What Renderer Should I Use In Cinema 4D?
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
As of August 10th, 2017 this is our opinion of the current “Render Wars” and what we think is best for most artists. (stay tuned as I expect these recommendations to change from time to time)
For those who are ready for a GPU renderer that’s 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 then I can firmly recommend Redshift as the best solution for you at this time.
For those on Mac, dedicated to CPU, or who have a deep appreciation for features/scalability: Arnold
For those of you still on the Mac platform or who have already invested heavily in CPU machines/farms, I recommend using Arnold as your primary renderer.
But let’s take a closer look at what may or may not be right for you.
- Built into the core of Cinema 4D
- Ton’s of tutorials
- Good representation of materials in the viewport
- Great for stills
- Reflectance is quite robust
- Excellent noise maps
- No IPR,
- Lacks strong pass (AOV) system
- No node material editor
- No curvature map (though inverse AO is close)
- No tri-planar map
- Not receiving regular updates
- Lights are in need of 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.
Arnold by Solid Angle / Autodesk
- Killer development team
- Deep feature set
- Uses all of C4D’s Noises Natively
- Custom AOV’s (Arbitrary Output Variables aka passes)
- Light Groups
- LPE (light path expressions)
- frequent C4D plugin updates
- simple settings
- x-particle support
- supports both Mac/PC
- same engine in multiple host applications
- scalability, stability
- Many speed enhancing short-cuts and workflows
- Expensive (compared to competitors)
- Confusing license system (dealing with Autodesk is far from fun in this regard)
- CPU only
- Slow compared to most GPU renderers
- owned by Autodesk (bad track record of acquisitions)
- poor choice for interior rendering
- caustics are weak
Who is Arnold Good For?
I recommend it to those individuals/studios who demand high-quality images and who value stability. Arnold is also perfect for those who are not quite ready for GPU rendering but are looking for something beyond the Physical renderer in Cinema 4D. It’s also ideal for individuals or studios that have not yet made the switch to PC as Arnold will run on either Mac or PC. If you are an individual artist or a studio running lots of different sort 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.
Octane by Otoy
- 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
- Limited by GPU memory
- no custom AOVs
- no light group AOV
- no light linking
- inconsistent/delayed updates
- limited maps/materials
- layering multiple materials is cumbersome
- Poor C4D Noise support (requires on the fly baking)
- Poor cloud rendering support/options
- “Octane Effect” (see GSG Podcast).
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.
- Balances load between CPU and GPU
- Very Fast (when tuned properly)
- production focused features
- Fully featured AOV system (including custom AOVs)
- textured 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
- Requires knowledge of settings to reach “photorealism”
- Becomes slow and unresponsive with scenes that have many dense objects
- Quirky issues still plague the plugin (random IPR refreshes, crashes). Though the dev team is quick to respond to issues.
- no light group AOVs
- Support for X-Particles trails and curve rendering is limited to flat hair strands
- higher learning curve
Who is Redshift Good For?
I recommend Redshift to anyone running Nvidia GPU’s and who is 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, product viz, or complex VFX.
Cycles Render by Mario Tran Phuc
Cycles4D by Insydium
- Works both on CPU and GPU
- tons of features for rendering X-Particles
- great node material editor
- plenty of learning resources.
- 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 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.
“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.