Bumin Murray editor Brady Betzel calls this newest version “a beast of a release.”
As we breached the 21 Century, I began my career in post production. I attended California Lutheran University in the little California suburb of Thousand Oaks. I was eager to learn every piece of software, all the tools, and every piece of theory I could get my hands on.
At first I was a Computer Science major, where I quickly learned I did not want to create arrays the rest of my life. However, I did see the power of graphics in a computer science from a graphics course where I learned how hard it was to program a teapot with color and shading using Java. My interests suddenly perked and I realized I wanted to create using the coding, not be the one coding, and become a video editor.
As I was learning all about the difference between scanlines, hard drive platters, After Effects and Photoshop – I found a software program called Maxon Cinema 4D. So I began learning Cinema 4D in school where at the time (2001 – 2004) BodyPaint 3D had made its inaugural debut just one year earlier, Thinking Particles were released, and soon the MoGraph module would be introduced. This was all within the timeframe of Releases 7 through 9.
I then moved on from Cinema 4D to NLEs: Final Cut, Premiere, After Effects, etc. Fast forward to the fall of 2013 where I am a newly promoted television editor working primarily on software applications like Avid Media Composer, and Adobe’s After Effects and Photoshop. During the first editors meeting for Bad Girls Club, a show I help edit, it was loosely described as “look to the future of our world, editing isn’t just editing anymore.”
Not a surprise for me, but many others weren’t so keen on the idea of having to learn After Effects, while they were still learning Avid — Bunim Murray had switched from Final Cut Pro a year or two earlier. Anyway, the point I am getting to is that Avid, Premiere, After Effects, Final Cut, Blender, Cinema 4D, and many others are starting to become close neighbors in the same post production ecosphere and ALL participants are expected to have at least a basic ability in all programs. It may be crazy and controversial, but it’s now our reality. (Seriously, it’s reality. If you’re blood boils at the thought, I understand but channel that anger to make a Cinema 4D model of something demonic).
Luckily for me, I had already been introduced to Cinema 4D way back, and now it is coming full circle. I love to create visual effects that add to the storyline. Creating an amazing opening title integrated with live-action footage is very gratifying, especially when executive producers ask: Did you do that? Did you do that here on our budget?
CINEMA 4D RELEASE 15
The Cinema 4D Release 15 Studio version ($3,695) is entrenched with awesomeness. This review might self destruct and begin growing grass with the new grass generator and be rendered using the upgraded Global Illumination over a Team Render environment — all filmed using the newly added Camera Crane in this beast of a release because it is so awesome.
Now on to the juicy stuff: the new and updated features of Cinema 4D Studio Release 15. While many of these updates are across the board, keep in mind that there are many versions of Cinema 4D with different features. Check out http://www.maxon.net/products/general-information/general-information/product-comparison.html for a detailed comparison between Cinema 4D Lite, Cinema 4D Prime, Cinema 4D Broadcast, Cinema 4D Visualize, and Cinema 4D Studio. Cinema 4D Studio is, of course, the one to get if you can afford it; it has all the features you could ever want.
First is the updated Typography Tools. If you are reading this after using ONLY After Effects to make impressive 3D text you may want to jump in. It’s easy and now with Cineware being bundled with After Effects CC you can import your objects right into your comps. There is now the ability to adjust the kerning, tracking, horizontal scale, vertical scale, scale, and baseline shift for individual characters right inside the viewer. My favorite option is the “Show 3D GUI” checkbox, which allows you to interactively make adjustments to your text visually.
You can use CTRL+click to make adjustments in small increments and SHIFT+click to make larger ones. I like to use the GUI to do a rough visual setup and then fine tune by dialing in the exact numbers. Something that is a little tricky is understanding that the typographic settings can not directly animate — all the attributes can be animated using Xpresso where user data can be input to drive the kerning properties.
This update is reason alone to purchase. I am usually weary of jumping out of After Effects because of it’s typographic ability with plug-ins such as Video Copilot’s Element 3D, but now I am able to confidently say I can use the right tool for the job while jumping in and out of After Effects CC and Cinema 4D Studio Release 15.
Another interactive feature that has been added in Cinema 4D Release 15, is we can now interactively bevel edges, points, and polygons directly in the GUI by clicking and dragging or enter precise points in the attribute manager – all while maintaining a clean mesh flow. This gave me a little heart murmur at how easy I can make different looks with just a small change to a bevel. You can go even further in the attribute manager with tools such as Rounding N-gons and Phong Break Miters. In addition, the new Slide Tool can be used to loop slide along the surface using CTRL+click to create new edge loops. It’s easy, you can now create multiple edges in a couple clicks — sharp or rounded.
Speaking of easy. The new sculpting enhancements in Release 15 help me feel like I can sculpt in the 3D world, well kind of. You can sculpt on any polygonal model, and after your model is complete we can even create PoseMorph targets by sculpting directly on the base mesh (that smirk can be added quickly to that sarcastic character model you are building).
For more advanced users, the new sculpt symmetry command easily allows the ability to mirror a layer, mask, or all strokes of the object you created located in the sculpt symmetry dialogue. The all-new draw modes allow us to draw directly on an object we are sculpting. These can be extruded or used as masks. As an amateur modeler, I was very impressed with the amplify brush. Sometimes I need to make a quick map of the United States; now I can make a great looking 3D model along with topographic qualities to bring my work up to an A+ level with the new amplify features. If you are a true Cinema4D nerd/hero you can customize the sculpting using Python or C++ scripting and create customized brushes using the C++ API.
As we venture inside the main frame of Cinema 4D I can talk about the new Team Render and other render enhancements inside of Cinema 4D Release 15. Keep in mind that each version comes with its own perks: for the Studio version, one of many huge perks is the ability to have an unlimited number of nodes in your renderfarm. The Visualize and Broadcast versions give you three nodes while the Prime and Lite do not include this option.
When I first heard of Team Render I was excited, but this is the new standard. Create on one machine, render on a hundred. However, I loved hearing that Maxon is embracing the Peer-to-Peer technology. Most companies are so scared when they hear Peer-to-Peer that they likely shudder at the utterance.
This is the future of cloud-based editing and, obviously, VFX. Maxon has incorporated the zero configuration network technology: Bonjour, for machine discovery in the Team Render set-up. It’s similar to how iTunes shares music on your home network. Of course, if you aren’t 100% sold on Bonjour you can manually configure the connection with IP addresses and ports. Once set up you can save a list of your render machines to install on all other systems within the community.
Once each system is configured, with Cinema 4D, or the Team Render Client, open you will need to enter the security token in order to verify each systems connection. When it’s actually time to render, you can load your masterpiece to be Team Rendered to the picture viewer and visually see it build piece by piece as it is being rendered. It can double as a pretty sweet piece of footage for any behind the scenes films you are making.
Before you get to the Team Render step, however, you need to dial in your render settings. Right off the bat the GI interface has been simplified and is easy to navigate, even for someone like me who thought the GI was only a tract in the human body (drum hit, please!). Maxon has given presets for indoor, outdoor, and product visualization scenes and further enhanced the speed with the new Light Mapping function, helping to give the most accurate diffuse steps possible. In addition, Ambient Occlusion is processed much faster with single frames because of its ability to share samples with the Irradiance Cache. You can also save the Ambient Occlusion Cache for future renders to make them much faster.
RAYTRACING & MORE
Even further under the hood we go, as Intel has designed the new Embree raytracing engine to further enhance depth of field and motion blur at a fraction of the time. It runs on systems (Intel or AMD) with SSE and AVX instruction sets. Overall Maxon has upped the multithreading ability of Cinema 4D Release 15 to be much snappier than before, a relief to everybody involved.
Finally, I have saved a select few updates for last. While to the professionals out there these may be a little cheesy, I think that these new features will sell some of the video editors that dabble in VFX. In Cinema 4D Visualize and Studio Release 15 the new Grass Shader will be sure to mow down the competition (sorry, had to). It’s really easy to create your own custom lawn: select any surface and click Create > Environment > Grow Grass, a new grass material will pop up and you can adjust, duplicate, and trim all sorts of lush green (or brown) landscapes in minutes. If you want to make your rolling landscapes of grass even more dramatic, use the newly created Camera Crane to give those sweeping dramatic shots. With many options, the Camera Crane defaults to being placed on a tripod but can be quickly mounted on a dolly using custom splines. It is a little tricky to get the hang of at first, but it is a great tool to have at your disposal.
Finally, one of the more technically useful features is the new Texture Manager. In many other VFX and NLE programs there are ways to reconnect or relink missing footage. Cinema 4D Release 15 is helping keep the artist organized with the ability to highlight all missing textures, locate where they live (if for some reason you moved them), and reconnect them. Easy as that, unless you aren’t somewhat organized. If you aren’t organized it’s time to start, it will save years on your life and hours off your workload.
Overall Cinema 4D Release 15 is just what I am looking for. It can easily supplement my Avid Media Composer and Adobe After Effects workflow. If I need to make a dramatic and sweeping opening title in a field of grass I can now jump into Cinema 4D, do what I need to do, and transport into After Effects CC using Cineware, simple (wink wink).
With the huge leap in features that Maxon Cinema 4D Release 15 has rolled out, this is the time to find out if you want to work in the future by adding Cinema 4D to your toolbox or stay in the past and not create grass on any object you want.
To learn Cinema 4D and other VFX tools for that matter I constantly reference a few sites: videocopilot.net (by Andrew Kramer, who is a wizard and great teacher in his tutorials), greyscalegorilla.com (Nick Campbell, who is another Hogwart’s graduate with a knack for entertaining and informative tutorials), and finally Cineversity.com, the Maxon US training and education Website dedicated to helping CINEMA 4D and 3D artists learn and understand their toolsets (a great starting point).
Brady Betzel is an editor at Bunim Murray Productions (www.bunim-murray.com), a reality television production company. He is one of the editors on Bad Girls Club. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org.