Maxon’s CINEMA 4D, one of the most popular 3D graphics and animation programs on the market today, debuts in version R14 at Siggraph 2012, which starts on August 5th. I’ll take a look at the highlights of the new release. (If you’re new to the app, check out my review of the previous release R13, here.)
When I reviewed the prior version of CINEMA 4D Studio, I called it one of the most full-featured 3D applications around. Well, it gets even better in R14, which impresses me most with its new built in sculpting abilities.
Sculpting has become a very important part of the process of making complex models over the past few years. The technique allows you to create incredible amounts of fine detail on a model simply by painting on it in a process that can feel like you’re sculpting a piece of clay.
There are sculpting solutions 3D pros are familiar with such as Autodesk’s Mudbox and Pixelogic’s Z-Brush. However, it’s tricky getting a model from CINEMA 4D into and out of those separate programs.
What’s great about the new sculpting tools? They are integrated right into CINEMA 4D and BodyPaint 3D. No need to go into a separate program. What’s even better is that the sculpting tools include all the advanced features you would expect in a fully featured sculpting app.
The tools employ 12 levels of subdivisions that allow for millions of polygons. Sculpting tools include pull, wax, smooth, flatten, inflate, knife and pinch. When sculpting your model you can of course turn on symmetry to speed the work. A steady stroke object, meanwhile, helps you create smooth strokes.
Just as you’d expect in an advanced sculpting app, the system also includes stencils, stamps, masks and layers. A variety of preset stencils and stamps are also available as needed.
After a sculpt is done, you can bake the displacement, normals and ambient occlusion into maps. When these maps are applied to a low poly object, displacement will appear just like in the sculpted object.
The result? CINEMA 4D’s new sculpting options make it even more useful, especially when you’re working on complex high-end 3D character animation and designs.
If you’re trying to match a scene in a 3D program with a backplate shot with a real camera, you know how tedious it can be to constantly move between setting the position and then checking it by eye. Now you can use CINEMA 4D’s new camera calibration system which, with the help of some lines and grids drawn by the user, will solve for the position, orientation, and focal length of the camera for any image.
Animating between the positions of multiple cameras is alsopossible. New camera morphing abilities in R14 give you different ways to control the interpolation between the cameras. You can also morph between animated cameras.
Also new to R14 is a motion camera. You can use it to apply a natural motion algorithm that simulates the movement of a human operated camera. You can add a little shake to the movements if you want to evoke a hand-held move, or create a slick Steadicam move.
Enhancements to the apps dynamic system include a new aerodynamics mode that can be invoked when creating wind, gravity or other forces. This mode calculates forces at every vertex, giving your simulations more natural aerodynamic feel.
Tweaks to the dynamics now allow objects in soft-body simulations to retain their distorted shapes. Previously, if you deformed a soft body in a simulation, it would eventually spring back to its original shape. Change that with the new plastic-like options, which allows deformations to the soft body to persist, even after the deformation occurs.
How could you use this? You might set an elasticity limit so that the object will be permanently deformed only after a certain limit is reached. In this case, only forceful collisions—a really big crash–will have an effect on the object.
Springs and other objects can now controlled for a more real world result. You can now set a breaking limit, for example. That is a spring will break only when it reaches a certain load. You might then add elasticity to those springs. This will cause them to rebound to their default position until a certain load is reached, at which point they will be unable to spring back.
Interface and Workflow
Ever wish you could click on the work plane, move it around and rotate it? Now you can in R14. CINEMA 4D also allows you to make guides and guide objects. You’ll find new options for snapping too. For example, you can snap things to the workplane, guides or the vertices of another object. This makes it easier to align objects to other objects.
New ways to deal with X-Refs are alsoavailable. You can offset the animation contained in it, its scale and other options.
Here’s another nice little feature I’ve noticed: You can now display a sound wave in the f-curve window. This would be handy when syncing animation to music or other audio cues.
The picture viewer, CINEMA 4D’s rendering environment, also sports improvements such as the ability to do color correction using RGB curves on your rendering. Another good feature allows you to output the position of each pixel in your render in 3D space as a 32-bit RGB value. This comes into play later on during the compositing process when, for example, you need to re-light a scene, or even reconstruct the object.
CINEMA 4D has long been compatible with Adobe After Effects. That means you can export 3D data and even entire AE compositing project files, complete with lights and solids, out of the app and into Adobe’s ubiquitous compositing program. Now, Nuke, The Foundry’s powerful professional compositing app, can also take 3D data from R14.
CINEMA 4D already contains Xpresso, a powerful node based expression editor. With it, you can do all sorts of powerful things that would be extremely tedious to do manually. Now you can drag parameters right out of the Attribute Manager right onto an existing node to create a new input or output port.
The Attribute Manager also adds feedback that lets you know if a parameter is driving another parameter or is being driven by one. Now you can tell which parameters Xpresso is controlling.
The new procedural wood shader in R14 of CINEMA 4D allows you to create great looking wood textures, with parameter setting that allow you to control things like grain and waviness. You’ll also find a weathering shader that can make your objects look like they have been exposed to the elements.
The new version also contains a Normalizer shader, which makes it easy to create normal maps. Normal maps are a great way to add detail to a model. They look better than bump maps, yet are quicker to render than displacement maps. Enhancements have been made to the way sub surface scattering works too.
Global Illumination (GI) has been enhanced with more control over the amount of sampling for different illumination sources. You’ll also find the ability to use radiosity maps in R14.
Previous versions of Adobe Photoshop added the ability to work with 3D objects. Well, now you can import entire CINEMA 4D models into this standard issue application. No, I am not talking renders of 3D models, but the actual geometry itself. Once inside of Photoshop, you can adjust the model, reposition the camera, change lighting and even paint on its surface. This means you can now create complex models within CINEMA 4D and share them with Photoshop users and designers to use in their work.
With version R14, MAXON has once again delivered a substantial upgrade to their capable 3D animation system. With the new sculpting tools as well as a multitude of other innovative new features, CINEMA 4D is continuing to cement its position as one of the leading and most useful apps in professional 3D production for film and broadcast. If you’re going to SIGGRAPH, stop by Maxon in booth #723 and have a look at R14. I think you’ll be impressed. I am.
Want to see R14 in action?
See live demos of CINEMA 4D R14 from August 7-9 direct from Maxon’s booth at Siggraph. Maxon is spicing it up by giving away $8000 of “amazing prizes” to registered viewers. Click here for more info.