When it was announced that the Creative Cloud iteration of After Effects would be capable of two-way collaboration with Maxon’s CINEMA 4D range, it fast became our favourite new feature. Now that we’re a little way down the road, the dust has settled, the workflow has been explained and the deals have been announced, we thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at CINEWARE, CINEMA 4D Lite and CINEMA 4D and work out exactly which option is best for whom, and what it is you’ll get for your money. Here are your key facts…
Not actually a standalone application, CINEWARE is the name of the plug-in that’s been added to After Effects to let it communicate with CINEMA 4D. It’s what makes it possible for After Effects users to enjoy that two-way workflow, choose to render CINEMA 4D files in an After Effects-based renderer and see changes to cameras and lighting in both programs, regardless of which they were made in. It arrives as part of your After Effects CC download, and is not available to anyone still using After Effects CS6 or earlier.
Maxon CINEMA 4D Lite
This is the stripped back version of CINEMA 4D that comes as part of your After Effects CC download, and is the program you’ll actually do the C4D work in (although if you have a full version of C4D R14 or above already installed on your computer, After Effects CC can also harness that to deliver the same two-way workflow to a full version of C4D).
You can create basic 3D objects and animations in CINEMA 4D Lite, then export them to an After Effects layer as footage for further editing. Both programs can render C4D files, but if you choose to render directly in CINEMA 4D Lite you’ll be limited to low-res renders of 800×600 or less – this cap is removed if you render the footage within After Effects. However, being a Lite version, this doesn’t support advanced features like ambient occlusion, global illumination or polygon modelling.
That said, it gives you far more 3D capabilities than simply doing everything in After Effects would, and Maxon have worked hard to improve camera inoperability between the two programs, so it’s now far easier to make edits in either and have them instantly recognised by both.
If you’re working on motion graphics or only need very simple 3D assets, we reckon you can get away with sticking with CINEMA 4D Lite. If, however, you’re going to need to produce larger or more complex 3D elements or need to animate characters, we’d recommend levelling up to the full version of CINEMA 4D.
CINEMA 4D Broadcast and CINEMA 4D Studio
Let’s get the most pressing news out of the way first: if you’re using After Effects CC, you’re eligible for a 40% discount when you buy CINEMA 4D Broadcast or Studio with a Maxon Service Agreement. This is a pretty amazing deal, and if you think you’ll need a full version, it’s best to get clicking before Maxon come to their senses.
So what are Broadcast and Studio? Well, Maxon split CINEMA 4D into different versions based on what kind of 3D work you do. Studio is the full package, combining the features found in graphic-design orientated Prime and the more CAD-focused Visualize with advanced character creation and mapping tools, all the advanced rendering features that you won’t find in the Lite version, a physics engine and an unlimited client network for the fastest possible rendering. If you’re animating detailed (read: hairy and furry) characters, need to plan complex collisions or will be working with scenes that contain hundreds or thousands of objects, Studio is the CINEMA 4D package that will help you power through projects, all without losing that live link to After Effects.
CINEMA 4D Broadcast is a little more pared down, containing all the tools you’ll need for creating high-end 3D motion graphics and virtual environments rather than characters. It’s got all the rendering options that are missing from CINEMA 4D Lite, plus extra libraries of lighting and camera rigs so it’s easier to create 3D elements that’ll slot straight into any footage you’ve shot, not to mention CINEMA 4D’s infamously comprehensive cloning toolset.
A note on hardware…
If you are planning on using this discount as an excuse to move to CINEMA 4D Studio and take on more 3D-heavy projects, be aware that CGI rendering will take even longer than your usual After Effects jobs. To minimise the time difference, you’ll want to grab yourself a powerful GPU, and make sure your machine has as many core as you can cram into it. We’d recommend opting for a top spec iMac (you can repurpose this as a display and render node once the new Mac Pro hits) a Mac Pro or one of HP’s Z-series workstations.