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Cinema 4D R20
Cinema 4D R20 - Modeling

Software Review: Cinema 4D R20 Studio from MAXON

Cinema 4D R20 is the latest release of the high-end 3D motion graphics, visual effects, painting, and rendering software application from MAXON. Extremely popular among professional 3D animators and motion graphics artists, it has been used for film and television in Doctor Strange, Blade Runner 2049, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ghost in The Shell, The Martian, and many other productions. It’s also used in other fields such as graphic design, science, engineering, architectural visualization, and AR/VR/MR.

Cinema 4D R20 integrates with a wide variety of other commercial products, including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, and Final Cut Pro. Cinema 4D can be used for modeling and comes with a complete set of spline primitives and spline drawing tools, which means you don’t need to switch to an external tool. In this version, many improvements been added to make 3D modeling much easier and improve performance and usability.

While there are a lot of new features in this release 20 of Cinema 4D, I will go into some of the ones that I really appreciate, broken out by area.

New in MoGraph

Cinema 4D R20
Cinema 4D R20 – Fields

• Fields were first introduced in MoGraph’s falloff system. The feature has now has been taken to the next level, with much more flexibility to layer and tweak your fields. What’s also great is that fields are not limited to MoGraph. You can use them to control the strength of deformation and volumes, and to define vertex maps and selection sets. Just as in the past, you can control this effect from the falloff tab, but now they are implemented as field objects. In the remapping field, you have more control over the shape of the falloff. In fact, your control is almost unlimited. Other things you have more control over include the color, opacity, and gradient. You can also layer the fields and use common blending modes to combine them.

There is also a new falloff shape in R20: the Radial Field. This will let you control a falloff that’s based on an angle around the center of the field. Another feature is the ability to set multiple iterations so that you can get a pinwheel or spoked effect. Also, some fields have subfields that can be modified by other fields. For something like offsets, there is a tab for controlling that attribute. You can also combine multiple fields for even more dramatic effects.

An additional field type is the spline. You can define the falloff along the length of the spline or based on the radius from spline, or even combine the two. Use it in conjunction with something like the Curves effect to make more adjustments to the actual shape of the falloff. It can also be used as a mask in combination with something like text to really create something extraordinary.

Cinema 4D R20
Cinema 4D R20 – Built-in Assets

• Another use for the spline field is to control deformations. Because you have so much control, you can use it to create a lot of new objects, such as the manipulation of type. Say, for example, you want to create a chiseled-type object. You would want to use spline text instead of MoGraph text, as you need to have access to the spline. Then you would select “create single object.” This will connect all the individual pieces such as the extrusion and the cap and then perform the deform on them as a single piece. You will also want to set the type to quadrangles as you want a dense mesh. Finally, you need to turn on the regular grid option and get a grid that’s dense to work with. From there you can choose what kind of deformer you want to use and create your effect.

• Using the MoGraph Multi-Instance mode, not only can you work with millions of clone objects, you can work with all those millions of objects much more easily and efficiently. Prior to R20, when working with so many objects, the software would navigate slowly and sometimes it would drop into a bounding box, which is not effective. Now when you activate multi-instance mode, the motion is fluid. You also have easier control over the viewport representation of the clone. This will become more apparent as the number of clone instances increases. Another benefit is that Multi-Instance mode uses much less RAM, and preparing time is much shorter. This is because instead of creating a clone object for every object in your scene, you are now creating one object, and an instance representation of the position, color, and other pertinent data for the rest of the objects.

New in Modeling

Cinema 4D R20
Cinema 4D R20 – Modeling

• R20 has a new volumetric workflow for modeling and data transfer. Based on the Open VDB library from DreamWorks animation, it’s fully compatible with other Cinema 4D core technologies. One note: It cannot render effects like smoke and fire. But it can let you create very organic modules simply. You can combine multiple objects seamlessly, and do fast volumetric operations, as well as mesh everything together very quickly. Finally, you can also load VDB files and sequences from outside applications and use them within Cinema 4D R20.

• This new workflow also lets you create complex organic models based on simple shapes using volume modeling. You do this by adding a volume builder object. Drag the objects into the objects list or make the objects a child of the volume builder. This is done by combining shapes with Boolean operations to meld one object into another.

• With R20, you now have native import of Catia, STEP, IGES, SolidWorks, and JT CAD files. This means you can use CAD data provided by your clients. Although there are many CAD files that don’t include built-in materials, you still can choose to create materials based on the display colors.

New in Materials and Rendering

Cinema 4D R20
Cinema 4D R20 -Gradient

• The R20 release of Cinema 4D introduces a node-based materials system and a new nodal editor. You can now build complex shaders for both the standard and the physical render engines, giving you endless possibilities for combining over 150 different basic nodes. Using the diagram flow layout, connecting nodes is easier than ever. One big difference here is that when you click on a node material, you will be presented with the node editor instead of the materials editor. There is also a new node attribute dot, called a “squircle,” that allows you to insert any node, including shaders, textures, layer stacks, and gradients, into the specific input. In other words, it gives you the ability to see the different options for connecting textures or various nodes. The complexity that you can build into your creations is almost mind-boggling.

• The new ProRender now supports Subsurface Scattering (SSS), Multi-pass, and Motion Blur, and lets you use the native power of your GPU to handle these tasks. You can use SSS for rendering wax, skin, and fluids. You can also now use the MoGraph Color shader within ProRender to, for example, specify the strength of an effect and the scatter color. The Display Color shader is available with this release as well. With Multi-pass, there are several different passes available for compositing, including several data passes, an object id pass, and a materials id pass. Finally, R20 supports both linear and sub-frame motion blur. Just enable motion blur in the settings and adjust the shutter speed of your camera and/or angle. You can even render multiple iterations with different seed values and blend them for better effects.

Cinema 4D R20
Cinema 4D R20 -Gradient

• This release also includes a set of much more powerful gradient enhancements. You will notice the difference from the moment you open it. There are three predefined sizes, small, medium, and large, with medium being the default. You can use your navigation tools to pan around or zoom in to your gradient and get to very specific parts of it. You can add several knots onto your gradient and then select some of them and work with them as a group within the gradient, and even zoom in to show just the selected area. You can multi-edit the knots as a group. You can select several colors from a swatch list and just drag them on to a gradient and the colors will appear. A dedicated node in the nodal editor and in the new Fields Technology includes these features, but here you also get an alpha channel control as well. There are also a lot of new context menu features and keystroke features to make your life easier.

Cinema 4D R20
Cinema 4D R20 – Node Based Materials

• Another great upgrade is the Motion Tracker. It has received many enhancements in Release 20 in aesthetics, workflow, and performance. First, there is now a dedicated tracking mode for 2D. In this mode, it is possible to use the normal selection tools as well as common viewport and navigation shortcuts. Next, there is a 2D camera navigation mode. This unifies the film move and film zoom functionality as well as allowing them to work with the usual navigation shortcuts. It can also be used outside the motion tracking workflow. The 2D manual tracklist has also received some enhancements in that it now follows all of Cinema 4D’s list conventions, such as drag-and-drop movements, renaming, and sizing. The 2D tracking algorithm for better tracking results and virtual keyframes has been added to automatically create new keys. You now can set the tracking direction on a per-keyframe basis and see this direction in the graph view.

• Additional Alembic features: The feature that allows you to exchange 3D data with other 3D programs now has added options. For example, the Nuke exporter has an option to save all 3D data as Alembic. Several aspects of Alembic can be controlled through a variety of parameters in the attribute manager. The animation can be disabled, or you can choose it for a specific frame or subframe. The animation can be offset, you can change the play mode to loop, straight, or ping-pong, and you can change the speed and re-time it using a spline interface. There are two added commands: Bake as Alembic and Bake as Alembic and Delete. This lets you export any selected objects as Alembic files quickly and easily. Last, Alembic also allows for the caching of complex animations and simulation. This way they don’t need to be calculated on the fly and you will have smoother playback and scrubbing within the timeline.

Overall, Cinema 4D R20 is one of the most impressive releases in recent years, with its new Volume Builder and Mesher toolset that lets you create models by adding one model into another, node-based materials system, new nodal editor, much more powerful gradient enhancements, updated motion tracker, and a host of additional features.

If you are wondering about upgrading from a prior release, or purchasing new, I would say this is the one to upgrade to. If you are considering investing in Cinema 4D, now is a really great time to come on board. I highly recommend this product.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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