DarkTree shader for Cinema 4D

What is DarkTree?

Those with very 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 decided to recreate the simbiont for newer versions of Cinema. 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 recreated the shaders for C4D up to version R19 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 Cinema 4D (click the image to see the full-size version):

  • Channel shader
  • Volume shader


The DarkTree Simbiont is compatible with the following versions of Cinema 4D:

Cinema 4D version Compatible?
R14-R19 Yes (Windows only)
R20, R21 Yes, but requires the INSYDIUM Bridge plugin (Windows only)
S22 No
R23, S24 No

Known issues

Unfortunately the plugin only runs in Windows as it depends on component libraries which are only available for Windows machines.

Some users have 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.


Download DarkTree Simbiont for R14-R19 and R20-R21 (if using the INSYDIUM Bridge)

Page last updated June 23rd 2021