Adult Cinema

It’s SIGGRAPH time again and pretty much like every year, Maxon is getting the “new release” carousel spinning with their announcement of Cinema 4D R 18. Being 18 years so happens to be the age where you are considered an adult in legal terms in many countries around the globe, so this seems fitting. Like in previous years this is a rather wildly mixed bag of new tricks, so it’s once more a very “Your mileage may vary.” release again. It will be mostly useless and not bring anything new to the table for quite a few people, but on the other hand has some nice ideas that can make you pine for it if only the kind of work you do just fits.

The object tracker is certainly useful, but when it comes inside a program that still has serious deficiencies with a million other things it’s probably not going to save your behind on a really complex project. What good does object tracking do you, if you can’t put those results to use to extract UV textures based on the projection for instance, if you get my meaning? This may be possible in the future, of course, but I’m really beginning to question Maxon‘s strategy here. It’s like they’re getting lost in fancies when you can’t even pin a texture to a piece of crooked driftwood, to stick with the boat video example.

Several other new features like the parent constraint, Quarternion rotations and updated file exchange also fall into that category. While by themselves useful, they are not elevating the program or its workflows to a new level. It’s stuff that has existed in other programs for a while and it feels too much like trying to play the catch-up game again and a lot of legacy baggage is still getting in the way while other crucial features are completely missing. Similar things could be said about the modeling tools. It’s always like they manage to finish exactly one feature per release cycle, but as a whole, the workflow never really changes that much. The new knife tools feel sooooo Modo to me…

As predicted in one of my recent posts, the viewport got some enhancements, but again it’s nothing you haven’t seen elsewhere already and it remains to be seen how well it really works on specific projects. Cinema‘s lacking performance in that department has always been a peeve of mine and this promise has fallen flat on its face too many times.

The rendering department seems to have gotten some attention to detail with some shaders, but all the same, I’m having another Modo dèja-vu looking at the variation shader, the inverse occlusion or even the displacement and normal baking. Don’t even get me started on the thin film shader. Can’t remember exactly, but Lightwave had it in version 6 or so.

The one thing that really made me think “Awesome!” was the Voronoi shatter object. It’s interesting how they basically “de-Voronoi’d” it and by ways of allowing textures and reference objects turned it into a universal slice & dice tool that can give you all sorts of shapes. That’s more than Modo has managed in three cycles of having a shatter tool, so a tip of the hat to that. Unfortunately it’s also somehow apparent that it was developed by someone completely outside the usual loop, which is another big issue that still plagues Cinema 4D – too many different paradigms and approaches to different problems instead of a consistent, holistic workflow.

In summary this is one more time not the breakthrough everyone was probably hoping for. I wouldn’t mind using it if I still had my MSA, but come to think of it, many of the new features would lay bare unused in my world. I also feel that by aping features from other programs Maxon are squandering potential to be innovative in their own way and wasting development resources on features that in my view are often more “nice to have” than really essential. It’s a race neither side can win and it would make more sense to me to have a consistent user experience rather than having to decide whether to use the same feature in program A or program B on any given job.

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