Price: £549 plus VAT
In the realm of 3D graphics, tailored versions of software are not that common. However, Maxon has already produced not one but two reduced-capability, cheaper versions of its Cinema 4D XL software (GO and SE) and has now added the illustrator-friendly Art.
GO is a super-basic version of XL while SE is a broadcast resolution limited version. Proving further that the one-size-fits-all philosophy of 3D programs is unsuitable for most users, Art is geared towards 3D artists that have no need of animation. No animation tools mean no timeline and no field rendering. Other things have also been removed – most notably the particle system. What’s also missing is over half the price – down from just under £1,200 to £550.
Full IK system
What’s more surprising is what’s been left in. Though Art seems geared towards still image rendering, print and the Web, that’s not the whole story. Included is the full IK system, with bones and selection sets, expressions and deformers. In other words, everything you need to build and rig characters. For a company producing this sort of work a few copies of Art instead of XL can be used to build models and characters ready for animation, saving quite a few pennies into the bargain.
The modelling in Art is excellent and features HyperNURBS subdivision surfaces, polygon modelling and NURBS objects as well as a large number of parametric primitives. The object manager in Art, like XL, is one of the best systems we’ve seen for managing scene objects. It also features interactive modelling capabilities by using ‘generators’ and ‘modifiers’ and a kind of construction history. Pop a curve into a Lathe generator and the curve is lathed into a 3D object. The curve remains editable and the lathed surface will update in real time.
Cinema 4D has received much praise for its fast Raytracer and Art is no exception. The rendering is very good, and reflections and transparency render very quickly. The lights in Art are very flexible, too. Each light type can use different shadow types so a Spot light can cast area shadows, and an Area light can cast depth map shadows. The point light is not limited to hard shadows either, it can cast area and depth map shadows and does so very quickly.
The weak area in Art is the material system –
it’s not as flexible as other systems. For example, layered textures are not supported directly in material channels – you must layer textures by applying multiple materials to objects which are applied additively and it can become confusing. That said, Art can use plug-ins just like XL so you can easily add the excellent Smells Like Almonds shader system to give the system a boost. Likewise Maxon’s 3D painting system BodyPaint 3D can be used with Art – which is excellent news.
Art is a great buy for artists that don’t need animation. Rendering is fast and high quality, with unlimited resolution (maximum of 64,000 pixels square), the program is also exceedingly stable and can render happily in the background while other applications are running without bringing your system to standstill. For the money, there’s little to compare with its ease of use and power – so we can heartily recommend Cinema 4D Art.