paper black text is good, on screen you get bleed and your eyes fight with negative space, especially if the “paper” is below 50% grey.

in cinema there is one area of interest and focus. the viewport. if any of the surround is distracting then it’s affecting (in a bad way) your focus and control over the image being created. this is why Shake, D|F, Combustion etc have these dark themes. and when you’re dealing not just with compositing elements together in 3d space, but also lighting and texture it’s most important for the surround to be as neutral and not busy as possible.

now photoshop and other 3d apps are able to hide all toolbars and menus and go into viewport only mode. cinema can’t do this, the best it can do is viewport and menu (though you can just make a tab with your normal interface and a tab with just the viewport), and then because of the complexity of the progran and it’s reliance on user controlled heirarchical scene structure rather than applied deformations etc you can’t get away with this for long (especially without a hotbox).

no two people will be able to have 100% agreement on what makes good ergonomics in an interface. for instance there are many die hard lightwave interface fans, and there equally many people who hate that interface, personally i have no problem with either icons or text provided they’re clear. and if possible i would prefer minimalistic interfaces with more keyboard shortcuts (hence why mesh surgery is all truly interactive unlike what other applications like to call interactive i.e. a slider that makes things happen in realtime lol, and the only tool that requires interface usage is the mesh brush… in order to choose what brush is being used, but the point being Mesh Surgery is designed for me and Paul, and our way of working, if you like it that way then fine, if not then well not entirely tough… because we did make it with some flexibility). however others dont like to work via shortcuts (which is why things like mesh surgery also offers the alternative of working almost entirely via interface).

the solution is making an interface as configurable as possible. which is what Cinema does, i think amicably well. In overall configurability Cinema is far more customisable then pretty much any other application out there. Not many apps allow you to control what goes into the Contextual Menus even, or to change the main or submenus throughout the application, Cinema does.

in fact the idea of fluidity and that everyone will prefer a different layout/control structure/design, is fundamental to modern “power” applications, it’s one of the things i saw with Modo, and it’s in Cinema already to an extent, and in pipeline applications like Maya at a far deeper level… i.e. the whole ergonomic can change, not just the surface interface but how things are done inside of an app, how it will fit into the workflow of a studio, not just an individual. Cinema isn’t there yet, though hopefully one day it will be.

In the meanwhile yes it’s important to consider your interface and layout, but don’t just sit there… do something about it. if you think you have a great idea for the cinema ergonomic, release a scheme and layout showing it off, and if people like it they’ll download it and use it :slight_smile:


I think sadie is right on this, I mean look at the ever appealing modo too, seems like its major focus has been on custimization more then on the modeling itself, there is no such thing as a pefect layout, to each his own so rather then trying to make a perfect layout and force people to use it, make a customisable interface and let them make their ouwn layout.

As well 50% grey is not the perfect solution, why do you think so many video and compositing apps are dark as well as \some 3D apps come with dark layouts now too. Fact is while it may seem better for print its also harder on your eyes, heck one thing that still surprises me is the brightness of the OSX lkook, its hard on the eye after constant staring at the monitor., you don’t stare at a flashlight for extended times why woud you with a monitor?

And of course we all know what hardcore ergonomics does to thins, cough KPT cough bryce cough crap cough


Agreed, the proof is in the pudding, Lennard… :wink:


Hi. Nice response everyone. First of all I don´t think there is a perfect layout in the same sense there are no perfect human. We all have our needs and references. And I certainly don´t want to point fingers at anyone, just make ourself aware of the importance of your eyes, for many reasons…

-One- way , is to look at your layout/scheme which is pretty easy to change compared to many other apps. Another is to make sure your monitor is on par.

My main monitor is a 22" Lacie CRT, hardware calibrated. The 2nd is a 19". 3rd whatever is free.

As I said: It is what I need. But here it is:
( And I don´t get it. “Proof is in the Pudding” ?




I actually don’t think how the icons look is important other then when you are new to the program. After I while you don´t really look at them. The main thing is that they look different to each other. (within reason). So that is not a problem for me anyway.
A symbol is a symbol is a symbol. It represents an action that you know will happen. ( Or like to happen, maybe :slight_smile:

About “eye-bias”. Thats a part I liked to have mentioned as well since it is important to think about. Thats why have a hardware calibrator that takes the color/brightness of the room in account. Maybe a tad more important when doing prints though.

Many of your points are good as well, so we might just agree on disagree on the others. OK? lol…
I do however need to stress the following. There is no true black on the monitor (as you of coarse know, but ). Our eyes/brain need a preference. So anything under 50 percent is dark(er) and anything above is bright(er). This is mostly in concern to ergonomics, ease on a eyes while working. If the background is dark everything will be bright or brighter. Much like trying to look at things in a dark room. Just because main apps use it doesn’t mean its good.
A second artifact is a darker screen will reflect more things from within the room.
And , personally, I don´t like to setup lights and shadows against darkness because, at least I , get the balance wrong.
And regarding Tabs and POI. What I meant is instead of having a total grey mess your eyes (and therefore your hand) will more easily find the place to look for.

Yup. The OX borders are bad. And, I can only disagree. I think, 50 percent is better because your eyes are more sensitive to contrast than an even light. But then again, everyone is different. And should be.



The “pudding” in this case is your theme/layout, wich I was eager to download as the points you made sounded very acceptable…

Looks very good from the pic, thanks for letting us have a taste. :slight_smile: