what is Dark Tree?
Those with long memories (back to C4D R8.5 or earlier) may remember a shader system called 'DarkTree'. This was (and still is) a system to develop complex procedural shaders using a variety of mathematical components linked together in a shader tree. These shaders are independent of the host application but for several of the major 3D apps, a plugin (called a Simbiont) was available to let you use the shaders in the app of your choice, and the simbiont interface allowed you to adjust a number of parameters for each shader tree. The simbiont didn't allow you to develop your own dark trees, but there were a very large number of prewritten ones which can still be downloaded for free from the DarkSim site. And of course you can still buy the app which lets you create your own trees.
These were excellent shaders but sadly the simbiont for C4D was never updated for R9 or later, so they haven't been usable in C4D since then, although their use has continued in 3DS Max and I believe they are now made available as part of Vray for Max. I know they were, and maybe still are, used in the VFX and game industries as well.
I used these shaders a lot back in R8.5, but not since then. Recently I decided to try to recreate the simbiont for newer versions of Cinema, and I've made some progress with this. The simbiont actually came in two forms, a channel shader plugin (which produces some interesting results) and a volume shader which produced really outstanding effects. With much help (for which I am very grateful) from the original developer, I have now recreated the channel shader for C4D and you can see the sort of things it can do from the image below, which uses a sample of the preset dark trees from the DarkSim site rendered in C4D R11:
Unfortunately the plugin only runs in Windows as it depends on component libraries which are only available for Windows machines.
February 2011: service update - coming soon
This update will fix two important bugs reported in the initial release:
- the simbiont will only render black when the volume shader is used and the object is illuminated with an area light
- if a dark tree file was loaded which had a very large number of tweaks (over 30), the plugin will crash C4D
In addition, I have recompiled Marvin Landis' cellular texture components for 32- and 64-bit Windows. This extends the range of components used to build dark trees, and some trees are available at Marvin's site, including the very nice asteroid dark tree shown here:
update January 10th - the 'red X' problem
Some users reported that trying to load a dark tree file results in a 'red X' in the shader preview, or on rendering. This indicates that the Dark Tree engine has not been able to load the component DLLs which are used to render the shader. Many users are using the shaders without problems, so please go ahead and try the plugin if you want to - this may not be an issue for you.
Further investigation shows that this is probably due to having a very large number of plugins loaded simultaneously (100+ plugins). If you run into this problem, try removing some of your other plugins and see if that corrects the problem. You could use my standalone plugin manager 'Plugin Boss' to help manage your plugins.
further rendered samples
You can see more samples on the reference pages, where I have rendered out small examples of all the dark trees in the archive at Darksim.
screenshots from the shader interface:
Screenshots from the shader interface can be seen here. Click the thumbnail for a larger image.
This plugin is, and will remain, free for personal and commercial use. Having said that, it was a complex piece of coding which took several weeks of my spare time to produce. If you use the simbiont, and would like to support its future development, please consider making a donation, which you can do using Paypal - see the donate button below. All donations will be gratefully received and will encourage me to go on developing the simbiont and other free plugins for Cinema 4D!
download the plugin
There are several different versions, all with the same functionality, depending on your release of Cinema 4D. Please make sure you download the correct one! All downloads contain the DarkTree component files, the plugin itself, some examples, and a 20-page manual. Each download is a .zip file of about 5.25Mb in size.
Please note that this plugin is only available for Windows machines at the present time.