Product Review: CINEMA 4D Studio
"For years, I've been baffled by the competitive nature of other 3D developers.
Every 3D package has its strengths and weaknesses. No 3D package can be
everything to every artist. I believe that way of thinking only creates problems
for the artists. It's our job to make their job easier."
After attending 3 years of MAXON's SIGGRAPH luncheons and over a year's work with CINEMA 4D software, I can honestly say that this 3D program is my favorite. It is the centerpiece of my own 3D workstation. In fact, I built the workstation around CINEMA 4D hardware-requirements last year (see Renderosity article on the build).
The reason for my enthusiasm is that MAXON, as Paul Babb puts it so well, is focused on making the artist's job easier. They do this by making sure that CINEMA 4D is a well-developed, easy to use professional 3D modeling, painting, animation and rendering solution. MAXON also makes CINEMA 4D to integrate extremely well with other software packages, like Adobe's After Effects/Photoshop, Final Cut, Combustion, and many others. CINEMA 4D includes support for a "host of industry standard formats." Paul Babb, in interviews, often refers to CINEMA 4D as a "paintbrush" in a 3D artists tool set, one that provides a unique and relatively easy way to accomplish a task in computer graphics.
And while CINEMA 4D is the de-facto program for motion graphics in the US, it is also highly regarded in Europe for it's architectural modeling and rendering. Even indie 3D filmmakers are now discovering what a complete package CINEMA 4D is for solo or small group 3D filmmaking. Ease of use, a unique tool set, a strong company philosophy geared toward the artist, and a focus on customer service and training give MAXON an edge in how they develop and support their software. Which is why I think their most recent release of CINEMA 4D (Release 12 on September, 2010) is one of the most significant releases in MAXON's history.
Although I can't go into great detail (this review would be too long), I'd like to cover some of the new developments in both the CINEMA 4D software and how it is packaged. Sergio (nemirc) wrote a review of CINEMA 4D R12 Prime as it pertains to animation, which is his specialty, but I'd like to give a larger picture of this new release and show you why I think it's so significant.
The four new CINEMA 4D R12 Packages
Brand New Packaging for CINEMA 4D
MAXON began the module (add-on) approach to CINEMA 4D in 2002 with release 8. With the new release 12, MAXON has done away with the module approach and now have re-packaged the program into 4 separate versions (all available as 64-bit):
Basically, what MAXON has done is align themselves in the modern 3D marketplace by making it simpler for users to decide what version of the program they want to use. The "a la carte" method of being able to choose what components you want to use in the program always struck me as cumbersome and perhaps frustrating for users who are trying to decide how to upgrade. All of that is gone. Now, users get the same core elements of what makes CINEMA 4D great AND can chose a version designed specifically for their work flow. I think it's a great idea.
You can click the links on each version to find out more details, or consult MAXON's Product Comparison chart. In essence, PRIME is the core CINEMA 4D application including BodyPaint, Ambient Occlusion and additional deformers. It has more functionality than the CINEMA 4D 11.5 base version, but is still priced the same ($995, upgrade for $395). The BROADCAST version is geared towards motion graphics and includes the remarkable MoGraph, along with net render capabilities, Gl rendering and a large library of objects, materials and presets. The VISUALIZE edition contains all of what PRIME has, plus "Sketch 'n Toon" rendering and additional library content. It's clearly focused on architectural rendering, engineering and product visualization.
Now, the STUDIO edition ($3,695, upgrade for $895) is the package that has everything that MAXON has developed for CINEMA 4D: cloth and hair tools, MoGraph, Cloners, Advanced Rendering & Lighting, Thinking Particles and more. It's a full, top-of-the-line, professional package which will allow users to create anything they can imagine with the program. The STUDIO edition of CINEMA 4D is what I'm reviewing here today.
I've only given a brief overview of how MAXON has restructured CINEMA 4D packaging. I urge you to check the links for complete pricing information and watch the excellent videos at the MAXON.net site.
Example of Linear Workflow in the Picture Viewer
"The product line reorganization is a practical step that gives all customers,
from hobbyist to studio professional, clear choices when deciding on the
features they need to deliver high impact, creative results. Customers will
also benefit from the streamlined and condensed product structure as it
allows our team to better focus on developing new, exciting functionality"
Powerful New Additions to CINEMA 4D
MAXON has done an excellent job of developing their program over the years. From it's initial debut in 1993 on the Amiga platform, MAXON has produced nearly two dozen solid updates/upgrades to CINEMA 4D. Their development has grown with the burgeoning computer graphics industry and over the last few years CINEMA 4D has deepened and refined at a very fast pace. And, I believe, that with this new version 12, MAXON has reached a milestone in the program's history.
Here are the main additions to CINEMA 4D Release 12:
Springs & Connectors in the new Dynamics Engine
The new Dynamics system alone is worth the price of the upgrade as it's extremely powerful. Using the industry standard Bullet Physics engine, users can create realistic object interactions without using key frames, using both rigid and soft bodies. It's now possible to use connectors to create hinges, springs and other complex joints with relative ease. The Dynamics system opens up a whole new world for filmmakers and animators looking to create realistic animation without a massive amount of work. This is a powerful addition to CINEMA 4D.
Linear Workflow is a bit of a misnomer because it's not really a workflow per se, but a way of creating more realistic rendering of light in a scene. You simply turn it on or off in a project and the Linear Workflow allows for a more even dispersal of the light and fewer hot spots on objects. In addition, to Linear Workflow, CINEMA 4D R12 now allows you to use IES (Illumination Engineering Society) lights, which are mathematically correct formulas (profiles) for real world lights and how they create unique patterns of reflection.
CINEMA 4D R12 now uses True Units of Measurement, which keeps track of size/scaling info in your scene and allows for automatic conversion of units. All of which are stored in each scene document. The Picture Viewer is now able to able to perform full-screen playback along with histogram display, all without leaving the C4D program.
The new Render Que (with logging) is a highly useful upgrade, as is the new Deformers (includes camera deformer). After the new Dynamics engine, it's hard to single out a single new feature as there are so many that improve an already very good program. I'd urge you to read the updates at MAXON and try out some of the new videos at the CINEMA 4D youtube channel. I've also uploaded videos of the new features at Renderosity's Video Center and included at the bottom of this review.
Screen cap from the film "Light of Life" by Daihei Shibata
"Even big budget pictures are now being filmed more and more on green
screen because it's cheaper and faster than doing location shots or building
complex sets. If you are a filmmaker that can use such enhancements to
your story telling, C4D is totally worth it. Multiply in the ample training
that is available for C4D and it becomes very easy for humble filmmakers
to engage a first-class 3D toolset"
With Release 12, MAXON has made a huge effort to reach out to new users. I believe that by adding tools that make it easier (and more interesting) for filmmakers to use CINEMA 4D, MAXON will break through the "Motion Graphics" label that has stuck to the program and overshadowed just how powerful CINEMA 4D is in animation, dynamics, rendering and many other areas. With short films like Masaki Yokochi's Locus, mdotstrange's upcoming Heart String Marionette 3D feature and Daihei Shibata's Light of Life, I think we'll be seeing many more solo and small group filmmakers using CINEMA 4D for their entire film (or at least a significant part of the production), not to mention other fields like architectural rendering and matte painting.
That doesn't mean that CINEMA 4D isn't already a significant part of the professional studio. Production houses like Rhythm & Hues, Sony Picture Imageworks and many other leading visual effects studios all have CINEMA 4D in their pipeline. What this release will do is open artists minds to how well CINEMA 4D allows you to "unleash your creativity and enjoy 3D without limits."
MAXON also made a bold choice in re-working the packaging for CINEMA 4D. And while it will be a big change for users used to the modular system, MAXON is doing everything they can to provide help in figuring out how to upgrade. Their customer-centric approach will pay off in this transition period. Plus, I think they may make some subtle changes to the packages in the future, based on customer comments and demand.
CINEMA 4D R12 continues the tradition of MAXON releasing a new version of the software that is "rock solid" in performance. They do not release new versions with a lot of bugs. MAXON wants it to work out of the box and this release does just that. It's also faster on my Windows 7 machine with zero crashes over hours and hours of work. I didn't get a chance to do a long render, but users in the forums report faster rendering times and a general sense of the application being quicker and more responsive.
A small section of the Cineversity front page
One thing to keep in mind with this release is that previous versions of C4D cannot open version 12 files. However, you can open earlier projects in C4D R12. Also, because of changes in the architecture of C4D, all plug-ins have to be updated to R12 to work. On it's face, this might seem to be a big problem, but MAXON has made it very easy for vendors to update their plug-ins, and at the time of writing many major plug-ins have been updated and work just fine.
And again, I just love the documentation that comes with C4D. The 200+ pages booklet is witty (when was the last time you heard computer documentation was witty?), informative and helpful. I've had a chance to go deeply into the help system of CINEMA 4D R12 and it's searchable, printable and very easy to use. I had complained about lack of a pdf of the manual in my last review, but I've found the help system to be fine without it.
Cineversity is MAXON's hang-out for tutorials and live info. Tons of free info, or you can sign up for more in-depth help (even one-on-one training) for a reasonable fee. MAXON also has a strong presence on Twitter and Facebook, where you can get up-to-date news, along with very good short tutorials and tips on using CINEMA 4D. Their customer support is outstanding.
MAXON is offering a nice deal until March 1st on a "30 days for $30" membership at Cineversity, which includes an excellent free plug-in (Planesmart). Check greyscalegorilla.com for a tutorial on the plug-in and the coupon code.
C4D character design "LANCE" by dayvid
CINEMA 4D has a wide and diverse community of users from all over the world. Renderosity's own CINEMA 4D Community is active and supportive, providing free content, tips and advice. The Renderosity MarketPlace also features CINEMA 4D content and plug-ins. You can also find lots of excellent work in the CINEMA 4D art gallery. I particularly liked a swell character portrait "LANCE" by dayvid, built and rendered entirely in CINEMA 4D. Drop by his gallery if you get the chance.
CINEMA 4D R12 Demo and System Requirements
MAXON provides a free demo of CINEMA 4D R12. You can also get documentation, sample scenes, presets, shaders and other free stuff to help you with getting up to speed with this marvelous program.
While complete system requirements can be found at the MAXON site, CINEMA 4D R12 functions for the PC and Mac computer. I've found that the 64-bit version for Windows 7 literally "pops" on the screen when I open it. And a decent amount of Ram is required, along with a dedicated graphics card. Both ATI and nVidia cards work very well with the application, although be sure to update your drivers to the current version. Drop in to the Renderosity CINEMA 4D forum if you have any hardware questions, or contact MAXON directly.
Thanks to MAXON for providing the CINEMA 4D R12 Studio Edition for review. Particular thanks to Paul Babb and Vicky Gray-Clark for their help. I hope to have a short interview with Paul Babb next week so we can hear him tell us a little bit about how this release was developed.
New Dynamics in CINEMA 4D STUDIO R12
Linear Workflow in CINEMA 4D R12
For more information, please visit:
Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
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