Enhance C4D.... no more for C4D...?


The video is Motion Graphics. The type of motion graphics that commercial clients expect. Gone are the days of wiping an effector through a bunch of clones and thinking that’ll do.

I’m not telling you to use HoudiniFX, I couldn’t care less what you use but I’m explaining the pressures C4D is facing and going to face and why plugin developers have cleared off and won’t return.

You don’t need to know a line of code to find Houdini useful but a few snippets of VEX and you’re laughing just like a few lines of coffee used to go along way.

Having gigantic holes in the application that have to be filled by plugin developers is not maxon giving an option, it’s maxon being shockingly bad developers who have relied upon 3rd parties to keep their archaic application relevant and paper over the cracks. Houdini doesn’t need plugins that’s the whole point you can extend it yourself and package up digital assets (HDAs). I have a ton of my own regularly used assets. HDA are Houdini’s version of plugins.

How many years will it be before C4D is completely transferred over to Scene Nodes, 5, 6, 7 by 2030? I bet maxon won’t answer.

So you think most C4D users will not learn Scene Nodes or just those buying plugins or have I misunderstood you? Until C4D has been transferred to the new scene graph any talk of making plugins with Scene Nodes is rather premature is it not?


Well there is no point on analyzing what clients really mean when they talk… so pass on that. And I understand what you are saying later on.

I think many users will try to learn Scene Nodes, and most will stop trying like they did with Xpresso Nodes. So eventually those who gave up will have no idea what the system is capable of and get dazzled by some fancy plugin that exploits that system under the hood.

I really don’t like talking in behalf of people I don’t know. I wish this forum had a Poll option like facebook so we could find out !

My question would be

What of the following do you use?

  1. Xpresso for Thinking Particles
  2. Xpresso for Dynamics
  3. Xpresso for parameter relations
  4. Python
  5. Material Nodes
  6. Non of the above (don’t be shy)

I just think people don’t use much of those node systems because of their reactions on any Maxon show when Xpresso or Python comes forward.

What I said about plugins based on Scene Nodes is what I heard on a YouTube video from a highly trusted person. I have completely forgot what that video was… I’ll post it when I find it.


Well Xpresso is absolutely one of the worst nodal programming systems I’ve ever had the displeasure to use, every node looking identical no matter what their function and all inputs and outputs hidden just make me shudder. Come back to a large scale Xpresso node tree after a few months and heaven help you understanding your own work let alone someone else’s.

Personally I hated Xpresso/TP with a passion and only used it when I absolutely had to mostly with Mograph data and X-Particles. I understood it well enough but it was simply horrible to use. I can understand Scene Nodes getting off to a difficult start if many C4D users are still scarred by their Xpresso experience.

I was actually surprised maxon was embarking on Scene Nodes I thought the ‘Photoshop’ layered approach of Fields was more in keeping with their AE customer crossover mindset and thought they’d stick to that.

I have no issue with plugin developers like Nitroman using Python to create a plugin that glues together application features which create a whole new level of functionality. Blender Addons are all python and a really popular one like Boxcutter cleverly extends the functionality of Blender’s boole system to create an incredibly versatile tool. The big issue I have is with missing core functionality which really should be there after so many years and not having to rely upon 3rd party developers to fill in these gaps.

Niche products like DEM Earth are what I call real plugins, this adds a mini application into C4D that no one would reasonably expect maxon to add. The future for plugins like this is good however in the age of USD one might expect a standalone App which could export to USD as a way of broadening its appeal outside of one specific host DCC. Many plugin developers will go this way by creating highly targeted helper Apps which export USD.

Oh look what’s just been released. This first iteration of Geometry Nodes was put together in under 3 months development after a period of thrashing out prototypes. Imagine where this is going to be in another 3 months at the next release. By the end of this year Blender will be an exceptionally capable Mograph tool with 2 (TWO) fast production quality renderers, Fluid Sims, modern sculpting tools etc etc etc. How will Freelancers hit by the tanking economy justify paying maxon $1500/yr over an application that does so much for FREE?

If you cannot see where this is going very quickly you’re being wilfully ignorant. This is what 3D for the World looks like.


How can you say that Maxon should not buy out Insydium and then expect resources to be allocated to replacing Thinking Particles in the same breath? Acquiring Insydium IS the only logical choice for Maxon if they are serious about improving their particle system.

You’re also incorrect in your supposition on the effect X-Particles has had in C4D’s position within the market. Motion graphics and AE integration is what is keeping C4D relevant - basically the Mograph module. Their primary base are Mac users using C4D in tandem with AE and to a much lesser degree, VFX on a smaller scale. X-Particles is a nice tool but it is not necessary for the vast majority of motion graphics work. Those who do serious VFX work for a living have already moved on to Houdini and Nuke.

In an era where Blender is rapidly catching up (surpassing in some cases), Maxon cannot continue to charge $3500 USD for C4D if they expect to expand their market by any sizable measure. X-Particles as an integrated application can only help – they should have done this with Redshift. For successful studios, price is no object but no independent user who is starting out is going to contemplate shelling out $4100 USD for this. The lack of any kind of indie pricing is crushing for anyone considering C4D for the first time.

Then again, perhaps Maxon doesn’t care. Graphic designers and 3D novices are the target market. The motion graphic artists are happy with the software as the tools are mature enough for virtually all standard freelance work and small studio needs. Most don’t even model their own assets outside of simple primitives which is probably why sculpting and volume building largely went unused. For them, C4D has already plateaued. There’s just not that much more that Maxon can add beyond improving performance.

For VFX and game dev, it is a totally different story but as I said, Maxon’s eggs are in another basket.

Maxon’s biggest problem is not that it has no room to grow but that the company leadership doesn’t listen or communicate with us. They have PR and community employees do it for them and those individuals have no say in how the application is developed or have any idea what the roadmap is. All it does is foster the belief that Cinema4D has nowhere else to go other than conjuring up gimmicky features such as gear splines on the next release. It’s typical of German companies. Even Autodesk from time to time gives us insight into what their engineers are up to with some of the customer feedback actually influencing development.

Last I heard, Maxon had acquired a mobile sculpting app. It is as if they are shifting attention to mobile users in hopes it will stick. Easier than competing with Blender for new desktop users I guess.


Maxon’s biggest problem is not that it has no room to grow but that the company leadership doesn’t listen or communicate with us.

Don’t expect a company to communicate with you. You are the one who has to communicate with them. Their site has two forms that can be filled with suggestions. The problem is not the lack of communication but quality and productive communication.

Example 1:
You as an artist and software user might want a new feature to make your work faster. Filling the form with words might not be the best way to communicate your idea. Most times pictures are also needed, it’s a visual software after all.

Example 2:
Some times ideas are more difficult to pass to the production because they concern technologies. For example let’s say you saw Frozen and liked the way snow simulations where done. Telling them “we need a particle simulator for snow” is both vague and general. They will sit around a table to discuss and discard ideas and when they reach to yours there is going to be someone saying that the current particle system is capable of that with an emitter and a turbulence… Here the mistake was that you did not communicate the problem correctly, a better description would be “A granular particle system capable of simulating layered viscosity between particles for depicting the macroscopic interactions of snow and mud”. And this when reaches the table will also be rejected due to immense complexity and due to its very limited use cases.

Example 3:
You saw a video of a volume modeling workflow in Blender and believe it could fit well in C4D too (assuming you did that in 2017). Describing the tool and sending them the link to the video will not get you the feature on the next release. Programmers don’t just take a picture of something and write code to replicate it. In this case you have to help them help you. The algorithm behind the concept is called Marching Cubes, and being a graphics programmer doesn’t mean you had to know this. So providing some keywords that can lead them to a dedicated scientific journal with the appropriate research and probably code. Providing them with the research paper itself is also a valuable help.

Example 4: You lay down a very descriptive idea for a new Render Engine that will make C4D competitive. Well guess what, they will try to buy a competitive renderer rather spend years developing one. If you can’t make it you buy it, if you can’t buy it either then don’t bother with it… That’s what (probably) happened with Xpresso (Realflow, Krakatoa and others are just to far to reach anymore), sculpting (why try to win Zbrush in its own game?) and other features that look weathered and old.

So the things someone has to consider before contacting MAXON for ideas are the following:

  1. Is the idea of commercial value ? (will it attract audiences)
  2. Is it useful ? (do many people need it)
  3. Is it something common that other applications have ?
  4. Will it make C4D more competitive ?
  5. Provide good description of the problem or idea.
  6. Provide pictures (you can “fake” it with other apps or C4D)
  7. Provide some background research (if possible).

I believe that due to industrial espionage MAXON listens mostly artists it works closely with (people we usually see in VFX conferences, live shows etc…) and they are the people that get to evaluate whether a feature should be developed or not and they are the ones that get to beta test them. (except scene nodes, I can only guess why they acted this way).

But I have to agree that they should be more open to public opinion. I mean they could have polls and surveys for people to take part in their website or their newsletters.

…which is probably why sculpting and volume building largely went unused

Really ? That’s a bit depressing… I threw some concepts about those some years ago… I thought the Volume Builder was the next best thing after MoGraph.


Well, don’t you think Insydium have a choice in this? Your insistence that their careers’ work is acquired from them removes their agency. The biggest problem with capitalism is big companies acquiring smaller companies and destroying competition so be very careful what you wish for. If you think Maxon will buy Insidium and hand it X-Particles to you for free you’re living in cloud cuckoo land. Any money McGavran gets from the Nemetshrek board for acquisitions will come with an understanding that they get a return on that money in a reasonable time period.

If Maxon does acquire Insydium what do you think happens to X-Particles, after a couple of updates they’ll be bored with it and you won’t see any development. They get bored with their own features and can’t be trusted to keep pushing forward. How long was it between the Mograph module was introduced and the first real update, Fields, was introduced? 10 years or more! Think about that, an application whose main market is Mograph and the Mograph toolset languished for years. Unbelievable idleness and myopia.

If you want to see how wrong you are go and watch past NAB presentations and see how prominently X-Particles was demoed by countless artists and was the most prominent 3rd party plugin in NAB presentations over many years. X-Particles became a must have plugin from V2.0 onwards. It was hugely popular amongst motion graphics artists and became a default purchase for any serious artist and studio.

Maxon have been rolling in money for many years, Shrek used to post boastful accounts on this very forum a few years ago. The Maxon accounts were in rude health and they could’ve funded developers to make their own replacement to Thinking Particles long ago. 20 years Thinking Particles has seen no development. Of course X-Particles became a near overnight success because people were screaming for modern and higher performing tools.

You would trust Maxon with X-Particles? You’d have to be certifiably mad if you believe a company with such an appalling record of development would keep pushing X-Particles forward like Insydium have to do. Insydium have no choice, they have to keep developing and keep innovating to keep customers buying new updates. Once Maxon acquires X-Particles where does the pressure come to keep it moving forward. Nowhere.

If Maxon announce Insydium has been acquired the only people who should be rejoicing are Insydium management who’ll probably make enough money to retire and the slavish Maxon shill idiots of which there are copious numbers on Twitter, they rejoiced at the Redshift acquisition and proclaimed Redshift would be given away in C4D. For everyone else who has a single functioning braincell it’ll be the nail in the coffin for X-Particles and Cycles4D.

On Cycles4D, there is some extremely good news, Blender’s superstar developer Brecht is back working on Cycles full time so expect Cycles development to go places very quickly. Cycles is already as fast as Redshift on Ampere GPUs, it has a much more powerful shader editor and with Brecht behind the wheel with another full time developer to be hired the future of Cycles looks incredibly good and that means Cycles4D’s future looks good too.

An Insydium acquisition isn’t just bad for X-Particles future but it’ll also removes an excellent competitor to Redshift.

If there’s anyone in the market for a renderer give Cycles4D a serious look before you follow the sheep towards Redshift. Support your independent developers who are keeping the corporate monopolists honest.

Anyway, @phaedarus I mostly agree with the rest of your post on communication.

Vanilla C4D at any price looks a very poor offering, the performance, the age of the toolsets, no modern production quality renderer, it’s become a poor joke. I understand why it’s popular because there’s still a certain cachet but this is being eroded fast.

Remember how the Maxon representatives said they couldn’t discuss future features because of the ‘Enron Law’, now they’ve moved to a subscription model they are freed from those constraints yet there’s zero communication save for the Maxon Blog which is now just a rebranded Press Release funnel. The SideFX developers are far more open, far more communicative with their community. Even Autodesk are not shy from presenting ideas they’re working on.

If you’re correct and Maxon’s main customer base are quite happy with the state of C4D and their need for new features has plateaued then that’s even worse news because that’ll mean Maxon is even more vulnerable to attack by plugins like MO2 and Element3D which could easily develop a Mograph toolset and remove any need for a $1500/yr application. When plugins like Element3D and MO2 get Vulkan/real time Raytracing (and Blender’s Eevee) and USD interchange watch this market change overnight.

Insydium could cut themselves free of C4D with their own standalone application that does real time rendering, Cycles4D and exports USD straight into AE. What a joyous moment that would be…


I’m not referring to filing JIRAs or feature requests. I’m speaking of informing customers on the general direction the company wants to take the software. In this regard, Maxon is utterly failing.

Other software developers talk to their customers about future plans and the roadmap for the next few quarters. Not only does it provide the audience with where the company’s thinking is at, it also gives them an opportunity to see if the direction aligns with their own expectations and preferences. Gauging the public’s reaction on where a company wants to go is more invaluable than a feature request. The Blender Foundation does this. Autodesk does this. SideFX does this. Why not Maxon?

For an example, if Maxon had engaged their customers with a query about whether sculpting would be useful in their current workflows, they would have known that few were interested, especially considering those who sculpt were likely using Zbrush, a competitor from which Maxon cannot catch up to feature-wise within a reasonable amount of time. Imagine if the resources going into sculpting would have been instead allocated to improving multi-core viewport performance.

Rather, Maxon decides they are going to keep all their cards to the vest and hope that whatever they’re working on will resonate with everyone. Sometimes they get it right quality of life improvements such as with fields and the polypen tool. Often, however, they get it dead wrong by neglecting Bodypaint or appealing to those new to 3D modeling with the volume builder. Those who don’t wish to learn to model would rather buy store assets anyway. The result was wasted time and effort.

At the very least, Maxon would have gained insight on the fact that a lot of their customers were looking into the gold rush that was iOS game dev several years ago. Making it easier for file exchange between different game engines and keeping those up to date would have been an immense help and would certainly have given Maxon some momentum. They finally updated their exporter for more popular engines like Unreal but not until several years long after mobile game development had reached its zenith. Maxon is always dead LAST with their exporters. To this day there is still no Unreal livelink like there is for Blender and Max.

Some argue that Maxon has to remain silent on development to ward off espionage. Really? Cinema 4D is not the standard bearer for 3D. Competitors are not falling over themselves to break down Maxon’s gate in order to slay the C4D dragon. That privileged is reserved for the top three; which isn’t C4D. Maxon is not Apple; they can’t afford to continually speculate on what people want.

Communication is a two-way street. A company that does not do its own outreach is destined to fail. This is especially true when a company announces a blog section but never actually updates the damn blog.


NAB is a showcase for tools and techniques that pushes the boundary of the software. It does not represent the real world scenarios most motion graphic artists face which, by comparison, is quite mundane.

Most jobs call for 2D video as the delivery format and that offers a lot of opportunities to cheat various effects without having to resort to 3D. Illusion’s Particle 3D plugin gets you 80% of the way there for standard $500 jobs. I would go so far as to say that many motion graphic designers stick to AE and don’t use Cinema4D at all, let alone X-Particles. So no, X-Particles is not a requirement unless you’re working on a specific niche that is simulation heavy, which is not the average joe’s purview.

As I’ve said before, not integrating Redshift is a mistake. Selling plugins as independent products is a narrow and short-sighted strategy. Redshift had a lot of good press that really could have been used to Maxon’s benefit if it was more than just another side-product. For an example:

Autodesk is notorious for buying out technologies and shelving them, but sometimes they do smart things. One of them was buying the NEX toolkit plugin and integrating it directly into Maya. Among the most biggest complaints about Maya was its lackluster modeling toolset. By integrating the NEX modeling toolkit and Quadraw into Maya, Autodesk shored up one of Maya’s biggest weaknesses. This kept the application relevant for gamedev who needed good retopology tools without having to shell out extra for Retopogun or whatever. Integrating Arnold was another smart play; it replaced the aging mental ray and offers much better acceleration that gave its users a modern renderer to work with. MODO with Mesh Fusion is another success story that Maxon could learn from.

Like X-Particles and Redshift, Arnold and the Modeling toolkit are not the end all be all that will single handily win back lost markets but act as force multipliers and add meaningful value which leads to more subscribers. The inclusion of those two heavy hitters would actually make the monthly subscription enticing for those who previously dismissed C4D to give it a real shot thus, growing the userbase – something Maxon is struggling with right now. It really depends on how Maxon plays their cards but if they do it right, they stand to gain great dividends over the long term.

Let’s be frank about this, there isn’t a whole lot of competition for Cinema4D exclusive particle systems. I don’t see where the pressure for competitive pricing is coming from. If you feel that C4D is already placed in maintenance mode to the extent where X-Particles would share the same fate as BodyPaint 3D, then we have much bigger problems. However, If Insydium wants to create a product independent of C4D to expand its reach, it will be a much smaller fish in a large ocean. Pulling focus from Houdini and Embergen will be, at best, difficult.


I’d like to weigh in on some of the misconceptions surrounding the purposes of C4D or Houdini.

The idea that C4D is a streamlined motion graphics app, whereas Houdini is a high-end VFX-only tool is greatly oversimplifying things. I made the transition from C4D to Houdini around 2 years ago, and was under the same sort of misconception. Today, I can’t see myself ever going back to C4D, and I do precisely zero FX work - my work is primarily motion graphics, a lot of it 2D - all of which I do in Houdini.

C4D is a very capable app in several disciplines in its own right, but falls disappointingly short when your requirements grow to be a bit more specific or complex.

The idea that Houdini is only for the elite programmer type minds is also false. I am not a programmer, nor have I ever been one, although I do understand the basic structure of a script or expression.

I encourage anyone who is struggling to make things happen in C4D, to take a solid look at Houdini. The factory toolset has everything you need, for anything imaginable, no plugins required. The initial couple of months are rough - like really rough, no point trying to sugarcoat it. However, once you get over that hurdle, the app just frees you to do pretty much anything you want.

About that initial hurdle - the available free learning resources, both official and unofficial, especially for beginners, have exploded in the last couple of years; SideFX are pumping out learning content on a regular basis for both novices and experts. The official forums are very active and you’ll usually get an informed response fairly quickly, regularly from a dev. There is also the unofficial, and also very active, odforce.net forum, along with the Discord, where some devs also hang out.

The development pace has been nothing short of astonishing over the last 2-3 releases. I don’t use the word lightly. Each release has been massive since I joined at version 17. Even their .5 releases have been twice the size of any main release I’ve seen for other apps.

The support is also the most responsive I’ve seen. You’ll quickly get a human response to a feature request or bug report, and thanks to their daily builds, bugs are squashed regularly and quickly.

They have a SideFX Labs initiative, which is pumping out useful tools on a regular basis, with their own, independent release schedule. The Labs devs actively engage with creators and users to find out what tools people want. You get these new features for free without having to wait for the next version. I personally posted a feature request on the Discord for one of these tools, the dev responded to me, and it was added in the next version, a few days later.

Houdini Indie, the version I use, costs an absurdly low $269/year (or $200/year if you buy for 2 years). This is a fully-functional version with no limitations.

If you just want to learn, there is no price barrier, with the Apprentice version being entirely free to download, and fully functional, except for certain export limitations.

The pace at which SideFX is pumping out content feels like a jam-packed Christmas every few months, with no extra charge, and then it makes me sad when I head over to C4D-land, which looks like a barren, harsh desert, where you’ll get the odd cup of warm water thrown at you, maybe. For a fee.

I used C4D for over 10 years and loved it, but unless they can justify their price tag (which they can’t currently), I’ll never touch it again.


I’d like to hear some comparisons of Houdini and C4D with other 3D apps like Maya, XSI and 3DMax. (but not Blender, this has been covered)


Well said and +1 @eikonoklastes.

The SideFX support people are also a delight to deal with. I had an issue and sent off a support email, got a reply from a human which answered my query, all good. I got on and then I received another email asking if the info had helped or could they be of further assistance, I felt quite embarrassed that I hadn’t had the courtesy to send a thank you reply but this made me realise these people actually give a shit. What a change!

You get a real sense very quickly that SideFX care about their users and you’re not just a unit of wealth to be exploited each year.