The annual Siggraph graphics convention functions much like NAB does for the rest of the industry – it’s the place to be when new products, whether hardware or software, are announced for the visual effects industry.
The show returned to Vancouver this year, and while we weren’t able to attend, we did watch with interest. Maxon, for example, unveiled some juicy features in the latest release of their capable and industry lauded 3D animation package CINEMA 4D. In my opinion, it’s a very compelling upgrade. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked as a consultant to Maxon over the past couple of years.)
In the past few years, CINEMA 4D has emerged as a core go-to 3D application that artists and animators around the world who work in motion graphics and visual effects. Why’s that? I think Maxon’s approach of keeping the interface and learning curve as simple as possible has attracted many who find programs such as Autodesk Maya a complex tool. It’s also important that the company chose to work with Adobe to open up After Effects to true 3D with its CINEWARE plug-in. This is offering a real work-a-day solution. As the company likes to say in its advertising: “Maxon: 3D for the Real World”.
So, What’s New?
To start with, there’s a new motion tracker in the R16 release of CINEMA 4D. While C4D already integrated well with After Effects’ 3D tracker, the addition of a native motion tracker inside of CINEMA 4D makes solving for 3D cameras from live action 2D footage easier and more efficient. This also allows for more creative control thanks to the automatically generated point cloud it creates in the viewport.
The tracker handles full 3D tracks, but it’s more capable than that, handling nodal pans (tripod-mounted shots that rotate from one point) and planar tracks. In addition, there are several tools to help in tracking such as a masking tool, which omits problematic areas in the scene as well as position, vector and planar tags which help to align the tracking data to the viewport.
If you do a lot of modeling, you’re sure to like the new PolyPen in C4D R16. In the past, creating, cutting, cloning, extruding and modifying polygons was often tricky and complicated, requiring you to switch between point and edge modes. You also had to select different tools such as the knife, extrude, and weld tools. The PolyPen integrates all of these functions, allowing you to do it all with just one handy “super-tool”. It also allows point and edge snapping for greater precision.
That’s pretty neat if you ask me. However, one of the best things about the new PolyPen is its ability to project polygons onto another object as you create them. This is useful when you are trying to re-topologize a mesh that may have been sculpted and whose polygons do not have the correct topology for animation.
Reflect on This
Taking cues from other third party renderers, MAXON has rethought the whole concept of how light is reflected on surfaces by adding a new Reflectance Channel. This major improvement in creating materials allows you to create layers of reflections on an object, simplifying the creation of many different kinds of complex materials such as car paint and other real world materials such as grimy, rusty metal and even fabric. In addition, due to the way the reflectance channel deals with light, you may be able to forego the use of global illumination altogether.
C4D R16 now has a unified effects render engine, which allows for the raytracing of Hair and Sketch lines in better quality and in a fraction of the time. In addition, Team Render – MAXON’s tool for distributed rendering, which takes advantage of all the machines on your network – now features a client-server architecture that allows you to control all your render jobs via a browser.
Much More to like
Aside from the Motion Tracker and Reflectance channel, I like the new version’s interaction tag that allows you define how an object moves and behaves. This is great for TDs and character riggers and it also works with XPresso and Python.
There’s also includes a new Bevel Deformer which allows you to apply bevels non-destructively to entire objects or specific selection sets. The Bevel Deformer’s attributes can also be animated.
C4D R16 Sculpting also has a fair share of improvements such as a new Select tool that allows for new symmetry and fill options on any editable object, as well the ability to sculpt on parametric objects. In addition, improvements to R16 modeling include a new Cogwheel spline primitive to generate involute and ratchet gears as well as a new Mesh Check tool to evaluate the integrity of a polygonal mesh. There are also new Deformer Falloff options and the ability to add textures to the caps of MoText, Loft, Lathe and Sweep objects.
CINEMA 14 R16 also includes a reorganized and improved content library. This includes a preset library which contains custom made solutions such as new house and stair generators as well as modular doors and windows. You’ll also find a new tool to animate the folding of die cut packaging as well as customizable modular bottles, tubes and boxes. In addition, the content library now contains high quality models made for MoGraph, preset title animations and interactive chart templates.
Other important new features in R16 include support for the most current versions of FBX and Alembic. There’s also a Solo Button to isolate individual objects in the viewport as well as the ability to create on-screen annotations for the insertion of convenient information, notes and reference to be added to your scene. Finally there’s a new UV Peeler that allows for new and efficient ways to unwrap the UVs of cylindrical objects for texturing.
In each new release of CINEMA 4D, MAXON delivers compelling features to make the software more useful to the working artist. I think the new enhancements and features on R16 make for a very compelling and robust release that should appeal to users of previous versions.
Another exciting piece of CINEMA 4D news that broke at Siggraph was word of a new bridge between CINEMA 4D and Arnold, Solid Angle’s popular ray tracing rendering software. Arnold has been used on numerous high-end feature films such as Pacific Rim and Gravity. It’s also a regular item at studios such as ILM, Framestore and MPC. Click here to find out more.