Several years ago when I decided I wanted to create 3D animated films, I began researching the major 3D software applications, starting with Maya and working my way through to Blender. I found a huge article that covered them all in depth, and their overall choice for the beginning filmmaker/modeler was CINEMA 4D. And at roughly the same time I discovered the indie filmmaker mdotstrange whose animated feature film “We are the Strange” immediately established a new standard for solo experimental animation. And what primary software does he use?
MAXON's CINEMA 4D
Now that I'm finally able to work with the new CINEMA 4D R11.5 Studio Bundle, I see what mdot and other artists are talking about: this software is not only designed for ease of use, but it's solidly developed and is as deep a program as you could possibly need both for the beginner and for the seasoned pro. I just love this program.
About Our Reviews
CINEMA 4D is designed as a modular application. You have the core program, which is a complete CG package from modeling to animation to render, and 8 possible modules which add advanced functionality to the core system. The Studio Bundle, which I am reviewing here in part, comes with the Advanced Render 3, Mograph 2, Mocca 3, Hair, Thinking Particles, Dynamics, Net Render and Sketch & Toon.
Since the Studio Bundle of CINEMA 4D is so large and complex, we will be featuring 3 separate reviews of the program and modules. This review will be the first and will focus on the new Picture Viewer, the new Rendering capabilities, and on my experience as a first-time user of CINEMA 4D. Sergio [nemirc] will focus on MoDynamics and other modules, and Nick [nickcharles] will review the newest Broadcast Edition of CINEMA 4D. We will be posting these over the next 3 weeks, so you'll be able to get unusual coverage of CINEMA 4D here at Renderosity. We hope you find our different ideas and insights into the program helpful.
CINEMA 4D's R11 release was quite a big change for MAXON and has received a lot of well-deserved praise. Does the recently released R11.5 (Studio Version) compare favorably to the previous upgrade? Let's take a look at what's new in this version:
These are only the highlights of what's new in C4D and the program modules, for a full list of all updates and changes you can go here. I'll be focusing on the new Picture Viewer and the amazing new Rendering capabilities in this new version of CINEMA 4D.
New Picture Viewer
Version 11.5 of CINEMA 4D now offers a new picture viewer which includes a render history so you can compare renders to decide which render settings work best for your project. You can even set up an A/B window and have one side of the screen your 1st version of the render and another side of the screen a 2nd version. The new picture viewer also has a layers tab which allows you to choose any multi-pass layer and change it's blending mode. Combine this with the A/B view and you'll be saving a lot of time rendering.
The new Picture Viewer gives you A/B render layers
The new viewer also has a nice set of controls that allow you to adjust saturation, contrast, brightness, exposure and gamma for your render. Previously you had to go to an outside program to do this, but now you stay right inside of C4D and save time. Also, once you find a setting you like you can use the “create post” button which will add your image adjustments as a color correction post effect to your render settings.
And my favorite aspect of the new picture viewer is the ability to play back animation in real-time using the Ram player. You can scrub back and forward with the animation to check your work. Audio is supported as well. If you are timing your animation to sound, you'll be able to play/scrub the sound in real-time. Simple addition to the program, but for music video specialists and those who use a lot of music in their animation, it's a huge time saver.
Probably the most impressive addition to this new version of CINEMA 4D is the improvements made in rendering. And at the top of the list are two new functions: Bucket rendering and Instance rendering. Bucket rendering has now replaced the old Scan-line rendering for the core render engine. Basically, this means you'll have a “bucket” for each core of your machine which speeds up rendering enormously. Further, you can change the size (default is 64x64) to any size you like, so if you are having memory problems you can lower the bucket size to make better use of memory when you render your scene.
Instance rendering is a huge improvement for those times in which you'll need a lot of the same kind of objects. Trees or grass are good examples, although CINEMA 4D supports instancing in cloners, instance objects, Thinking Particles and regular particles. A simple check box in the object properties window allows you to dramatically save memory in rendering a scene. Literally billions of polygons are possible now on even a modest computer set-up.
The new Render Instances in C4D can save a lot of time
Subpolygon Displacement calculation has been improved in Version 11.5. Adding detail to polygons using simple shaders and textures allows for more realistic detail with your objects. The rendering for Subpolygon displacement is now up to 7 times faster on a quad core machine. I like MAXON's comment that this new render capability is like “bump maps on steroids.”
The documentation included with the Studio version of CINEMA 4D R11.5 is outstanding. Packaging is simple and well thought out. Along with the installation disc you get an installation guide pamphlet which takes you step-by-step through installing the core application and all of the modules that come in the Studio version. Printed in color (Thank you!), the guide also includes a description of how to handle the Net Render installation (using other computers to render over a network).
The green check box on the screen indicates "successful installation" - 30 minutes tops
The installation itself was much faster and simpler than other high-end programs I've used. No dongle monkey business here; you receive temporary serials for the core program and all of the modules for initial installation, and once you've registered at MAXON, you receive permanent serials which pop right in with Control-V on your keyboard. 30 minutes and I was up and running; within 24 hours I had the permanent serials and now I'm a very happy fellow.
A 225-page Quick-Start manual is also provided, and also in color. This guide takes you through each module with practical projects you can easily follow on your own. The writing is actually very funny in places (never said that about a manual before), and the writers Glen Frey, Sven Hauth, Dirk Beichert and Fabian Rosenkranz deserve a round of applause. Best introduction to a software package I've every come across. By the end of the manual, you'll have practical knowledge of every aspect of CINEMA 4D.
MAXON also provides a special learning site for CINEMA 4D called “Cineversity.” While there are many free tutorials, if you sign up for the site ($295 for the year) you have access to an on-going series of up-to-date video tutorials and direct “live” help from MAXON professionals in the forum and via video. I've spent the last month reading up and trying out these features and I can't think of another company that gets this as right as MAXON does. Really tremendous and practical support pretty much every week. The money spent on Cineversity is like having your own private tutor which would be much, much more expensive. Highly recommended.
The help system within CINEMA 4D is extremely detailed and helpful. You are able to follow guided tutorials, search for terms and access information on every aspect of the new release. This is easily the best help system I've ever used in a software application. My only caveat is that I wish I could download it as a PDF. Call me old fashioned, but I like a book to work from.
Our Renderosity CINEMA 4D Forum is quite active and helpful. I spent time there and enjoyed it very much. There is a “tips and tricks” and a “free stuff” section along with a gallery of user creations using CINEMA 4D. The C4D community on the net is wide and active. Spend a week searching and you'll come up with a dozen sites you can hang out in to learn. MAXON has a decent Youtube.com site where many of their free Cineversity tutorials are re-posted.
Mdotstrange is using C4D R11.5 for his new animated feature “heart string marionette” and has been blogging regularly about production with the program along with the many excellent plug-ins available. His two part intro to CINEMA 4D is great. His vocal patter will make you fall out of your chair. It's a real-world, front-line filmmakers version of the standard tutorial.
Since MAXON began developing their 3D graphics software in Germany in 1986 (they opened their American branch in 1998), their main focus has been on speed of use, solid dependability and on developing state-of-the-art CG technology. After spending a month with CINEMA 4D and using it practically every day, I can say with confidence that it's the easiest (and most fun) computer graphics program I've ever used. It's solidly built (not a single crash) and the functionality is off the charts.
I've only just touched the surface of what the new CINEMA 4D R11.5 contains. The MoGraph 2 module and extensive improvements to the core program, in addition to the new picture viewer and render improvements make this version of CINEMA 4D an essential upgrade or new purchase. A favorite among broadcast motion graphic artists because of the excellent interaction with After Effects and Apple Motion, CINEMA 4D is a top-level professional application that is solidly built and works just as effectively on a Mac as on a PC (both Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard are fully supported).
With the new rendering improvements, the picture viewer and new version of MoGraph, you are getting the best possible technology in an elegant and powerful package. Coupled with the best documentation and tutorials at Cineversity (what other CG software has a site like this?), the CINEMA 4D Studio Bundle is easily the most powerful and elegant software I've ever used.
The CINEMA 4D R11.5 core program is $995 (upgrade from R11 is $395) and the Studio Bundle with 8 full modules is a whopping $3,695.00. This might seem like a lot of money, but if you are an independent filmmaker or a small studio, this price is very reasonable even for low-budget animation projects and the CINEMA 4D R11.5 Studio Bundle is a complete animation film studio in a box. With patience and effort you can create professional level work that rivals Hollywood studio releases. I'd say it is worth the price.
MAXON also offers an XL Bundle for CINEMA 4D which has the Advanced Render, Thinking Particles, Net Render and MOCCA (their animation module) for $2,495.00. You can find more information about CINEMA 4D bundles and the other 3 editions of the program (Architecture, Engineering and the new Broadcast Edition) at the main MAXON site which is very well done and easy to use.
I plan on building a new computer around CINEMA 4D early in the year. Something I hope to write up over a couple articles here at Renderosity.com.
Be sure to try out the CINEMA 4D demo which is fully functional except for the 'save' function which is disabled. After half an hour, I think you'll agree with me that CINEMA 4D has a fast learning curve and is a fun program to work with.
My sincere thanks to MAXON for providing the Studio Bundle of CINEMA 4D R11.5 for review, and also for direct one-on-one briefing to answer questions and help. Above and beyond. Thank you!
Highlights of CINEMA 4D R11.5
(posted in the Renderosity Video Center)
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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