Cinema4D XL 7

Maxon’s Cinema4D XL is a 3D modelling, animation and rendering tool with a devoted following – it has a loyal user base in what is a very crowded market. Cinema4D is a genuine cross-platform tool, and, unlike many other 3D applications, it’s not just a badly implemented port from a PC. Maxon has upgraded Cinema4D aggressively over the past two years – this is the fourth release in that period – and always released on both Mac and PC simultaneously. The program is beginning to find friends in high-places, and has been used on films such as Gladiator. Deformed
One of the reasons Cinema4D has won such a loyal following is that it’s a logical, structured tool, and relatively quick to learn. Objects are added as either primitives, or created by taking paths and extruding them or sweeping them. Once you’ve created a basic form, you can then apply deformations and other effects. These are recorded as individual actions in a clear hierarchy, which makes it easy to undo changes and step back simply by deleting the action. Similarly, textures and image mapping can be applied and removed at will, making it easy to experiment without worrying that you may ruin your masterpiece. Cinema4D even has its own script-based programming language, COFFEE, which you can use to save your procedures and write your own plug-ins. It’s fully object oriented, and uses a similar syntax to C++ or JAVA – so it’s not for the fainthearted, but for the hardcore users it extends the programs functionality. There is a lack of third-party plug-ins at the moment, but this is slowly being addressed. Taking simple forms and then applying a logical sequence of adjustments, and grouping objects together is the key to 3D modelling. The workspace only shows one view by default, but this is quite easy to manipulate and navigate. You can switch to two, three, or four views if required. Cinema4D’s renderers – known as shaders – improves on the much-admired one in previous versions. A new feature is the radiosity render, a processor-intensive technique that actually calculates light reflected between objects. It produces stunning results that have a warmth that straightforward raytraced scenes often lack. Another great new rendering feature is multipass rendering, where all the various components of a render – such as reflections – can be written as separate layers in file format that supports them, for example as a Photoshop .psd. For greater rendering flexibility, version 7 now incorporates the Smells Like Almonds 2.5 collection of shaders, which allows you to create stylized render effects – such as X-ray. Very impressive. Particle explosion
The particle and metaball effects in Cinema4D have always been one of its strong points, and this is further improved with a new Explosion tool. It allows you to explode objects into a number of 3D parts – rather than into 2D polygons – and set parameters to determine the strength, direction and other properties of the blast. Given that the 3D market is a crowded one, it’s important that your chosen 3D tool can work with other file formats. Cinema4D can export 3D Studio Max, Wavefront and a number of generic formats, such as VRML, DXF and QuickDraw 3D. Support for Macromedia’s Shockwave3D format has been announced, but has not yet been released. I would also like to see a vector-based export such as EPS or Flash SWF, but I guess you can’t have everything. The package also comes with a three-client licence for Cinema4D NET, the network rendering tool, so you can set-up a render farm – essential if you are doing high-res, broadcast-quality animations. It’s easy to set-up over a TCP/IP network and it can be controlled and administered through a Web browser. Maxon has thought of everything.

OUR VERDICT

Cinema4D XL seems to have it all. It has the features and functions of competing products that cost five times the price. Its cross-platform compatibility is abreath of fresh air for Mac users accustomed to watching the skies for a half-baked port. The new release cements Cinema4D XL’s position as the one to watch in the 3D world.

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