Subscription model promises more regular updates, while better UV mapping just makes life easier.
Kitty image credit: Maxon
Creative artists in motion media know that this is the best of times (in spite of the current news of the world). The power of the digital tools and technologies 3D artists wield today, with apps like Maxon’s Cinema 4D, continues an evolution that looks just shy of magic to old hands who know a little of the long and winding path the art tools took to get here.
Programs such as Cinema 4D – often abbreviated C4D – are often rolled out at NAB, or “Vegas in April”. Not much news that this was one of the first major conventions cancelled when the the outbreak picked up in March.
Like many major players, Maxon, makers of Cinema 4D, usually maintains a large NAB presence. The answer to this was – like so many things today – handled by maintaining an equally large presence online, spanning the full four-days of the Vegas show floor.
The last part of 2019 had also seen Maxon join forces with Red Giant. While that would have caused some buzz at the show, now those tuning in could hear it directly from well known Red Giant creative Stu Maschwitz.
Maxon’s NAB Livestream – No NAB Necessary
Along with the rest of the world, Maxon adapted to the times by organizing this past April 20th a series of live online talks, product presentations, tech briefs and more. Of course, we had to start with a feature description of the star of the show, Cinema 4D S22, the company’s first subscription release. For that overview, we heard from David McGravran, CEO, and Paul Babb, Global Head of Community and Customer Experience. Next, over the next four days, the company paraded a long roster of talks by top motion designers, animators and industry insiders including Stu Maschwitz (Red Giant/Maxon), Andy Blondin (Epic Games), Chris Schmidt (Rocket Lasso), Andrew Kramer (Video Copilot) and Beeple.
Want to hear it directly from those making the news? Here’s a link to Maxon’s YouTube channel with all of their NAB 2020 Rewinds.
So What’s New in Cinema 4D S22?
Now let’s get into the specifics of the new version of Cinema 4D S22. Veteran C4D users may be a bit puzzled by the name since past versions were always preceded by “R” (the last one being R21). The reason for the S is because the new version is a subscription-only release, which allows subscribers immediate access to new features. Subscriptions are somewhat new for Maxon, who began offering the service in September of 2019. With it came more affordable pricing as well as an increased pace of improvements and enhancements. However, the new features will also be rolled into an upgrade later this year for those who still wish to own a perpetual license.
New UV Workflow – Woohoo!
Perhaps the most important new feature in S22 is an all new UV workflow which I expect will make every serious C4D user stand up and cheer. UVs, for those who are unaware, define the coordinates that texture maps use when they are applied to your model’s polygons.
The process of laying out UVs can be quite complex. Much care must be taken to define seams in a model to split and subsequently flatten out the mesh. Previous versions of C4D did the job but the UV tools were somewhat lacking and could be confusing. For a program that is known for being the most intuitive and easy to learn 3D application in the business, for its 22nd major version, C4D’s UV tools needed a serious overhaul.
Cinema 4D S22’s new UV functionality addresses its UV shortcomings by moving towards simplicity. Improved selection and visualization tools as well as a progressive unwrapping workflow now make it much simpler to define a UV map. In addition, new packing algorithms optimize texture resolution. Especially handy: a new automatic UV unwrapping option based on the Ministry of Flat licensed technology that was developed by Eskil Steenberg of Quel Solaar.
I headed over to Quel Solaar’s website to learn more about the new auto UV unwrapping feature. On the website Steenberg makes a claim “The craft of UV mapping is about to become obsolete”. That’s a bold statement, but if it works as good as it looks – which is why Maxon must have licensed the technology in the first place – it could be a gamechanger in what is otherwise a tedious and forsaken task.
It’s hard to imagine, however, that at least for some projects, you wouldn’t need to get in there and set up UVs manually. I’m looking forward to trying it out and seeing for myself. (BTW: Steenberg has some intriguing software – some for free – stuff well worth checking out, including apps to handle extensive, real world LED lighting effects.)
Here’s a little BG page from Maxon as they explain how Steenberg’s unique approach will benefit those of us working in CD4 S22.
Cinema 4D’s viewport also continues to be enhanced, making the best use of the latest graphics card technology for more accurate viewport rendering and interaction, including multi-instance performance. There is also full support for Apple’s implementation of Metal.
S22 also includes some significant import/export features, ideal for the busy artist. GLTF export is a flexible and efficient format for sharing 3D animations on the web and within AR applications. In addition, GoZ integration allows for a smooth round-tripping workflow with Pixologic’s ever popular sculpting application, ZBrush. The re-written core architecture makes modeling tools faster and more robust while better preserving UVs and vertex maps.
Here’s What It Will Cost You
While you will still be able to buy and own a perpetual license of Cinema 4D – that’s $3495 – I don’t see why you would want to. The subscription model ($60/month for Cinema 4D itself, $82/month if you add in Redshift) is not only less expensive, but it also allows Maxon to update your software more frequently with improvements and new features.
But Should You?
Corporate boards and bean counters love the subscription model, like the one that Adobe had moved to for its Creative Cloud apps, since income ends up being more predictable. There are fans of this subscription/constant update model – it feels like you are always hip to the latest, after all all you have to do is just download the latest update. But it’s good that Maxon has decided (for now?) to also keep the one-time license purchase available, unlike Adobe. If you’re working on movie productions rather than in a posthouse setup, locking down the whole production to specific versions remains a crucial approach.
If you are a subscription customer already, you already have access to C4D S22. If you aren’t, the new UV workflow, which, after all, is the really big news here, will fundamentally change the way you create UV layouts, an important area of making compelling 3D images. Check it out.
Full disclosure: I’ve worked for Maxon in various training and presentation positions over the years.