Arnold has become one of the renderer's of choice for the big boys of CGI, such as ILM. The elevator pitch is that It is a Physically Based Render engine which can handle a huge amount of geometry with a artist friendly interface.
While initially only available for studios, Solid Angle have gradually drip fed plugins onto the open market for everyone to use. Admirably the reason for this slow release is to allow Solid Angle to make sure that the stability and support is there for each platform, they would rather it was right than it was rushed.
Recently Arnold for Cinema 4D was released, and we have been kicking the tyres of this new render solution to see what all the fuss is about.
One of the most exciting things about Arnold if you are a Cinema 4D users is the fact that Arnold comes with an Interactive Preview render window, which allows you to preview as you work, Arnold uses the CPU rather than the GPU for the interactive preview, but it is still admirably quick.
For anyone not used to working like this, for example VRay4C4D users, this is a game changer, and Arnold's is one of the better ones which we have used. While not as quick for example as Octane, it feels more 'solid' than its GPU competitor.
This solidity is also reinforced through a well thought out C4D implementation which uses a minimal set of tags and objects to enable Arnold. The Arnold Properties tag appears to change it's use according to the object it is applied to. Less is definitely more.
The documentation is also good, with an excellent conversion tutorial using Cinema 4D's Retrospace example scene.
This goes through most of the various shader and environment setups along with a quick look at volumetric lighting with the creation of smoke trails, which are the easiest and quickest I have used in my career.
In terms of rendering setup, there are a lot less options than for example VRay4C4D. but to be honest isn't that potentially a good thing? As thanks to the Interactive Preview you are already aware of what your scene will look like.
Rendering speed was fairly quick, and the quality was excellent, to get less noisy renders, dial up the sample rate = simple.
To enable Depth of Field just use the normal Cinema 4D depth camera depth controls, and while there was a bit of a hit to render times, and the result was slightly noisy, the time hit was much less than other render systems.
Setting up a render pass system was a breeze, and brilliantly, the C4D implementation means that the passes are objects in the C4D object list, this means that sharing render setups between artists is much simpler than in other render systems that I have used, also passes can be previewed in the Interactive preview, meaning that the worry about passes being correct or redundant is removed.
We will be spending more time with Arnold for C4D, and looking at its animation chops and hopefully how Arnold performs over a network, with Render Farms like Rebus already saying that they support the plugin, Arnold is a very serious entry into the C4D space with a rock solid track record.
Arnold should definitely be looked at by those getting frustrated with the complication and lack of preview options with Vray4C4d or those who can't utilise GPU rendering solutions at the moment either through hardware configurations or if it is a CUDA enabled solution platform, which is an issue which affects most new Mac users.
There is a free watermarked evaluation trial available from Solid Angle, and we recommend that you check it out and to discover Arnold for yourself!