This is a common topic that we get asked about, and I noticed we don't really have our own answer on it. So here's my take on it… First up, as Cinema 4D is 3D graphics software, it does have some minimum system requirements. As of the date of this blog post, to run Cinema 4D, you need:
- CPU: Intel or AMD 64-Bit CPU with SSE support
- Graphics Card: OpenGL graphics card supporting OpenGL 4.1
- RAM: 4GB minimum
- OS: Windows 7, 8 or 10 64-bit, or Mac OS 10.9.5 or higher
Most modern computers easily cater for the above specs. However, most 3D artists want to know what hardware does what, and what we'd recommend. The trouble with recommending systems is it depends on your usage of the software and how long you're happy to wait for results. Let's take a look at each component and explain what it does and how it works with Cinema 4D.
A CPU is used by Cinema 4D for most tasks. Whether you're modelling, animating or rendering, your CPU is being used. However, the extent of use varies, depending on the task being performed.
CPU's come in different configurations with different frequencies (speed) and number of cores (number of tasks that can be performed simultaneously). Also, some computers can hold and utilize multiple CPU's. Whilst Cinema 4D can take advantage of multiple CPU's and cores, this is mostly only at render time, if using Cinema 4D's CPU render engine.
Most of Cinema 4D's Object Manager tasks are single-threaded, which includes the likes of generators, deformers, expressions and animation. That means that the bulk of the 3D creation process relies on a single core on a single CPU. Some operations are multi-threaded, but that's a small proportion of the overall tasks being processed when creating 3D scenes.
If you want to speed up general creation processing, then a faster frequency CPU is what you need. But before you run off and focus on single core CPU speed, read on, because we've not got to rendering yet...
Multiple CPU's and cores come into play if you're rendering using a CPU render engine such as Cinema 4D's standard or physical ones. Cinema 4D's current renderer is very efficient at using additional CPU's or cores. Two will be almost twice as fast as one, and Cinema 4D can support more CPU's than you can get on most computers. One key thing to bear in mind is that MAXON is working on implementing AMD's ProRender as a render option in the future, which offers rendering via video card GPU or CPU.
Now, the problem with recommending a CPU is it depends on how intensive your scenes are. The more complex your scenes are, the more you'd benefit from a faster processor. If you're working on high polygon count scenes with loads of animation, you'll be pushing the CPU more than someone working on a still scene with simple shapes. You also need to consider if you're intending to use this computer to render as well, in which case multiple cores and CPU's will massively speed up rendering. More speed and more cores will render your scenes faster.
If you're debating replacing an existing computer and you already have Cinema 4D, try opening and looking at a CPU monitoring application whilst using the software and see how much the CPU is being pushed. If you see it going to 100% during modelling and creating a 3D scene, then a faster CPU will benefit you. Remember, at render time Cinema 4D will take all the CPU time it can get, so that will always push the CPU to its limits. So a faster CPU or more cores will simply speed up rendering.
Most of Cinema 4D's creation process uses a single CPU and single core. If you test your CPU and see it's nearing 100% during editor playback, then a faster CPU will speed things up for you. If not, a faster CPU won't help here.
If you're looking to speed up rendering and you're using CPU rendering, then faster frequency and more CPU's and/or cores will help.
Standard User Modelling & Rendering: 3GHz 6-core Intel or AMD processor
Power User Modelling & Rendering: 2 CPU machine with as high a frequency and cores as you can afford.
Graphics Card (GPU)
A graphics card is used to display Cinema 4D's OpenGL editor view. It's also used for rendering if you're using a third-party GPU renderer. As mentioned in the CPU section above, Cinema 4D's current in-built render options are CPU only, but a GPU solution using AMD's ProRender is in development. Customers wishing to use GPU for rendering are currently using third-party render engines that support Cinema 4D.
Even relatively humble graphics cards can preview quite detailed Cinema 4D scenes. A more powerful card helps to display a scene in greater detail, such as with more accurate reflections, textures and so on, giving you a preview that is closer to the final render quality. Animation preview puts particular demand on graphics cards. If you want higher frame rates, then a fast graphics card may help, but only if the CPU isn't being pushed to 100%.
If you experience slowdown when previewing a Cinema 4D scene, it's important to note that it may or may not be the video card that is the bottleneck. Remember that the Object Manager uses the CPU, so scenes with loads of objects, deformers, expressions, etc. may just be getting slowed down by CPU calculations. In this case, upgrading the video card won't help. Unfortunately, there's no simple test to determine exactly what it is that is slowing things down. That said, try loading a CPU activity monitor application and see if the CPU is going to 100% when working on your scene. If not, then a graphics card may help to improve preview display.
Video cards come with all kinds of special functions and tools. Cinema 4D's usage of these functions is relatively basic. GPU frequency (speed) is the most important aspect for Cinema 4D.
Although some computers support dual graphics cards, Cinema 4D currently only makes use of one of them. There are some third-party GPU renderers which can take advantage of multiple cards, though.
Recommending a card again is difficult because it depends on complexity of the scenes you're making. Animators will generally want a more powerful card than people who are creating still images.
Memory is required by Cinema 4D to store the model and texture information from a scene. If you don't have enough memory to load a scene, Cinema 4D resorts to using your hard drive, which is much slower than using RAM.
RAM requirements vary depending on how complicated your work is. The more polygons, textures, sub-poly displacement, etc. you have, the more memory is required.
One thing to bear in mind with memory is that if you're using instances or tools like subdivision surfaces, remember that these have to be converted to polygons at render time, which can cause a huge difference in the amount of memory required.
To test your current memory usage, load one of your typical Cinema 4D scenes. In the Object Manager, click on the Objects menu and choose Project Information.
The Information box that appears tells you how much memory the current project requires. This doesn't tell you all memory requirements, such as that needed for texture memory, OpenGL, etc., but it gives you some idea. In particular, have a look at the information given for Polygons. You'll see either one or two values here. If you see one value, that is how many polygons your scene uses during editing or at render time. If you see two values, the first value is how many polys are needed for the editor, and the second value, which will be in brackets, is how many polys are needed when you render. So you'll only see two values if the renderer needs to create more polys than the editor, such as if your scene uses subvision surfaces. If, for example, the number in brackets is ten times higher than the first number, the polygons are going to use up ten times more memory when you render compared with editor display.
Also keep in mind that RAM is required by other applications and the operating system. To see the usage of the whole computer, take a look at the Activity Monitor on Apple machines (found in Applications > Utilities), or a hardware monitor on Windows.
Light User: 8GB
Average User: 16GB to 32GB
Power User: 64GB or more
Whilst Cinema 4D can be installed on standard hard drives, a solid state drive allows for faster loading of the software and access of scenes and materials. Also, if you're using textures like jpegs or QuickTime movies, having these on a fast disc can also speed up the access of these.
Storage level purely depends on what files you want to store. If you're outputting uncompressed images or animation files, storage can fill up very fast. You may want to store completed files on a cheaper external drive. This doesn't need to be SSD, but it may take longer to transfer files around if not.
Recommended hard drive
Solid state drive.
Comparing hardware with Cinebench
Of course, money plays a big part in what hardware you'll settle on. Differences between high-end processors can be relatively small compared to the increase in price. A good way to compare hardware and find the best solution for you is to run MAXON's free benchmarking tool Cinebench on your existing and intended machines, or look for scores on other systems. Cinebench runs OpenGL and CPU tests and gives you scores at the end, which you can compare with other hardware to figure out which machine is fastest if you're pushing Cinema 4D hard.
Using Cinebench is really easy. Simply request your free copy below. Run it, and run the tests. Then have it run on other machines that you're considering. Compare the scores and see which machine is the most appealing for your work considering the price and the performance.
Try Cinema 4D for yourself
If you'd like to try out Cinema 4D and have a go with all the powerful features on offer, then be sure to grab yourself a FREE Cinema 4D trial. The trial gives you access to virtually all of Cinema 4D's features and you can also opt to activate it for 42 days of save functionality. Simply fill out the form on the link below to get started!