Max to Cinema 4D


We are exploring the possibility of switching our primary 3D software from 3DS Max to Cinema 4D. Autodesk are encouraging everyone to switch to monthly subscription and it is not something we want to ideally do. We are an architectural visualisation studio and have a lot of custom scripts, plugins and pipeline tools. The best way for us to explore transitioning is to test a version over a long period (6 months +). In my ideal world there would be a watermarked version of Cinema4D or a non-commercial version that we can get working in parallel first. Do those things exist? Doing a hard switch would be out of the question unfortunately

Have any other studios attempted to make this switch? How do you deal with legacy asset libraries and artists training etc? How did you find the productivity hit as artists ramp up and learn a new tool?


I would contact Maxon directly. If i am not mistaken the C4D demo is better than most since lasts 40 days or so more than the typical 30. I think there is option to request an extended period.

Some of those questions are difficult to answer since they are specific to your situationand the know how of your team but C4D is probably the least difficult application to learn at that level.

Btw there is even a Max to C4D plug in that might be helpful, the author says even transfer Vray materials

There will be an important release of Cinema 4D in 2 half of this year the version 20 so i would choose that as a target an eventual upgrade for a time your organization can get that version without upgrade cost.


There is a plug in that allows for bi-directional transfer between 3ds max and Cinema 4D. It’s about $40 and does an OK job with geometry and animation. Materials are different, and I would not expect to find an off-the-shelf solution for this, as there are so many different rendering choices for both max and Cinema. If you were using Octane, you could likely package up the materials and get much of that across, though applying them between the two applications are completely different if you have done anything with selection sets, etc. And, 3ds max has a much more versatile UV handling method than Cinema does, sadly, and that was one of the things that I really missed when I switched many years back.

You may have heard that there is a version of VRay for Cinema, and I wish that I could recommend it. It is developed under license from Chaos Group, and not by themselves. Development has been glacial, and I do not believe that they have officially released a formal v3 of the core, something that Choas released several years ago now. But there are so many other great choices out there, including Arnold, Octane, Redshift, Corona, etc, so you should be covered there. Cinema itself has two separate rendering engines internally, though I rarely use those anymore (occasionally the Sketch and Toon module).

Cinema is not as strong with precision modeling as is max, and really falls down when snapping between objects. For some reason, Maxon just can’t seem to get that right. I suspect there is something in the object handling algorithms that makes this very difficult for them, as the concept itself is very simple. There are ways around this, of course, and you adjust – after you get over it.

That said, Victor Veliko is porting/has ported his popular LWCAD plug in to Cinema. It is very architecturally-oriented, and would answer many of the specialized needs that architects have for doors, windows, roofs, etc, even the handling of things like the variety of shingles and other roof treatments used.

Cinema really shines in the ease-of-use department, though you do need to “grok” it first, and coming from max, that will take a little time. But it will be time well-spent. There is no concept of a modifier stack, at least, not in the way that max works. Much of that is handled in the Object Manager, an outliner-style window that really is the brains of Cinema’s object handling. Modifiers, deformers and the like are treated in the hierarchy – for example, SubDs are called a ‘generator’ in Cinema’s language, and object trees placed as children to modifier will be subdivided. Similar to Turbo-smooth (do they still call it that?) but better, IMO. A shortcut key quickly enables/disables the operation. In addition to these options, there is the “tag” concept in Cinema, and this is pretty cool (though took me awhile to get). These are attributes and effects that are added to an object, and in the Object Manager read from let to right (processed in the same order). Materials and other things are assigned with tags, and materials can be stacked in this manner (though not all 3rd party render engines support this stacking.) Everything in Cinema can be easily enabled/disabled, tags included. It is very versatile, but also very complex.

Speaking of complex, Cinema orders operations via a “Priorities” system, which is one of the least documented parts of Cinema, given the footprint that they have on the program. Beginners usually don’t need to worry about this stuff, but it crops up as you get more of a handle on the product. I’ll just leave that here for now.

One thing you will definitely miss is Particle Flow. Cinema once licensed Thinking Particles, and it ships with every version, I believe. It is built on a very old version of TP, however, and, to my knowledge, has never been updated, which is really too bad. It is powerful, though, and might meet your needs. Most people today use X-Particles, which is very good. It will cost extra, though, and can have trouble playing nice with some external renderers like Octane. It is also a bit of a memory hog, and crash frequently. Of course, if you’re working in max, you are likely used to that already, but Cinema is actually rather stable. Still, “save frequently” is always a good rule of practice.

For smoke and fire effects, there is no real 3rd party equivalent to FumeFX in my opinion, especially when combined with PFlow. There is Turbulence FD which is good, and when rendered with the Cinema engines can produce great results. 3rd party engines may not support the “post sim” noise effects that can add detail to the smoke, which is unfortunate. It has been awhile since Turbulence was updated (too many different product versions, I suspect) though I think it is about due for an update. However, XParticles 4 can do very similar things now, though TFD is currently faster. XP4 has many other things going for it, and looks like it will have an exciting future. They recently integrated the old Softimage “Explosia” suite into their product, and it looks really good.

For character work, max is just better. Better rigging, better skinning and UV tools, tons of information, and, of course CAT, for those who don’t really want to dig deep. Cinema has a character tool for rigging, and it is actually pretty good, and there are some basic CAT-like tools for animating walk cycles and the like. But it gets technical real fast, and since such as small portion of the Cinema user base actually uses this aspect of the program, it seems a little buggier than other areas of Cinema, and updates aren’t as frequent. Still, I use it, and the experience is still better that max.

About user experience, I really HATED using max after awhile, though just how much was not apparent until I spent a few months in Cinema. Cinema is a creative dream – it really promotes experimentation and things just seem to make sense overall. There are usually workarounds to every issue, and the community is top-notch. Cinema’s users are quite often creative influencers and really are leading motion design. In fact, nothing beats Cinema for motion design. Mograph is amazing and deep, and by no means limited at all to motion graphics. Take the time to get to know that aspect, even if motion graphics aren’t your thing. You won’t regret it.

Feel free to IM me if you need more info or help. Good luck!!


First off, there are 3 month and 6 month short-term licenses of C4D R19 - about 600 USD and 1100 USD - that you could use for some testing:

Max does not have a very good UI - at least it didn’t back when I did stuff in it - so you may find that C4D’s workflow fluidity seriously speeds up your visualization output. Tons of 3rd party render engines to choose from too.

C4D is also very easy to learn and use. Transitioning from Max should not be hugely difficult for anybody who already knows 3D.

C4D is well suited for arch stuff, since it is owned by the makers of ArchiCAD - there is even a live two-way bridge between C4D and ArchiCAD as far as I know.

If you were doing high-end character animation, you might be better off with another software like Maya.

If you are looking for a fast 3D scene layout, lighting, rendering tool for archviz and productviz style work, C4D is your friend. It even supports Stereo 3D rendering.

If I’m not mistaken, the MaxToC4D and C4DToMax plugins can bring 3D geometry AND any Vray lights and shaders from Max to C4D and from C4D to Max.

Here’s a screenshot of the plugin in action: (from the manufacturer’s website)

So you could download the demo version of C4D, zap complete Max Vray scenes across with the above plugin (provided that it works with the C4D demo), and see whether C4D is usable for you.

I also believe that if you don’t register/activate the C4D demo, you can pretty much keep playing with it forever. You just can’t save 3D scenes in that limited trial mode.


I really like using Vray in Cinema (Its been my primary render engine for five years). While its arguably the fastest CPU renderer available for C4D, its hindered by development issues.

It’s currently at the level (we got 3.0 about a year or two ago). It excels at arch/vis, as the Vray --> C4D bridge developers are focused primarily in porting features related to that field, and there are a number of arch-vis companies that use it.

However, I would not recommend it for VFX in its current state, as VDB rendering was just introduced a few months ago and it’s still limited/buggy. We also can’t get motion blur on changing-point-count meshes, so fluids & other types of effects where moblur is necessary are out. Camera based motion blur is fantastic, but object-based moblur has been buggy for me on certain projects - though it’s been hard to reproduce on demand for bug reporting.

DOF is spectacular; I really enjoy working with it whenever I can, as it looks gorgeous - and has a much cleaner look than adding it in post.

Multipass is great & easy to setup, with a dedicated manager. You can save all of your passes/object mattes in a single multi-layered PSD file that imports really nicely into AE.

It doesn’t have a nodal material system; all the other major 3rd party render engines for C4D (Arnold, Redshift, Octane, Cycles) have their own node system, but Vray doesn’t. Back in 2015 the developers said they were extremely close to releasing a node-based system (as they hired the dev of CM-Nodes, a node-based material plugin), but all of a sudden things went silent, and it seems like every time the topic is brought up the subject gets changed. I’m wondering if Maxon brought a node-based system into the C4D private beta at this point in time (or at least made mention of it in the beta forums), prompting the Vray dev team to halt development of their own version (“We’ll just wait for Maxon to get their’s up and running”), but that’s all purely speculation on my part.

It currently does not support traditional texture baking.

It also doesn’t have a production ready IPR: no live material updates, no light linking, and it can be crash-prone; the developers say these IPR features are absent because they’re still waiting for Chaos Group to write/provide some specific SDK code for this. But we’ve been waiting on them for years. So no idea if/when this will be implemented.

Again - I use Vray for just about all my production projects because it’s a fast CPU workhorse, and I really enjoy using it because of that - and if ArchVis is your company’s bread and butter, it could suit you really well. But the things mentioned above (especially the IPR) have become tiring on my end. When GPU prices resolve themselves a bit more, I’ll probably invest in a few so that I can add Redshift into my workflow and “diversify my rendering portfolio” to provide more options.


Thanks for the Vray update, Luke. I will keep that in mind should the topic ever come up again.


Edit. Luke already answered


I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone for the responses. They have been extremely helpful, honest answers and they give me a lot of terms I can now look up and research further.

I attended a Cinema4D architectural visualisation webinar yesterday to try and get a feel for all of this and what would be involved in making a switch. As a studio we have already dropped Adobe almost completely from our vis pipeline. We now use Blackmagic Fusion as our primary compositor. So doing this is not without precedent but switching 3D software is significantly more daunting.

I really appreciate the offers of IM’ing if I have questions. The cinema 4D community has really stood out to me. People have been nothing but friendly and helpful so thank you for that too!


Was this the webinar?


Yes! That was it.


If you plan on moving to C4D, next thursday there’s a big flash sale !


Btw TiW since your company is with 3Ds Max you can do a sidegrade buy.