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.
Cinema 4D vs Modo
I usually model in Modo, just because I find it to be more intuitive to the way I work and in some areas more powerful with the way they've integrated snapping, ground plane flexibility, and falloff options, not to mention smart re-topology and task-specific shortcuts.
In R15, Maxon's added more hands-on functionality to a couple of their tools, including the updated Bevel tool, as well as some powerful new capabilities — a welcome upgrade given how frequently it's used.
You're now able to visually and interactively adjust multiple parameters in-view, and the workflow is smooth with instant feedback. Included adjustable options allow you to control subdivision, depth, shaping, and various topology settings.
The process is pretty simple and fluid — depending on where you grab the handles, you're able to affect different properties (the handles disappear while adjustments are being interactively made). Obviously, just adding interactivity doesn't necessarily make a tool better, but it's nice to have multiple ways of achieving the same results, or different ways of working with a tool.
Besides being easy to work with, the handles also help visualise the bevel path, especially when multiple elements are being affected. It works with all the selection modes — Point, Edge, Polygon — and whether single or multiple elements of either are selected. It defaults to a Round shape, but you can also set it to User Mode (located under Shaping in the tool Attributes), which allows you to bevel in custom profiles. These update in real-time, making for a pretty interactive setup.
Your last settings are stored, which can or can't be good, depending on how you look at it, and editing once the tool is dropped isn't possible – although going back to the selection mode will retain the selection, provided you haven't selected new elements.
You can also use a Spline as a profile, which is nice. It does take a little getting used to — it's easy to drop the tool or to bevel a bevel, or to lose sight of the tool's parameters depending on where you click. If that happens, just select the tool icon in the top toolbar.
You can either select elements first, then choose Bevel – in which case click-dragging anywhere works – or use the Bevel tool to simply click on parts you want to affect and go from there. One good use is switching the default Chamfer mode to Solid, allowing you to quickly create segments with Subdivision Surfaces (previously known as HyperNURBs) modelling in mind.
I wish they would have added some sort of falloff setting to further sculpt a bevel, or that the tool allowed for re-edits once dropped. It's a smart and powerful update though, with some impressive Mitering options as well to help with corners and flow.
It’s not exactly related, but somewhat resembling the look of the updated Bevel is the new Slide tool, which allows you to easily add edges by Cmd/Ctrl + dragging existing ones.
You can control how the new edge is offset (Proportionally or Fixed Distance), as well as set it to preserve the curvature of your model. As with the Bevel tool, adjustments can be done interactively within the View window or via sliders, and the behaviour is smooth and intuitive. This works on single edges, multiple selections, and loops. If nothing is pre-selected, the Slide tool can be used to click and drag edges (provided Edge mode is selected). It's fast and flexible, and probably one I'll be using a lot.
Another update is the ability to now automatically snap a Deformer to its parent object's size. Where before you had to resize and move a Deformer's bounding box around, you can now Shift-click (with an object selected) to have it come in properly positioned and sized to fit. It will even insert itself as a child to the object.
The Deformer aligns to the Y axis, so you'll still need to rotate it depending on what you're after. If you don’t use Shift, you can click Fit To Parent (with the Deformer as a child, as per usual), and it will snap to the object’s size. The good news is that this also works as you stack Deformers — the bounding box will still show the original position of the shape, but the behaviour works as you'd expect.
Deformers themselves haven't really been updated. It would have been nice to see more interactive functionality, such as multiple handles for rotation, deformation, or start and end positioning, or at least more flexibility with centre pivot positioning. Unless you're after deforming on the Y axis (which is where it snaps to), you'll still need to manually mess with the Attribute's input fields.
The snap function didn't always work perfectly in tests with more complicated objects – but it usually came close, and I had to manually increase the bounding box to avoid the stretching that comes with leaving parts behind. On the upside, the new options do cut down the number of steps it takes to set up.
Cinema 4D R15’s new features
Besides updates, R15 adds a couple extra features, such as a new Camera Crane and Grass — both of which function more as presets based on existing tools.
The Crane adds another option to the list of available cameras (the last one being Motion Camera, introduced in R14). It helps replace some of the spline setups used in previous versions to smoothly maneuver the camera around a scene, although it can also work with Splines for extra levels of control.
The Crane camera’s location can be determined by first selecting a Null Object, then adding a Camera Crane — otherwise it places it at World's centre. Although it has many adjustable settings (such as Pitch, Heading and Height), depending on what you're trying to achieve it could actually make setting up scenes a lot more tedious and complicated, with multiple axis' in different locations to watch over.
For simple or very specific setups, the results are smooth, as it mimics the swooping and sweeping characteristics of an actual camera crane. I prefer to set things up from scratch in most cases, as it gives me more control knowing all the steps that went into the camera being where it is and where I’d like it to go — in which case attaching a simple camera to Nulls adds even greater control for more complex moves, while keeping setups relatively simple to work with and understand.
The Camera Crane also allows you to add a Target, as well as Path and Rail splines. As the Crane attributes are part of a Tag, the camera itself contains all the settings you're used to – though editing coordinates isn't possible, as they're overridden by the Tag.
The downside for me is that you can’t use the standard control keys to move or orient the camera within the View window — the camera is locked unless you use the Crane Attributes controls, whereas I find it much quicker to reposition shots by clicking on objects in a scene and rotating my view in relation to it. It can take a few clicks and multiple slider adjustments to get shots set up, and I found myself treating it like an odd-shaped object in my scene, rotating and moving the rig into position to get the shot right.
What I don't like is the workflow. Practically, you need to work in Quad View, since it’s easier to move the base around that way (by effectively moving the Null it's attached to). Then you have to jump around the sliders in the Crane Attribute's panel while checking my shot in the Main View. It’s pretty awkward, and not exactly creative.
At this point I'm not sure how often I’d use this camera, but it could just be a matter of spending more time with it to see how it could fit my workflow. One note worth mentioning is that you don't get motion trails with it, since the camera itself is parented and usually way off centre from the base.
The Grass is greener
Grass, on the other hand, isn't so complicated — you click and it adds grass to whatever object you had selected. It's not the most beautiful or believable kind, but it's definitely useful for those times when you might need a quick layer of grass.
The scene needs to be previewed in order to see it, and it adds a simplified, specific set of controls that speed up the process of creating grass, bypassing the need to use the more complex Hair module (which Grass is based on).
The upside is it's fast; the downside is it doesn't respond to Dynamics. You can edit colour and density, as well as numerous other properties, including tweaking the Material object it loads. Adding lights and shadows helps improve the look of grass – as it does normally with hair – but the overall feel is definitely leaning more towards an ‘archviz-style’ quick sketch rather than the realistic.
Overall this release adds stability and refinements, as well as more flexibility and power — especially on the rendering side. Most of the updates seem to have been well thought-out, and definitely build on what was already a very solid package.
On paper, the list of updates does seem pretty light. However it does include an impressive set of features just considering the sculpting improvements – including mesh projections that remain editable – a completely reworked network rendering setup, re-engineered Irradiance Cache algorithms for better GI renders, and the superbly redesigned Bevel tool — if anything, the latter being a good indication to where they might be heading.
So far so good, I'm definitely a happy user.