Topcoat: Making Reflectance Simple
Maxon introduced Reflectance In Version R16. It completely replaced the Reflection channel and it gave us the ability to make realistic layered textures never before possible.
As soon as I started seeing the results from this new Reflectance channel, I fell in love. It gave us layered looks and realistic renders that just weren’t possible in C4D before. Combine this new Reflectance with HDRIs and the Physical renderer and photoreal results were not only possible, they were possible without buying a third party renderer.
I was so excited that we could get something that looked THIS great with built in Cinema 4D tools. Finally, anyone with Cinema 4D could render a scene that approached the quality I previously only have seen with Vray.
However, there were a few problems. Sure, the renders were beautiful. But the new Reflectance channel brought quite a few hurdles for designers trying to get the most out of this new tool.
Problem 1 – The Reflectance Interface
The new Reflectance interface completely replaced the old reflection channel and specular channel that everyone was used to. In it’s place is a confusing set of names, modes, menus, and sliders. The power of these new channels are undeniable, but between the tedious list of reflection types and hidden drop-downs it was hard to navigate and tricky to make what used to be simple changes.
The entire interface seems like something that was made by technicians, for technicians. It definitely wasn’t made for designers and everyday Cinema 4D users like us.
Problem 2 – The Render Speed
The beautiful results of Reflectance came at another price. VERY long render times. Combine blurry, layered reflections with the physical renderer and it’s a recipe for overnight renders or grainy results. The default presets that come with Cinema 4D don’t help much either. Anything over the medium quality settings and it was guaranteed that you will be waiting for that render for hours instead of minutes.
Problem 3 – Can’t Change Multiple Textures At Once
OK, this was the one that really got me. In almost every other parameter in Cinema 4D, you could select multiple similar objects and change their settings all at once. I did this all the time with textures. I would select half a dozen textures all at once and give them all the same reflection settings. It was super intuitive, useful, and a big part of my workflow.
The reflectance channel removed that workflow entirely. There is no way to add reflection to multiple textures all at once, and even if you managed to make them similar, if you want to adjust them all together, that’s impossible too. It was the weirdest of all problems in this new Reflectance future.
So here we are. Blessed with a beautiful first rate render engine and texture engine in Cinema 4D. But, it’s interface, speed hit, and non Cinema 4D like workflow got in the way of the average user to start using these tools. In fact, as we started talking to our customers, many people didn’t upgrade to new versions of Cinema 4D specifically because of the new Reflectance channel.
Well, any time we see problems like this in Cinema 4D, our minds start spinning. Is there anything we can do to take this beautiful render engine and expose it’s beauty to designers without them knowing all the weird technical stuff of the current Reflectance Engine? Was there a way that we could speed up the rendering process to help studios and freelancers hit their deadlines with great looking renders? We have worked for months on this idea and I want to show it to you now.
Topcoat is a new texturing tool from Greyscalegorilla that we think will help solve these problems and add a simple and fast workflow to your toolset for your next project. We want everyone to be able to use this new Reflectance layer and we think Topcoat is the answer.
With Topcoat, we set out to build a tool that would make reflectance fun and easy to apply to your scene. Not a laborious task of sifting through settings. We also include our new Render Fast™ Presets to take the guess work out of picking the fastest and most beautiful Render Settings for your scene. We even brought back the ability for you to add reflection to multiple textures all at once.
Mostly, we built a tool that helps you get the most from Reflectance and helps you add beautiful realistic textures and reflections to your next project.
Combine eight custom paint coats and over 20 procedural bumps and masks together to make unique materials for your renders. It’s as easy as pointing and clicking.