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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

SIGGRAPH Product Showcase: MAXON CINEMA 4D Provides Versatile CG Tools

September 4th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

During SIGGRAPH 2014, we talked to a lot of attendees and exhibitors. One of the CG software developers we spent time with was MAXON, whose flagship product line is CINEMA 4D.

CINEMA 4D is a 3D modeling, animation and rendering application developed by MAXON Computer GmbH (Friedrichsdorf, Germany). It is capable of procedural and polygonal/surface modeling, animating, lighting, texturing, rendering, and common features found in 3D modeling applications.

We spoke with Paul Babb, President and CEO of MAXON for the Americas. He said that CINEMA 4D is an animation product used for motion graphics for broadcast television, visual effects, scientific/medical animation, video game graphics, and architectural and engineering visualization.

At their SIGGRAPH 2014 exhibit, MAXON employed a wide range of artists at the booth showing what CINEMA 4D can do, such as game developers, visual effects artists, and motion graphics experts. Also exhibited at the booth were demonstrations showing integration with the Arnold renderer and the Houdini graphics engine.

What is CINEMA 4D?

Initially, CINEMA 4D was developed for Amiga computers in the early 1990s, and the first three versions of the program were available exclusively for that platform. With R4, however, MAXON began to develop the program for Windows and Macintosh computers as well, citing the wish to reach a wider audience and the growing instability of the Amiga market following Commodore’s bankruptcy.

For those not familiar with MAXON, CINEMA 4D is available in the following four variants for various market segments:

  • CINEMA 4D Prime – the core product, CINEMA 4D Prime’s UI is designed to ease users in to the world of 3D graphics. With CINEMA 4D Prime you can start creating 3D images relatively quickly, aided by the many tutorials provided helping learn CINEMA 4D.

A lot of new users begin by adding CINEMA 4D Prime to their existing pipeline of 2D applications. For example: turning 2D artwork into 3D elements using import options such as Illustrator or EPS, or combining images or movies with 3D objects.

  • CINEMA 4D Broadcast – a version with additional motion-graphics features. CINEMA 4D Broadcast contains all the features of CINEMA 4D Prime, as well as specific tools for creating motion graphics, including cloning tools, advanced rendering options such as Global Illumination, a comprehensive library with 3D models, cameras, lighting setups, video clips, etc.

CINEMA 4D’s powerful export options allow multi-layer image export directly into popular compositing software such as After Effects, Motion, Final Cut Pro, Combustion and others.

  • CINEMA 4D Visualize – adds functions specifically for architects, designers, and photographers. MAXON CINEMA 4D Visualize provides a comprehensive suite of modeling and texturing tools and rendering options. Features included are Global Illumination, Physical Sky, sketch-style rendering and huge libraries of 3D scene fillers, textures, and lighting environments.

CINEMA 4D Visualize has a wide range of import options for working with models from a large variety of 2D and 3D applications and file formats, including PSD, JPEG, DWG, IGES, VRML, OBJ and many more. There is file exchange support for many 3D CAD applications such as VectorWorks, ArchiCAD, and Allplan.

  • CINEMA 4D Studio – includes everything contained in the other three modules, and adds advanced character tools, hair, a physics engine, and an unlimited client network for rendering.

All CINEMA 4D products run on Windows and Macintosh systems.

At SIGGRAPH 2014 MAXON was showing CINEMA 4D Release 16 with highlights that include


Motion Tracker – Seamless integration of 3D elements into real-world footage.

Interaction Tag – Control over 3D objects and works with Tweak mode to provide information on object movement and highlighting.


PolyPen – Paint polygons and move, clone, cut and weld points or edges of 3D models.

Bevel Deformer – Non-destructive and animatable bevels.

Sculpting – Numerous improvements and dynamic features for precision.

Other Features – All-new Cogwheel spline primitive; Mesh Check tool; Deformer Falloff options, and cap enhancements.


Reflectance Channel – Added control over reflections and specularity within a single new channel, with multiple layers for creating complex surfaces.

New Render Engine for Hair and Sketch – A new unified effects render engine to seamlessly raytrace Hair and Sketch lines.

Team Render Server – Enhancements including a new client-server architecture.


CINEMA 4D Release 16 performance and workflow features include a revised Content Library, support for the current versions of FBX and Alembic, a new Solo button, Annotations, and a new UV Peeler.

10 Great Hints for CINEMA 4D for Beginners

According to Babb, CINEMA 4D distinguishes itself from the competition by being a very approachable package. Also very community and education oriented to facilitate artists. Wants to make it easy for users to successful with the tool. A CINEMA 4D variant is bundled with Adobe’s After Effects, so this can ease transition to 3D.

From what we saw at SIGGRAPH, CINEMA 4D is very approachable, versatile, and a product line you are unlikely to outgrow, regardless of whether you’re a3D animator, illustrator, or modeler.

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