Cinema 4D Renderers

Over 50% of questions we receive from young designers on Instagram is “Which renderer do you use?”. We also get asked about which renderer we recommend and which is the most likely to get them a job.

A great post on this topic is Greyscalegorilla’s Chad Ashley’s article. Despite many people having seen that article we still get asked our recommendations.

We aren’t going to go into huge detail but instead we are going to give our opinion on when each one comes into it’s own. We will cover the most popular 3 renderers available at the time of writing. Physical, Octane & Arnold.

Physical — CPU

In recent time Physical has been given a hard time. It is still an incredibly capable renderer and is still our mainstay for most projects.

It’s positives are:

  • Free
  • Team Render or Cloud Rendering
  • Compatibility

It’s negatives are:

  • No true Real Time Window — Harder to develop look
  • Not especially quick

Octane — GPU

SPEED! Yes, it is incredibly fast… but, only if you have the GPU hardware to match.

This can be expensive when you take into account all the costs, not just the renderer itself.

Don’t get me wrong, Octane is ridiculously powerful but I have noticed a lot of young designers getting carried away modifying their machine rather than learning the software and focussing on the design.

It’s positives are:

  • Speed — lots of it!
  • Real Time Window
  • Render Subsurface and DoF in Cinema 4D

It’s negatives are:

  • Poor MultiPass system
  • Scene size limitations

Arnold — CPU

This is a seriously good renderer and simple to use & learn but also pretty expensive. This is the ideal studio renderer or for designers who need the flexibility in post. It’s ability to load elements in at render time, to export various passes for use in post & to work well on both Mac & PC make it really suit a multi user environment.

It’s positives are:

  • Speed — but not as quick as Octane
  • Real Time Window
  • Great for passes
  • Common sense settings

It’s negatives are:

  • Expensive
  • Slow renders for complex lighting setups


My advice to anyone starting out in Cinema 4D when it comes to choosing a renderer would be to learn Physical and the fundamentals first. I know it’s not as sexy as Octane or as robust as Arnold but it will save you money and you can still achieve the same results just maybe not quite as quickly.

If you have plenty of cash and you can afford some decent hardware then Octane is great for daily render projects on Instagram, look dev work, etc. It can work for for animations as David Brodeur will atone to but it isn’t always great for the required flexibility of client work.

If you run a studio then definitely think about Arnold. Make sure you can afford it and that you are comfortable setting up an RLM server but if you are it can add a lot of functionality to your pipeline.

My parting words would be to echo Casey Neistat’s theory on equipment for his world of filmmaking:

They are just tools, it’s the story that matters.