Your annual Maxon

Of course I’ve announced a hundred times that I plan on staying away from this stuff, but it’s that time of year (SIGGRAPH, that is) and I just can’t help but feel compelled to jot down a few lines regarding the latest R19 release of Cinema 4D. Yes, *boohoo* to myself for not having enough self-control.

Forums have run rampant with speculation about this likely being another underwhelming release ever since a few days they posted this article on their blog about their MSA. Aside from being full of the usual corporate bullshit about loyal customer relations, return value and predictable investments of course such statements always reek of something foul. It’s like saying “We’re not going to tell you what you get, but if you would please be so kind to keep our company afloat?!…” and should best be avoided – especially if you don’t have anything outstanding to offer. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy that yet again seems to be the case with this release.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be the last to say that things like rebuilding Bodypaint 3D fully in OpenGL, pimping your viewport or rewriting your core modeling functions aren’t all good and valid, but Maxon are taking a jolly good time with them before their customers even begin to see the tiniest advances. These points on the feature list read like they were just cramming them in to show that they can do it, but still at the cost of leaving workflows fractured and incomplete, forcing the user to alternate between the few new tools while using the legacy functions most of the time. That certainly is puzzling just like it’s puzzling that this same list is full of “me, too” features once again. There’s a clear tendency to look at the competition and then try to catch up and mimic their features.

There are of course a few highlights, though strangely enough some have barely any info on them, which once again gives that impression they were merely last-minute additions rather than part of a holistic strategy. One such feature is the Sound Effector. Aside from the fact that it had its issues and even was mostly defunct in some releases due to bugs, it always suffered from limitations that were hard to understand from the user’s point of view. You could always work around them in some way, mostly using complex XPresso and piping stuff through secondary objects, but this of course wasn’t necessarily particularly intuitive and performance friendly. Therefore it’s actually nice to see some of this stuff now being available natively. Conversely I’m still quite impressed with the Voronoi Fracture stuff and its potential for creative exploitation. If I had the money for a Cinema license, this would almost be a good reason to go back and spend a few afternoons just dabbling around.

On the other hand I’m still not convinced where all this ProRender stuff is headed. Don’t misunderstand – any renderer these days is better and more advanced than Maxon‘s own failed attempts at renovating their craptastic renderer, but I still consider reliance on code that you technically don’t own a risky path. There’s always the risk of the whole Mental Ray story repeating. That and of course as a spoiled Lightwave and modo brat I have enjoyed things like interactive rendering, rich features, fast rendering and pretty good quality for quite a while long before some people even knew what iRay or vRay RT even were. I’m simply not particularly impressed. Even something like the VR spherical camera therefore merely appears like everyone trying to quickly grab their corner of the market as long as the trend lasts. It’s laughable even by Maxon‘s low standards and a bit too cheap and predictable.

The rest of the lot is okay-ish, but as I said, it seems they just can’t make up their minds which of their many holes to plug first and which of their “under construction sites” to truly finish and turn it into a wholesome experience while at the same time trying to keep up with competitors. Unlike some people suspect I don’t even think they are holding anything back for R20. They are just chugging along and have arrived at this dreary level like Autodesk – they’ve let some things slip and slump for too long, but as long as you have been a longtime user and can afford your annual MSA renewal it’s okay. It’s just not that exciting and what passes as “innovation” in Cinema land these days is often only copycatting other programs, give or take the occasional exception that gets even me excited…

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