We’ve detailed how well Cinema 4D (C4D) and After Effects work together, but at events like NAB and SIGGRAPH these kinds of tips and techniques are demonstrated and talked through from the stage all day long. The technical side of things is just part of the experience though, as being able to connect with other users, creatives and producers at these events is just as important.
It’s becoming more and more difficult to make the trek out to these sorts of events though, and even if you are able to make it, there can be so much going on that it’s difficult to take in everything. How much are you able to remember about who you met or what you saw when you’re trying to get to and see everything? For these reasons and more, MAXON has decided to simplify the experience and bring it right to your doorstep with the Cinema 4D Roadshow.
We wanted to find out what attendees of these events can expect, so we talked with MAXON US CEO Paul Babb to explore these details. We also took the opportunity to ask him about the most recent updates to C4D, how customer feedback impacts the development process at MAXON, what kinds of opportunities he sees for 3D artists and plenty more.
ProVideo Coalition: We’ve got a lot of editors in our community, and much like Scott Simmons, they’re often surprised to find out how easy it for them to start using C4D. Is that a reaction you often get from industry professionals once you lay out those details?
Paul Babb: Absolutely. We’re very widely known as one of the, if not the, easiest 3D packages to pick up and learn, probably because we’re very Adobe-like. We work very closely with Adobe to make sure that our workflows run smoothly.
We often hear from teachers who’ve tried teaching other packages, but once they try C4D their students pick up so much more of it in such a shorter amount of time. Shortening that learning curve as much as we can is certainly one of our goals, and that allows editors and plenty of other professionals to start using the tool very quickly.
MAXON recently released the latest version of the company’s 3D software solution, Cinema 4D R 17. Can you tell us about some of the exciting new features?
At the top of the list would probably be the Take System, which was a popular requested feature. It’s one of those features that people mostly seen as renders layers, but The Take System does so much more than that. It gives users the ability to create various iterations of a project inside of one project.
Say you’re putting together a project for a client and you know you’re going to get feedback along the lines of “can we make that bigger” and “can we make that animate faster”, etc. Anything that’s animate-able can be sectioned off as another Take. Takes are hierarchical, so you can easily create variations through a nested parent-child relationship. By simply activating different Takes you get different versions of that project file. That’s a big difference from the old days where you would create several versions of the project file for the client, knowing they wanted to change certain things. Now you can do that all within one project file.
There’s also been a lot of improvements to sculpting, but one of the cooler things about it is the new ability to take a sculpt layer and save it out as a Pose Morph position. So if you’re doing any kind of character work or you’re animating a character face, you can sculpt a Pose Morph layer, which is really a great step toward animated sculpting. That really isn’t available anywhere but in C4D.
I also have to mention the new spline tools. There are a lot of the same things you can do in Illustrator when you’re drawing splines, but they’ve added a lot of 3D functionality to them. Imagine being able to soft sculpt a surface, but now you can soft sculpt a spline. Say you’ve drawn out a spline and you want to soften a curve or change a curve, there are added tools for twisting, smoothing, bulging, etc. It’s the same types of things you would do with 3D sculpting, but for spline tools. They also added things like new Boolean operations to make it easier to create the objects you want.
There are a bunch of other things like new filtering windows for the motion tracker, but a small thing that’s still really cool is the SketchUp integration. You can now bring in SketchUp objects directly. Say you’ve pulled a building from the online library, which has the latitude and longitude information in it. That comes through into C4D, and the physical sky tools allow you to type in that latitude and longitude to create a real sky simulation for that actual location at a given time of year, that time of day, etc. You can literally put that building back into the same environment it came from.
What sort of feedback do you get from users who have explored some of these new capabilities? What kinds of opportunities have they opened up for them creatively and professionally?
The Take System provides so much flexibility, and that’s especially important in an environment where you’re dealing with clients. Or if you’re building out a new project and not sure what direction it’s going to go, you can do iterations for presentation or proposals. We’ve certainly heard from people who have commented about how much time this is going to save them.
The other part of that Take System is the render Token system, which has been a requested feature for awhile. It gives you the ability to render out different passes into different folders or even into different machines. This new system allows you to click “render through Take System” or “render through Token System” once, and you can have different passes go to different places. It’s an incredible workflow system which allows people to save time and increase their efficiency.
It’s great to hear that some of these features are based off of feedback. Does that tie into your approach when it comes to interacting with the MAXON community?
We’ve done a few surveys in the last four years as we try to figure out what’s working and what isn’t working and what our users think is missing. That certainly drives some of the development, because ultimately we’re selling a tool that people use to get a job done. We want and need to make their lives easier.
As far as community, we’ve always been very community-orientated, especially here in the States. We’re always out there trying to do what we can to support the user groups and activities so that people can get together and teach each other new things.
Events like NAB, Siggraph, CCW and various user groups are just a few examples of the places throughout the industry where you have a major presence. What is your ultimate goal in terms of the take-aways for attendees? And how do those events impact online endeavors like Cineversity?
We certainly want to engage our live audiences with interesting content, and to us, demonstrating a feature in a bland sort of way isn’t what people want to see. They want to see how people use those tools on projects that are noteworthy. So for those live events we try to find artists that are inspiring and encourage them not to just show pretty pictures or the end product, but to perhaps breakdown an interesting part of a project or point out an interesting new technique. That way the people watching will get inspired and educated at the same time. We all get excited by the cool stuff that’s been created by these software packages, but finding out about a new way of doing something might inspire a completely new direction, or compel someone to put in the time so that they build up a skillset that allows them to be more employable.
Everything we do at the trade shows bleeds right into Cineversity, because we stream those presentations live, and once the show is over we put the presentations on Cineversity so that the people who don’t have the opportunity to come out can enjoy it just as much.
It’s a huge thing, because I’d say we’re probably reaching 10x the number of people live than are actually at the show, and then the viewership goes into the 100x more once the content is archived online so that people can watch and re-watch. Then it becomes a reference that people can keep going back to, and having that kind of reference is a big thing, because 3D is deep.
Speaking of in-person events, MAXON has just announced an 8-city Cinema 4D Road Tour. What can you tell us about where the tour is headed, and what attendees expect at each stop?
The idea is really to do what we do at the trade shows where we showcase the amazing things creatives are doing with C4D, but instead of setting up at a massive show, we’re bringing a more intimate experience right to people’s doorstep.
A really seasoned motion graphics artist named Kevin Aguirre is going to be part of the event, and he’s done some really exciting broadcast work. He’s helped us put together a typical type of sports broadcast project file to help show off some of the new R17 features and educate people about them. We want to show people how some of these new features can help make their lives easier. We’re also bringing in some artists who are going to breakdown interesting projects to hopefully inspire and educate attendees with their great work.
It kicks off on October 20th in Los Angeles, and it’s going to be mostly coastal towns this time around. We’ll be hitting LA and Portland in the first week, then we go up to San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver, then we head over to the east coast and hit New York, Atlanta and DC. We created a portal page where people can RSVP for the events, but it also contains a link to “request your city”. We’re starting off with these coastal cities but we’d like to hear where people would like to see us come next. So if we’re not coming to your city, you can fill in where you’re at, and then we’re going to gather all of that info and see if we can start this up in Q1 of next year and hit up some of those requested cities.
What has you most excited about the tour?
I’m really looking forward to seeing what some of our guest artists have come up with. Let me tell you: the art that people create with our tool is far more interesting than the tool. I get excited on a daily basis by stuff that pops up in my email. We really are just an elaborate paint brush, and there’s so many people out there painting. When somebody pops up with something amazing, it’s really fun and exciting.
I’m also looking forward to seeing what happens next for people who are part of these events. At the social hours attendees swap stories and tips, which often leads to some new projects and collaborations that otherwise might not have happened. Additionally, most if not all of the artists will tell us how much work they got from being at one of our shows, because it’s just a lot of exposure for them. That parlays into more people seeing what they’re doing and wanting them to be part of something they’re working on.
What sort of value do you see in events like this, and how do they compare to what you do at the big trade shows?
It allows us to tap into artists who have never or aren’t able to demo for us any longer, either because they’re too busy or it’s simply not a fit for their schedule. We’re able to pull in some great local talent and we’re trying to bring in one or two people for each location to come out and demo. We also made an effort to showcase some new talent, so that attendees aren’t going to be seeing the same people or presentations.
What also makes these different from the trade shows is that we’re bringing them to you, which gives anyone who doesn’t have the opportunity to fly out for one of the big events a chance to connect with our community. Plus it’s a very focused evening compared to an entire day where you’re trying to take in so much more. We’re also including a social hour, because that chance to meet and mingle with the other artists is one of best things about events of any size.
The social aspect of it really is just as important as the demos, because it gives artists the chance to connect around various opportunities. That’s something attendees of events of this size talk about over and over.
Speaking of opportunities, what sort of new ones do you see for 3D artists in the market?
I still think motion graphics is a huge bread and butter business for After Affects and C4D artists. There are so many distribution platforms now with Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, just to name a few. There’s tremendous opportunity for flying logos, interstitials, lower 3rd, bumpers, etc. That sort of work is really plentiful.
For those who want to venture out and do their own thing, the independent filmmaker and YouTube content creator is HUGE right now. There are so many people out there making interesting content with very low budgets. There’s a tremendous opportunity there for the independent VFX artist who is up to work with smaller film companies.
I think another area where there’s going to be a ton of opportunity is in augmented and virtual reality. Certainly, this technology is still in the early stages, but just imagine the volumes and volumes of content that’s going to need to be created for this new medium. Whether that’s augmented reality through tablets and phones or entire worlds in virtual reality. You’re no longer just creating that single, 4th wall point of view. You’re going to have to create the entire immersive environment. It’s not just the direction the camera is pointing in, but you have to create the entire 360 world. That’s going to be a tremendous amount of work for the right artists.
Any advice you can offer to professionals who aren’t sure where to start or where to go with Cinema 4D?
I’d tell them to approach that next step the same way I did when I was an artist coming out of college: you give yourself projects. Even if it’s something simple where you see a neat commercial on TV and then you try to replicate that effect or use it as inspiration to come up with something original. Ask yourself, “how would I create that?” You’re going to learn so much just in the process of trying to recreate something like that.
There’s also so many of these guys out there doing their own films, and the VFX in them isn’t at the level of ILM or any of the major studios, but that’s not preventing them from building big audiences and getting sponsorships. There’s tremendous opportunity there, regardless of your skillset or level.
So much of it comes down to finding a project that you’re passionate about and knuckling down and doing it. At the very least you’re going to build up a reel, and that’s something which can get you work, but it’s also something that will allow people to help you out, because the community is really amazing. If you get on some of these forums and share what you’ve put together and ask for some honest feedback, you’re going to find a lot of people telling you exactly what you need to do to get to that next level. Even at the user groups, many of them will take the last half hour to allow people to put up their reels and take feedback. It’s really a great way to take an objective look at your skillset and seeing where you stand.
And believe me, a lot of studios go out to those user groups looking for new talent, so that kind of interaction with the community can impact and change your career in multiple ways.