Review: Maxon Cinema 4D Studio R16
Trevor M. Carlee
Issue: July 1, 2015

Review: Maxon Cinema 4D Studio R16


PRODUCT: Cinema 4D Studio R16

PRICE: $3,695; upgrade from R15: $995


- Polygon Pen tool
- Updated 3D Motion Tracker
- Useful 3D models

I’m relatively new to the world of 3D. If you read my review of Maxon’s Cinema 4D Studio R15 a year back, then you know that’s where I dove in full force. And that’s what people do, right? Read consecutive reviews?

Anyway — long story short — I had dabbled here and there with programs like Blender and plug-ins like Element 3D, but I decided to get fully integrated with the release of Cinema 4D Studio R15. I was blown away and I never looked back.

And here I am, a year later, with the release of Cinema 4D Studio R16, and it just gets better.


My first review of Cinema 4D was about the software itself, as well as its updates. If you want my first impressions, check that out on the Post Website. This time I’m going to cover some of the updates that are more accessible to newbies like me.

I’ll run through the Reflectance Channel, 3D Motion Tracking, the Poly Pen tool and some of the library updates. First, let’s talk reflectance.


Leave it to the newbie to first talk about the “shiny” new feature, but the Reflectance Channel is actually fantastic. It allows for 16 different reflection layers based off of bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF)… I don’t know what any of that means. Google shows a lot of graphs and numbers.

What I do know is, you can layer reflections and even customize them using layer masks. If you don’t like a portion of the reflection and want it gone, you can mask it out — you can even create a gradient mask so it gradually fades out your reflection.

You can define roughness, reflection, specular, bump, color and a bunch more within each layer, which is awesome. No need to “hack” your desired effect — it’s all within the reflectance channel and it looks great. From metallic car paint to woven cloth, there’s really no end to the control you have over every detail of your reflections.

Additionally, you have the option to render separate multi-pass layers for each reflection layer. The possibilities are endless.

Just keep in mind that it’s not a click-and-stick operation (that’s a term I made up… just go with it). It can take hours to hone in that perfect reflection you so desire.


Up next is another fancy new feature that caught my eye. Now, me being new to the 3D world and all, I haven’t really gotten to sink my teeth into modeling. I’ve done my fair share from tutorials or with quick ‘n easy shapes I needed for my projects, but nothing substantial.

However, the Polygon Pen Tool is a game changer for me. I can quickly and easily draw geometry directly onto a model in 3D space. It’s hard to describe, but trust me, it’s got me interested in modeling. Ideas! I have all these ideas!


3D Motion Tracking has always been a finicky little one for me. Until now, I’ve been using the 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects and it works pretty well. Aside from shots that have horrible resolution and shake all over the place, it gets a really great, smooth camera movement that helps me build out my “2.5D” scenes in After Effects.

With R16, the updated 3D Motion Tracker in Cinema 4D caught my eye. Until now I’ve been creating things in Cinema 4D, outputting the objects and materials and bringing them into Element 3D using a motion-tracked composition. I never really tried the motion tracker available in Cinema 4D, but I was very intrigued by its apparent “ease.”

Sure enough, with one click of a button, you can create a complete 3D reconstruction of the camera move in most of the footage you put through it. If any of your footage is a little more difficult to track, you can adjust the auto track, mask certain regions of the footage or manually create your own tracks.

Most of the time, I would just let it do its thing and then place my 3D objects into the scene when it was finished. Super easy.

I’m not one to use independent motion trackers like Mocha (although I probably should — being a “visual effects artist” and all), so the ease of Cinema 4D’s 3D Motion Tracker really excited me for a more efficient workflow when incorporating 3D into my scenes.


As mentioned before, I’m not a big fancy modeler. I’d love to be but I haven’t had the time and it seems like you need a good deal of that. The library solves that problem for me whenever I start a new project and need to mock some things up.

The library is designed with specific target groups in mind, like architects, product and advertising designers, as well as motion designers. That last one is where I come in for the most part. There are some really great models made for MoGraph, preset title animations and interactive chart templates.

I know we’re artists and it’s “best” to make everything from scratch, but I find myself being asked to do a million things at work without the option to say “no” most of the time even though I literally have a few hours to do it. When you’re a guy that knows graphics in a company that doesn’t do graphics, you get them done quick, fast and in a hurry. Not only because there’s no time and you’re up against an airdate, but also because the work will just keep piling up.
So these models are especially useful for me and anybody else in my type of situation (which is actually a lot of people. Way to go Maxon for recognizing that).

Additionally, architects can dig into some house and stair generators, as well as modular doors and windows. Hell, I’ll probably dig in too.


If you’re thinking it can’t all be that easy and aren’t comfortable with diving right into Cinema 4D, I’d suggest checking out Cineversity and watching as many tutorials as you can. It’s been super helpful for my understanding of the software.

Also, to be honest, the series that got me really up and running is the “Learn Cinema 4D in One Day” training over at Motionworks. Sure, it’s $98, but it’s got everything you need to know to get up and running.


Much like last time, Maxon has impressed me again. They really seem to put a lot of care into the product they put out. I will admit that shiny features catch my attention, but don’t think everything else went unnoticed. I just wanted to cover the stuff I was really excited about.

The truth is, if you want true control over your 3D world down to the very grain of your reflections, then you need to jump head first into Cinema 4D. You won’t be disappointed.