LA-based Uncharted Territory created the majority of the matte
paintings in 2012 using Maxon’s Cinema 4D.
A Multi-Part Series by Joe Herman
Part II: Crossings
Dan Ochiva contributed to this report.
In Part One, I gave a short background to CGI on the Mac, in part to help understand what I perceive to be the great popularity of Maxon’s Cinema 4D, an affordable, easy to use 3D program for both the Mac and PC. (You can read Part 1 here.)
Let’s continue our story.
In the late 1990s the once small CGI industry began to quickly change. As Wintel (Windows + Intel) machines continued to get faster and cheaper, Softimage (owned at that point by Microsoft) and Maya were released on the PC. The venerable Silicon Graphics machines–once the coveted and exclusive domain of the high priests of 3D—still held the high-end, but owning a MIPS (SGI’s CPU) based machine only made financial sense for top houses doing Hollywood effects or national commercials.
At around the same time, the 2D world picked up complementary strengths as Adobe After Effects was ported to the PC where it joined its other Mac-born brethren Photoshop and Illustrator, which had migrated over well before that.
These hardware and software developments began a significant change in the industry that, in a few short years, was one more knock against mid-range houses in the City that often offered pricey CGI as part of a postproduction package. Since small, flexible boutique operations could now create 2D and 3D work at a much lower price point, anyone buying CGI services would either choose on price or, if that didn’t matter, turn to the high-end players.
Now that most of Adobe’s software–in particular the ‘Swiss knife’ of After Effects–ran on a PC, competition evened out the market for going with either a PC or Mac. For the first time Mac-based After Effects compositors and 2D designers could consider using a PC to gain access to high-end 3D software.
While I don’t know of anyone who has run a valid poll of what’s the most popular 3D software package, if you look around eventually you’ll bump into Autodesk Maya. Based on three leading imaging apps of the early 1990s, Maya is road-tested by many top artists around the world. Not many software programs can boast of its pedigree while still selling well in Version 12.
Running under Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, Maya (it means ‘illusion’ in Sanskrit) has garnered several Academy awards. It offers a shopping list of capabilities: 3D animation, 3D modeling, simulation, visual effects, rendering, match moving, and compositing.
If a Hollywood movie has effects, 3D animation and 3D modeling, it’s a near certainty that Maya was involved, whether you’re talking about Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Avatar or Shrek. Knowing how to use it makes you a member of an elite club of high-end 3D pros.
With a per seat price of around $3750 (not including maintenance releases or support), Maya does a lot, and asks a lot from the user since it’s one of the most complex software apps you’ll ever use.
So how do we make sense of the rise in popularity of Maxon’s Cinema 4D, especially among the motion graphics community? Several factors are at play not the least of which is the excellent features Cinema 4D offers (of which we will discuss later), but first we’ll discuss another important consideration.
Even though Adobe successfully ported After Effects to the PC (as well as Photoshop and Illustrator), many design firms in New York preferred to remain Mac houses, especially those who started out doing 2D motion graphics, compositing and graphic design. Since Photoshop on the Mac is by far the most popular combination, photographers and commercial design artists have also gone the Cupertino way.
Although it would be wrong to over-emphasize the importance of the Mac platform when trying to understand the success of Cinema 4D, we do consider it to be an important factor in its rise among the design community.
Macs draw loyal customers, or fanatics, as some would have it. Apple, of course, has earned its reputation for innovation and quality over the years. Anyone involved in CGI and the graphic arts knows that, and they respond in kind with similar dedication.
Personally, I enjoy working on both PCs and Macs. Any piece of equipment or software app is just a tool. The success of any creative work is of course dependent solely on the vision of the artist. That’s not to minimize the strong, near religious feelings that can arise among users of competing computer platforms (well, okay, Mac users mostly).
So even though through the 1990s a good, low-cost 3D package never caught on for Mac users, loyalty to the Mac persisted, especially as technologies such as Apple Quicktime and later on Final Cut Pro continued to offer important benefits to the platform.
Mac-based designers, it seemed, were still not all that interested in 3D CGI. But things were about to change.
In Part III of this series, we continue our analysis of the growing popularity of Cinema 4D among motion graphic designers. Read it here.