Powerful Tools...Easy To Use

June 6, 2009 11:04 am

Tags: Cinema4D, MAXON, product reviews

MAXON's CINEMA 4D, having been around since the early 90's, has made some great strides in its evolution. Now, with Release 11 (R11), MAXON has taken another great leap. In this review, I will cover some of the new offerings this time around, in both the core software, and the optional add-on modules, where applicable, as well as explaining why you might want to consider looking at some of these extensions of the already robust core.


Now, if you've been regularly following the Renderosity Front Page News, over the last year we have presented several articles showing MAXON's CINEMA 4D in use in various facets of the industry. More specifically, in the area of feature films, CINEMA 4D has been used to great extent in such films as Monster House, The Golden Compass, Beowulf, Spider Man 3, and War Of The Worlds, just to name a few. And as impressive as that is, it's not a program that anyone should feel daunted by.

When speaking of C4D, it is often heralded as a 3D application that is easiest to use. Not having tried many other apps, I would still have to agree that it is quite easy to use right out of the box. This is mainly due to the layout of the interface, and all the 'visual' clues as to what things do. Further, it's easy to do many things very quickly through a kind of drag and drop approach (drop a modifier onto an object, etc.). Very smart in my book.

Now, this is all not to say that C4D is the proverbial "make art" button, as there is so much more under the hood that you'll need to spend time getting to know as you get deeper into using it. But you are up and running so quickly right from the start with the confidence that you can do anything you envision with this 3D suite. Utilizing online tutorials, in addition to the included Quickstart Manual (yes, by God, there is an actual hold-in-your hands book!), I was able to quickly adapt to some more of the inner workings of C4D without too many head-scratching moments.



The default layout on startup worked well for me, but you should know that C4D has several different layout options already available, or you can even create your own to fit the way you work. Also, appealing to an international user base, C4D supports multiple languages, including: German, Spanish, Italian, French, Russian, and Japanese.


Of the new features this time around, Sergio Rosa covered well the following in his review: animation layers, the new non-linear animation system, Projection Man, the new COLLADA export feature, and a bit about the Advanced Render module. I'll try to touch on a few other things not already mentioned.

The C4D core application provides all the basics for modeling, lighting, rendering, and animation. You also have the outstanding 3D painting features of BodyPaint 3D included (now in version 4). I also liked the Content Browser, much like Adobe's Bridge, where you can search your content by thumbnail view. And I must not forget to include that there is the online updater that allows you to automatically update the application as updates are available.


One feature I think many animators will be excited about is the new 'ghosting' feature, or as most may know the term, onion-skinning. By adding a display tag to an object/character you are animating, you can view several frames before and after a point in time in the animation. This is also configurable in how many frames you wish to visualize, as well as how they appear, whether mesh, shaded, etc. One can instantly see just how this can be useful in analyzing character animation.


Now, let's start talking modules. While the core app is, as I said, robust, depending on what you want or need to do, there are a number of add-on modules available. There are, in fact, eight modules currently available, and each of these integrate seamlessly (and I do mean seamlessly), with the core once installed. These are:

  • Advanced Render 3
  • MoGraph
  • MOCCA 3
  • Hair
  • Thinking Particles
  • Dynamics
  • Sketch and Toon
  • Net Render

Advanced Render 3

The Advanced Render module is as the name states, and provides for extra 'realism' with the likes of caustics and Global Illumination. In his review, Sergio talked a bit about Advanced Render 3 and how it has been re-worked for ease of use, and how it is now faster than before. However, I would also like to mention a couple of neat items included with this module, which are SKY and PyroCluster.


SKY is an ultra-groovy tool for, you guessed it, sky creation. With this tool you can quite easily and realisticly create some killer weather effects, with volumetric clouds, etc. And the pyromaniac in me was enthralled with PyroCluster for smoke and fire effects. I played around starting with the many presets available in both of these tools to get the jist. Although I haven't tried it yet, you can also use PyroCluster in conjunction with Thinking Particles for even more possibilities.



While I highly recommend the AR module, I also found the MoGraph module very cool, and I'd have to say my favorite part of the CINEMA 4D experience.

MoGraph is the module any motion graphics artist could easily fall in love with. There are just so many possibilities, and so many ways to create everything from exploding text effects, to flying logos, and really cool abstract artwork and animations.



Basically, what you have here is a module that allows you to create and control cloned objects, and to further arrange, animate and deform these clones with a number of different effectors and deformers. Cloners and Effectors and Deformers, oh my! (Sorry, I couldn't resist). Seriously, though, this is cool stuff, as the effectors and deformers can be arranged in hierarchies for really complex animations. Also, you can even use sound files to drive the action, though I haven't tried that out just yet.


The Hair module was fun to play with, and extremely cool in interaction. You have a bevy of tools available, including your basic barber set to cut, comb, brush, and style any way you'd like. You are able to also tweak a whole many factors to obtain some fantastic and realistic results. Hair, fur, and even grass creation is really fun and easy with this module.



Thinking Particles

With Thinking Particles you can create some fantastic particle effects and precisely control them with nodes in the XPresso Editor. I did not get far into working with this module, but you can find more info here.


The character animator's must-have addition to CINEMA 4D. I'm not an aspiring character animator and hadn't tested this, but you can find more info here.

Net Render

Net Render is what you would need if you want, or need, to set up a network rendering solution. Having only one available PC, I was unable to test this, but you can find more info here.


The Dynamics module, of course, is what you would need to simulate real-world physics of gravity, collisions, etc. You can create soft body simulations in real-time, and in my tests, this worked very well.



All in all, you just can't beat CINEMA 4D's ease of use. Currently, I fall into the minimum requirements with my testing PC, and even so, render times were fairly quick. Even real-time simulations, such as with the Dynamics module were very smooth.

The Help system in CINEMA 4D is very good and integrated well. You can right-click on things to get help in specific areas, as well. Also, I must applaud MAXON for the inclusion of a Quickstart Manual. Yes, an actual book included with the software! That's almost unheard of anymore, and much welcomed.

I highly recommend giving CINEMA 4D a try! But don't just take my word for it. Go download and check out the demo for yourself on the MAXON website, or even hang around Renderosity's CINEMA 4D Community a bit to see what others think.

For more information, please visit:

Editor's Note:

Be sure to explore Renderosity's active CINEMA 4D Community, as well as:

Also, check out recent CINEMA 4D articles featured in the Renderosity Front Page News:

Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
Renderosity Homepage


June 8, 2009

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Article Comments

nemirc ( posted at 9:31PM Mon, 08 June 2009

What I like about C4D is that it's very intuitive and user friendly. That's why I usually recommend it as a first application even if I'm a Maya hardcore fan.

Damsel ( posted at 3:55AM Wed, 10 June 2009

Very nice article Nick! :-)

doggod ( posted at 10:13PM Sun, 14 June 2009

As a 3-year user of C4D 9, I am a fan of about 75% of its modeling and rendering capabilities. Boolean operations misperform on a regular basis and I have not seen anything promoted in C4D 10 or 11 to say that they have been cleaned up. Some things which seem like they should be defaults are missing, e.g. the modeling axis has no relative references so it can be difficult to move points, faces, edges (incl rotate and scale) with precision and align them with anything else...but I have seen no promotions in 10 or 11 saying this has been revamped. And so on. Their materials system for 9 is a patchwork of C4D original mats, the Smells Like Almonds add-on, and a 2nd UV system derived from Bodypaint...but the three haven't been coordinated (SLA's fractals haven't been integrated into the original MATs which still use 2D non-tiling graphics in many places; C4D's UV functions are not identical with the Bodypaint UV functions even when the same projections are being requested. Instead, BodyPaint mostly functions like a huge subroutine in it's own world - and that's exactly how it's a separate program with some shared connetions. Connected but NOT integrated.) Given the problems with C4D 9, why should i believe that they've been addressed or that new errors won't exist in the new features? I find these kinds of problems to be typical of the state of the industry... specifically, where adding new features to promote new sales is more important then the cleaning up of problems from prior versions. I find the same caveats - progressive accumulations of problems - in Poser, Bryce, Vue and tS. C4D, like most of these products, has been around just long enough to require a major-top-to-bottom, very expensive, rewrite to bring it into another decade of feature patching. (Add Photoshop to the list...we are due a new version with updates of old features more than we need new looks and new features. Just so you know my outlook is directed at all digital art software :). ) C4D presents itself as "professional" software - but I find nothing professional in leaving errors from version to version. Having said all of this, C4D does MORE GOOD THINGS than you can possibly imagine...but do not expect it to qualitatively outperform the rest of the software in the industry - it is not perfect. For hobbyists, the all-add-ons-package is pricey. But if you feel you've outgrown your current software, and aren't ready to invest $9,000 or more in Hollywood state-of-the-art stuff, then C4D may be just the next step you need. Without guaranteed improvements of old functions, I have no interest in paying approximately $3,000 to upgrade from 9 to 11 with all add-ons BUT I have NO regrets about having spent that much originally. One of the big plusses of C4D was its speed. It's hybrid renderer and software-driven multiple thread rendering made it very nice. But, as other companies get into the multi-threaded rendering act, C4D no longer outshines all of them. One question, though: What is Renderosity's arrangement with C4D for the big marketing push here? And shouldn't we know that on the front end so we can evaluate these "opinion pieces" (read "sales promotions") with an intelligent eye? You denigrate our intelligence by thinking we are so mentally blind as not to see the advertisement contained herein. Those are my OPINIONS...please remember that I was asked. :)