Cinema 4D R9 Reviewed
By Steve Shaw
Steve Shaw, owner of Crucial Perception, holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design and a Master of Architecture. He lectured in the Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba from 2000-2004.
In the late fall, I was offered the opportunity to explore and review the most recent version of Maxon’s professional caliber multi-purpose 3D modeling, animation and rendering application suite, Cinema 4D XL R9. I found this offer an exciting possibility. It is a rare instance that software is understood and reviewed from the perspective of an architectural illustrator.
Educated in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba in Canada, I have been using Cinema 4D for architectural illustration since the beginning of my graduate work in 1998. Since that time I have witnessed the rapid growth and development of Maxon and its flagship software. From a virtually unknown niche player to one of the CG Industry’s major developers, Maxon has steadily grown the functionality, reputation and user base of Cinema 4D while consistently remaining focused on the their software’s core strengths – cross platform development, an intuitive interface and workflow, incredible rendering speed, and nearly unstoppable stability. Simultaneous to Maxon’s growth of Cinema 4D, third party development has escalated with significant plug-ins available for many specialty requirements. To top it off, inter-operability with the industry’s most popular file types has always been standard.Product
Cinema 4D is a modular software package involving a base application complimented by expansion packages of specialty features such as character animation tools, advanced lighting tools, advanced particle effects, and networked rendering capabilities. Users are free to pick and choose which of these features they require, licensing each individually. Alternatively, users may select larger pre-grouped bundles at reduced prices. This system provides tremendous flexibility in licensing only the features required.
The Cinema 4D Product Line:
Cinema 4D – the core application featuring 3D modeling, animation and rendering
Advanced Render – an expansion to the default rendering engine, Advanced Render supports global illumination, HDRI, surface and volume caustics, sub-poly displacement, sub-surface scattering, motion blur and depth of field
Mocca – a toolset for character animation, Mocca provides bone tools and the ability to use soft IK along with morph mixing, motion blending and cloth simulation.
Thinking Particles – a fully scriptable, event based particle engine with detailed control over interaction with other particles and scene objects
Pyrocluster – a particle based volumetric shading engine that works with either standard or thinking particles
Net Render – a TCP/IP based networked rendering solution with web-based interface, multiple users and automatic load balancing via internet or local network (3 client license)
Cinema 4D XL Bundle – All of the above
Sketch and Toon – a complete Non-Photo-Real (NPR) rendering engine with complete control over lines, shading, hatches, and interaction with the standard or advanced rendering
Dynamics – collision detection of soft and rigid bodies with surface characteristics, elasticity, gravity, wind, and friction
Body Paint – a complete 3D painting and UV toolset that allows up to ten channels to be painted simultaneously in either 3D or projection
Net Render - a TCP/IP based networked rendering solution with web-based interface, multiple users and automatic load balancing via internet or local network (unlimited client license)
Cinema 4D Studio Bundle – All of the above
Although all of the modules are of use in the design and illustration of architecture, of particular interest to an architectural illustrator are the Advanced Render, Pyrocluster, Net Render, and Sketch and Toon modules.
Bundle and module pricing information is available at http://www.maxonshop.com/
Additional software that may be of interest to architectural illustrators:
ArchiCAD Exchange – plug-in that allows integration of models from ArchiCAD into Cinema 4D
VectorWorks Exchange – plug-in that allows integration of models from VectorWorks into Cinema 4D
Ozone – integrated atmospheric creation toolset
xFrog – integrated procedural modeling tools for vegetation
RPC – plug-in for use of RPC content
Jenna – comprehensive iterative instancing and array toolset
As always, the Maxon installer worked flawlessly. It has been overhauled since I last used it with R8. Previously, installing the XL bundle required installing the core application and then installing each module with individual installers. The revised R9 installer allows the user to install the entire Cinema R9 XL bundle at once.
Impressions From the Studio
It has been several weeks since my copy of Cinema 4D XL R9 arrived in the mail. In that time I have completed several architectural illustrations with no derivation of my workflow. The majority of my modeling work is completed in FormZ and then transferred to Cinema 4D via layered DXF. Instanced geometry and most sweeps and lofts are completed in Cinema with splines from FormZ. Materials are generally created with a combination of Cinema’s incredible system of procedural shaders and image maps created with PhotoShop.
The integration of R9 into my studio workflow was quite smooth, but was not without difficulties. A series of view-port issues arose including seemingly random crashes and severe interface lag. The assistance from Maxon Tech Support response was excellent. I received email and telephone correspondence from experts in both the USA and Germany within 24hrs. The problem lay not with Cinema R9, but with an update (66.93) I had applied to my nVidia video drivers. After a retrograde to older drivers, the issue was resolved. I have received notice that the issues will be resolved in updated nVidia drivers.
The majority of my favorite third party plug-ins moved flawlessly into R9. Two exceptions were Ozone2 and Mesh Surgery. Ozone 2 by Eon Software required a new serial number provided free of charge to registered users. Mesh Surgery by the Third Party, however, does not function with Cinema 4D R9. Although Maxon has attempted to recreate much of the functionality of the toolset included in Mesh Surgery, I eagerly await an updated R9 compatible version of Mesh Surgery.
The interface of Cinema 4D remains a core strength and with R9 Maxon has continued its tradition of refinement. Familiar elements such as the Material Manager, the Object Manager, the Attributes Manager, the Time Line, and the F-Curve Manager remain with subtle alterations. All new interface features include a Heads Up Display (HUD) and a global pop-up menu. The HUD allows object, scene, or animation data to be displayed floating in the view-port. The global pop up (v-key) exposes immediate access frequently used menu items, tools and selection parameters. Almost every element of the interface can be customized - including menus, tool bars, view-ports, and hot-keys. Task specific configurations of tools and menus can also be saved and recalled with a single click.
Release 9 has introduced many features new to Cinema 4D users, including N-Gons, Sub-poly displacement, Sub-Surface Scattering Cloth simulation and RPC support. Other features new to those upgrading from R8 include split frame tiling cameras and a sketch-like shading system.
With the introduction of N-Gons, users can now create polygons with any number of points. It is now a much simpler process to achieve smooth model construction without being constrained to tri’s or quad’s. Additionally, the ability to create N-Gons impacts the versatility and function of the Sketch and Toon render module.
Sub-poly displacement permits the addition of surface detail at the rendering stage without creating additional polygons. Using traditional displacement maps, high polygon densities are required for an accurate displacement. Using sub-poly displacement, maps are used in conjunction with surface sub-divisions (similar to hyper-nurbs) to render surface detail that has not been modeled. Highly detailed brick, wood and concrete surfaces can be created quickly without extensive polygon counts. The sub-poly displacement process will add to render time, but for foreground objects, the effect is amazing.
The cloth simulation tools provide a simple interactive soft-body system complete with object and self-collision detection. The system accounts for gravity, wind, and the surface characteristics of the “cloth”. Although intended for clothing on characters, this system simplifie the construction of animated flags, canopies, tents and tensile structures.
Although not a standard feature, RPC support is now available through a plug-in from ArchVision. 2D, 2.5D, and 3D RPC libraries are now accessible to Cinema 4D users. A “starter package” is available including the required plug-in along with a sample package of RPC content.
Two features new to Cinema 4D R8 users, but available since R8.5, are split-frame tiling cameras and the shading module Sketch and Toon.
With the split frame tiling cameras users can, with a single click, activate or deactivate an expresso script that allows a camera to split a large image into smaller tiles over multiple frames. The script, which works in both a 9-tile and 25-tile version, is excellent for large architectural images. It can be used to radically speed workflow by splitting the rendering load over multiple computers – manually or through Net Render. I am unsure if the script will work in older versions of Cinema 4D or whether it can be modified to generate other tiling layouts.
The Sketch and Toon module introduces a complete Non-Photo Realistic shading system with as much versatility as the standard Cinema 4D shaders. Working in isolation or in conjunction with Advanced Render, Sketch and Toon is possibly the most exciting upgrade available to Cinema 4D users in the architectural visualization field. Including many presets, the Sketch Shader provides users full control over parameters such as stroke colour, thickness, distortion, opacity, and cloning. The versatility of this shading system is nearly unlimited. A rendering tag further extends the capabilities by allowing alternate Sketch shaders to be rendered on various edges of an object – ie. visible or hidden edges. Although the results are incredible, they seem to come at a price. Using the Sketch shaders can be a frustrating process as they introduce a noticeable slow-down in workflow. View-ports and menus function more slowly and the Sketch material dialogue lags terribly. I sincerely hope that these symptoms can be rectified as the Sketch and Toon module is truly incredible.
VIEW A SKETCH ANIMATION
Is Cinema 4D R9 a worthy upgrade? That depends on your workflow requirements and your current software. Sub-poly displacement and the global pop-up menu are worthy upgrade features. The addition of Cloth Simulation, Sub-Surface Scattering, RPC support and the HUD are simply the icing on the cake. If you currently use R8.5, this is an enticing upgrade. If you are a user of R8, it is time to step up to Cinema 4D R9. If you are not a current user of Cinema 4D, what are you waiting for?
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