What Is Cinema 4D Lite?

Motion Design March 14, 2019 4 min read

If you are a serious 3D modeler, animator, or compositor, you’ve likely heard of Cinema 4D. You may not use it, but you’ve probably heard of it. On the other hand, if 3D isn’t your bag, and you are more of an After Effects user, you may not be familiar with Maxon’s very popular 3D software.

Today we are going to discuss Cinema 4D Lite and how it works with After Effects, but first let’s talk a little about Cinema 4D.

German software developers Maxon put out Cinema 4D originally back in 1993. Over the years, they refined the product and turned it into an industry-leading software platform for 3D design and animation, especially when it came to designers working with After Effects. Maxon has worked hard to make Cinema 4D the most compatible software for bouncing between 3D and After Effects. This is where Cinema 4D Lite comes in, but more on that later.

After Effects, by design, is not a 3D program, so artists working with both 2D and 3D assets have to find ways to work between various software platforms. Maxon, recognizing these issues, continued over the years to shape their products to work better with After Effects users’ needs.

Now Maxon has several versions of Cinema 4D available based on needs and budgets. On the lower end is Cinema 4D Prime at $995, going all the way up to Cinema 4D Studio at $3,695. With each product offering some set of features up to the Studio version that includes all features of the package.

Cinema 4D Studio is a full 3D animation package that includes creation tools for modeling objects, scenes, and characters. It includes full texturing and lighting controls. There are 3D tracking options in Cinema 4D, and just about everything else, you could ask for in a 3D software package.

So, how does this help you if you are an After Effects user? Good question.

This is where Cinema 4D Lite comes in.

Cinema 4D Lite is a streamlined version of Cinema 4D that comes bundled with After Effects. And it doesn’t require you to own another copy of Cinema 4D to make use of it. It’s a great way for someone new to 3D to get a handle on how the software works.

When comparing the features of Cinema 4D Lite versus the other versions of C4D, you’ll find that there really is a lot to work with within C4D Lite. Here’s a handy comparison chart created by Maxon.

Cinema 4D Feature Comparison

Most of the interface features are exactly the same between versions. The main camera tools work the same in the various versions as well.

Cinema 4D Lite lets you model objects or text, add textures, and then import them directly into your After Effects comps for adjustments. In fact, you can now launch Cinema 4D Lite right inside of After Effects to create new elements for a scene or to adjust a C4D file that has already been incorporated into a comp.

By simply clicking “New” in After Effects and then “MAXON CINEMA 4D file”, you’ll open up the bundled Cinema 4D Lite or your current registered version of the software to begin working. Once that file is saved, it will show up in your project for use.

If you already have a C4D file in your comp and you want to make adjustments, simply hit “Edit” and “Edit Original” from the upper navigation with your C4D layer selected to open up the project and make changes. As soon as you hit save, your file will be updated in After Effects.

After Effects also includes Cineware, which is Maxon’s interface for allowing Cinema 4D files to talk to After Effects files. This saves users loads of time over the old ways of doing things that required fully rendering out every pass and importing, then re-rendering everything if you needed even a simple change sometimes.

Cinema 4D Lite is not a complete, end to end, 3D modeling and animation package. If you are serious about creating highly detailed models, the camera moves, and animations, you’ll want to invest in one of the paid versions of Maxon’s software or another competing 3D platform. But Cinema 4D Lite is a great introduction to the world of true 3D, and it’s perfect for creating simple 3D motion graphics like animated 3D text. It’s also fantastic for working with After Effects because of the integration tools built into the platform.