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CINEMA 4D is a commercial cross platform high-end 3D graphics application produced by MAXON Computer GmbH of Friedrichsdorf near Frankfurt, Germany. It is capable of procedural and polygonal/subd modeling, animating, lighting, texturing and rendering, and is noted for being very easy to use and artist friendly among high end 3D applications and having a very flexible interface.
Cinema 4D is a popular 3D application amongst matte painters in film largely due to the Bodypaint 3D module, and is equally popular amongst motion graphics artists thanks to an excellent integration with compositing application pipelines coupled with a very artist friendly and customiseable workflow and interface.
The application relies on widely used computer 3D technology which works by creating groups of "points" (known as vertices) which form surfaces when connected. The illusion of three dimensions is created by modeling objects out of multiple surfaces. Still pictures, movies and game environments (among other things) can be created with this technique.
When a scene is finished it is normally rendered. Rendering refers to the act of calculating the scene, the shading, the colors and the textures. After rendering one is able to save the project to many different file formats, including high resolution image and video files (such as AVI or QuickTime). Rendering a 3D scene can take anywhere from milliseconds to days (and more) depending on the complexity of the scene and the power of the computer. Rendering a movie is especially time-consuming - lots of images must be calculated, often with special frame-to-frame blending effect to give the animation a 'video' look.
CINEMA 4D has its own runtime scripting and programming language C.O.F.F.E.E. which is rather similar in form to JScript and an advanced modern C++ API with extensive SDK to develop platform independent plug-ins. The free C++ SDK for creating plug-ins comes with the software (including the Demo version) and is also available on Plugin Cafe.
Four different packages have been released by MAXON: the core CINEMA 4D application, the XL-Bundle (including Net Render [3 lic], PyroCluster, Advanced Render, MOCCA and Thinking Particles), the Studio-Bundle, which includes all modules, and the Production Bundle which comes with a service contract, Linux version, 32Bit painting support in Bodypaint and a number of other high end studio specific features, this version is only available upon request.
Initially, CINEMA 4D was developed for Amiga computers in the early nineties but has since been released for Mac OS X, Windows, and most recently via the Production Bundle the Linux OS.
MAXON has created a way for all users to be able to 'get into' 3D with their software by pursuing this route. There are also on-line communities such as c4d cafe and CGTalk available. MAXON bundles PDF manuals (and printed manuals at extra charge) and tutorials/videos with its software.
As well as the core application (for modeling, texturing, lighting and rendering), CINEMA 4D also has several add-on programs available that expand its capabilities. These programs include:
In 2005, three alternate rendering engines became available as Cinema 4D plug-ins:
- Advanced Render (global illumination/HDRI, caustics, ambient occlusion and sky simulation)
- BodyPaint 3D (direct painting on UVW meshes)
- Dynamics (for simulating soft body and rigid body dynamics)
- HAIR (simulates hair, fur, grass, etc.)
- MOCCA (character animation and cloth simulation)
- MoGraph (Motion Graphics procedural modeling and animation toolset)
- NET Render (to render animations over a TCP/IP network in render farms)
- PyroCluster (simulation of smoke and fire effects)
- Sketch & Toon (tools for cel shading, cartoons and technical drawings)
- Thinking Particles (enhanced particle system based on nodes)
- finalRender stage 2.0 from Cebas Computer GmbH
- Maxwell Render from Next Limit Technologies
- Renderman Connection from Maxon Computers GMBH
1990 Christian and Philip Losch enter their raytracer into Kickstart magazine's monthly programming contest and win the competition..
1991 FastRay (CINEMA 4D's first name) is released for the Amiga.
1993 CINEMA 4D V1 is released for Amiga.
1994 Release of CINEMA 4D V2 for Amiga.
1995 Release of CINEMA 4D V3 for Amiga
Plans are made for porting CINEMA 4D to the PC platform.
New programmer team begins development of a completely new, operating system independent architecture.
1996 CINEMA 4D V4 for Windows, Alpha NT and Macintosh is released. The first Multi-Processor version of CINEMA 4D is made available.
1997 The development of a production-level version begins, integrating the latest technologies.
The first production worthy version is released — CINEMA 4D XL V5.
1998 CINEMA 4D SE V5 is released.
1999 CINEMA 4D GO V5 is introduced.
CINEMA 4D NET is introduced.
2000 CINEMA 4D XL V6 is released.
BodyPaint 3D is available as an integrated version for CINEMA 4D and stand alone version for other 3D packages.
2001 CINEMA 4D ART is introduced.
Module PyroCluster is introduced.
CINEMA 4D XL R7 is shipped worldwide.
MAXON integrates the shader set Smells like Almonds from bhodiNUT.
Module Dynamics is introduced.
2002 CINEMA 4D R8 is released with a modular system. The new modules are Advanced Render, PyroCluster, MOCCA and Thinking Particles.
2003 BodyPaint 3D R2 is introduced.
2003 CINEMA 4D R8.5 is introduced.
Module Sketch and Toon is introduced.
2004 CINEMA 4D R9 is released.
2005 MAXON become the first High-End 3D vendor to release a 64bit version of their software with Cinema 4D R9 64
CINEMA 4D R9.5 is released.
Module HAIR is released.
2006 CINEMA 4D becomes the first 3D/professional graphics application released as a Universal Binary for Apple's new Intel Core Duo powered Macs (even before Apple Universal Binary versions of its own software are released).
CINEMA 4D R9.6 is released.
Module MoGraph is introduced.
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