Back to Blog

Cinema 4D Lite vs Cinema 4D Studio

By EJ Hassenfratz

Find out the difference between the Cinema 4D Lite and Cinema 4D Studio in this helpful video tutorial from EJ Hassenfratz.

What are the differences between the full-fledged version of Cinema 4D and the free Lite version available in After Effects? Ej Hassenfratz, our Cinema 4D Basecamp instructor, is here do give you the 411 on these two different versions.
By the end of this video you'll have a clear understanding of the limitations and advantages of having Cinema 4D Lite available to you, and what the full version is capable of. Be warned; It's going to be hard not to salivate when you see all the crazy cool things you can create in the full version.
If you haven't dipped your toes into the world of 3D animation and have been scared away by the cost, then what you'll learn today should bring a little more joy into you life. So, let's watch what EJ has to say about these two different versions...

Download the Cinema 4D Project File

Want to poke around in the Cinema 4D project file created by EJ for this tutorial? Check out how he sets up lights, textures, other neat little workflow pieces and follow along!

Download Cinema 4D Lite Project File

Download Now

What is Cinema 4D Lite?

Cinema 4D Lite is a limited 3D tool that allows you view, build, and render 3D scenes in After Effects using with a Cinema 4D integration known as Cineware.
As you build and save your creation in Cinema 4D Lite you can see updates inside of After Effects, making this program an extremely attractive bonus to your workflow.
In addition to viewing and rendering, you are able to use a few After Effects features with Cinema 4D Lite. Cineware allows you to extract scene data, like cameras, that can be manipulated inside of After Effects.
The biggest win for those subscribed to the Creative Cloud is that this takes away the excuse of learning the basics in Cinema 4D. The tight integration with Adobe allows you to create artwork even though the lite version is limited.
Here are a few ways you can use Cinema 4D lite:
  • Basic Modeling
  • Basic Lighting
  • Texturing
  • Animate

How do you access Cinema 4D lite?

You may have not even known that After Effects can create a Cinema 4D file or that this Cinema 4D and After Effects integration was even possible. So how exactly do you get started?
To access a Cinema 4D Lite in After Effects just navigate to:
File > New > MAXON CINEMA 4D FILE...
This will launch Cinema4D lite, as long as you have a subscription to the Creative Cloud.
How to access Cineware Lite from After Effects.png
(above: how to access Cinema 4D Lite from After Effects)

Limitations of Cinema 4D Lite

There are a lot of possibilities in Cinema 4D lite, but it only scratches the surface of what's possible in Cinema 4D. But, what are the bigger things that your workflow is missing with Cinema 4D Lite? Let's go a little deeper and just clear up a few things about what Cinema 4D Lite does not have access to.

1. Modeling Tools are Not Available

Industry standard polygon modeling, and sculpting tools are not available in Lite. There are work arounds that you can use by implementing deformers, but don't expect to create complicated pieces of geometry without some clever jimmy-rigging.

2. MoGraph Effectors are Very Limited

MoGraph effectors are what put Cinema4D on the map. Creativity and workflow was unlocked in an unprecedented way with new ways to manipulate objects in your scene.
In Cinema 4D Lite you are given just a small taste of the MoGraph effector. While still powerful you can only effect and manipulate basic transform properties.
Notable MoGraph effectors in the full version are Voronoi Fracturing and the Cloner options. Using tools like this can really speed up and enhance your workflow, keeping the flow of ideas flowing.
Mograph Effectors in Cinema 4D.png
(above: look at all those options in the full version!)

3. Rendering Limitations

There are some significant limitations when it comes to rendering in the lite version. One example is that the ability to use Physical Render Engine (PBR) is not available with Cinema 4D Lite, which is very important if you're looking to use GPU rendering. In fact, ProRender is natively available in the studio version, but not in the lite version. Lite versions will be sticking with their CPU's for rendering out scenes.

4. No Plug-in Support

Plug-ins like X-Particles and kits created by Greyscalegorilla are not compatible with Cinema 4D lite. What you're given with the free version is what you get.
If you've seen some of the plug-ins that are available and what they can do, this can be a bummer. So, while you do have the ability to create 3D animated scenes, you won't be adding any swooping particles.
X Particles Capabilites.png

Want the nitty gritty?

For a full breakdown, Maxon has created a very comprehensible chart detailing the differences between the Cinema 4D options.
Cinema 4D Comparison Chart.png

Why would I get Cinema 4D Studio if I have Cinema 4D Lite?

The lite version has just enough tools to help you build up the fundamentals for 3D. There are basic lighting tools, basic cameras, and a few deformer options. For a few people this may be just enough for your projects.
The full program of Cinema 4D is very robust, and offers a lot of useful tools for creating in a 3D environment.
Here are some of the main features in Cinema 4D Studio:
Physics and Simulation:
  • Rigid Body
  • Soft Body
  • Aerodynamics
  • Cloth
  • Gravity
  • Particles
  • Joints, Springs, Motors
MoGraph Tools:
  • Cloner
  • Fracture
  • Advanced Fields
  • MoText
  • Python
  • Delay
  • Tracer
  • Polygon Modeling
  • Parametric Modeling
  • Sculpting
As you can see, there are a lot of available options that can really enhance your workflow in Cinema 4D. The list's above are just a small taste of the massive world that is Cinema 4D. In short, if you are serious about learning 3D for motion design, Cinema 4D Studio is the way to go.

Want to Learn 3D animation?

If you're ready to take a deep dive into the amazing world of 3D check out Cinema 4D Basecamp. The course, led by EJ, was built for those who've never touched a 3D program. Students come in with no knowledge and finish the course by making amazing animations. Check out some this work example from Deanna Reilly.
Here's a quick intro that will show you what you'll learn in Cinema 4D Basecamp.
Ready to take on the challenge?