A Multi-Part Series by Joe Herman
Part I: The Early Days
For a while now, I’ve noticed a buzz for Maxon’s Cinema 4D in production houses in New York. This versatile 3-D animation program has become thoroughly entrenched in the local production community over the past few years, especially in the worlds of motion graphics and broadcast design.
It’s growing in popularity too. The announcement of the release of Version 12 earlier in the month got me thinking about this well-regarded product and its embrace by so many in New York as well as the larger community of creative professionals across the nation.
When I started in CGI, I used a Macintosh. At that time, the Mac wasn’t a strong platform for 3-D animation. Most of us used its power in compositing with After Effects, or to work in 2D design and photography. Nevertheless, some of us turned to the first popular 3-D program for the Mac: Infini-D by Specular International. If you pushed it, the results were pretty good…for the time.
With few alternatives, Infini-D became popular among the Macintosh crowd, especially those who combined it with After Effects.
But as often happens with small start-up ventures, Specular couldn’t make it on its own and soon merged with MetaCreations. This useful app was then merged into other products, sold to at least two other companies, and then finally disappeared. This left a gaping hole for anyone who wanted to do 3-D on the Mac.
In any case, if you were serious about 3-D, starting in the 1990s high-concept projects inevitably ended up on on Silicon Graphics (SGI) machines running Alias and Softimage 3-D apps. Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, with SGI-gear powering its detailed, realistic dinosaurs, set the standard. On the PC platform you’d most likely use 3D Studio (today it’s Autodesk 3ds Max). At this point, the growing use of 3-D on the other platforms wasn’t much of an issue for Macintosh users; for the most part, they just didn’t do a lot of 3-D.
Instead, most motion graphic designers were compositing with After Effects, which at that time was a Mac-only product. 3-D animators, as well as those doing live action film work, were content to leave the compositing to the Mac side, and thus a natural divide emerged in most studios. Simply put, 3-D animators used SGI machines and PCs–and 2D compositors and graphic designers went for Macs.
Click here to Read Part II in which SGI takes a dive…