Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Maxon ships Cinema 4D R21

Cinema 4D R21 demo image created by Zigor Zamaniego.

Originally posted on 31 July 2019. Scroll down for news of the commercial release.

Maxon has unveiled Cinema 4D R21, the new version of its 3D animation software, adding a new Caps and Bevels system, a Field Force object for motion graphics, and better support for Mixamo animations.

The release, which is being demoed at Siggraph 2019, will also scrap the four lower-end editions of the software and introduce unified product pricing, including new subscription plans.

Modelling: new Caps and Bevels system, more updates to the core architecture and volume tools
New modelling features in Cinema 4D R21 include Caps and Bevels, a self-descriptive new system for adding user-customisable caps and bevels to spline objects.

The form of the bevel may be selected from presets, controlled parametrically, or by editing a profile graph.

Caps and bevels are created as a single object, with additional selections sets for shells and edges; and there is the option to link the start and end caps on a spline.

Maxon’s marketing material pitches it primarily as a toolset for 3D typography, but it can be used with a wide range of other models, as the video above demonstrates.

The ongoing work updating Cinema 4D’s core architecture continues, with a “dramatic” – if unquantified – speed boost for the latest commands to be ported to the new modelling core, including Extrude and Split.

There are also some nice small workflow improvements, such as the option to copy and paste components, including both points and polygons.

The volume modelling system introduced in Cinema 4D R20 also gets an update, including a new curve-based UI to define the thickness of a spline-based volume at every point along that spline.

When meshing a volume, it is also now possible to generate a curvature map from the resulting surface, which can be used to drive effects created with Cinema 4D’s MoGraph and Fields toolsets.

UVs: a new UV Transform tool and UV snapping, but no major changes
The update doesn’t bring major changes to Cinema 4D’s UV toolset – a cause of complaint in the previous release – although version 21 is described as “lay[ing] the groundwork for future UV enhancements”.

The texture view has been migrated to OpenGL, which should improve interactivity and anti-aliasing of UV lines; and snapping has been introduced for UV points and edges.

There is also a new UV Transform tool, for moving, rotating, scaling or distorting UV islands, shown in the video above; and a new UV ruler display.

Materials and rendering: updates to nodal materials and ProRender, support for Open Image Denoise
The node-based material system introduced in Cinema 4D R20 gets a new drag-and-drop workflow for duplicating nodes, or rearranging the input and output ports within a node.

There are also a number of new node types, shown in the video above.

Radeon ProRender, AMD’s hardware-agnostic GPU render engine, added in Cinema 4D R19, has been further integrated, and can now render node-based materials and volumes.

ProRender also now supports interactive tonemapping, and out-of-core HDRI skies, making it possible to render using HDR images larger than can fit into available GPU memory.

The renderer can also generate a range of new multipasses, including AO, albedo, refraction and volume, and direct and indirect illumination and reflection.

In addition, Cinema 4D now integrates Open Image Denoise, Intel’s open-source CPU render denoiser.

It currently only works for albedo passes, but it can be used with the native Physical Render and ProRender engines, or with third-party renders, including Redshift, which Maxon acquired this year.

Animation: new Field Force object, updates to auto-weighting, support for the Mixamo control rig
Animators and motion graphics artists get a new Field Force object, making it possible to use the Fields system added in R20 to control forces within a scene.

These can then be used to drive the motion of particles or rigid body dynamics objects, with a range of possible use cases shown in the video above.

Fields themselves get a few updates, including the option to use one field to mask another; to convert data between value, colour and direction, making it possible to modulate effects based on colour or direction.

Fields can also now be used to modify Normal Tags; or Normal Tags used as fields.

For character rigging, the automatic skin weighting algorithms used by the software have been improved, with support for Bone Glow; and there are new volumetric and heatmap modes.

Cinema 4D also now integrates the Mixamo control rig, making it possible to edit readymade character animations generated using Adobe’s Mixamo platform directly inside the software.

Other changes: new Asset Inspector, and a range of UI and UX updates
Other changes include support for HiDPI displays, plus a number of UI changes – particularly on macOS – and improved interface performance, particularly when working with the timeline.

There is also a new Asset Inspector, designed to make it easier to manage external assets used in a Cinema 4D project, including the option to identify missing assets, and collect assets automatically.

You can find a full list of features via the links below.

Maxon is also switching to a new web-based system designed to simplify the process of buying or activating licences, or transferring them between machines, although RLM licensing is still available.

New pricing and licensing unifies Cinema 4D as a single, top-of-the-range edition
However, one of the biggest differences between Cinema 4D R21 and previous releases is not a change to the software itself, but to its pricing and licensing model.

The release does away with the four lower-priced versions of the software, the $995 Prime and BodyPaint 3D editions, the $1,695 Broadcast edition, and the $2,295 Visualize edition.

The cost of a perpetual licence of the remaining edition, Cinema 4D Studio – now simply known as ‘Cinema 4D’ – falls by $200, to $3,495.

Maxon has also dispensed with the often unwieldy set of upgrade, sidegrade and short-term rental options that came with each of the editions, in favour of new subscription pricing.

Subscriptions cost $94.99/month or $719.88/year for Cinema 4D alone; $116.99/month or $983.88/year for Cinema 4D plus Redshift.

That’s fairly competitive: subscriptions for 3ds Max and Maya – Autodesk’s new 3ds Max and Maya Indie deal notwithstanding – are roughly twice as expensive, although the price of perpetual licences of both products were similar to that of Cinema 4D Studio when Autodesk discontinued them in 2016.

However, it is slightly more than the price of the old MSA – Maxon’s maintenance subscriptions, now being discontinued – for Cinema 4D Studio; and, obviously, quite a bit more than for the other editions.

Users with current MSAs will get a perpetual licence of Cinema 4D R21 when it ships – those with MSAs for the lower-end editions get a “perpetual entitlement” – or can switch to subscription before then.

Updated 8 August 2019: Maxon tells us that ‘perpetual entitlement’ means users with lower-end editions can either get a perpetual licence of R21 when it ships, or buy a two-year subscription at current MSA pricing.

However, with the demise of MSAs, users on perpetual licences no longer automatically get access to Cineversity, Maxon’s video training portal, or to upgrades.

According to Maxon’s FAQs: “Some future Cinema 4D upgrades may be available only to subscription customers, while others may be available as perpetual licenses at upgrade pricing.”

Divided reactions among Cinema 4D users
Unsurprisingly, the change in licensing has dominated community forum threads discussing the new release.

Opinion divides sharply between those who oppose subscription-only licensing and see the changes as a step towards it, and those who see the new subscriptions as an affordable way to access features previously only available to users of the old Cinema 4D Studio edition.

The consensus on Cinema 4D R21 itself seems to be, broadly, that it includes useful workflow improvements, but that it isn’t a spectacular release. You can see the full spectrum of opinions in the threads linked above.

Updated 3 September 2019: Cinema 4D R21 is now shipping. You can see Maxon’s overview video for the release above.

Pricing and availability
Cinema 4D R21 is available for Windows 10 and macOS 10.12.6+. A perpetual licence costs $3,495. Subscriptions start at $94.99/month for Cinema 4D alone, or $116.99/month with Redshift.

Read an overview of the new features in Cinema 4D R21 on the product website

Read a full list of new features in Cinema 4D R21 in Maxon’s online changelog

Read Maxon’s FAQs about its new pricing and licensing policy