Review: RealFlow | Cinema 4D 2.0

The release of RealFlow | Cinema 4D last year marked the first time Next Limit’s fluid simulation engine had been available directly within a host app. However, with a high price tag, limited functionality and rather buggy v1.0 release, it’s fair to say it wasn’t the easiest of starts. 

With RealFlow | Cinema 4D version 2.0, though, Next Limit has really raised its game. The plug-in is still limited to medium and small-scale simulations – no Hybrido or RealWave – although in fairness, it isn’t designed for that purpose; that’s what the standalone app is for. 

But you do now get the bulk of Real Flow’s toolset right inside Cinema 4D. The Caronte physics engine is also absent, but then C4D has its own implementation of Bullet.

New technologies

RealFlow | Cinema 4D is structured like X-Particles, with a series of nodes in the Object Manager, and initial set up is pretty straightforward. Add a Scene, add an Emitter, press Play. The particles react with any C4D mesh, once you’ve added the appropriate RF tag, and then you can cache the simulation, mesh the particles and render. 

This release sticks more or less to the same principle, but adds a raft of new technologies under the hood. You now get a much wider range of simulation types, from granular materials to viscous fluids, while also adding the ability to use the particle system to deform geometry, creating elasticated and soft body effects. 

And, importantly, it now lets you combine different fluid types within the same simulation, enabling you to mix oil and water or wash a pile of sand away.

Creating granular simulations takes time and patience. It takes a while to figure out what the different values do and you can still get unexpected (or unrealistic) results

More than one way to skin a Mesh

The inclusion of the Particle Skinner daemon is a pleasant surprise. You fill a mesh body with particles, and the Skinner distorts the mesh according to the simulation. It’s absolutely ideal for soft body-style effects, but with the control that different fluids systems provide, add a granular system and the results can be wonderfully unique.

The biggest issue with RealFlow | Cinema 4D is really learning the multitude of controls and variables, and knowing which to use to make sure your simulation looks the way you want it to. Certainly, at first, you can find yourself endlessly tweaking values, trying to balance speed, resolution, time steps, cell size, w mesh density etc, to get the fluids acting correctly and your meshes looking good.

It can be frustrating at times, and takes a lot of trial and error to get the result you’re after. But once you get your head round the options and learn the correct workflow, the plug-in is capable of producing excellent results, relatively quickly, depending on your system. 

There are a lot of learning materials available from Next Limit’s website to get you up to speed, but we wish there were some demo scenes to show off the features and take apart.

This sequence shows how you can use the particle system in collision with a surface to deform an otherwise solid object

In use we only came across a few hurdles, one of which is the Mesher’s occasional habit of not Auto-Building meshes on playback, when you’re just previewing your sim or don’t want to spend time caching it. 

Also, sometimes meshes don’t render to the Picture Viewer, despite having cached the particles. You’re often forced to do a preview render straight to screen to see the mesh – or cache the whole simulation.

RealFlow | Cinema 4D features

  • New viscous, viscoelastic and granular materials
  • Elastic and rigid body simulations
  • Multiple fluid interactions Force daemons use native C4D falloffs
  • Object deformation with Particle Skinner

The granular simulations are great, but limited by C4D’s ability to handle tens (or preferably hundreds) of thousands of objects. So while you can create some amazing simulations, it takes time and patience to get anything meaningful out the other end. Hopefully, future versions will solve some of these issues.

In terms of functionality, this new version of RealFlow | Cinema 4D is leagues ahead of the original, and the only barrier to entry is pricing. It’s steep for new buyers, and owners of version 1.0 don’t get much of a discount either (it’s €420 plus taxes at the time of writing). 

But at half the price of the full RealFlow, while not exactly a bargain, it’s still a very useful addition to Cinema 4D’s growing armoury.

This article originally appeared in 3D World magazine issue 266. Buy it here.

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