3D modelling tool
Since its launch on the Mac in 1996, Maxon’s flagship 3D software Cinema 4D has gained a reputation for stability, ease of use and considerable power. Version 9 loses none of these important attributes – and brings over 100 new features to the mix in a release that demonstrates how Maxon has been listening to the views of its customers.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you launch Cinema 4D R9 is that the interface is now a little darker in appearance. This is in response to users claiming that the previous interface interfered with the workflow. Indeed, interface is something on which Maxon’s software engineers appear to have gone to town. The interface was always extremely customizable, but the number of improvements to the workflow in the latest version has taken this to new heights.
Practically every menu in the program is now tearable, with all contextual menus being dockable; hit the ‘v’ key and you get a display of all menus (as you do in Maya when holding down the spacebar); there are improvements to Open GL support, with faster refresh rates and dual-plane technology; you can now assign multiple keystrokes to any menu or sub-menu command; and the new highlighting feature allows you to see exactly which object, polygon, point or edge you’re selecting.
More impressive is the new HeadsUpDisplay or HUD feature: this gives a customizable readout of practically any information you need to know about a model, including number of objects, points, polygons, edges, and so on. You can also choose to display almost any object attribute. Right- or Ctrl-clicking on the brightness slider of a light, for example, docks the slider permanently with it, letting you customise the light’s brightness value on-the-fly. It’s all so easy that you’ll wonder why Maxon waited until version 9.
Moving on to the selection menu, there are a number of new tools that make their debut. These include the Loop and Ring Selection tools, which select rings of polygons, points or edges in one smooth action. Maxon claims that these tools are particularly useful when figure modelling. Best of all, however, are the new Auto-Switch and Tweak selection modes. With any of these modes activated, you can intuitively select polygon, points or edges without having to go to the toolbox to select a specific mode. This is a fantastic time-saver and, along with myriad other workflow improvements, make version 9 easily the best and most user-friendly offering from Maxon.
The developers haven’t been lax when coming up with new modelling features, either. Version 9 brings long-awaited n-gon support, letting you create polygons with as many sides as you like. In previous versions, you were limited to traditional three or four-sided polygons. The addition of n-gons really opens up modelling possibilities. You can now create almost any shape imaginable in a form that is both clean and non-draining on valuable processor resources. There have also been improvements to the knife and bevel tools that, with the ability to edit the profile of a bevel, can now almost be used as replacement for both the Extrude and Inner Extrude tools. Also new to Cinema 4D are the Brush, Iron and Stitch And Sew tools, all of which greatly enhance the program’s already substantial modelling toolset.
Another major new feature is the Clothhilde plug-in. This is similar in approach to the Dynamics plug-in, giving control over gravity, wind, drag and so on, and letting you create realistic cloth effects. Simply create a rough polygon shape, assign a cloth tag to it and it will smoothly interact with any objects in your scene that you have designated as ‘colliders’. The plane will then wrap itself around those objects like a real piece of cloth.
No bones about it – this is a significant upgrade. With improvements to rendering (maximum ray-depth has been bumped up from 50 to 500), innovative new features such as the Melt and Measure & Construction tools, Isoline editing and sub-polygon displacement (for creating complex surfaces in the Material Editor) Maxon will have many of its rivals running for cover. Why, you can now even bring in a background picture at the correct width-to-height ratio.
As always, however, there are a few negatives – principal among which is Maxon’s decision to make printed manuals an optional extra (if you purchase the Studio Bundle, this will cost an extra £94). You do, of course, get PDF versions of the manuals, as well as a quickstart guide, but most power-users will probably find themselves forking out the extra cash if only for convenience’s sake. It’s also worth noting that to take full advantage of the program you’ll need a three-button mouse – although you can customize keys, you will soon find yourself running out of fingers if you try to do so.
Cinema 4D R9 Studio Bundle is an extremely alluring package. Combined with superb existing features such as BodyPaint, Dynamics, MOCCA, Sketch And Toon, PyroCluster, Thinking Particles and Advanced Render that helped to place the program at the top of the pile, the new tools and outstanding workflow enhancements represent excellent value for money. From its humble beginnings, Cinema 4D has become a powerful beast. It has done so, however, without neglecting the features that have made it so popular among both 3D amateurs and pros. In terms of speed, both interface and rendering, Cinema 4D is still the fastest kid on the block – and even with all the new features, it remains one of the easiest-to-learn 3D programs on the market.