Why I prefer Cinema 4D over Maya

April 3, 2010
If you plan to develop something in 3D, maybe you’ve wondered what software package would be the best for you, (unless you plan to develop your own and reinvent the wheel). Some of you may already know that I have a preference for Cinema 4D, but I would like to discuss why. That doesn’t mean I necessarily mandate Cinema 4D to be “better” than Maya, it really depends on your needs or preference.

Which is more efficient at rendering?

In the 2008 fall semester at Collin College, I decided to try an experiment. I rendered a turntable of my final character project and a flythrough of my environment project. (See the projects in my 3D Modeling and Rendering II gallery.)

I used both Maya 2008 (Mental Ray) and Cinema 4D 10 with a near identical scene setup for the turntable. I tried a few different settings for the turntable in each software package, but the results were virtually similar.

For the flythrough in Cinema 4D, I included my character lying on the bed since I hadn’t imported it into Maya. Notice that I also used a slower computer for the flythrough render in Cinema 4D. This wasn’t intentional, I simply didn’t have the opportunity to use the school’s faster computer.

Each computer had 3GB of memory. The render resolution was 720x486.

Animation Animation Length Computer Speed Software Render Time
Turntable 8 seconds 8 cores @ 2.0GHz Maya 1 hour
Turntable 8 seconds 8 cores @ 2.0GHz Cinema 4D 7 minutes
Flythrough 16 seconds 8 cores @ 2.0GHz Maya 1.5 hours
Flythrough 16 seconds 2 cores @ 2.4GHz Cinema 4D 20 minutes

Please note that I didn’t use anything special like global illumination in these renders. Also, Cinema 4D has actually doubled its own render time in version 11.5, whether using things like global illumination or not. Unfortunately I still only have version 10 as of this writing.

I was first introduced to Maya in spring 2006 at Collin College. Render time was one of the first things I wondered about. Why did it take so long to render something on a computer that’s faster than mine? I thought it may have been the network or background tasks, but running Cinema 4D from my USB drive still outperformed Maya. If you think something was completely amiss concerning this test, please tell me what was wrong and/or suggest some settings I should use.

What about workflow?

Workflow is really a matter of preference. I’ve heard people say Cinema 4D is good for learning, but I have to ask, why stop there? I think I can understand why it would be easier to lean Cinema 4D. It has an intuitive and well organized interface which is also highly customizable.

Maya’s interface seems slightly more cryptic but basic tasks are still easily understood. Unless you understand what the terms mean, you could get lost. If you’re used to it, there’s no problem.

In another note, I think Blender 3D would dominate if it had a customizable interface so people that like to be flexible with other software could actually use it along with the others. I know there’s a few people that tout Blender’s interface, but it’s worthy to note that not everyone works the same way. What’s efficient to one person may not be efficient to another who has equally tried several methods.

What about the bugs?

On a few occasions I have had Cinema 4D crash on me. It gives me a notification and usually saves a copy of my open file in an error report folder. As a result, I usually don’t loose any work. There are occasions where the saved error file is understandably corrupt, but I have never had any problems with other saved files being corrupt.

Unfortunately, I have heard much worse things about Maya from classmates and instructors at Collin College and in UTD’s ATEC department. Instructors always seem to warn about Maya crashing and corrupting files. I also hear of complaints about bugs with new releases of Maya and instructors suggest using a version below the latest.

The only other problem I’ve seen with Cinema 4D is crashing while using OpenGL on a computer it wasn’t installed on (i.e. running from my USB drive). Once I disable it however, there isn’t a problem.

What about scripting?

Scripting is probably what makes Maya attractive, especially because it uses Python. Scripting is essential when it comes to game development. Cinema 4D has scripting using COFFEE and Xpresso which aren’t really common at all. However, like Maya and many others, it also comes with an SDK that uses C/C++.

Is Autodesk the standard?

Metaphorically scratching my head, I couldn’t help but wonder why Maya is considered an industry standard. Asking a fellow student in my small business class, who does architectural work with AutoCAD, said because it’s Autodesk. He likewise voiced his grievances and frustration with buggy Autodesk software.

I suppose I could liken Autodesk to Microsoft, but I have to give Microsoft credit. Microsoft realizes it has real competition in the corporate world whereas Autodesk doesn’t truly seem to notice. People use their products because companies use their products. However, even Adobe keeps a pretty high standard for their software quality.