Maxon Advanced Render 2.5 review

£271
Price when reviewed

Cinema 4D offers impressive rendering as it is, 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 realism. Further boosts 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. Sub-Polygonal Displacement effectively blurs the distinction between texturing and modelling.

That’s a lot to take onboard, but still just the beginning. Colour Mapping 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. Then there’s 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, holes and areas of near-intersection are naturally darkened. The result is an instant boost to modelling definition and perceived realism.

The most powerful new capability is the ability to add realistic skies to your projects. This is done by selecting one of the presets from the Content Browser. 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, the type of shadow, the date and time, and the scene location. To animate your sky, simply change time settings and create keyframes.

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 Cloud tool lets you 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.

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