Maxon has unveiled Cinema 4D R23, a major update to the 3D animation and rendering software, adding character animation features including a new character solver, and eye-catching toon and facial rigs.
The update also extends the software’s UV editing tools, integrates colour correction toolset Magic Bullet Looks, and provides an early preview of Project: Neutron, Maxon’s new node-based core architecture.
The update, which is due to ship later today, also makes the features from Cinema 4D S22, April’s subscriber-only release, available to perpetual licence holders.
Maxon announced the update during the keynote for its virtual IBC 2020 event, alongside Maxon One, a new all-in-one subscription to Cinema 4D, Redshift and Red Giant Complete.
First chance for perpetual licence holders to use the new features from Cinema 4D S22
Cinema 4D R23 provides holders of perpetual licences with their first chance to use the functionality added in Cinema 4D S22, Maxon’s previous subscription-only update.
Although perpetual licences remain available, Maxon moved towards subscriptions with the unified product pricing rolled out with last year’s Cinema 4D R21, with S22 providing “early access” to a range of features.
They include a new automated UV unwrapping and packing system, the reinstatement of the GoZ bridge to ZBrush, and a new viewport core architecture with support for Metal on macOS systems.
We covered the changes when Cinema 4D S22 was released, so check out our original story for details.
UVs: support for multiple objects, plus better snapping and alignment
Cinema 4D R23 further modernises the software’s UV workflows – something that users have been calling for for several years – adding multi-object support.
Users can now display the UVs of multiple objects within a scene within the UV Editor, and pack them automatically into a single UV tile.
There are also new tools for tidying up UV tiles, with new options to align UV islands based on selected edges, to straighten selected edges, and to rectangularise UV islands.
The UV tools also support the same snapping options as the rest of Cinema 4D, including point, grid and pixel snapping.
One user request not addressed by the update is support for the UDIM UV layout format. Maxon told us that it was aware of the importance of UDIM support, but didn’t give a timeline for its implementation.
Animation: new joint-based facial rig and squash-and-stretchable cartoon rig
Another long-standing request that is addressed in Cinema 4D R23 is that for more advanced character animation tools.
Cinema 4D’s near-decade-old Advanced Biped character template has also now been supplemented by a dedicated facial rig from its original creator, Walt Disney Animation Studios character TD Bret Bays.
It’s joint-based, making it possible to generate realistic deformations to facial geometry without the need to sculpt blend shapes, and is “designed according to current trends in the industry”.
The update also introduces a new toon rig developed by Sebastian Pfeifer, shown in the video above. It supports squash-and-stretch deformation and body part scaling, and comes with its own facial rig.
Animation: new character solver and pose library, support for Delta Mush deformation
The update introduces a new character solver, which makes it possible to organise rig hierarchies by body parts, and to create and reuse character definitions for rigs.
It is also possible to retarget existing animations – both keyframed and motion-captured – from one character to another with different proportions, providing that they share common body parts.
It works on a per-object basis to smooth deformations while preserving surface detail, making it possible to fix artefacts without the need to sculpt corrective morphs.
Delta Mush deformers are often used to fix artefacts where limbs flex, but Maxon says that the functionality can also be used with Cinema 4D’s new joint-based facial rig.
Riggers and animators also get a new Pose Manager, which stores character poses as scene-independent assets, making it possible to reuse them in new projects, or to create shared pose libraries.
It works with both characters – for example, to set up a viseme library for lip-sync animation – and parametric objects; and can also be used to blend between stored poses.
‘Quality of life’ improvements to animation workflow include the option to copy and paste animation tangents, more granular control over auto-keying, and better filtering in the Attribute Manager and Timeline.
Post processing: Magic Bullet Looks now integrated into Cinema 4D
The release also integrates Magic Bullet Looks into Cinema 4D.
Developed by Red Giant, with which Maxon merged earlier this year, the $399 suite of plugins includes tools for colour correcting footage or mimicking real-world film stocks.
It is available both for final-quality output and within the viewport, making it possible to apply looks to interactive previews, and presets created in C4D can be exported to other host apps like After Effects.
Magic Bullet Looks should also work with third-party render engines that support Cinema 4D post-render effects, although Maxon commented that “most don’t”.
Other features: viewport improvements, built-in auto-retopology system
Cinema 4D R23 also continues Maxon’s ongoing improvements to the software’s viewport core, this time improving the quality of screen-space reflections, as shown in the image above.
The way that deformer objects are represented in the viewport has also been updated to show direction and function, making it easier to align and scale deformers correctly.
Other new features include Remesh Generator, a new automated retopology system based on the open-source Instant Meshes library, also implemented in Modo.
It converts high-resolution meshes like character sculpts or raw scans into low-poly all-quad geometry.
Experimental technologies: Project: Neutron and USD support
Cinema 4D R23 also marks the first public outing for Project: Neutron, Maxon’s new node-based core architecture, which we reported on earlier this summer.
The new Scene Nodes system is aimed primarily for creating “Cloner-like set-ups” for motion graphics work, and for procedural modelling, although the underlying tech is more wide-ranging.
However, Maxon says that the system is not yet production-ready, and that at this stage, it is primarily looking for feedback on how to implement Project: Neutron in future.
The release also marks the “first step” towards support for the USD (Universal Scene Description) format becoming common in VFX and feature animation pipelines.
It enables Cinema 4D users to import or export models, cameras and lights in .usd, .usda or .usdc formats, and to export .usdz files, but doesn’t yet support more advanced native USD features.
In addition, R23 updates Cinema 4D’s implementation of the OBJ and FBX file formats, including support for sequences of OBJ files, and moves the software from Python 2.7 to Python 3.7.
The latter will mean that third-party plugins and scripts need updating, although Maxon’s blog post for developers describes the changes required as “minor”.
Pricing and availability
Cinema 4D R23 is due to ship later today for 64-bit Windows 10 and macOS 10.14+, although Maxon recommends macOS 10.15. Network render nodes also run on CentOS 7+ or Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Linux.
Perpetual licences currently cost $3,495. Subscriptions start at $94/month for Cinema 4D alone, or $116/month including the Redshift renderer.
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