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Cinema 4D F.A.Q. (last updated 2007-07-13 18:44:56)

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RENDEROSITY CINEMA 4D FORUM / FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Answers by the forum moderators: Anders Kjellberg (cartesius) and Adam Benton (kromekat)


Q: What are these FAQs about?

A: These FAQs are about Cinema 4D XL by Maxon and although there are several incarnations of Cinema 4D being used today we will mainly aim these FAQs towards Cinema 4D XL 8.2 and 8.5. There are several reasons for this but space is probably the major one � it would take up too much space to cover the same questions for XL 6, XL 7 and XL 8. If you are using an earlier package and can't find the solution here (many solutions are applicable even in earlier versions), feel free to post your question in the forum and we will all try to help you out!

We also have a page called Tips & Tricks that might answer your question, so don't forget to check that one as well!


Q: What is Cinema 4D?

A:Cinema 4D is an advanced application for 3D modeling and animation. It's is based around a core application with various modules to expand its functionality. For more information visit http://www.maxon.net.

CINEMA 4D R9 is the core in the Cinema 4D family, the application you use for modeling, animating, texturing and rendering. If you are a hobbyist or just starting out in 3D, this might be all you need. It has advanced modeling functions as well as a built-in shader system. You can animate your scenes and render them either to still images or animations and do this with a very high quality.

THE CINEMA 4D R9 Modules:
  • ADVANCED RENDER: This module adds to the built-in render engine and provides features like global illumination radiosity rendering, volume caustics, Subsurface Scattering, highlights, glow and enhanced depth-of-field effects.
  • MOCCA: The MOCCA module includes advanced tools for character animation like a Soft-IK system and makes it easy to interactively morph and animate transitions between various character poses.
  • THINKING PARTICLES: This is the particle module and it gives you control over individual particles as well as particle streams.
  • PYROCLUSTER: PyroCluster is a volumetric shading system that uses particles to simulate smoke, dust, clouds, fire and other similar effects.
  • DYNAMICS: This will allow you to simulate real-world dynamic forces like friction, gravity, collisions, springs, wind and more.
  • BODYPAINT 3D R2: BodyPaint 3D Release 2 is the module for texture your 3D models. BodyPaint 3D allows you to work with layers, filters and tablet support and you can paint on up to ten channels with a single stroke, so a brush can define an entire material rather than a single color.
  • NET RENDER: Connect several computers to share the burden of rendering heavy scenes and animations.
  • SKETCH AND TOON: A non-photorealistic render (NPR) module that will let you render your images as technical illustrations, as a quick scribble or as a charcoal sketch, with styles ranging from halftone stills to cel-rendered animations.

Q: Which one is better, Cinema 4D or�?

A: This question is difficult to answer. One of Cinema 4D's main advantage is its fast hybrid rendering engine, producing sharp results for both still images and animations. Cinema 4D generates very precise renders and flicker free animations, this not the case of many 3D rendering engines. Cinema 4D has also a very user friendly interface that is quite easy to grasp. Another advantage of Cinema 4D is its stability: visit all the Cinema 4D forums, it will be quite difficult to find bug/crash reports (even on first releases). In today's software industry, this is something that deserves to be praised!

We recommend you to test different applications and then go for the one that feels the most powerful and stimulating for you. Visit online user galleries to see what the software is capable of. Don't rely on feature lists, movie credits or magazine articles to buy a software. You could end up with a software that you'll never understand, that needs a team of programmers to run or a rendering farm to output a simple animation. Most major 3D software companies offer demos or even limited free versions of their packages. You can either download them directly from the company website or get them on the cover CD of magazines like 3d World, Computer Arts and so on (these magazines tend to always have a demo or two on their CDs).


Q: Is Cinema 4D easy to learn/use?

A: From our experience at Renderosity, Cinema 4D seems to be the easiest full-featured 3D application available. Some members here could make stunning renders just after a few month of use. But don't be fooled, 3D modelling is still one of the most difficult graphic discipline. Without months of practice, you'll probably never reach satisfactory results. If you plan to use Cinema 4D only for its rendering engine, then you'll be ready to work in just a few days.


Q: What are the hardware recommendations for Cinema 4D?

A: Cinema 4D runs similarly on the PC and MAC platform. Use the platform you're familiar with. Note that rendering is directly dependent of clock speed. A 2 GHz processor renders 2x faster than a 1 GHz. So get the fastest processor you can. As Cinema 4D uses a very fast hybrid ray-tracing engine, rendering animations on a single workstation is possible. However for very complex and long animations involving advanced features, a small rendering farm will be necessary.

Load as much RAM as you can afford in your workstation. It'll allow you to manipulate heavy scenes faster. Some feature, like Depth of Field, are quite memory hungry (especially if you are rendering for print). 512 MB is, in our opinion, the minimum. 1GB would be safer.

Cinema 4D editor display relies heavily on OpenGL. For fast editor refreshing rates, a modern graphic acceleration board is recommended. Please note that, until now (December 2003), MACs don't benefit significantly from OpenGL and the latest features available in graphic boards. If you are using this platform, acquiring expensive graphic boards wouldn't be of a great advantage; the speed increase over mid-priced ones is not worth it.

You can compare hardware set-up benchmarks here : http://www.imashination.com


Q: Can I get Cinema 4D cheaper?

A: Keep an eye on http://www.maxon.net, special offers pop-up once in a while. 3D Magazines also offer free version (usually an older and/or limited version of Cinema 4D) with special deals to upgrade to the latest one. You could also hunt for a second hand version (beware of illegal copies, though). If you are a student you might be eligible for a student license which is very affordable. You will usually get the core module plus some other modules, no printed manuals and you are not allowed to use the application for commercial purposes, it�s for educational use only. Check with your local Maxon distributor what your options are for a student license.


Q: Which softwares work nicely with Cinema 4D?

A: Cinema 4D supports a wide range of image/movie formats. You can use it with most 2D/Video/Composting softwares (Adobe Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Gimp, Final Cut, Vegas, Media Studio, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Combustion, Commotion, etc�). Adobe's Photoshop, After Effects and Illustrator are the favorite ones, as Cinema 4D can render multi-layers PSD files, After Effects project files, and recognize the AI vector format (up to Illustrator 8).

Cinema 4D imports/exports many 3D formats (Obj, 3ds, Lw2, DXF, etc�), so it is compatible with almost any 3D softwares. As Cinema 4D 8.5 supports Kaydara's FBX exchange format, the compatibility with other 3D application is now considerably extended.


Q: I'm confused by Cinema 4D's editor views, display mode and cameras. How can I find a way to make navigation easier?

A: The first thing you should do is to create a "display" icon palette, with:

  • all the display mode: gouraud, quick shading, wireframe, isoparm, �
  • the most relevant views: front, top, left, right, perspective, �
  • the "Use Editor Camera" button.
  • the "Link Camera to Active Object" button.
  • if necessary: the "Disable Textures", "Disable Backface Culling" and "View Active Object in X-ray" buttons.
This palette will improve your workflow considerably. "Use Editor Camera" allows you to switch from a scene camera to the editor view with just one mouse-click and the "Link Camera to Active Object" to do the opposite (select the camera object in the Object Manager, then click on this button).


Q: There is flickering on my animation. Why?

A: Flickering is caused by too contrasted textures and/or aliasing. If one pixels change from dark to very bright from one frame to the other, or if one objects has jagged edges, flickering will appear. There's an easy way to fix this:
  • reduce the contrast of your bitmap textures/shaders and use MIP or SAT texture sampling. If flickering remains, you might need to blur the textures a little bit.
  • use a stronger and more accurate anti-aliasing.

Q: My materials are not sharp enough. Why?

A: Cinema 4D uses by standard a very soft texture sampling: MIP. For still images try "none", "square" or "alias 1-2". It will produce sharper images. For animations always use MIP or SAT, otherwise the textures will flicker.


Q: My radiosity renders are grainy and blotchy. How can I get rid of this?

A: Radiosity is sometimes "weird science"! Don't think that increasing the amount of stochastic samples and the Min/Max Resolution will automatically generate better results. It's not the case. Each scene requires different radiosity settings (rendering, material, compositing tag). We can only recommend you to make tests. Michael Vance wrote an excellent tutorial about radiosity. Read it here : http://www.mvpny.com/RadTutMV/RadiosityTut1MV.html


Q: How do I apply textures only on a part of my object?

A: To apply a texture to only a part of your object, like one side of a cube, you have to use selections. Selections are used to freeze polygons, edges or points so you can later reselect them. They are very useful when modeling and texturing your object. To put colour on one side of a cube only, start by selecting the polygons where you want the texture to go. Put a tag on this selection by going to Selection > Set Selection. A red triangle will appear in the Objects Manager and this is the icon for a polygon Selection Tag. Make sure that this tag is selected and then rename it to something useful. In Cinema 4D 8.x you do this in the Attributes Manager, in version 7.x by double-clicking on the triangle. Now drag your material on to the object and you�ll notice that it covers the whole object. To restrict the texture to the selection you just created, click on the texture tag (XL 7 � double-click on it) and in the field "Selection" on the Tag-tab in the Attributes Manager type the name of your selection tag. That�s it!

If you want to add more selections to the same object, for example the other sides of the cube, you need to make sure that the selection tag you just set isn�t selected. If it is it will be overwritten by your new selection. A good way to avoid this is to first select one of the standard tags of the object like the phong tag.


Q: How can I make objects appear or disappear?

A: Assign a display tag to the object and animate the visibility parameter (in %).


Q: How do I render my objects against a clean white background but retain the shadows cast by them?

A: Set up your scene as you want it and make sure that those lights that are supposed to cast shadows have shadows enabled. Then give your Floor object a white material and a Compositing tag (Objects Manager: File > New Tag). The Compositing tag is what will do the trick. Just check "Compositing Background" and make sure that "Receive Shadows" is checked as well. This will render your scene with a completely white floor that still receives shadows from your objects. If you don't want any shadows simply uncheck "Receive Shadows" � this will still shade your objects but the floor will not receive any shadows.


Q: How do I put some text on my object without it covering the underlying texture, or How do I use the alpha channel?

A: Let's say you need the word "STAMP" written on an object. You also want the letters to look like they've been stamped on and not like a pasted label so you need to use the Alpha channel to isolate the letters. There are several ways to do this depending on how the text should look. For this example we'll assume that you need the text to be a basic red so all you have to do is create the actual alpha map. Do this in a 2D application like Photoshop, Graphic Converter or Paint Shop Pro. Make it size wise large as you see fit (depending on how much detail you need for your render). Write your text with white colour against a black background, then save it as TIFF, JPEG or PSD. Now create a new material in Cinema. Give the Colour channel the desired colour, in this case red, and then activate the Alpha channel. Load the image you just created and you have your isolated textures. Cinema will interpret the black in the image as transparent, white as opaque and the colour range between these two will be semi-transparent. Think of it as blocking out or masking certain parts of the texture.
In this case we didn't use anything but a basic colour in the Colour channel but you can of course use whatever you feel like. If you load a different texture in the colour channel the letters will have this texture's colour and so on. Now apply this material to your object but remember that the alpha material need to be put after a "base" material, otherwise your whole object will be transparent except for the letters. You might also want to restrict your alpha material using selection tags (see above).


Q: How to make renders ready for print?

A: Other than the RGB-CMYK color conversion, there is nothing special to know about printed media. Use 300 dpi for image that will be published in magazine or on A4 page, switch to 150 dpi (or even 100 dpi) for big posters. Note that the anti-aliasing doesn't have to be as precise as for screen/monitor images. A dot of ink is never as sharp as a pixel. At 300 DPI, 2x2 pixels area are blended together. If the paper (or the printer) is not of a high quality, then the blurred area can go up to 4x4 pixels. Therefore, using high anti-aliasing settings would be a loss of time. The tiny little errors on your render won't be noticeable on the printed media. A more important problem should concern you: color banding.

Color banding (stepped area of colors) appears when one area of the render is made of a too large linear gradient of color. It appears quite often on high-resolution renders. One way to get rid of this is to make the area noisier in your 2D application ("add noise", "film grain" filters), but it doesn't always solve the problem. A more efficient way to avoid color banding is to include, directly in Cinema 4D, a very low noise (between 2 and 5%) in the diffusion channel of the most critical materials (usually the ones with just one color). This will distort the light diffusion, making the material slightly noisier and less prone to color banding. Don't worry, it won't be noticeable on the printed media, it could even make your renders more realistic. For visible lights, you can add a soft noise, increase the dithering, split the beams with a light gel or even use multiple spot lights instead of one.

Remember that an image printed on paper is never as bright as on a monitor. So when rendering your image, make it slightly brighter than necessary and avoid too dramatic contrasts. Try to work from a good "master" render - with as much details as possible.


Q: Any recommendation for rendering animations?

A: Before rendering your animation, be sure to know exactly for which medium it will be used, this will give you indications about the resolution, frame per seconds and aspect ratio. You should also know which compositing/editing software will be used and what exactly you plan to do. Do you need the alpha channel? or the depth channel? A multipass render? Which format does your compositing/editing application recognize? Once everything is clear you're ready to render. Always chose a lossless format for your renderings: Tiff or TGA images sequence, "QuickTime Movie Big" or "AVI Movie Big". The generated file will be quite big ( Approx. 2 Gigabytes for 1 minute of animation in NTSC or PAL format). An easy way to reduce it for back-ups is to zip the whole movie (or the folder with all the separate frames). This while usually cut the file size in half.

Like for rendering for print, make sure that you have a good "master" render. Avoid too dark images, noisy or grainy surfaces, color banding and flickering. These mistakes are very difficult to correct in post production and compression codecs (MPEG 2, DiVX, WMW, MOV) hate them! So don't forget to use MIP or SAT texture sampling and the "animation" anti-aliasing rendering filter.

Always make your sequence slightly longer than necessary. Who knows? At the editing stage, you'll maybe want to fade in/out the sequence or make a transition with effects (blend one sequence with another with a blur filter for example) or your soundtrack will require a longer take,� if the sequence is too short, it won't be possible.


Q: How can I reduce rendering time?

A: Until we'll have high quality real time 3D rendering engine, rendering time will always be too long. So, understand how to use Cinema 4D's rendering engine efficiently - especially if you are rendering animations. Long rendering time are tolerable for still image, but for animations sparing a few minutes can make a huge difference (3 minutes on 1000 frames = 50 hours).

Between optimising the scene/rendering settings and reaching a point where you have to trade quality, there's a huge range possibilities. Set yourself limits (less than 5 minutes per frame, for example) and study carefully your scene. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Do you really need to use a 100% level of details (rendering options)? For fast paced animation using 70 or 80 % can reduce the rendering time by 50% without any noticeable loss of quality.
  • Do you really need to use a HyperNurbs subdivision of 2 or 3? For distant objects you can reduce the HyperNurbs subdivision to 1 or even turn it off. Make tests with the models provided with Cinema 4D R8: "Meg" or "Otto". Put a shader on the character and add a few lights with shadows. Make a first render with then camera close to the character, and then move the camera away. In the distance, you'll notice that you can turn off the HyperNurbs, the end result is identical, however the rendering is significantly faster!
  • Do you really need to use Best anti-aliasing? Switching to Best anti-aliasing is only necessary for object that includes reflectives and transparent/alpha materials, volumetric atmospheres, and hard shadows. Any other surface will be rendered with the same quality as in "Geometry" anti-aliasing. So use it only for the object that requires it! Set the Min. and Max. level to 1x1, then place "force anti-aliasing" compositing tags with a stronger anti-aliasing on the raytraced objects. There is another option for critical situation: use multi-pass rendering. Render the reflection and transparency channels on separate layers and blur them slightly in your 2D/video editor (for animation, it saves hours of rendering).
  • Do you really need to use reflective materials? Unless the material is as reflective as a mirror, using the environment channel can produce similar results faster. Slightly reflexive materials such as iron or gold look even better with an environment map. Loading an HDRI map in the environment channel is a simple way to create gorgeous shiny materials without increasing the rendering time.
  • Do you really need to use caustics and radiosity? As these features are extremely CPU intensive, you might consider faking these effects with lights for your animations. If you really want to render your animation with radiosity, try to use it only for a limited amount of objects.
  • Are you sure that your bitmap textures are optimized? Try to keep the textures' resolution to the minimum. A 4000x4000 pixels texture mapped on a small object rendered in NTSC format is a waste of RAM. Use uncompressed TIFF, BMP or TGA instead of JPEG as this will speed up rendering. JPEG is a compressed image format and Cinema needs to uncompress it before rendering. This process takes time and memory. If you use uncompressed bitmaps right from the start you will free up both memory and time, not dramatically, but there will be a difference.
  • Do you really need to use full 3D? Do it like the pros. from big SFX studios: use 3D only if necessary, rely on compositing for the rest. Don't be afraid to post process your render in a 2D application! Replace your 2 millions polygons backgrounds by matte paintings, use "alpha-mapped" objects, create the particle effects with a 2D particle engine (Particle Illusion, Promethean FX, Combustion, etc�). There are dozens of tricks to speed up rendering. For animation learning compositing is as important as mastering your 3D application.

Q: How can I put my Cinema4D animation on DVD or VCD? Any software I should get?

A: Take a trip to http://www.dvdhelp.com. The ultimate resource to make DVDs. On this website you'll find information, tutorials, links to editors, encoders, converters and authorwares (free or commercial).


Q: In BodyPaint 3D, how do I export a UV template of my mesh to be used in Photoshop?

A: In BodyPaint 3D start by selecting all polygons that you want outlined by using the Live Selection Tool. Then switch to the Brush Tool and change the brush size in the Active Tool Manager to 1 pixel (leave all other fields at their default values). Then click on Colors and change the color to either black or white (this is not absolutely vital since you can always change the color of the grid in Photoshop). Now switch back to polygon mode (Use UV Polygon Edit Tool). All your polygons should still be selected so go to the top menu and click on Layer > Outline Polygons, and your selection should be outlined with a 1 pixel sized brush stroke in either black and white. I suggest doing the outlining on a new layer so you can hide it in Photoshop if needed. Finally, select File > Save Texture as� and I recommend you to save it as a *.PSD since this will keep all layers you�ve created so far. Now you can open it with Photoshop and you should have a nice outlined grid of your mesh!


Q: How can I import a Poser model in Cinema 4D?

A: Use the Obj exchange format or an import plugin (go to the plugin database to find them). Currently there is no easy way to import animated Poser character.

As a general advice we don't recommend to use Poser models in Cinema 4D. These "polygons" models are very difficult to texturize, to bone and animate. It's more convenient to use low polygon characters smoothed out by a HyperNURBS cage. HyperNURBS object are less prone to ugly mesh distortion, work better with Soft IK and are rendered faster. If you really need ready-made characters, search for low polygon models ("subdivision surface" Lw2 objects work nicely in Cinema 4D).


Q: How do I write bold/italic/underlined text in the forum? How do I link to an image?

A: Read this thread: How to use physical style tags when posting in the forum.

 

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