By Jean Pichot | on September 12, 2013
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Pros: Ease of Use; new Team Render; newly developed Irradiance Cache; updated Bevel tool; Intel Embree in physical renderer; extremely stable.
Cons: Hoped for more updates to Modeling workflow; no updates to BodyPaint 3D; no updates to UV editing.
I think the updates to GI alone make R15 a worthwhile upgrade, especially considering the amount of time you spend on fine tuning your lighting. You’ll find yourself using fewer lights or illumination sources, resulting in newer approaches and possibly more interesting ways of lighting a scene.
There’s also a Mode pull-down in the Light Mapping tab – provided you've set it as one of the methods – where you can set it to Visualize. This generates rough renders, allowing you to quickly preview the lighting effects and behaviour of an illumination object in your scene — this is especially helpful for estimating how light is bouncing around and which areas are being affected.
The ability to save and load GI Cache files allows you to try out higher settings while building on previously cached ones, in which case you can push bounces up and still get much quicker renders than the traditional method – all without overpowering a scene with too many lights. Caches are now 'calculated per frame, which eliminates pre-calculation of the entire animation and delivers much faster feedback', says the manual.
Net Render has been retired in favour of the quicker, more flexible, and easier to set up Team Render. Besides behaving as a render farm in the traditional sense, this new version adds the ability to render to Picture Viewer while tapping into other machines.
You can set per-machine preferences so you could, for example, disable your local machine and let the other machines do the heavy lifting, which allows you to keep working without taxing your processors while previews are being calculated — all while watching the results on your screen as if you were working locally.
Getting it going is literally a matter of turning it on in Preferences, launching Cinema 4D (or a Client) on the other machines, and selecting Team Render Machines from the Render Menu. You’ll see a list of machines you can activate (called Verify, which is done by entering an ID number displayed on each machine’s screen), after which you can then choose Team Render To Picture Viewer.
This will launch the Picture Viewer as usual, except now the frame in progress is being shared by all machines — and yes, this works on a single frame as well as an animated sequence.
Team Render’s even been thoughtfully designed enough to give you a warning to cache your GI if you’re rendering an animation that has some. In the case of an animation, individual frames are distributed across machines (instead of multiple machine buckets within a frame) and you can see the sequence in Picture Viewer being populated as frames are completed. This is pretty cool.
Being able to set preferences per machine means that you can use resources on a per-available basis, or maybe you set a percentage of yours to go towards renders, allowing you to keep some to keep working. Flexibility aside, it also removes the need to copy all sorts of scene files to other machines, or to wait for a render farm to finish before you can accurately see things or preview work in progress.
Maxon suggests you use an Ethernet network instead of Wi-Fi, as the amount of information being transferred can get pretty high – meaning you could be defeating the purpose of trying to get faster renders if data’s being bottlenecked.
Ambient Occlusion (AO)
AO’s been expanded to include Cache saving and settings. Clicking Enable allows you to set Samples count and Record Density, and also select Auto Save and Load settings of Cache files.
Similar to how GI cache is stored with a scene, AO now saves cache info as well, making it quicker to preview renders while you work and adjust things, provided you don’t move objects around (although camera moves are okay).
There’s also a Full Animation Mode, in which case Cinema 4D will cache AO per frame, but just the added ability to save and load Cache records – including skipping pre-pass calculations – is a welcome addition.
Basically, once that’s set, you’re free to focus on lighting or material adjustments without the extra time it takes to add AO to every test render. Overall, it's fast since it can now be calculated more quickly based on this new Irradiance Cache method.
A small but significant addition – and one I’ll probably use a lot – is the Texture Manager. This is located in the Windows menu, or from the Materials set of tabs.
You no longer have to go digging through materials based on a list of missing textures from a render warning pop-up window. Depending on how many show up in that list, it used to be a tedious process of clicking through material attributes and re-linking files on a per-layer basis.
Now, opening the Texture Manager will instantly show you which ones are missing. It gives you hints as to where it was last located, and allow you to select them all before clicking Relink Textures. At that point you’re presented with a system file window where you can navigate to where you think the files are.
Noteworthy is that you can select the main scene folder and it will dig within to find the files. Also, re-linking one missing file will correct any other missing ones that might happen to be in the same folder. Even with files scattered around, it’s a painless process.
It’s a wonder something this obvious took so long, but it’s well implemented. There are also options to replace files and paths, making swapping textures easy, plus you even get a small preview image so you can see what you’re working with.
Other updates include added functionality to existing tools and to the Sculpting module, the latter of which can now work on any polygonal object without the need to add a Sculpt tag (provided it has a decent amount of resolution). I don't use sculpting much in Cinema 4D, but I'd probably take advantage of this to create terrains or slight imperfections in models.
That being said, sculpting seems to have gotten special attention in this release – compared to the other tool updates – with such things as morph targets, mirroring/symmetry, masking, mesh projection (allowing for quick re-topology), and the new Line, Lasso, Polygon, and Rectangle tools. Maybe it's time I took a closer look at sculpting, because it definitely looks like they're pushing to expand it. Unlike, say, BodyPaint, which hasn't been touched.
Type got a little nudge in the right direction with the addition of kerning, available in both MoText and Spline Text. It's one of the updates you could easily miss — click Show 3D GUI to reveal interactive handles in the View window, or toggle Kerning open within the Attributes.
The GUI version is more intuitive, but you do need to watch where you click because moving an arrowhead is different than moving the line it sits on, making for a few undos before quickly making sense. A move using the lines isn't constrained to your view (moving anywhere in 3D space), but arrow and element moves are. In short, you're able to adjust individual letters that make up a word by activating each one (clicking its small letter icon) and using the many handles to move, squish, or change letter-height.
Sadly, there's no rotation or depth control, but this is designed to be a kerning tool for setting type; it just means that you'll still need to go through the usual steps of breaking apart to affect it further and animate (or use it in combination with MoGraph effectors).
It would have been cool though to be able to set keyframes this way, but it's a welcome update nonetheless, saving some amounts of time in order to get better typography. It's also worth pointing out that the Make Object command – once kerning is set – retains original anchor point locations and doesn't move them with the newly positioned letters. Overall though, type is powerful in Cinema 4D, so anything that enhances it is a bonus.