Tag Archives: cinema4d

Interstellar’s black hole recreated in Cinema4D

It took me a while to see Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  There’d been so much hype and it doesn’t help my outlook when non-sci-fi fans tell me how great a movie is and how clever.  That sort of thing tends to put me off.

That said, when I finally watched it, I enjoyed the movie.  It’s not my in my ‘top ten’ or anything, but there’s some impressive visual effects.  Not least the Black Hole, Gargantua.

Gargantua - great effect, terrible name

Gargantua – great effect, terrible name

Reportedly, the depiction of the Black Hole has been praised in by the scientific community.  The visual effects team worked with Physicist Kip Thorne to get the look as accurate as possible while still being comprehensible to movie audiences.  It’s even led to a paper being published.

Before seeing Interstellar, I’d been asked to depict a Black Hole and it’s actually really hard to create something audiences can recognise and go “yup, that’s a Black Hole”.  The script involved doesn’t have a line pointing out that we’re looking at a singularity (sorry, needed a break from the B-word).  Thanks to Interstellar though, we now have a go-to image.

The tutorial – (based in C4D r14)

After playing around, I discovered it’s actually quite a simple set up for Cinema4D (and probably all other 3D packages)

Step 1
First, create a sphere. I set my radius to 300 cm.
Step 2
Create a disc, set the centre of the disc to the same as the sphere.

  • Set the radius of that to 1000 cm.
  • Orientation to -Y.

Step 3

Create a torus with the following settings:

  • Ring radius: 653 cm (this was by eye)
  • Pipe radius: 355 cm
  • Orientation: +Z

What your stage should look like by Step 3

What your stage should look like by Step 3

Step 4 – the event horizon material

For the event horizon (your sphere), create a material and uncheck everything.

just black

The event horizon’s material – the sphere

Step 5 – the torus/distortion material
For the torus, we want to create a reflective material, but I found with playing around, that the Transparency channel with Refraction settings gave me a better look and more control than the Reflection channel. If you alter the Refraction value, between 0.25 and 1, you can alter the size of the outline of the vertical disc.

The material settings for the torus

The material settings for the torus

Step 6 – The accretion disc
I initially tried to do this using the Noise settings, but found whatever I did it was too perfect.   Back the drawing board, and I found this spiral galaxy image using a Google Image search with a filter for non-commercial reuse with modification.  (Side note: this is a really handy search filter if you’re putting your work in the public domain).I found this image opposite.I modified it slightly  to centre the image and make sure the spiral arms were all the way out to the edge of a circle, in order for the spiral to be equally strong on all sides.Next – create a material in C4D.In Luminance > texture, choose Layer.  Add the spiral image as an image.   Set the white point settings down to about 0.06.  This should make it really bright:
big spiralluminance_brightness
Step 6b
Back on the layer level, add a Hue / Saturation / Lightness from the Effects… dropdown to allow you to recolour the image.I added the spiral to the Bump channel, but I can’t tell if it’s having an effect.
Step 6c

In the Alpha channel, create a layer.  Add the spiral again, and play with the white point and black point, to create a strong-ish matte.

Step 6d

Up one level and add a circular gradient with a smooth transition between the white and black.  This is to soften any edges of the alpha to avoid a hard cut-off in the render.

Step 6e

Set the transfer mode of the gradient to multiply and you should get the desired look.Some versions of the Nolan Hole add a glow, but I find it’s hard to control and you don’t get the effect on the reflection/refraction elements. I think it’s better to do that post-rendering.

Step 7
Add the black material to the sphere, the transparent material to the torus and the accretion material to the disc.
Step 7
I added a Compositing tag to the sphere (right-click on the Sphere in the object browser, and go to Cinema 4D Tags > Compositing).   I turned off almost everything except seen by camera and seen by transparency.  This was to prevent the sphere reflecting in the torus which it was doing from certain angles.
Step 8
And…you’re done.   Render away.   You can add a rotation to the accretion disc, which create a lovely movement in the reflected bits.   Some angles work better than others, but this should at least get you started.



I’ve tried it with a starfield, but it reflects in the torus, and I notice that in the movie, they generally have the more realistic looking black sky, which is how a conventional camera would see it.  So for my preference, I haven’t included one, but it’s a personal choice.

Obviously, you can spend A LOT of time adding additional details.  I’ll probably add some more accretion disc layers, but this gives the basic look.


Just in case I’ve missed something out, or you’re in a rush, you can download the file here:

Mediafire download

 I would ask you credit ShiveringCactus in some way and I’ve virus checked the file, so cannot take any responsibility if it screws up your system – always do your own checks.


Filed under Cinema 4D, Tutorials