Posted On:2017 | Greyscalegorilla
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It’s the number one question artists ask me. “What renderer should I use? Which one do you like the best?” Ok, so here’s my answer…
*Updated March 2020
I’ve been doing 3D professionally for over twenty-five years, built pipelines, ran jobs (large and small), creative directed at several award-winning studios, and during that time, I’ve used MANY different render engines. It’s become a bit of an obsession.
So, I recently collected all my thoughts and decided to update my ideas on rendering in Cinema 4D (my favorite 3D application). Below you’ll hear my thoughts on what I consider the big three render engines, Arnold, Octane, and Redshift. Let’s jump in!
So What’s the deal, Chad? What should I use? Well, I recommend to everyone the same two I use on a daily bases. Arnold and/or Redshift. Arnold is a versatile, rock-solid, and feature-packed and creates photoreal images with ease. Redshift is fast as hell, and it’s production features get better with every release. There is a full breakdown of my thoughts below if you really want to dig in.
How do You Choose?
You need to do your homework, download the trial versions of all three and take them for a test drive. I encourage you to map out what you value in a renderer. Is it purely speed? Versatility? The look it delivers? Stability? There are so many criteria to consider, I suggest making your own pro-con list and see which one rises to the top.
Why no love for Physical/Pro-Render?
So before we begin, I should address the elephant in the room. You may have skimmed this post and noticed that I didn’t include any of the built-in renderers for Cinema 4D. Namely, Physical Renderer and Pro-Render. Both are decent enough, but given how the technology has advanced in the last few years and how incredibly behind Physical is and how incredibly limiting Pro-Render is, I decided to not include them in this post.
The Big Three Players
Aside from the Standard/Physical render engines that come with Cinema 4D, there are dozens of third-party renderers for C4D and the other 3D applications.
In this post we are going to focus on the big three, Arnold, Redshift, and Octane. These render engines support most major 3D platforms (Cinema 4D, Maya, 3ds Max, Houdini, etc) and you can use them between these apps with a proper license.
In this scenario, we are going to focus on the render engines as they work inside Cinema 4D.
Arnold is best known for being the built-in renderer for Autodesk 3D applications. It’s also been used in film production for over fifteen years. This renderer has been built around rock-solid features and uncompromised quality.
- Compatibility – Works on both Mac and PC, works on both CPU and Nvidia RTX GPUs
- Annual Price – $342 (locked) via Toolfarm
- Annual Price – $598 (floating) via Toolfarm
- Monthly Price – $45 via Autodesk e-Store
- Educational Institutions – Free
- Trial Version – Yes
- Versatile – The most versatile out of the three boasting CPU and GPU versions, works both on Mac and PC, and even includes a robust Toon system. It’s also widely supported on cloud based render farms like Pixel Plow.
- Feature Rich – The most feature rich renderer in it’s class matched by one of the best plugins out there.
- High Quality – There is a reason Arnold is synonymous with quality. It’s been the go-to for feature films for over 15 years.
- Easy to Use – Arnold has fewer knobs to fiddle with and that’s something I appreciate.
- Fun – I can’t stress this one enough. If a plugin/tool isn’t fun or a pleasure to use, I’m gonna be looking for alternatives. Arnold never gets in my way.
- Speed – Both the CPU and GPU versions are not the fastest in this comparison, but because I value features and look over speed, it’s not a game changer for me. Though I totally understand those who value speed over everything else.
- Licensing – Though the license system has improved, it still has a long ways to go. It’s overly technical and a bit of a pain to get set up properly.
- Autodesk Stigma – Many artists are skeptical about giving Autodesk money or supporting a renderer owned by the mega-giant. There is always that feeling in everyone’s’ mind that at one point they may stop supporting other 3D applications outside of their domain. However, these fears are mostly unfounded and so far the only negative thing to happen has been the loss of the beloved Arnold logo in exchange for the Autodesk version.
Arnold is my daily driver renderer, I use every-single-day. I use Arnold primarily for the incredibly beautiful looks it delivers, but the plugin itself is a joy to use thanks to it’s thoughtful design and added production features.
More on Arnold
- Free Arnold Tutorials
- Arnold is the Most Versatile Render Engine for Cinema 4D
- Intro to Arnold Training Series (Over 6 Hours of Pro Training in Greyscalegorilla Plus)
Recently purchased by Maxon, Redshift is quickly becoming the go-to render engine for the motion design market. It’s biased approach to rendering makes it one of the fastest around.
- Compatibility – PC native, Nvidia GPU only
- Node-Locked Price – $500
- Floating License Price – $600 (minimum 5 licenses = $3,000)
- Annual Maintenance – $250 for node-locked ($1,500 to cover floating 5-license minimum)
- Annual Subscription (including, but limited to, Cinema 4D) – $81.99 per month via Maxon
- Monthly Subscription License (including, but limited to, Cinema 4D) – $116.99 per month via Maxon
- Educational Institutions – Free
- Trial Version – Yes
- Fast – Redshift’s biggest advantage is its incredible speed. Being a fully GPU accelerated renderer (biased at that) means that this thing is gonna fire out renders fast.
- Production Focused Features – Redshift directly targeted 3D production environments when they designed Redshift and it shows. As far as GPU renderers go, Redshift is one of the most feature complete.
- Large User Base in Motion Design – Redshift’s popularity over the last few years have skyrocketed largely due to the fantastic training out there. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll want to learn this renderer.
- Maxon Owned – Not long ago, Maxon announced it had purchased Redshift and I’m confident that soon we will see the benefits of having Redshift developers and Maxon’s engineers teaming up for something awesome.
- Limited Features / Plugin – I know what you’re saying. “Hey, didn’t you just say that it was packed with production features?” Well yah. Sort of. Redshift is still very limited in terms of Mac/PC support (until Metal drops), CPU/GPU versatility (a long shot), no toon system, and a Cinema 4D plugin that still annoys me with a cumbersome UI/UX.
- Many Quirks – Anyone who has used Redshift extensively understands this one. The plugin often requires far more clicks than you would think necessary and there are often many hoops you are forced to jump through or to endure to get cookin.
- Effort for Realism – You can most certainly achieve beautiful results with Redshift, but it will take more effort. This one is entirely subjective so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I can just tell when something is rendered with Redshift.
Redshift is my go-to for quick turn around 3D work. Perfect for simple or fast bashing out of ideas. I’m typically using Redshift for shiny stuff, logos, machine parts, etc.
More on Redshift
- Free Redshift Tutorials
- What to Know about Maxon’s C4D and Redshift Subscription
- The Rise of Redshift
- Maxon Acquires Redshift
- Guide to Redshift Training Series (Over 18 Hours of Pro Training in Greyscalegorilla Plus)
Octane has been a big player in the motion design industry for over four years. It’s ridiculous speed and stunning output quality has earned it a rabid fan base. Lately, it seems to be falling out of favor with artists and studios in production due to it’s instability and lacking features.
- Compatibility – PC native, Nvidia GPU only
- Annual Price – $600 (super confusing pricing structure)
- Monthly Price – Starting at $19.99 for small studios
- Educational Institutions – NA
- Trial Version – Yes
- Fast – Octane is the fasted GPU renderer I’ve ever encountered. It’s speed is unparalleled and often feels like some sort of magic.
- Beautiful – I think the look Octane delivers is reliably gorgeous. Due to it’s unbiased spectral approach to rendering, it’s just friggin sexy. It’s actually hard to make an Octane render look bad.
- Innovative – Otoy’s CEO is sort of like the Elon Musk of our world. Jules Orbach is just as much as a personality as the mogul behind the Tesla. His vision and wild ideas are gonna push Octane into exciting new areas (holo-deck?).
- Community – Octane is used by MANY artists and often many studios. It’s large user base can be a blessing and a curse.
- Unstable – With innovation comes instability. It’s just a fact of life. Octane is probably the most likely to crash of the big three. It’s the complaint I hear the most.
- Not Feature Focused – Often it feels like the Otoy team is not certain which market they want Octane to serve. It is lacking quite a few production features and most studios learn to stay away from Octane on large projects.
- Quirks – I think most GPU renderers just suffer from quirks, it’s a trend I see. Octane has many things that annoy Octane users but that incredible speed and look keep them coming back.
I simply don’t like creating materials and doing work in Octane. I find it’s material system confusing and cumbersome, it’s settings too complex and quirky, and it’s features too limited for shot-based production. That being said, I still use it occasionally to do concept boards and I’m always impressed with the beautiful images it renders.
More on Octane
- Free Octane Tutorials
- Lighting iPhones and Products in Octane
- Coming Soon – New Octane Pro Training Series in Greyscalegorilla Plus
We are very excited to announce the latest update to our animation plugin Signal!
Version 1.5 brings some really awesome new features and bug-fixes. Most notable is the new BPM (Beats Per Minute) functionality. We hope you check out all the feature videos and see for yourself how Signal can improve your animation workflow.
Already own Signal?
Good news, you have access to Signal 1.5 right now! Just log into the customer area here and begin your download.
Don’t Own Signal? Let’s Change That!
Go grab it! But hey, don’t take our word for it. Look at what some Signal users have said about this update.
Signal’s BPM features deliver something that has been missing from Cinema since the birth of MoGraph
Greyscalegorilla’s recent BPM addition to Signal is a complete Game Changer. What would take an animator endless hours of keystrokes and key frames now takes a click, drag and your choice of tempo.
It’s the must have plugin for every animator using Cinema 4D.
Thank You for a Great Sale!
Our 24 Hour Sale is now over.
Watch Chad Ashley talk about the past present and future of 3D production. And, how he thinks the future may play out for 3D motion designers in the next few years.
This video was recorded during Half Rez 2016.
Half Rez is a conference to celebrate motion designers held in Chicago IL. Want to be at the next event?
Register For Half Rez 2017 Today!
Thanks to our pals at Cineversity, we can now share ALL the amazing presentations that were given in Las Vegas at NAB 2017! We will be updating and adding videos to this page as they become available, so check back often! Thanks again to Maxon US and Cineversity.com for recording and publishing the NAB 2017 C4DLive Presentations. Enough talk, let’s get to the videos!
John Lepore: 5 “Wrong” Ways To Use Cinema 4D
NAB 2017 Rewind – John Lepore: 5 Wrong Ways To Use Cinema 4D from Cineversity.
Russ Gautier: Blockbuster FUI techniques in Cinema 4D
NAB 2017 Rewind – Russ Gautier: Blockbuster FUI techniques in Cinema 4D from Cineversity.
Robyn Haddow: Cinema 4D FUI in a Flash
NAB 2017 Rewind – Robyn Haddow: Cinema 4D FUI in a Flash from Cineversity.
Devon Ko: A Visual Playground for Artists and Designers
NAB 2017 Rewind – Devon Ko: 3D: A Visual Playground for Artists and Designers from Cineversity.
EJ Hassenfratz: How to make Cinema 4D an invaluable Part of your 2D Workflow
NAB 2017 Rewind – EJ Hassenfratz: 3D: How to Make Cinema 4D an Invaluable Part of Your 2D Workflow from .
Angie Ferret: Cinema 4D for Designers – Making the Transition
NAB 2017 Rewind – Angie Ferret: 3D: Cinema 4D for Designers – Making the Transition from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Patrick Longstreth: Visual Effects for Adam Ruins Everything from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Perry Harovas: C4D Is My Secret VFX Weapon: Confessions of a Former Maya User from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Matt Milstead: Motion Tracking with Cinema 4D from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Nick Campbell: 20 Speed Hacks Every New C4D User Should Know from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Eran Stern: Combining C4D and After Effects for 3D Title Creation from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Al Heck: Create a Fantastic Freelance Career Using C4D from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Mike Schaeffer: Cinema 4D, from design and concept through final renders from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Nick Campbell & Chris Schmidt: Ask GSG from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Lorcan O’Shanahan: Brief explorations into parametric workflows from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Chad Ashley: 3D Workflow Techniques for Lazy People from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Chris Schmidt: 50 Minutes of Tips and Tricks in Cinema 4D from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Dave Koss: Time-Saving Project Management in Cinema 4D from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Julia Siemon: Character Tools for 3D Motion Graphic from Cineversity.
NAB 2017 Rewind – Athanasios Pozantzis: Organic Shape Morphing Inside Cinema 4D from Cineversity.
Brett Morris: Starting from Scratch, Creating the Cineversity Ident
Brett Morris: Starting from Scratch, Creating the Cineversity Ident from Cineversity.
Brett Morris: Building Custom Tools for Scalable Production Techniques
Brett Morris: Building Custom Tools for Scalable Production Techniques from Cineversity.
Register For Half Rez 2017 Today! http://www.halfrez.com/
Visit Beeple’s Site – http://beeple-crap.com/
Unfortunately, some of the video was not recorded during this interview. To hear the entire unedited interview, please listen to the full version at our Greyscalegorilla Podcast.
Watch Nick Hopkins and Erik Jensen talk about their failures and success during the transition from being freelance to owning their own studio in Chicago. Let how to step your game up and start charging your clients what you are worth.
Register For Half Rez 2017 Today! http://www.halfrez.com/
Half Rez was created to bring together 3D and 2D artists, animators and designers for a night of learning, drinking and hanging out.
Half Rez 2017 is held the evening of September 13th at Lincoln Hall in Chicago IL.
*Get yours soon. Tickets are already half sold out
We have presentations planned from amazing designers and tons of fun games and prizes to give away. Come hang out with like-minded folks, join us in celebrating our craft, and learn from each other in a fun relaxed atmosphere!
Check Out Highlights From Half Rez 2016!
Hope to see you there!
This is not Scientific, it’s for Fun.
Just had to get that out of the way. This is the one question I get asked the most. It’s also the hardest question to answer. I hope this fun quiz will shed some light on your dilemma or maybe reinforce a decision you’ve already made.
If I left you out, I’m sorry.
I simply couldn’t add every single renderer that works with Cinema 4D, I have a job you know! I stuck to the ones that I use and that my group of friends use. This way I could bug them to take it a million times to check its accuracy. Jokes on them! However, maybe if we get a ton of people taking the quiz it will inspire me to do a more thorough version.
Want to learn more about rendering in Cinema 4D? Check out some of our videos.
Octane vs Arnold vs Physical
Greyscalegorilla Arnold Tutorial Playlist
Greyscalegorilla Octane Tutorial Playlist
Physical Renderer Speed Tip
It’s time for NAB 2017! Join us in Las Vegas April 24-27 for an entire week of C4D Presentations.
This year is Greyscalegorilla’s biggest presence yet at the Maxon booth. Check C4DLIVE.COM for the full schedule and list of presenters.
Huge thanks to Maxon US for sending our crew out to Vegas to be a part of the big show and for streaming the entire thing LIVE so you can watch even if you can’t make it to Vegas.
Follow the GSG Crew via Instagram!
Don’t miss anything. Follow us on Instagram for stories, pics, and more!
The GSG Booth!
If you are in Vegas during NAB, be sure to stop by the Greyscalegorilla booth, get a demo by Nick, Chris, and Chad, and grab some Greyscalegorilla swag! The GSG booth is located directly behind the Maxon Booth, see you there!
Greyscalegorilla Team Presentation Schedule:
Chris Schmidt: Monday, April 24th at 1:30 PM PST
Nick Campbell: Tuesday, April 25th at 9:30 AM PST
AskGSG with Nick Campbell and Chris Schmidt: Wednesday, April 26th at 11:30 AM PST
Chad Ashley: Wednesday, April 26th at 2:30 PM PST
Charlottesville VA native and talented C4D freelancer David Ariew recently traveled to outer space. David was not truly in the stratosphere, but he did create an amazing music video for “A Bad Think” created entirely in C4D with Otoy’s Octane Renderer.
David also used one of our tools, which made us very proud. David used Signal to help him with all those beautiful flickering lights. Here is what David had to say about his experience with Signal:
“I really wanted to create a run-down looking space station to complement the melancholy vibe of the song, and having the lights flicker both brought life into the static scenes and created a moody feel. GSG Signal allowed me to create that animation procedurally, with no keyframes, and there’s even a flicker preset under the Signal scripts folder! Then it was just a matter of linking the power of the light to the blank Signal tag, and increasing the strength and variation until the power hit the zero mark on occasion.”
David was also nice enough to record a quick video demonstrating his blinking light technique with Signal and Octane.
You can learn more about our Signal Plugin here.