Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by alex » Wed, 01 Jun 2005 02:09:37

this thread also posted in|3D ATTACK|CINEMA 4D Q&A forum. Will monitor this NG as well.)

I've been looking at the choices for high-quality character animation work, and have read all the rave reviews of C4D (post-release 8) in general. There seem to be a huge number of C4D plugins, from Maxon as well as 3rd parties, but as I
climb the learning curve on jargon and concepts it becomes no clearer which 3D suite I should be seriously considering for my dive into animation.

After viewing DreamWorks' latest disaster, Madagascar, I see how even the most costly tools crank out real visual crap when misapplied or underutilized. Doing a frame-by frame checkout on Pixar's The Incredibles shows true awareness of
human visual perception (like perfect motion blur) that makes all the difference. Watching rapid motion in Madagascar was like watching the Wallace And Grommet preview before the feature: a tiring, annoying, flickering, stop motion-like
quality -- something I don't see in Pixar movies. We won't even go into Pixar's superior storylines and scripting.

What I'm trying to get a grip on is how suitable-to-task C4D animation tools (w/ or w/o 3rd party plugins) are compared to those of Maya, the current 300-kg gorilla of professional animation. I know Pixar develops and uses proprietary tools
they aren't about to sell to competitors, but I like their visual style and want for myself the best tools that can offer a hope of approaching Pixar's standard.

So I'd like to read some commentary from experienced animators who can address C4D's character animation tools & techniques made easier by its basic and plugin-extended features.

How does C4D presently handle the following character animation techniques (please excuse my ignorance of 3D jargon):

1) Muscular-skeletal/rigging connectivity and subdermal volumetric bunching/relaxation. Would include joint rotation incorporating parallel bones (e.g. ulna & radius) and limits of motion, as well as dynamic dermal mesh expansion and
contraction with realistic paint/texture mapping.

2) Muscular-contraction based movement definition. Would include dynamics of inertial buildup and slowdown, script specification of which muscles contract in sequence to effect motion.

Why am I obsessing over anatomical-derived motion? Because even the big boys in the animation industry still find unnatural movement time-curves and Gumby-like flesh dynamics to be acceptable. Exaggeration and parody are fine, but I suspect
there's a deeper underlying ignorance of natural movement and how to achieve it.

3) Film exposure-analogous temporospatial integration, a $10 way of expressing the concept of motion blur on a frame-by-frame basis. Not sure how this is done today, in animation or in rendering. I don't imagine microstepping during
rendering would be time/cost-effective, but it would be the closest to how film is exposed. How would C4D fake true motion blur?

4) Flesh inertial effects: the "jiggle factor" done whole-body, not just wiggling boobs and buttocks for titillating the fanboys.

5) Audio tools for keyframe synchronization of facial macros. I've seen some examples of this but they seem pretty lame at present.

6) Recording/capture and playback of motion macros/scripts that can be executed simultaneously to generate complex body motions. I imagine dozens of scripts running at once to allow speaking, hand gesturing, running, hair motion etc.
without bringing the system to

Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by Glen » Wed, 01 Jun 2005 19:28:03

f you plan on working in a factory like Pixar or ILM then you'd probably be
better off learning Maya since it's fast becoming an industry standard and
with Alias aquiring Motion Builder..well.. the character tools should be the
most feature-rich off-the-shelf software for character animation.
Personally I love C4D for it's EASE OF USE... I've been using both for
several years. When I want to create something extremely fast and without a
lot of clicking through endless menus I go straight for C4D.. If I want to
diddle around for weeks at a time digging through menus I reach for Maya.
Sure, it's powerful but sometimes power and features can bog you down if
you're just trying to whip something out really fast.

Ask many character animators who work for the big companies and most likely
they will tell you to buy a copy of Hash Animation Master. It's got every
character tool that you could possibly need and I think it still goes for
around $300.

Price of software doesn't really seem to be an issue these days. I think it
comes down to your future plans... If you plan on getting a job in a large
company and want to be a cog in a giant production pipeline then you'd
probably want to learn Maya. Every company uses it and expects it's future
employees to know it. If you want to work at home on your own animated
short or you're not sure this is the career for you then Hash is the
solution to get your feet wet. There are quite a few people that created
demo reels with this software and were hired at Pixar.

If you want to create realistic characters (a la Lord of the Rings) and need
control over every muscle & tendon then you're probably best off with Maya
and something like Muscle TK (a plugin for creating muscle/skin
deformation). XSI has great character tools and even some pre-built rigs.
It's worth a look as is 3D Studio Max (although I could never get past it's
cluttered interface).

The bottom line for C4D is ... it's not the most widely used software for
character animation in the industry but excellent results can still be
achieved. It has some really nice features (soft IK being one) and overall
ease of use. but Before buying... ask Maxon for some character animation
reels then compare those with the likes of Hash and Alias. Also check out for more info.

Good Luck in your decision!

"alexs" < XXXX@XXXXX.COM > wrote in message
news: XXXX@XXXXX.COM ...


Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by Brown Cro » Fri, 03 Jun 2005 02:06:36

Thanks, G. What I have needed most is a reality check about the
capabilities of current versions of today's major 3D ani apps, and of
where the market is going. I wish to do (very) small-feature
development, and my analysis of the market has led me to conclude the
following about off-the-shelf apps:

3D Studio Max:
Mostly a games-devel platform. I've viewed the Kaena feature, which
used Max, and was very disappointed by the clunky kinematics, textures,
and rendering -- I felt like I was trapped in a degenerate-reality
video game; Dismissed.

Lightwave 3D:
For feature work, used only for minor, non-character stuff, if at all.
Too much baggage from its Video Toaster/Amiga days. Not a player in
character work; Dismissed.

An early, "we were there first" technical-feature leader. Used in some
minor work, solving specialty problems for compositing into FX for live
features (like Malkovich's crab legs in the new Hitchhiker's Guide).
Not a major player; Dismissed.

Dominates character/feature market, endless pricey add-ons, choice of
renderers, extremely powerful, mainstream app of choice of big houses,
expensive. Apparently requires huge money and training investment;
obtuse user interface, daunting to novices. Withholding judgment on
Maya, but it seems inaccessible at present.

Hash Animation:Master:
Everybody keeps claiming that A:M is a sort of scratchpad app that
"Many Professionals" use for devel or hobby work. However I can't find
credible testimonials or real "alumni" names to back this up. I suspect
devotee/shill fluffery or self-propagating industry legend.

I've read Bad Things about A:M's instability, and its developers'
infrastructure and pacing give the impression of a small-time, ragtag
product that people grow out of when they want to work on larger
projects. I'd like to like it, but it seems insular and incompatible
with the greater 3D ani world. The "Haruwo" feature is clunky & jerky -
not a prime showcase example of animation. Maybe it's just the artist's
choices or a limitation of A:M, but is rigging hands for natural
movement (they all look like scarecrow gloves) just too much trouble?
Okay for Anime-like productions, I guess, but for realistic 3D
character work? Forget it; Dismissed.

As for being a frame-grunt cog in a studio's bullpen or outsourced
in-betweener contractor, what kind of future is that for any
self-respecting Artiste? I'm thinking Small, so aspiring to being a
Maya power-user seems beside the point, even if somebody else paid for
the app, hardware and training.

Anyway, I have contacted Maxon and basically asked them to put up or
shut up about C4D character animation current and future states (demos,
white papers, etc). There's a huge, growing, and maintained selection
of C4D tools out there: vendor and 3rd-party plugins for character
rigging, hair, muscle/skin, environment & physical modeling, motion &
tracking, shading/paint, poly/mesh optimization, and C4D UI navigation
tools. Some of the older plugins have been obsoleted by the latest C4D
9.x release, so it's nice to see Maxon keeping on top of things. But --
do they add up to a useful, coherent package?

With their latest promotions, clearly Maxon are going after Lightwave's
market share.

Any other crystal-ball gazers out there have comments?

Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by Henr » Sun, 05 Jun 2005 06:39:09

I am no expert by any measure. I just dabble. I would love to work in this
field, but I waited too long and at my age im sure no animation house would
hire me. Anyway, this is what I have to say.

I downloaded several tryout and demo programs. Without manuals I was able to
do the most with C4D just from intuition. I was unable to do anything with
LW without documentation. I never tried XSI or Maya (because I am still
using Win98SE). I had an old version of Max for a while, or at least
thought I did. Bought it off ebay. Bought the original box, disks, manuals,
etc. To make a long story short, I could not register it. Its not that it
was previously owned or registered. The problem was that I bought it outside
of an official dealer, they refused to let me register it and give me a
permanent activation code. Had I not waited 4 months before trying it out I
probably could have returned it to the seller. In short, Discreet has a mean
spirited marketing system. I hear that they go after anyone trying to sell
Max on ebay. That was $300 lost down the drain.

I lucked into an academic version of C4D R8 over a year ago when I taught
Photoshop and Bryce at a communty college. The R8 price was really good,
like $239. Now Maxon has raised the price, especially for non-design
students & faculty to around $450. The community college has downsized most
of their departments and there are no more classes for me to teach. Oh,

Anyway, I found C4D to be much easier than other software to start making
things happen. If I had a choice of software to teach for 3D it would be
C4D. Its not the most powerful, but for a non-career path single course in
3D, I think it would be an ideal choice. Especially if Maxon dropped the
academic price down again to what it was a couple years ago.

Just my humble input.


Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by Thom Kevin » Sun, 05 Jun 2005 09:01:05

Same thing happened to me about 5 years ago. I was scheduled to teach a
class with Animation Master and before the class began I noticed this
Cinema 4D thing and opened it and realized I could do more with this
program with out documentation than I could with the thing I knew how to
use. When I got back to IU I contacted Maxon and they gave us a lab price
of 50 seats for $500 so I quickly canceled formZ which I was also using
and we haven't looked back since.

The ed pricing used to be $195 and when it was 2/3 of my class bought
legal copies which is not normal in the time of Kazza and BitTorrent. They
have now raised the price to $295 and almost no one bought the program the
past 2 years. I call them on a regular basis and tell them the price it
too high but Maxon does not listen well. At one point last fall the ed
pricing on Maya Unlimited was $237 which 'all' my students pointed out to
me. I also told them this but again they don't seem to realize that Maya
has now come down and is intent on seriously playing in the ed market. We
have Maya and are looking more and more into switching from C4D to Maya
for the beginning classes just based upon price. The interface to C4D is
the best on the market and version 9 is right there with Maya in terms of
cinematics even though their render engine is slow.

The other really big area which will hurt C4D is that is probably the
worst 3D tool on the market in terms of games and machinima. You can not
believe the hops we have to go thu to 'attempt' to get a rig into Torque
or something and then it never gets completely in: textures, lights,
bones, etc.

Still I love C4D but I'm close to pulling the trigger on switching Indiana
University to Maya. Maxon may be winning in the commercial market but they
are close to losing in the ed market which is where it all begins even for
the 'old' guys who design houses will hire if they are as good as the
youngsters. 8-)


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Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by Henr » Sun, 05 Jun 2005 20:29:01

think a couple times Maxon re-released a previous version for $99
(download or single CD, electronic documentation, minimal extras.) This
might be a good compromise.


I just got Vue 4 D'Espirt for $69 on just such an offer.

"Thom Kevin Gillespie" < XXXX@XXXXX.COM > wrote in message
news:d7qr01$ktk$ XXXX@XXXXX.COM ...
able to


Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by Brown Cro » Mon, 06 Jun 2005 03:20:09

ha -- this is what I was trying to zero in on, namely C4D's strengths
and weaknesses in making the small animator happy and productive.

Are there any 3rd party plugins which address this weakness? I know
Maxon has incorporated the functions of a few aftermarket plugins into
earlier releases, but if they want to make a dent in Alias' dominance
in the animation market then they have to heed their influential users
in academe. Even giving away C4D or selling "at cost" (whatever that
means in the software world) is a losing strategy if learners inside
and outside colleges cannot do some basic things.

Thanks again,


Henry wrote:


Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by Thom Kevin » Mon, 06 Jun 2005 07:57:54

Right now C4D is playing second fiddle to Maya which means they don't need
to lower the price much and Alias is lowering on a regular basis. Look for
price changes around mid September as both watch each other.

C4D is a major player in any number of recent films: Polar Express,
Spiderman, Hulk, etc.

3D software is lot like a hammer. You use one hammer for this and another
for that but never one for everything. Always comes down to the hand on
the handle for the art. There are at least 4-5 good packages and the only
way you will know which one is right for you is to handle the hammer.


Humble Novice Seeks Veteran Advice: C4D & Character Animation

Post by Michael Ha » Tue, 07 Jun 2005 11:32:28

ould you care to compare/contrast Animation Master with Curious Labs' Poser?
Body Studio has a plug to take animated characters from Poser and put them in C4D (and Maya and 3DMax)

Can I take animated sequences from AM and import the sequence into C4D?



On Tue, 31 May 2005 03:28:03 -0700, "Glenn" < XXXX@XXXXX.COM > wrote:


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