Introduction: Cinema 4D 3D modelling, CGI, animation software

by Denby Smith

Denby Smith is an experienced modeller, animator and film maker. Over the following months, he will be bringing a comprehensive tutorial on using Cinema 4D from German company Maxon in easy-to-follow lessons that explore all facets of the software, building to a completed model at the end.

Here is the introduction

You can get a trial version of Cinema 4D for MAc and PC at

The realm of Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI), 3D modelling, animation and rendering is traditionally one beyond reach for most videographers, let alone production budgets! Am I right?

Still, the potential benefits of implementing 3D design elements in video production are so great, that videographers and small production teams can come under pressure to generate custom 3D content within a restrictive budget, both fiscal and temporal. Given the complexity of the process, it is time consuming and often unaffordable. However, that doesn’t mean that creating your own 3D content is unachievable, especially these days.

Enter CINEMA 4D, a powerful 3D modelling and animation software package from German company MAXON. Originally developed for Commodore’s, sadly missed, Amiga platform under the name FastRay and released in 1990, CINEMA 4D began releasing on PC and Mac in 1996 with 1997 seeing the last release for the struggling Amiga.

Nearly 30 years on and MAXON has firmly established its place in the high-end 3D modelling and animation industry alongside Lightwave, 3Dstudio MAX and Blender, releasing the latest build last year, CINEMA 4D R-20.  The good news is that CINEMA 4D is intuitive and easy to pick up, once you have a grasp on the basics.

C4D offers modelling standards like Parametric, NURB, Spline, Polygonal and Sub-d modelling tools, but also has a unique array of impressive procedural tools for rapidly generating extremely complicated models and animations at reduced labor and processing cost.

BodyPaint 3D is included, which allows painting directly onto UVW meshes and R-20 sees the addition of a node-based material editor.

A powerful physics engine is incorporated allowing complex, dynamic simulations and interactions. C4D is capable of generating photo realistic images utilizing Real World, Physically Based Lighting, Global Illumination, Camera and Environmental effects. As such the package includes Pro-Render, C4D’s onboard GPU renderer, however C4D is supported by most standalone and plugin renderers on the market such as Arnold, Octane or V-Ray. Basically, everything you need to produce stunning 3D content.

Over this series, I will attempt to distil what I have learned over the years, with the aim of getting you familiar with working with 3D environments and generating you own content. I will cover fundamentals of key steps in the process of generating high quality, animated 3D content and demonstrate techniques with the hope that you will go on and experiment further, customizing and adding a personal touch to your scene as it develops. The scene will take on a Sci-Fi / Space theme on the basis that it allows us a bit of creative license with what we create and how it might look.

It must be noted that for a smooth and enjoyable 3D experience, a higher-power system and GPU are recommended. I am running an MSI Z-97 motherboard with 32Gb RAM and a liquid cooled Intel i7-4970 CPU. My Graphics card is an MSI Nvidia 980ti 6Gb, a little long in the tooth no doubt, but up to the task.

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