School of Motion

An Overview of Cycles4D in Cinema4D

  • By Liam Clisham
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Let's take a look at Cycles4D as a render option in the final installment of our render series for Cinema 4D.

Welcome to part four of our four-part render engines series, covering Cinema4D's four most talked about render engines: Arnold, Octane, Redshift and Cycles . You can catch up on part-one here, part-two here and part-three here.
This article will introduce you to the Cycles4D render engine by Insydium, the company behind X-Particles. If you've never heard of Cycles or curious about using it in Cinema 4D, this is the article for you.
There are terms used in this series that get geeky, so we created a 3D Glossary if you find yourself lost and wanting to know more about anything in this series.
Party time!
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Let's get this party started!

What Exactly is Cycles4D?

Unbeknownst to quite a few people, Cycles4D from Insydium is actually a part of the open source render engine, Cycles, from the Blender Foundation. Compared to the other three render engines we've focused on, Cycles4D is a bit of an underdog in the C4D community. In the Blender community, however, Cycles is like an Evander Holyfield of render engines. If you take a look at the link above, you can see a very detailed history of Cycles.
The description on Insydium's site describes Cycles as "...an unbiased GPU/CPU render engine developed by the Blender Foundation...Cycles 4D is a dedicated bridge plugin allowing Cinema 4D users to access the Cycles rendering engine directly inside Cinema 4D without the need for an external application."
To simplify that, Cycles4D is both a CPU and GPU render engine that uses a way of calculating final rendered images that aims to be photorealistic and not taking shortcuts.
XBox One spot Created by Blind LA using Cycles4D

Why Should I Care About Cycles4D?

If you came here to compare and contrast this against other render engines, this isn't the article for you. Don't worry. We'll cover that too.

1. Mac and PC and NVIDIA and AMD... OH MY!

Cycles4D can work with either CPU and GPU for rendering. And, you can switch back and forth without it changing out the scene looks. CPU looks like GPU and vise versa. This allows for a lots of flexibility and fast when it comes to final rendering and using a farm, which we cover below.
Cycles4D also works with both NVIDIA and AMD cards. That's right Mac users. You can take advantage of GPU rendering right now and not have to switch to a PC. However, it isn't flawless. More on that below.
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Every Mac user right now.

2. Outsourced render farm support.

Overall, GPU render engines have experienced a lack of render farm support as we covered in the previous articles. Since Cycles4D uses both CPU and GPU rendering, places like PixelPlow can offer CPU-side render farm support. You can work extremely fast with your GPU until final render and send it off to a farm with thousands of CPUs and get your renders back in no time. If you're a freelancer on a tight budget, this means you don't have to run out and build a new system just to be able to finish that job. However...

3. Easily setup your own render farm.

Unlike any of the other render engines we've featured, Cycles4D comes with the ability to setup a small render farm using three machines. If you have extra machines sitting around, you can setup a small render farm right out of the box without having to purchase more licenses. If you have more than three machines, the cost of a render node license is comparably cheap to the other engines too. As a freelancer, this really puts some money back in your pocket when considering things.
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Contemporary farming has gotten so easy.

4. Increase your workflow speed with the Real-Time Preview Window

Every 3rd any party render engine has an Interactive Preview Region window. The IPR allows users to see a rendered scene in almost real time. In Cycles4D it is named "Real-Time Preview." This one is particularly cool because it works with both the CPU and GPU render capabilities of Cycles4D. Get near real-time visual updates whenever an object is changed, a light added or texture attribute changed. Welcome to the future.
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Cycles4D Real-Time Preview Window in Action

5. X-Particles Support is HUGE.

As stated above, Cycles4D is developed by Insydium, the company that also makes X-Particles for Cinema4D. This is a huge benefit compared to other render engines. Cycles4D has a direct link to X-Particles meaning if you do any kind of particle and simulation work, you're going to get the best result from Cycles4D. You can get great looking work with the other render engines, but it takes a bit more work and isn't right out of the box like it is for Cycles4D. Particles, fire, smoke, fluid sim rendering all right at your finger tips.
The 2018 X-Particles 4 Process Reel

6. Open-Source and Ahead of the Curve.

Cycles is often ahead of the curve with what is integrated because it is open sourced. Advanced shaders and rendering techniques are sometimes implemented before any of the other engines get a chance too. However, this isn't always the case.

7. A wealth of Free Knowledge

Since Cycles4D is a bridge of Cycles, there is a ton of free content out there for learning Cycles4D since it is a 1:1 relationship. If you do a quick Google or Youtube search for Cycles tutorials, all those results will work for you inside of Cycles4D for Cinema4D.

Why Shouldn’t I Consider Using Cycles4D?

As in our previous articles: using any third party engine is something else to learn and purchase. If you haven't been using Cinema4D for at least a year, you may want to consider sticking with standard and physical for a bit longer.

1. AMD/Open-CL isn't the Fastest.

Yes, AMD graphics cards are supported. However, they aren't as fast as NVIDIA cards. They definitely are faster than using a CPU. Just keep that in mind. If you're expecting real-time rendering on your Mac "trashcan", it probably isn't going to happen.

2. Nodes

There is that word again! Nodes. Cycles4D has a beautiful node interface, but we know how daunting that can be to an artist. If you're really against learning nodes for whatever reason, Cycles4D may not be fore you.
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What the Cycles4D node interface looks like. Don't get too scared.

3. Open-Source and Behind the Curve

While Cycles, the one from the Blender Foundation, may be getting things faster than other render engines, Cycles4D is a bridge developed by Insydium. That means when new things come to Cycles, it doesn't instantly mean it comes to Cycles4D. There can be a bit of a delay while you wait for Insydium to update the software. That said, Insydium has always been awesome and caring about their customers. They work really hard to implement updates as quickly as they can.

How can I learn more about Cycles4D?

Insydium has fantastic forums as well as a new Discord server that is extremely active. You can hop in either of those and get just about any question solved fairly quickly.
Just like with X-Particles for Cinema4D, Cycles4D has a video manual so you don't have to read a bunch of jargon, and can easily learn through screen captured walk-throughs.
Also, check out all the Cycles documentation. As stated above, it all translates over.

Show and tell us what you’re using!

What render engines are you using or interested in? Got something cool that you’ve rendered? Let us know on Twitter or Instagram - @schoolofmotion!
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See ya next time!