Industry veteran Rob Redman takes a look at the third iteration of the popular X Particles plug-in for CINEMA 4D...
Product: X-Particles 3
CINEMA 4D users are able to take advantage of a large number of plug-ins, but over the last few years X_Particles is the one that stands above the rest as a must-have add-on. Release 3 brings updates, improvements and new features, and we look to see if it's worth the upgrade price.
Company: Insydium Ltd
"It is also a fully fledged fluid simulator which can handle everything
from water, smoke, fire and even sand"
Seeing as CINEMA 4D has a reputation as a motion graphics tool (although it is a very competent, fully featured tool) it's easy to think of X-Particles as simply an extension of that, bringing extra tools to the motion graphics artist's toolset, but in reality it is so much more. As well as being possibly the most versatile standard particle system around, it is also a fully fledged fluid simulator which can handle everything from water, smoke, fire and even sand, using the new constraints tools. What's more important is that X_Particles fits into the C4D workflow and interface seamlessly, not just in look and feel but in interoperability, as it works with existing tools such as dynamics, xpresso, mograph and thinking particles.
A simple one-click solution to setting up the gui is included
Installation and initial use are a joy and there is even a script included that will set up a menu in your chosen interface layout, meaning you are up and running in seconds. You can dive right in and start adding emitters and skinners straight away, but the real joy of using X-Particles and the power behind its versatility and usability is in its Systems with the built in Question & Answer setup, and it really pays off to familiarize yourself with these.
"Emitters in X-Particles are very simple to get to grips with but incredibly powerful"
The X-Particle System object can be thought of as a self contained object manager/hierachy used to control your particle effects, and it is split into sections to make things more logical. Within the system you start by adding emitters and generators to get things going. Emitters in X-Particles are very simple to get to grips with but incredibly powerful. Standard controls cover a wide variety of attributes but no need to stop there. You can use any of C4D's particle effectors, along with mograph ones too, opening up all kinds of possibilities. The attributes also cover display options, which I personally find to be some of the most useful tools for visualizing what I'm doing. Being able to change the style and color of the particles is good in itself, but you can also display them based on parameters, such as age (see in the screen grab), speed, temperature and many more. That is all before you get on to the real star of the show...
A very useful helper is the display options, letting you visualize a variety of parameters
I'm a little bit in love with the Q&A tools in X-Particles. They essentially let you ask the system something and then generate something else based on the answer. To explain I'll show you a very basic example; a firework. You start with an emitter that shoots off a single particle along the +Y axis (obviously you can use any of the modifiers on this too) then head to the emitter's Question tab where you can add any number of questions.
For this example you'd add a Particle Age question and, as seen in the grab, tell it that when the particle is 49 frames old it needs to follow an action. For this action you would set a second emitter to start spawning then set the new particles to look like sparks or an explosion.
The real power behind the versatility of X_Particles is the questions and actions system
The list of questions and actions is pretty exhaustive and covers just about any eventuality and makes for efficient working with complex setups.
It keeps on giving
I've barely scratched the surface of what is on offer here and there just isn't space to talk about texture based emission, dynamics, viscous fluids or any of the other options on offer, but you really won't find any other particle package for CINEMA 4D, or possibly any 3D app, that offers as much in such a friendly package.
Not only is it easy to learn and friendly to use, X-Particles is one of the most versatile packages out there for VFX work. It's hard to find fault, especially at the price, and for many tasks I would recommend it over packages like Houdini for its technical prowess is balanced so well with its implementation and pure fun factor.
Score (out of 5): 4.5
Price: £150 - £440 plus VAT dependant on license type
Educational license: 40% discount
X-Particles 3 requires CINEMA 4D R13, R14, R15 or R16. Any build – Prime, Visualize, Broadcast, or Studio – can be used. Thinking Particles is not required to use X-Particles, unless of course you want to use the X-Particles emitter to emit Thinking Particles (for most purposes this is not required, only if you want to use Pyrocluster or the Hair renderer to render the particles).
32-bit or 64-bit?
X-Particles 3 will only run on the 64-bit version of CINEMA 4D.
- C4D R13: Windows XP or later, or on the Mac OSX 10.5 or later.
- C4D R14/R15: Windows XP or later, or on the Mac OSX 10.6.8 or later.
- C4D R16: Windows 7 or later, or on the Mac OSX 10.7.5 or later.
- Please note: PPC machines are not supported in R14 or later versions.
Showing the trails generator off nicely
Download X Particles from the official site
Check out the X Particles Tutorials on Vimeo
Download a CINEMA 4D eBook from our shop