The core Cinema 4D program offers impressive rendering built-in, but if you’re looking for more power and greater realism then the Advanced Render module is the natural extension.
Key to the module is its support for Global Illumination (GI) in which indirect lighting reflected from one object to another dramatically increases the realism of images. Further boosts to render quality and realism come from support for HDR-based Image-Based Lighting, Caustics, Sub-Surface Scattering and the simulation of camera-based effects such as depth-of-field, highlights and vector motion blur. And the Advanced Render module also offers support for Sub-Polygonal Displacement which effectively blurs the distinction between texturing and modelling.
That’s a lot to take on board, but what does the new 2.5 release add to the mix? First up is Colour Mapping which lets you control the exposure of renders so that you can internally balance light and dark areas without the inconvenience and limitations of 24-bit post-processing. Next is the introduction of support for Ambient Occlusion (AO). This works out to what extent each surface point is occluded by nearby objects and applies a shading level accordingly. What this means in practice is that corners and holes and areas of near-intersection are naturally darkened. The result is an instant boost to modelling definition and to perceived realism.
The most powerful new capability is the ability to add realistic skies to your projects. This is most easily done by selecting one of the provided sky presets from the Content Browser. You can then double click on the Sky Object to open the new dedicated Sky Manager. Here you can choose from a range of weather presets, specify the strength of GI and type of shadow and set the date and time and scene location. To animate your sky simply change settings and create key frames.
This is only the beginning, switch to the Sky Manager’s Advanced mode and a host of new tabs appear. Here you can control overall settings such as the turbidity or level of moisture in the air and the brightness of stars. You can also set up your own weather conditions by specifying up to six levels of noise-based cloud and even add realistic rainbows and sunbeams. Most impressive of all, using the dedicated Cloud tool you can paint on your own volumetric 3D clouds.
At almost two thirds the cost of Cinema 4D itself, Advanced Render 2.5 initially looks expensive. Consider how much high-end power it provides and it’s cheap at the price – and an absolute bargain for upgraders.