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By: Bohus Blahut - Modern Filmmaker firstname.lastname@example.org
Cinema 4D began life as a German 3D modeler and stage program. The
British company HiSoft cooperated with Maxon to produce an English manual,
and perform updates. Cinema 4D has been developed for both Amiga and PC.
The Amiga version ships on 6 low density floppy disks which decompress
into almost 6 1/2 megs of hard drive space. The manual's recommended
system is a 3.x system with 3 megs of RAM, and a 68040 processor. Cinema
4D will work with a 2.x system, and even render on a 68000 system, though
if you've done any kind of rendering work on this kind of processor, you'll
realize that an accelerator is a necessity.
I installed Cinema 4D onto my 50 mhz '060 DraCo with 32 megs of Ram. The
DraCo uses CyberGraphx to route the display to the Altais Graphics card.
The display is a 17" Iiyama monitor. The 1024x768 screen allows me to have
several windows open at the same time. A smaller monitor with lower
resolution will work as well. The program is strictly style-guide
compliant, with special attention paid to keep the display from flickering
on non-sync monitors.
Cinema 4D has proven to be one of the most option laden softwares that
I've ever used on the Amiga, while not being difficult to operate. The
program features no less than six rendering algorithms for varying degrees
of detail. When one clicks the render button, a pop-up list allows mouse
selection of a particular rendering method. By hitting the shift key while
selecting any of these options the user can define preferences for each
method. This ease of use is pervasive throughout the program.
There are also 18 types of light sources. While it's true that one can
create these type of lighting effects in other packages, it's quite handy
to have them available as presets. One lighting effect here, that I've
seen nowhere else is a time-lapse type light that takes your object from
"day" till "night". Building architects will like this feature.
C4D also features more structural primitives than anything else that I've
seen. When modeling, it's often a good idea to first break up your model
into its most basic shapes. Then use primitives to start the basic
construction, then edit individual polygons to fine tune the model. C4D
features the regular assortment of primitives, and each has the preferences
function mentioned earlier. An interesting distinction about sphere
creation is that C4D can create a mathematically perfect sphere, instead of
creating it out of polygons. No matter how far the camera zooms in on the
perfect sphere, there will be no indication of polygonal lines.
In addition to the basic shapes (i.e. cone, cylinder, disc) there are
several primitives I've never seen before. There's a torus (a donut
shape), pyramid, tetrahedron, a user-defined sided polygon, star, even a
stylized flower. There's also a stylized human figure. It's already set
up for inverse kinematic motion, and makes a good starting point for
The bound manual is well written, with a generous number of
illustrations. My suggestion to HiSoft is that a sophisticated program
like Cinema 4D that requires the user to look back and forth from the
manual to the program should have a manual that can lay flat on a desk.
While wire bound works fine, I'm partial to the 3 ring binder approach.
This allows the user to add blank pages for notes and techniques, and also
makes it easier on the publisher when it comes time to add or change pages
for updates to the software.
When started, Cinema 4D opens several windows on the Workbench. The
first to grab your attention is the large perspective window. This window
can be changed from a single large window into three smaller windows that
show the X, Y, and Z sides of your object (much like LightWave's modeler)
along with the perspective view in the fourth window. The program does
take a slightly different approach to 3D in that the modeling of objects,
and the placement of those objects in a scene happen in a single interface.
This is much like building props right on the movie set. This has the
advantage that when building objects, one can render them out in color and
see how light plays on them, and not have to flip back to a modeling
interface top make changes.
Another window that opens is a long control window that can be dragged
anywhere on the screen. It's a tool palette that can be dragged and
minimized just like any intuition window. Here again is more of C4D's
flexibility, the idea that the user doesn't need to adapt to the program,
but vice-versa. The screen controls object movement and placement, and
also starts rendering. All of the windows feature useful on-line help. As
the mouse pointer passes over the various buttons, a single line appears in
the menu bar informing you of what a particular button does.
Other floating menu bars that can be opened and placed anywhere on the
interface are tool palettes for texturing and for the selection of object
primitives. Texturing controls feature the ability to wrap a texture
spherically, cylindrically, or to lay flat. Also, we can tile and mirror
textures. The objects tool palette allows one to choose from the
primitives mentioned earlier. More special primitives are a fractally
generated landscape, the ability to emboss a picture into a flat sheet of
polygons, even to add a ground plane (instead of having to create a polygon
and place it flat on the ground) and add the sky.
The manual has a good tutorial section designed to get the modeler
started right away. These walk the user through simple object creation and
manipulation, to the creation of an inverse kinematic animation. Inverse
kinematics is a much sought after animation feature. This allows the user
to create an object hierarchy, much like the directory hierarchy in a
computer. The same way that you can have a file inside a directory, inside
another directory, inside a different directory, inside a volume, it's
possible to set up 3D objects in the same way.
Imagine the human form. After modeling all of the different parts, you
could set out to create the hierarchy i.e. finger, hand, wrist, forearm,
elbow, upper arm, shoulder, etc. Before inverse kinematics, the only way
to move these objects would be to animate from the top down. This would
entail starting at the shoulder, then moving the upper arm, etc. Instead,
IK lets us move the hierarchy from the other end. This allows us to move
the entire arm around just by pulling one of the fingers.
It's amazing to have this high end feature included in software that's
low-end in price. There are many other Cinema 4D facilities that are quite
advanced in their nature. The program's ray-tracer is adaptive.
Ray-tracing is the time-consuming method that computer programs use to
create reflections and precise shadows. C4D only raytraces the parts of
the picture that need it, as opposed to the whole picture. This is a
definite performance boost.
Also present in the program are two animation techniques: keyframe and
path. Keyframe animation lets you move and object into place, then
snapshot (keyframe) it. Move to another frame, create another key, etc.
Path based animation lets you actually draw a path with the mouse, and have
the object follow it.
There's even a timeline based interface for special effects. You can
trend changes in object size (individual letters in a logo change in size
according to a specific waveform), and object rotation (get those same
letters in the logo to spin around individually). How about deformation
effects like Melt. This takes any object and crushes it down the Y-axis,
while extending it along the X&Z axes making the object look like it's
melting into a pool. Explosions are another built in effect. This takes
any multipolygonal object and bursts it into its separate polygons. Look
for other effects like Morph, Wind, and various lighting effects.
While there is going to be the inevitable comparison between Cinema 4D
and LightWave, these two programs do have different markets. C4D does have
a good number of features, especially at its price point. My main goal is
to see if I can get the same kind of cinematic good looks out of C4D as I
can with other packages.
As you can see, there is such a wealth of features here, that it is
impossible to list them all in detail. Over time, we will investigate many
of these features in the future and see how they benefit the 3D modeler.
If you're interested in seeing the results of C4D's modelling, find the
LightWorks CDrom (Schatztruhe).
This disc contains a C4D demo version, and also a wealth of objects
created with the program. For the most part, these objects are outer-space
themed and show off the abilities of the software reasonable well.
Obviously, since these are models of recognized scifi spaceships, many of
them can't be used in your own productions, but they do serve as a good
lesson on how to get started. The CD also has completed pictures of the
models in action, so you can see what the end result of your work is going
Cinema 4D retails for about US$300.
by Maxon Computer and HiSoft
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