|Maxons Cinema 4D XL is well known for being a full featured 3D application that is easy to learn. This is true, but it must be taken in context. It is a "full featured 3D app" and as such is very deep. It has a kazillion tools and functions that can be very overwhelming. Cinema 4D XL comes with two manuals. The first is a 654 page Reference Manual, explaining what all the various windows are for and what the tools scattered throughout the app do. The other manual is a 540 page Tutorial Manual that takes you completely through 4 fairly complex scenes to teach you the basics of modeling, texturing, lighting, animating, and rendering in Cinema 4D. The tutorials manual is a good addition to the manual as it gives you an overview of the workflow in Cinema as well as pointing out what are the most important things to remember.
654 pages sounds like one heck of a thorough manual, but if you are at all familiar with today's 3D packages, you know that they are very complex animals. As such, 654 pages barely covers more than listing what the tools are and what they do. The Docs for C4D are very basic, in certain cases giving you a quick example. To really get into thoroughly teaching/explaining what all the tools in Cinema do, and how to use them, it would require many volumes the size of the reference manual.
However, Arndt's book Maxon Cinema 4D 7:A Workshop for 2D/3D Graphics Pros takes you much further. In the little less than a year and a half that I've been using Cinema, there are many tools that get overlooked simply because you don't see the importance of them. The sheer complexity of a professional 3D app makes this a constant problem, and this complexity is what keeps the manual from giving anything but a most general overview of the various tools and functions. Otherwise, as I stated in the previous paragraph, it would require several volumes.
Right off the bat, Arndt's book takes you into some fairly complex compositions that require several hours each to get through. The first of which is a mechanical modeling exercise where you get to model and animate a set of pistons and connecting rods moving up and down while being moved by a crankshaft they are attached to.
These are not your typical 1 hour tutorials. What I found great about Arndt's book is how he forces you to learn and exercise good work habits through repetition. He makes you do certain things over and over and over. This alone has improved my modeling skills a lot since starting on his book.
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For instance, whenever converting a primitive or HyperNURBs object to polygonal form, he always reminds you to use the optimize function to get rid of duplicate points. He also forces you to use tools like inner extrude and extrude over and over again by starting with very basic forms and continually extruding them to create the parts we need as we go.
Prior to this book, in doing many modeling projects I would have used the knife tool or subdivide tool (or even started with a complex heavily subdivided primitive), and then pulled and moved points or polys around. He has redefined how I look at modeling in Cinema, and forced me into the habit of starting with very simple models, and then by simply using these two extrude tools, to do almost everything I need much faster (a tenth of the mouse clicks I used to use), much more accurately, with models that use less polys to do get the same results (actually better results).
By his reinforcing how to properly use the bridge tool to cut holes through objects, or to cut holes in surfaces by using HyperNURBS and deleting a few polys, I can now create perfect holes in seconds, without creating all the artifacts that I used to get by using booleans to cut holes. He also taught me how to effectively use booleans to make clean caps for extrude objects. It's kind of ironic in that where I always got artifacts and triangles as a result of using booleans, Arndt has shown me how to use them to get rid of triangles and artifacts.
Next Arndt takes you through using expressions to create and animate a 'slinky' that travels down some steps the way that only slinkys can do. After that he gets into a much more complex expression project by teaching you to model a set of nested cylinders that extend and stretch a hose that is attached to them.
This section on expressions is not something that you just read through quickly and you grasp. You have to pick through it piece by piece, reading each paragraph over many times, sometimes having to analyze it a word or two at a time. Again, he forces you to use things over and over until you start to understand. He uses things learned in previous examples as building blocks to take you to the next level. You start with simple expression principles in the first example then combine them with more complex ones in the second example to create a very complex device that only requires you move one part to the position you want, and all the cylinders, hose, spring, etc. move correctly in response. To animate something like this without expressions would be an extremely tedious process involving the constant readjustment of several spline points and objects, with results that would not be anywhere near as accurate as they are with expressions.
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Next Arndt takes you into some advanced modeling techniques in that you learn to model the human head and a cyborg body for it. He even starts this section out by teaching you the fundamentals of learning how to hand draw the human head. These drawings are then used as reference images for modeling a 3D version.
Next, Arndt has you model a scene for your cyborg and has you put it in a crate filled with a liquid. He then teaches you how to effectively texture and light the scene and how to use radiosity and caustics without turning everything into a rendering nightmare. He explains how to properly use materials, lights, textures, radiosity, and caustics settings to find the right blend of render quality and speed.
Arndt then finishes the book with a tips and tricks chapter where he shows you how to use Bodypaint 3D (Maxons premiere 3D painting package) to adjust the textures on your cyborg model, and tips for using the explosion deformer, the poly reduction deformer, creating a GI light dome, and using the VReel Dynamix plug-in to animate a head of hair.
The book includes a CD that contains all of the lesson projects, the Cutter, Edge Extrude, and Edge Bevel plug-ins, several product demos, a demo version of Cinema 4D XL7, a bonus project, and artwork and movies from Arndt and others that were created using Cinema 4D.
Getting through his book is slow going for me, because at each section I have to set aside a large block of time so that I can work through the entire section and grasp the concepts at hand. It forces me to think carefully as I work to understand.
The only fault I could find with this book is that in the process of translation (it was originally written in German), there are a few typos in the first couple of sections. However these are all pretty easy to overcome. If for some reason they cause you confusion and you can't figure it out, there are several people who frequent the Cinema 4D forum at the COW that have read this book and can help you out.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is the kind of resource that if you really work hard at understanding all that is being laid before you, it will definitely take you several notches up the skill ladder. It is absolutely the kind of resource that can take an intermediate user (like me) to the level of advanced intermediate or advanced level.
||Paperback: 432 pages
Dimensions (in inches): 1.13 x 9.01 x 7.55
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Bk&Cd-Rom edition (December 28, 2001)
Mark's rating: 4 1/2 COWs
This book is not something I would recommend for the beginner, as I think it would be a bit overwhelming. A certain level of expertise and understanding is required to truly appreciate and benefit from this book, but once you have a basic grasp of Cinema and feel comfortable using it, this book will be something you can get pretty excited about after realizing where it intends to take you.
Some images ©Peachpit Press. Used by permission