There I was, after my illness had driven me out of bed once more at 3 in the morning, thinking I had finally figured things out for good and 2 hours later Adobe follow up with their official marketing onslaught. The nerve! ;-) Now I sit here after 2 hours of model train playing with my homeys Tim and Niklas (and the necessary repair work on the carts and locomotives afterwards) trying to collect my thoughts on the whole thing. I’ll spare you all the technical details. Since Kopriva-Man™ has written them up for you nicely and the web is plastered with screen recordings and other promotional literature it should not be too hard to find all the info you could wish for. So where does this fit?

Depending on who you ask, it’s either the greatest thing on the planet or just yet another dumb move by Adobe and Maxon. Personally, I’m sitting between chairs, as they say, and I’m decidedly in the “Okay, so now what?” fraction. My main peeve is that it really doesn’t solve any of After Effects‘ genuine internal problems like 3D navigation or the graph editor. It merely sidesteps the issue by relegating that to a 3D plug-in. A complex, powerful and sophisticated 3D plug-in to be sure, but caught up in the program’s ailing infrastructure no less. Those buttons and pop-up panels just feel out of place and no matter how well you prepare your scene in Cinema, some things will always give you a sore index finger from all those extra clicks.

As I also explained already, I don’t see it working for any of my work. When you run two (or if you use Premiere Pro DynamicLink as well three) resource-hungry apps side by side/ inside one another and then use heavy scenes, you will eventually bring everything to a point where it simply makes no sense to use this workflow. I’m not even sure if I would use it for a simple logo animation. My brain just ticks differently and at the moment working natively in Cinema 4D seems more enjoyable. I can see the value of e.g. aligning stuff when you do motiongraphics work and just need that Particular glitter to appear in the right place or finetune the look based on the real thing, but logo porn and infographics are obviously different from throwing 20 million CAD polygons at the renderer.

I guess that’s also the reason why many other “serious 3D” artists don’t make too much of it. Aside from the performance considerations, certain features are absent in the Lite version and even if you have a full Broadcast or Studio license, some stuff will not work via the plug-in, requiring you to do things the old way. Similarly, you will find people who just may not care because their workflows are based on other plug-ins and workflows already. If you’re one of those people where Cineware doesn’t fit into your pipeline, it means that pretty much half of the CS7 update will go for naught, understandably perhaps leaving you a bit empty and disappointed.

On the positive side, it’s of course a good opportunity for many compositing/ graphics artists who never have done any 3D to get their feet moist, as they say. You just need to snatch a handful of free prefab models e.g. from Pixel Lab or my own crooked Les Blocs, buy Video CoPilot‘s Metropolitan pack or something similar and then you already can start playing around, not to speak of modifying stuff yourself in Cinema 4D Lite.

On balance, will it change the way we design as claimed in the videos? I’m not sure. Not beyond the workflow changes that any update to any program brings, anyway. In its current state it seems  a bit rough around the edges and while it caters for a specific set of use cases and workflows, others may feel as if they were left out. That and of course while the marketing drumbeat may give you a different impression, not every single project will even use this feature. There’s still a million other things you can do in After Effects and still lots of room left for a new expression engine, performance, a new paint system, masking enhancements and other things, which have not received any updates this time around. Obviously doing this consumed a lot of resources, perhaps too many to make an impression elsewhere.

And now I’m going for a swim in my bathtub after a long and exhausting day, letting the news sink in. Stay tuned for more ponderings in the days to come as the story unfolds during NAB.

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