School of Motion’s Cinema 4d Basecamp Review


I recently had the pleasure of taking School of Motion’s Cinema 4d Basecamp in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and may not be the “correct” opinion.

Some background information about me: I first learned Cinema 4d during junior year of high school for an animation course I took. I then took Autodesk Maya classes in college but then re-learned Cinema 4d during my senior year of college and have been using it ever since. All in all, I’ve been using Cinema 4d on and off for seven years, though I am no way an expert in Cinema 4d. I’d classify myself as having mid-to-upper intermediate knowledge of the program. I was interested in Cinema 4d Basecamp as I’m mostly self taught in Cinema 4d and wanted to brush up on the foundations.

This is also my second School of Motion course. I previously took Explainer Camp with Jake Bartlett.

Tl;dr- I think Cinema 4d Basecamp is an excellent resource for beginners and low-intermediate users. I wouldn’t recommend those who are experts or high intermediate users of Cinema 4d to take the course unless you really want to brush up on your foundational knowledge of it.

I’ve been following EJ Hassenfratz’s Youtube tutorials for years and overall, I do enjoy his teaching style. He has a very engaging attitude towards viewers and the material he teaches are fun and can be used in practical applications.

EJ is able to take difficult topics and simplify them so that beginners can easily understand them. The assignments in Cinema 4d Basecamp are fun and engaging- I liked rube goldberg machine assignment we did for the animation lessons and building the ramen shop to learn how to model. Since EJ uses Cinema 4d professionally, he shows us potential problems that we may encounter and shows us the solutions to those problems. I do think EJ is a good teacher and was the right fit to teach this course.

Even though I’ve been using Cinema 4d for years, I did learn lots of new stuff! I found the animation lessons the most helpful as there was a lot in the graphs editors that I didn’t previously know about. In each lesson, even though I already had a pretty good knowledge of what was being covered, I’d learn at least one new thing that I didn’t already know.

In a nutshell, Cinema 4d Basecamp covers modeling (modeling with primitives, box modeling and modeling with splines), lighting, texturing (doesn’t go into much detail about UV mapping), animation (keyframes, covers some animation principles and covers the graph editor) , Cinema 4d mograph tools (such as the cloner tool, effectors, fields, etc), cameras and compositing. It definitely emphasizes a more low poly style and if you’re learning to model more complex objects, I’d definitely look into other courses or Youtube videos. 

Now that pleasantries are out of the way, let’s get to my criticisms of the course *rubs hands together evilly*

Criticisms:

I felt like EJ spent too much unnecessary time covering certain aspects of the tools while barely spending any time on others. For example, EJ spent a lot of time explaining how to model a cup when it could’ve been made in a much simpler way (instead of box modeling it, you could’ve just put in a cylinder and a taurus for example). He could’ve explained how to model a more difficult object in the same amount of detail (for example: a computer mouse).

On the flip side, in one of the first lessons EJ tells the viewers to render a scene and to turn on ambient occlusion without explaining why. He eventually explains the purpose of ambient occlusion a few weeks into the course but I didn’t like that he immediately made you use it without explaining it there and then. If you’re going to introduce a concept, explain there and why the purpose of it is.

Another criticism is that I disagreed with some of his modeling methods. Again, this could be personal preference but I think EJ could’ve emphasized a lot more the importance of proper topology when modeling. Proper topology is essential for rigging and texturing as well. He could’ve explained the difference between quads and triangles in modeling. I didn’t like how he seemed to over-rely on booles when modeling as those made for terrible topology. My animation professor in college recommended that we stay away from booles as much as possible. I understand there’s a time and place for booles but I do think it could’ve been explained why they aren’t always the best option.

Some of the lessons seemed a little repetitive and redundant. I didn’t like how the cloners lessons of building a city was very similar to the first assignment of modeling a house. Cloners and mograph tools are such an essential part of Cinema 4d that it could’ve been more comprehensive and given more weight. I understand that you only have a limited amount of time to cover Cinema 4d which is a huge and complex program but Cinema 4d’s mograph tools are its main selling point over its competitors. I also think EJ could’ve explained the purpose of effectors in greater detail as he sort of just applies an effector to one of the cloner tools and didn’t properly explain why effectors are used and are so powerful. 

A jarring moment in the course is when Joey randomly takes over and teaches us about Cinema 4d’s lack of a speed graph and again when he teaches us how to use Premiere Pro. I didn’t understand why Joey was teaching the bonus lessons and not EJ. I would’ve liked some consistency in the teachers or at least a clear explanation as to why EJ wasn’t in the video. I felt like the Premiere Pro bonus video was unnecessary and it cluttered up an already very packed course. In my opinion, the course should only cover Cinema 4d and a tiny bit of After Effects for compositing but it shouldn’t introduce so many secondary programs. 

I was also a little confused as to why some content were considered bonus videos when others weren’t. The Cinema 4d Fields video was a bonus video but it was later then part of a homework assignment. If it was a bonus video, why was it mandatory to use it as a part of the homework? That didn’t make sense to me.

This is super petty but I disagreed with some of the TA’s critiques on certain assignments. I wasn’t super active on the FB group so take my words with a grain of salt but I saw lots of unanswered questions users had about assignments that weren’t answered by a TA. (It’s totally possible that they were answered eventually but I saw a few several day old posts with no responses). And there were some students who were more active in answering other students’ questions than some of the TAs were. Granted, there’s a ton of content in the FB groups and it’s a lot to keep up with but I do feel like the TAs could’ve been more proactive.

Ultimately, I feel like Cinema 4d Basecamp is almost too cluttered and they tackle too many topics. I realize that this course is structured like a bootcamp so you tackle many, many topics so you learn a lot but a drawback is that none of the topics are covered super in-depth and it may not leave a lasting knowledge in people’s heads. It would be great if there’s a little more emphasis on teaching the theoretical principles behind some ideas, such as why proper topology is important, rather than worrying about covering every single aspect of the program. That being said, you will learn a lot taking this course especially if you’ve never touched Cinema 4d before. Plus you have access to the videos for life so if in the future, you forget how to a certain thing in Cinema 4d, you can always go back and rewatch the videos.  

The following criticisms are more about how School of Motion as a whole is structured rather than specifically towards Cinema 4d Basecamp.

I would change the format of the courses so that the homework video is the very first video you watch for the week’s lessons. Often the lessons build up to the homework and I would find myself having to go back to a specific part of the lessons and then going back to the homework video which made things confusing. It would be great to immediately get an idea of what your homework is and what to specifically look out for in the lessons for your homework assignment. I would also have the homework assignment written very clearly in the video’s description. I don’t want to watch the homework video over and over to make sure that I covered everything when doing the assignment. A checkbox next to each of the homework’s targets would be nice for reference. Sometimes I wouldn’t finish the homework as the homework assignment’s video was long and it would be tiring to keep going back to it to see what specifically you were meant to do.

I am deaf so I watch everything with closed captions. I love that School of Motion has captions and transcripts which is awesome! However, I do wish that you had the ability to move the captioning around like how Youtube allows you to move the captions as sometimes part of the lesson would be taking place at the bottom of the screen and the captions would obstruct it. They also obstruct the overlay of the keyboard shortcuts. Accessibility is important and being able to see all the text on the screen is vital!

I also don’t like the long wait between registration and when the course begins. I know I’m not alone when I’ll register for a course when it’s a slow period work-wise and then by the time it starts several weeks later, I’m completely swamped with work.

Overall, it was a good experience taking the Cinema 4d Basecamp and I would definitely recommend it to beginners. The price is steep so if possible, get your work to pay for it. (Or if you’re a freelancer like me then you’re out of luck lol). It definitely is comprehensive and you do learn a lot.