Cinema 4D Studio R13 review

There are some software updates that add very little other than another upgrade cost to the user but with Cinema 4D, the 3D modelling, animation and rendering package, that clearly isn’t the case.

The previous two versions, releases 11.5 and 12, significantly upgraded the system by ditching scanline rendering in favour of bucket rendering, which makes better use of multiple core CPUs, and expanding the MoGraph module so that it offered rigid and soft body dynamics using the Bullet engine. So here’s lucky 13, all shiny and new in four versions, from the Prime edition at £780, through Broadcast and Visualize, up to Studio which will set you back a hefty £3,360. Does it carry on the good work of the previous two releases? In a word, yes. There are major upgrades to the rendering engine, the addition of stereoscopic 3D, more character tools, and a host of workflow, viewport, modelling and animation improvements.

It all starts with how you interact with a typical scene. As well as the traditional navigation and movement there are now extra modes where you can click on an object in the scene and the camera will follow the view around it. It’s certainly faster and smoother than R11.5. Exactly how the navigation modes are implemented can be tweaked in the preferences menu until you get comfortable with it.

Seen in stereo

As well as the impressive hair capabilities, there’s a new subsurface scattering shader that can create translucent materials such as skin

The view can also be turned into a stereoscopic preview, at which point you’ll need to get out the 3D anaglyph glasses supplied. This does involve a significant performance slowdown though, so unless your rig is fairly high spec you might want to go easy on this. There’s a number of options available when using the stereoscopic modes so that left and right cameras are simulated to either side of the actual camera, or the current camera can be one side and the other can be simulated. The simulated cameras are hidden but can be made visible. It’s not just red-cyan glasses though, the stereo options include creating content for side-by-side images, and interlaced or shutter-based glasses such as those used with current 3D TVs.

If there’s one area where Cinema 4D isn’t the strongest it’s modelling. Object handling has been cleaned up to make it easier to see and snap to other objects. Objects can be rotated together around their own axis, making it easier to manipulate them en masse. There are other tweaks that make duplicating objects faster too, but the overall thrust in this release is to clean up the interface and make the workflow faster, rather than provide any new modelling tools.

Animation has always been one of the core elements of Cinema 4D and this gets some upgrade work too. The new collision deformer is a neat and fast way of getting objects to interact without the overheads of the dynamics engine. By assigning deformer properties to two objects, when they come together they can create either temporary deformations that spring back or permanent shape changes. However, it’s the new character animation tools with rigging based on templates that’s really interesting. Add arm and leg rigs to your model then drag it to the Binding tab and the program will automatically bind your mesh to the skeleton. Then it’s just a matter of dragging limbs and manually animating the character.

The new CMotion system then comes into play by automatically adding walk cycles to characters and even weighting the pose for the underlying geometry. As well as animating humans there are templates for birds, fish, insects, quadrupeds and reptiles as well. There’s a lot more to the system beyond this, with auto weighting, skin deformation and smoothing, which makes for a powerful animation toolkit.

OUR VERDICT

Cinema 4D sports significant improvements across the board in terms of workflow and the user interface. The rendering capabilities add a new level of realism, while the character animation tools and stereoscopic options are very useful. Hardcore modelling fans might be better off with Modo but otherwise R13 is a major and worthwhile upgrade or new purchase.

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