Posted On:August 2017 | Greyscalegorilla

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What Renderer Should I Use In Cinema 4D?

August 14, 2017 - By 

With so many different options to choose from, what renderer is the best one to use for your final render out of Cinema 4D?

There is no magic answer and in some ways that’s perfect. Some render engines are better for certain tasks. Below is a list of a few that we recommend and what their pros and cons are.

The Goal Of This Post

The goal of this article is to help motion designers and 3D artists make an informed decision on what renderer they would most benefit from.

What are the criteria? Glad you asked! All opinions assume you want to make photo-real animations in a production environment with little to no problems. So each one is looked at through a production final-frame render lens.

Why listen to us?

We have over 40 years of combined experience with 3D rendering. Our creative director Chad Ashley has tried most of these personally and has used many of them in production. Our goal is to give you the right information to help you make the right decision for you and your team.

We understand there is confusion in the rendering space, and we are here to share what we know and what we’ve found.

The Short Answer

For those who are ready for a GPU renderer that’s fast and somewhat production-focused: Redshift

If you or your studio have already made the jump to GPU rendering and have outfitted your workstations with multiple Nvidia GPU’s AND complete photo-realism doesn’t matter to you, then I can firmly recommend Redshift as the best solution for you at this time. That is IF you’re ok with a few caveats (see below).

For those who want the flexibility of CPU and GPU, or who have a deep appreciation for photorealism, features, and scalability: Arnold

For those of you who’s work needs to be of the highest quality and you value production-proven features, or if you have a mixed pipeline of GPU and CPU machines, I recommend using Arnold as your primary renderer.

But let’s take a closer look at what may be best for you.


Physical Renderer

Pros:

  • Built into the core of Cinema 4D
  • Works on both Mac and PC
  • Ton’s of tutorials
  • A good representation of materials in the viewport
  • Great for stills
  • Reflectance is quite robust
  • Excellent noise maps
  • Toon shading is excellent

Cons:

  • Pretty much dead. Not being developed anymore.
  • Slow AF
  • No IPR (Interactive Preview Render Window)
  • Lacks strong pass (AOV) system
  • No curvature map (though inverse AO is close)
  • Lacks many modern textures/features
  • Lights are in need of a serious upgrade
  • No dome light
  • IBL workflow is cumbersome

Who is Physical Renderer Good For?

I suggest you stick with Physical if you are tied down by hardware/OS and haven’t a budget to upgrade to anything else. It’s also entirely satisfactory if you don’t find yourself rendering any complex photo-realistic animations on a regular basis. It’s quite adequate on stills and can even handle distributed rendering with Team Render to Picture Viewer.

Check out some of our favorite Physical Tutorials


 

Arnold by Solid Angle / Autodesk

Pros:

  • Stable and Scalable
  • Works on both Mac and PC
  • Has both CPU and GPU options
  • Killer development team
  • Deep feature set, used on countless feature films
  • Uses all of C4D’s Noises Natively
  • Custom AOV’s (Arbitrary Output Variables aka passes)
  • Light Groups
  • Light Filters (Gobos, barn doors, etc)
  • LPE (light path expressions)
  • Supports OSL
  • Frequent C4D plugin updates
  • simple settings
  • x-particle support
  • Same engine in multiple host applications (Maya, Max, Houdini)
  • Many speed-enhancing short-cuts and workflows
  • Killer Toon Shading / NPR Rendering
  • Texture Baking
  • Two types of denoising
  • Cryptomatte Support
  • Random Walk SSS
  • Excellent Hair/Fur
  • Support LUTs in the IPR
  • Render time booleans with “Clip Geo”
  • Fully supports ACES workflows

Cons:

  • Expensive (compared to competitors)
  • Confusing license system (dealing with Autodesk is far from fun in this regard)
  • Slightly slower than other GPU renderers on the market, but improving.
  • owned by Autodesk (bad track record of acquisitions)
  • caustics are weak

Who is Arnold Good For?

I recommend it to those individuals/studios who demand high-quality images and those who value stability and features. Arnold is the renderer of choice for many VFX studios working on feature films. Its quality and scalability make it a perfect solution for intense projects. If you are an individual artist or a studio running lots of different sorts of jobs (volumes, particles, large data sets) Arnold is the right choice for you. If you are studio with mixed 3D host applications Arnold’s proprietary .ass format is interchangeable which can be a great benefit. Arnold coupled with render farm solutions out there such as Pixel Plow is a potent combination. Arnold and cloud rendering gives small studios and independent artists as much firepower as most large studios. Arnold is one of my most recommended renderers and with the GPU component making big strides, it’s gonna be one to watch for in the coming year. Arnold is without a doubt, the renderer I enjoy using the most.

Price: $635 Annually, $65 Monthly (all licenses are floating). Educational institution licenses are free. 

Try Arnold here. Buy Arnold here.

Check out some of our favorite Arnold Tutorials


Octane by Otoy

Pros:

  • Easy photorealism
  • IPR Speed
  • IPR window features
  • speed of rendering (up to a certain level of complexity)
  • simple settings
  • custom material node interface
  • Octane Scatter Utility
  • tri-planar mapping
  • Supports OSL
  • Post FX

Cons:

  • Limited by GPU memory
  • Stability
  • scalability
  • no custom AOVs
  • no light group AOV
  • limited light linking
  • inconsistent/delayed updates
  • limited maps/materials
  • No layer texture
  • layering multiple materials is cumbersome
  • Poor C4D Noise support (requires on the fly baking)
  • Poor cloud rendering support/options
  • “Octane Effect” (see GSG Podcast)
  • Confusing product version / license lineup

Who is Octane Good For?

I think Octane is perfect for an art-director that is designing frames or doing basic look dev. It’s fast IPR, and simple UI will make it easy for a designer to create imagery, given they have the GPU power to run it efficiently. I’ve seen Art Directors have great success with Octane. Do boards with Octane, then move to a production renderer to finish the job. Octane is also useful as a “daily render” tool. I’ve often joked on our podcast that Octane should have a “send to Instagram” button as it seems to be used more on that platform than any other. Not sure if that’s good or bad. Up to you, I guess. I should also add that Octane is a fine choice for those doing primarily exterior architecture renders.

Price: $619 (Standalone and C4D Plugin), plus $200 annual maintenence. 

Try Octane here. Buy Octane here.

Check out some of our favorite Octane Tutorials


Redshift

Pros:

  • Very Fast (when tuned properly)
  • Balances load between CPU and GPU
  • Somewhat Production focused features
  • Fully featured AOV system (including custom AOVs)
  • Textured area lights
  • biased engine
  • unified sampling
  • versatile uber shader
  • tons of map types
  • a responsive development team
  • Redshift Proxies/Instances
  • Supported by several cloud render farms (including Pixel Plow)
  • X-Particles support
  • Light Groups
  • Custom AOVs
  • Cryptomatte Support
  • Curve rendering
  • Post fx Glow, Glare, Etc
  • Supports LUTs in Render View
  • Two types of denoising

Cons:

  • Material previews are still terrible
  • Can be slow on large scenes
  • Time to first pixel is still an issue
  • Still quite buggy overall
  • No OSL support
  • Confusing settings/controls
  • Quirky issues still plague the plugin (random IPR refreshes, crashes). Though the dev team is quick to respond to issues.
  • higher learning curve
  • closed API
  • Not always clear what version is the newest/most stable

Who is Redshift Good For?

I recommend Redshift to anyone running Nvidia GPU’s and those who are looking for a stable production renderer and isn’t afraid to jump into some settings to squeeze out every ounce of speed out of your frames. It’s very well rounded and versatile able to handle arch-viz interiors, intricate character work, or product viz. I find myself reaching for Redshift for things like product viz, non-photo real logo work, and shiny stuff in general. Though I do find its limitations and quirks frustrating at times.

Price: $500 (non-floating license) $250 annual maintenance. Floating licenses are avail for $3,000 for 5 licenses, which is the minimum order.

Check out some of our favorite Redshift Tutorials


Cycles Render by Mario Tran Phuc

Cycles4D by Insydium

Pros:

  • Works both on CPU and GPU
  • tons of features for rendering X-Particles
  • Cryptomatte support
  • Principled Hair, Volumes
  • Random Walk SSS
  • Rounded Corners
  • affordable
  • great node material editor
  • plenty of learning resources

Cons:

  • Cycles is developed by the Blender Foundation and not Insydium. The open-source nature can scare large studios who are looking for deep customer support and accountability. I’ve found that it was also a bit cumbersome on seemingly simple shading/lighting tasks. AOV’s are also a bit lacking.

Who is Cycles4D Good For?

Anyone who’s work is primarily X-Particles based would benefit from Cycles4D. It’s CPU/GPU flexibility, and low price would make it an excellent choice for those on limited hardware/budget.

Price: $246.62

Check out some of our favorite Cycles4D Tutorials


“Want More To Read About This?”

We wrote an in-depth article over at Motionographer. If you’re still hungry for more information, go check it out!

“Why didn’t you mention My Favorite Renderer?”

If your renderer is not mentioned above, it’s either that we haven’t used it enough to form an educated opinion or we have used it and we don’t think it’s ready for use in production yet.