Cinema 4D R21, the 3D modeling, animation and 3D painting software from Maxon, was released recently, featuring some interesting changes, and also a change in the software licensing.
If you have used previous versions of C4D, you will notice this version includes changes in the UI, buttons, and some menu elements have been moved from one menu to another.
Reactions from long-time users show that these changes seem to be aimed at making things more streamlined. A small feature I really liked is how the Object Manager pane displays the color of the light by changing the color of the object's icon. For example, if you create a light and change its color to blue, the icon in the Object Manager will turn blue.
C4D previously included Fields. Fields are objects that you can use to apply strength within the objects containing the fields. For example, if you create a Spherical Field, the strength is contained within it and it is applied according to a graph (for example, you can make it stronger at the center and gradually decrease as it reaches the edges). You can use Fields for any kind of dynamic simulation inside Cinema 4D, like particles, rigid bodies or cloth.
C4D R21 now includes Field Force Objects. These objects can be used to create forces from fields, and it can yield some interesting results. For example, in my tests I made some particles loop along a curve.
A simple but nice new feature is how you can create your caps and bevels. Now, you can use a curve to define how you want the caps and bevels to look, and even configure them separately for every side of your object. This can be very nice when you are creating things like frames or ornamental elements.
A feature I really liked (this is not a new feature in Release 21) is the ability to create materials using the Node Editor. As you may know if you've been following me for a while, I like creating materials from scratch using nodes. In the Node Editor, you can combine and layer textures (using blend modes), color correct, and even apply image filters to modify the look of your material. Creating materials with the Node Editor was very easy and it allowed for some really nice results.
Another nice feature is the Auto Weight. If you want to quickly add skinning deformations to your character, you can do it with the press of a button. When performing the Auto Weight, you can choose between three different methods: Distance, Heatmap and Volumetric. Then, you just need to tweak the settings to fit your needs, and click Calculate.
The result is pretty good, but you have to take your time to tweak the settings. Another thing I noticed is that, sometimes, the resulting weights are not symmetrical. However, Cinema 4D includes the ability to mirror weights, so that's an issue that can be solved easily.
Also in the character animation arena, Cinema 4D R21 includes a Mixamo Control Rig for the Character Object. As you know, I talk about Mixamo for independent game development a lot, including modifying animations downloaded from Mixamo to fit your needs. The Mixamo Control Rig lets you easily modify the animation. The workflow is not as automated as I would like (you need to manually create your Mixamo rig and then attach it to your Mixamo character), it is still easy to follow, and, when you are finally setup, you can keyframe the rig's controls to change the animation. Seeing how Mixamo's rigs follow a specific naming convention, maybe in the future we can see the process being more automated.
Cinema 4D Release 21 also includes some improvements to it's ProRender engine. The ProRender engine is a renderer currently being developed. Since it's still in development, not all features are compatible. Unfortunately, at this point I was trying the ProRender on my MacBook Pro, and some tests resulted in slower rendering times compared to the Physical or Standard renderer (not to mention that sample scenes had some missing features, like different image brightness, objects not being rendered, or being rendered in black). On the other hand, I understand some users actually run Cinema 4D on a Mac, so it's unfortunate that Macs don't feature the most powerful cards.
As a "new" user, one thing I found useful was the Content Browser. In the Content Browser you can find a lot of different sample scenes that you can use to check out different features in the application, so you can try them out for yourself.
One thing you need to know in case you are a Windows user. Cinema 4D R21 only runs on Windows 10 (my desktop computer is still using Windows 7). For this article I ran it on my MacBook Pro, using Bootcamp with Windows 10.
Previously, Cinema 4D was offered in different versions, like Studio, Prime, and BodyPaint. Now, you are only offered one version. I think this is a step in the right direction, as some users may have gotten confused by the previous set of editions. Of course, this means that BodyPaint is already part of Cinema 4D.
You can acquire Cinema 4D by purchasing a perpetual license, or getting a monthly or annual subscription. You can check all the different options below.
I think Cinema 4D is a strong contender for 3D content creation, be it motion graphics, character animation or 3D modeling. If you want to see for yourself, you can get the 14 days trial, and see if it fits your needs.
Get Cinema 4D R21: http://www.maxon.net/