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Which 3D Rendering Package Do You Recommend?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the renderers-modellers-and-shaders-oh-my! dept.

Graphics 322

schvenk asks: "I find myself overwhelmed by the decision about which 3D rendering package to get, and thought perhaps Slashdot readers could help me out. While I took a computer science course on computer graphics in college and am proficient in Photoshop, I'm otherwise new to working with 3D modeling, rendering, or animation tools. I tried Blender, and at least the Mac version is just too buggy and slow at this point. In addition the renderer doesn't seem quite as good as some of the commercial ones out there. There are other free apps but I have to wonder if like Blender, they won't quite stack up to the big boys in terms of UI, features, and render quality. I've read tons of reviews, but few are up to date and many aren't as helpful as I'd like. I don't have a lot of prior experience with 3D modeling (I'm a UI Designer by trade) but need it periodically for graphic design purposes, and in addition am interested in getting into it more. While animation interests me, still images are more of a priority, so the greatest emphasis should probably be on rendering quality, and modeling capability (as well as usability and speed). I'd be using it in Mac OS X."

"The packages that have been recommended to me for having really good quality rendering (I'm looking for something that can generate photorealistic images) and good modeling tools are Lightwave 7.5, Maya Complete 4.5, ElectricImage Universe 5, and Cinema 4D. There are lots of other apps out there but these are the ones that have been suggested. There's a pretty wide range of prices among those 4 apps, but at least for now I'm mostly setting price aside in my comparison, especially since the cost of learning an app is so astronomical that I'd rather just do it once.

So far what I've determined is as follows:

I haven't tried Lightwave yet (there's a demo in the mail), but lots of people seem to think it's good. I've been told -- and images I've seen on the Web bear this out -- that it's got a really good rendering engine, and sounds like it might be able to keep up with Maya on everything except animation, and it less expensive. It got Macworld's Editor's Choice award last year for version 7b. (The latest is 7.5.)

Some say that Maya is the top of the line. I'm not sure, and I don't think everyone agrees on it. With the inclusion of a rendering plug-in called Mental Ray with the latest version, its rendering engine is supposedly now as good as Lightwave's (it wasn't before). It was a runner-up in the Editor's Choice awards last year for v3.5. However, a number of the problems people had (both Macworld and others) with earlier versions have been addressed in the current v4.5. I played around with the demo version of Maya and liked its UI: it uses OS X standard widgets, which I appreciate, and its tutorials were well-designed and got me going quickly.

A lot of people seem to like ElectricImage Universe, and there is a version from a place called DVGarage that's stripped down and only $200, though I don't know what's missing. Fans say it's really intuitive, though that wasn't my experience downloading the demo. It's made up of several programs for the different pieces of the process (Lightwave is apparently the same way), and I wasn't really sure where to start. I also didn't like the modeling environment as much, though Universe users tell me that some of my problems (such as objects turning into boxes while you rotate the scene) can be solved by changing preferences. But I was unimpressed with the included tutorials: The task of creating a simple scene and rendering it is not something I've been able to figure out how to do, either through the tutorials or through experimentation. That said, it's worth noting that initial ease of use for such advanced tools is less important than ease and speed of use for experienced users. Even so, Maya, which is clearly no slouch in terms of being for advanced users, just seemed easier to figure out. The images I see on the Web (and there are fewer than I find for some of the other apps) seem less photorealistic overall than for some of the other apps, but again that's hardly a scientific method of evaluation.

Maxon Cinema 4D was also a 2001 Editor's Choice runner-up (v7.1; the current version is 8). It uses OS X-standard widgets for its UI. Beyond that I know little about it and have received the least amount of info from forums and Web searches. I've just downloaded the demo and will see what I can learn from that. The Web galleries I've looked at have contained some fairly photorealistic images, though Lightwave's still seem a bit more impressive to me, for what it's worth. I'm hoping someone can shed some light on this app especially. There are two levels: A cheaper version with some features missing, and a more expensive one (and actually an even higher-end option than that that I probably don't need to consider). It looks from Maxon's site like for photorealistic rendering the more expensive (XL) version is necessary, but I wouldn't swear to it.

And that's what I know so far. Beyond the big "Which is best?" question, a lot of questions remain. What's the best renderer? How different is the best app from the worst? What are the differences in modeling tools? Some of these apps have curved surfaces called NURBS, which seems to be a standard technology. Others have their own variants or substitutes. I don't really know what difference that makes. Maya has a neat tool that lets you sculpt a surface like clay, smoothly pushing and pulling at it to make organic objects like faces; I don't know what equivalents exist in the other apps. Ultimately, I'm definitely interested in animation but more interested in a wide array of modeling tools and top-notch rendering. Decent speed, ease of use, good docs, and ideally some OS X UI compliance would be good too.

Anyway, I'm going to continue investigating. I'm posting this partly to share what information I do have, and mostly to get discussion going that might shed some more light on this subject for people who, like me, want to get into this but can't afford the time and money required to do a personal, extensive comparison of all the major apps. I apologize if any of my information is inaccurate, and hope someone will correct it. Beyond that, any and all help is greatly appreciated :-)."

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Newtek's (-1)

Forsh (572618) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639153)

Lightwave

here is the best 3d rendering package i know (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639154)

Blender3d! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639156)

Use the recently freed blender.

Re:Blender3d! (3, Informative)

flewp (458359) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639186)

I tried Blender, and at least the Mac version is just too buggy and slow at this point. In addition the renderer doesn't seem quite as good as some of the commercial ones out there. There are other free apps but I have to wonder if like Blender, they won't quite stack up to the big boys in terms of UI, features, and render quality.
Read the fucking summary.

Re:Blender3d! (2, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639209)

It's open source -- if it's too slow or buggy, or not as good as commercial offerings, you can just spend a few months trying to understand the source code so you can fix the bugs yourself and speed up performance, add new features, etc.

Or, you could just buy a commercial rendering package

Re:Blender3d! (2)

flewp (458359) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639234)

Sweet, so in addition to having to learn how to use the program, he has to learn to fix it too.

the greatest emphasis should probably be on rendering quality, and modeling capability (as well as usability and speed).

Having to learn the source code, etc, kind of limits it's usability and speed. Sure he may tweak it so it does render faster, and is easier to use, but that could take much longer than might be worth it.

Learn the code! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639295)

Sure he may tweak it so it does render faster, and is easier to use

But that is one of the benefits of open source. He should learn the code so he can do that. Really, how much time would it take to learn the code and modify it so he has the features he wants? A week, two at the most.

If you're too lazy to learn the code then go back to point-and-click windows.

Re:Learn the code! (1, Insightful)

putaro (235078) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639415)

We need some new moderation options

-1 Doesn't understand irony
-3 Stupid

Re:Learn the code! (2)

flewp (458359) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639416)

Just because one can, doesn't mean one should. And really, how long would it take? It could take much longer than is worth his time to figure it out, when he could get a stable, useable product for a price. If you're too lazy to learn the code then go back to point-and-click windows.
Okay, so those who can't code or don't know what a particular piece of code means in an OS app (or don't have the time to figure it out), shouldn't use it at all?

Re:Blender3d! (2)

Bodrius (191265) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639277)

you can just spend a few months trying to understand the source code so you can fix the bugs yourself and speed up performance, add new features, etc.

he hehe he he he HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA... right...

Re:Blender3d! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639306)

I tried Blender, and at least the Mac version is just too buggy and slow at this point.

So get a #%*&@$_) Linux box.

Right tools.. job.. all that stuff. Maybe the summary wasn't quite thorough enough, eh?

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639158)

What else to say?

#2 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639159)

3d rendering sucks... i have always wanted to be the second poster!!!

Re:#2 (-1)

Forsh (572618) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639172)

Hey jerky you are like #5, set your threshhold appropriatly and see who your daddy really is.

Get demos. (1, Redundant)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639171)

Download demos of the programs you are considering and play with them.

Re:Get demos. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639180)

Score -1 Obvious

Re:Get demos. (1)

flewp (458359) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639211)

Score -1 Obvious
It may be obvious, but it is still the best way to make a judgement. Looking at mere screenshots and reading how a program works is nothing in comparison to actually using it. Especially when it comes to 3d, when there are so many different types of interfaces. For example, some have a more technical approach to the UI, which may not suit a hobbyist or someone who is used to more creative types of thinking, etc. The original poster couldn't have said it better, try out demos.

Re:Get demos. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639348)

Yeah, but if you read the question, you'd know he already did you fuckhole.

Cinema 4D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639173)

All though many "Pros" say Cinema 4D is limited, I found it perfect for me as a begginer. It interface is clean (unlike 3DSMAX, although its very powerfull). It supports radiosity, caustics and includes the many, many, shaders. Its also very affordable. I recommend you try it.

TinyLight (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639176)

TinyLight [tinyurl.com] is a Lightwave clone but has a somewhat diminished set of features -- all in all, a pretty solid package, but much smaller -- makes most of those mundane graphics tasks easier.

Corky the moderator . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639213)

God Im ashamed to be a mod at this moment. Check the link and then mod appropriately you lazy FUCKS.

Re:Corky the moderator . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639223)

LOL DUMB MODERATORS, this post got to +2 informative before anyone had a fucking clue. LOL trolled bitches

Re:TinyLight (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639227)

Bravo!

Thank you for that.

You, sir, deserve a cocksucking.

Re:TinyLight (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639242)

did somebody get the licenceplate

Re:TinyLight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639247)

OK. Why was this site rated informative, despite leading to a gay porn site?

DON"T GO THERE ITS A PORN SITE (1)

headbulb (534102) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639251)

stupid I hope you got your jollys off that

Re:TinyLight (1)

PhoenixK7 (244984) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639255)

Thanks alot mods! I was listening to music and my speakers were ALL the way up.

Re:TinyLight (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639257)

I thought you people would have the solution by now:

GET MOZILLA.

Really. It blows this juvenile crap right out of the water.

Bet the mods are using it... and laughing at the rest of you.

Re:TinyLight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639287)

I'm on my windows box using IE. You mean it doesn't work with Mozilla? My entire extended family wsa in the room and I was teaching them how to use the internet, and then i clicked on the link. My grandmother almost had a heart attack.

PORN=+2 Informative! (0, Offtopic)

erik umenhofer (782) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639286)

Maybe you should click the link before moderating.

MOD DOWN NOW, GAY PORN SITE! (-1, Offtopic)

garcia (6573) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639289)

Moderators, please read before you mod up.

Re:MOD DOWN NOW, GAY PORN SITE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639413)

this is not a troll morons. This was INFORMATIVE.

When moderators mod an AC +2:Informative and all it is is a popup gay porn site, he deserves a +5 Informative.

Get real.

TROLLED (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639313)

heheh. hi.

Re:TinyLight (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639323)

Yeah wonderful moding. It tries to install a virus too at that!

Re:TinyLight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639353)

No virus, just approximately 100 windows of the goatse.cx picture, and that wav repeating 'i'm looking at gay porno'. all you have to do is go to the task manager and kill the iexplore task...

The obvious choice. (4, Funny)

carambola5 (456983) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639182)

Microsoft Excel. When your 3D rendering needs require an absolutely positively... something something.

Maya 4.5 Is amaazing! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639185)

Maya. No question. It's especially cheap these days too.

This is what I use! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639190)

Rhinoceros

Re:This is what I use! (1)

TiMac (621390) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639432)

Rhino is a modelling program for Windows only, so it wouldn't work for this particular user. In addition, it doesn't produce "photorealistic images" like he/she wants. I've used Rhino and know it frequently has rendering flaws. It's great for large-scale design, but lacks somewhat detailed features that other programs have.

It depends (4, Insightful)

Apreche (239272) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639194)

It depends on what you are using it for. I mean if you are doing 3d modeling of a house, then AutoCAD is probably your best bet. If you are doing a model of an internal combustion engine, mechanical desktop is a good choice. If you are making characters for say a video game, character studio or 3d studio max (the newest version) is excellent. It's also good for making short scenes and animating things. Bryce, while it's interface is really crummy is amazing at texturing and terrain. If you want to draw a giant landscape bryce is where it's at. Maya is a very high quality all around awesome program. It's what they teach the film + animation majors at my school.
I don't have much experience with some of the other tools available, but they all have their uses. Pretty much depending on what type of project you are looking to do, what level of detail you are trying to achieve, whether you need to animate or not, and your personal preferences all determine which which one will be best for you.

Re:It depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639244)

Mechanical Desktop... right...

Actually if he's going to do mechanical drawings, then SolidWorks (or even SolidEdge) is the way to go (or so I think). The only thing better than that is Catia, but it's more geared toward big companies like Boeing or Bombardier.

Re:It depends-URLs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639283)

http://www.artifice.com/radiance.html

http://www.hash.com/

http://www.e-onsoftware.com/Products/VueIndex.ph p

http://www.eovia.com/carrara/prod_tour_car.jsp

Re:It depends (1)

z)bandito(_X (243059) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639417)

I agree 3DStudio-MAX is probably the best choice for games, but unfortunately it's not a choice for MacOSX yet... however, when I was at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters; a video tradeshow) a year ago, the discreet rep said their Mac version of combustion [discreet.com] was selling much better than the PC port. So this could potentially bode well for an eventual Mac port of MAX, but its not a solution today.. Anyway combustion is a great compositing application, and compositing is an essential skill to effectively doing 3d since rerendering every aspect of every scene for every change is often time consuming and unnecessary. It's now OSX compatible, too.

Of course it all depends on what you plan... (5, Interesting)

puppet10 (84610) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639200)

to do with the software, but most high end 3d stuff costs an arm and a leg.

One reasonably priced well spoken of modeller you didn't mention is Rhino [rhino3d.com] .

Maya is nice, but if you aren't animating you're only using a very small portion of its abilities.

Re:Of course it all depends on what you plan... (1)

puppet10 (84610) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639217)

Never mind you've limited your self to Mac only. Rhino is windows.

Re:Of course it all depends on what you plan... (3, Informative)

MisterFancypants (615129) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639320)

Rhino, while a very nice package, doesn't run on MacOS X. Of course, a lot of the stuff people are suggesting in other posts doesn't run under MacOS (any version, including X) either.

Obviously people don't even read the articles anymore, let alone the links in the articles..

At any rate, I'd say the original poster should go with Maya. The UI is great, it is well supported under different operating systems and the renderer has been much improved if you get a recent version...Also, if the renderer isn't up to snuff for what you want, there are various free alternative renderers that are actually very good (POVray, the free Renderman clones (such as BMRT), etc) which Maya can export to using third party exporters.

Carrara Studio 2 is good. (3, Informative)

colonel.sys (525119) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639205)

I have taken a look at a few 3D Applications and found Carrara Studio 2 to be very nicely usable. It doesn't comply with Aqua but that's not a problem: it uses kind of a fullscreen UI which is extremely nice to use and doesn't interfere with your screen resolution.

If you can't get far enough with Carrara, give Cinema 4D a try.

Links:
http://www.eovia.com (Carrara)
http://www.maxon.de (Cinema 4D)

Re:Carrara Studio 2 is good. (1)

Grahf666 (118413) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639285)

Yeah, I've heard good things about C4D. I do believe it's less expensive than most of the other top-end 3d packages, and has a pretty good interface. I don't know much about its rendering capabilities, but I think the latest version does support radiosity.

3D studio and Poser (5, Interesting)

rufusdufus (450462) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639212)

I have 3D studio max and it is very powerful. However, it is also very expensive and very very difficult to learn. I don't recommend it for the weak of heart.

I also have Poser to do human and animal posing, and this program is great. It is easy to use and intuitive. For doing animation of 3d human models it is perfect.

Re:3D studio and Poser (1)

prestomation (583502) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639296)

"I have 3D studio max and it is very powerful. However, it is also very expensive and very very difficult to learn. I don't recommend it for the weak of heart."

Last time I checked 3D Studio MAX went for ~$3000 while Maya Complete went for ~$8000.

He's mentioned possibly using Maya. If he is, price doesn't look like much of a concern. ;)

Also, I think 3D Studio MAX has the easiest to use UI of any "professional" 3d packasges. I've used it off an on for a year or so, and like it a lot. I find myself flying through the UI ;)

Of course, as with any profession program (especially graphics), it's takes a while to learn the ropes, but not anymore then with Maya or Lightwave......

MAX is used primarily for special effects and animation, while Lightwave and Maya emphesize(sp?) more on modeling. I happen to know the renderer that comes stock with MAX isn't quite as advanced out-of-the-box as Maya and Lightwave's.

Hope I helped

Re:3D studio and Poser (1)

lorian69 (150342) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639375)

Just a quick note - current pricing is as follows:

Maya Complete - $1,999
Maya Unlimited - $6,999
3ds Max 5 - $3,195

Re:3D studio and Poser (2)

tolldog (1571) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639427)

"I also have Poser to do human and animal posing, and this program is great. It is easy to use and intuitive. For doing animation of 3d human models it is perfect."

I have yet to see perfect human animation. Nor have I seen anybody who is anybody in animation using poser to animate humans.

-Tim

Maxon Cinema 4D XL (1)

stilleon (601857) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639221)

I use Cinema 4D DL and find it wonderful. Easier to use that Lightwave or 3D Studio Max, renders look great. I do broadast logos with it and find the intergration with After Effects 5.5 totally bitchin'!!! I am looking for Blender to improve. It needs a raytrace engine and better control of 3D objectas during animation. No that it is open source I can't wait for the upgrades.

what i suggest (1)

Datasage (214357) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639224)

There are 3 main packages 3dsmax, maya, and lightwave. Then a bunch of others such as electic image, houdini, bryce, blender etc...

Each of these packages take thier own methodology in interface and content creation.

The best one i found is 3dsMAX its powerful yet easy to use. Not to metion a standard in the industry.

Maya is much more confusing.. but it allows so much more custimization. If money is an issue, this is cheaper than 3dsmax.

I havent used lightwave much.

Re:what i suggest (4, Informative)

prockcore (543967) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639373)

The best one i found is 3dsMAX its powerful yet easy to use. Not to metion a standard in the industry.

Um, which industry? The only industry that uses 3dsmax is the game industry. The television and film industry has standarized on Lightwave and Maya.

Lightwave is used primary for television. It's very heavily used for sci-fi shows (like SG1 and B5), made for TV movies like Beowulf, and commercials (The M&M commercials and Coca-cola polar bears for example).

Maya is used more in the film industry. For example, LotR used Maya exclusively.

So unless your goal is to make 3d models for video games, stay away from 3dsmax.

Discreet's 3dsmax (4, Insightful)

ayeco (301053) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639225)

You're question, unfortunately, will spawn a bunch of personal opinions and elitist responses.

I've been using Discreet's 3dstudio max [discreet.com] since it was a DOS app (then autodesk's 3ds studio made by the Yost group). I've been teaching it since Max r1 came around. I find it interesting that your question doesn't mention it.

Obviously I'm a big fan of it. I highly recommend it - it is very easy to use, has plently of free pluggins as well as commercial ones, open architecture for programming and scripting and its default scanline rendering engine is very fast. Some people will argue that its rendering quality is inferior to, say, Maya, but I beg to differ.

Look into it.

Re:Discreet's 3dsmax (3, Insightful)

WeaponOfChoice (615003) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639284)

Some people will argue that its rendering quality is inferior to, say, Maya, but I beg to differ.

My own experience with both Maya and Max left me with the impression that both renderers create almost perfect images though I found Maya preferable. Max always seemed to produce something ever so slightly harsher than Maya, though I have friends who argue exactly the same thing from the opposite side.

Maya is best for me (inevitably what people really mean when they claim something is 'best')

Re:Discreet's 3dsmax (3, Informative)

tolldog (1571) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639325)

I agree with you on this.

Maya is the best for me as well but for many other reasons...

Such as the free renderer license (which does nicely with 1000 procs to render)
MEL
The Maya ASCII file format.

But none of these have to do with the quality of the renderer (which has gotten much much better in 4.x)

-Tim

Re:Discreet's 3dsmax (5, Informative)

rworne (538610) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639391)

I've been using Discreet's 3dstudio max [discreet.com] since it was a DOS app (then autodesk's 3ds studio made by the Yost group). I've been teaching it since Max r1 came around. I find it interesting that your question doesn't mention it.

Quite possibly its because he/they were looking for Mac OS X rendering packages. 3DS Max is Windows-only. I would think running it in Virual PC would be wasteful, slow and painful.

my recommendation (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639229)

I recommend whatever rendering package you can find on kazaa or gnutella.

Re:my recommendation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639430)

hahaha, MOD the up!!!

Personal Preference (4, Insightful)

Arrghman (172552) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639230)

The only real way to choose a 3D program to use is by actually trying them out to see which you're the most comfortable with.

If you go anywhere and ask this question you'll get many different answers... some will say LightWave's interface is the easiest there is while others can't make heads or tails of it. Some won't like the modeler functions in Maya some will. Etc, etc and so forth.

What it comes down to is eash program has its own approch to 3D. What is important is finding which approch suits you the best and using that one. You can get great results out of any of these programs if you know what you're doing, but if you can't work with the interface, with the methodology behind each program, you won't be able to get that far without struggling.

So my suggest is, wait for those demo CDs and play around with everything you can. Find which one you like the best and go for that one. You won't be dissapointed!

Re:Personal Preference (2, Interesting)

GriffX (130554) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639379)

Arrghman points out above that you should see what appeals to you, and I certainly agree. As said, Lightwave's interface is the subject of some debate - I certainly agree with this, but having a number of year's experience with it under my belt, I'll weigh in - play with the demo you have, and see what you think.

IMHO, Lightwave's interface is designed *not* to get started quickly with, but to *work* quickly once you have a bit of experience with it. All command buttons are text and nothing but - I've played with 3DSMAX, and after using Lightwave, I find it incredibly frustrating. Um, which of those tiny icons that look like cubes do I hit to make a cube? Oh, that icon with the shaft of light pouring down, does that mean lighting options, volumetric lighting, or what?

I haven't had an opportunity to play much with Maya, but what I've seen gives me the impression that it has the same sort of problem. Lightwave (can you tell what I'm recommending here?) Is a very transparent interface... which I hardly use anymore. One hand on the keyboard, and the other on the mouse or tablet, and I can turn out models and animate very quickly indeed. For me, at least, it feels more like working on an art project, and less like futzing around with a computer program. And, as you said, the renderer is fantastic.

Maya, if you can get your hands on it. (1, Redundant)

dirvish (574948) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639239)

I would go with 3D Studio Max or Maya. Maya seems to be the industry standard in Hollywood, at least that is what I have been told. Lightwave is pretty weak. I've never tried Blender

Re:Maya, if you can get your hands on it. (1)

Arrghman (172552) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639260)

Which is of course why LightWave was used in all of these [lightwave3d.com] projects... because it's weak. Right...

Cinema for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639243)

I'd recommend Cinema - the rendering's quick, the quality's great and the workflow is easy to pick up.
Maya's rendering is questionable and anyway it's most useful in a production team environment. Lightwave's renderer is superb but the workflow is flawed.

With Cinema you also have the modular option, so you aren't forced to buy the animation modules which you won't be using, and some of the advanced render effects are also optional.

Good luck - C

Renderer, 3d software or what? (2)

tolldog (1571) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639269)

From a pure rendering standpoint, I would suggest renderman or Mental Ray. Maya has a good renderer that has gotten a bad reputation, but it does a good job.

If you are looking for a package that does more than just render, using Maya plus plugins would be good. The downside to this is that with most of the plugins you have to redo the shaders for the renderer. This can take some work.

I would suggest looking at Maya's Personal Learning Edition to see if it can provide your needed quality. PLE is a nice, free learning edition of Maya, but it is not compatible with Maya's for purchase software. If the renderer doesn't do all that you need, look at using Weta's Liquid or Pixar's MTOR to go to renderman OR look at the MentalRay plugin.

-Tim

You forgot.... (5, Informative)

TekkonKinkreet (237518) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639272)

...Softimage XSI, Discreet (or whatever they call themselves this month) 3DSMax, Hash Animation Master. I always start out people new to 3D on Hash, it's cheap, full-featured, and has everything you need to learn the 3D animation trade (of which rendering is the least part), basically it kicks butt.

I've used 'em all, and personally I like the way Maya and SoftImage renderings look best, but far more important than the renderer is how good you are at lighting and texturing. If you take the time to build the material correctly and light it well, any of these tools will give you good results. Most of them are coming on, what, ten years old now?

IMO, the rendering engine comes into play when you really want photorealistic effects like global illumination or radiosity (and then only subtly), or special effects, like a plugin toon renderer...stuff you will no doubt have fun playing with, but aren't likely to impact your UI work much. Choose an interface and modeling tools you like, or spare your wallet, would be the criteria I'd recommend.

Re:You forgot.... (1)

dnight (153296) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639389)

> I always start out people new to 3D on Hash

Got any openings in class, professor? :)

Have bong, will travel.

Softimage? (0, Redundant)

Karamchand (607798) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639273)

Anyone knows about Softimage? I wonder why it wasn't included in this small comparisson, I thought it was a quite advanced system?
Thank you for any information!

Re:Softimage? (1)

neverkevin (601884) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639408)

Because they need it for OSX, and there is not a OSX version of Softimage...

Re:Softimage? (0, Offtopic)

Karamchand (607798) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639428)

Oh, sorry I missed that. Thanks for pointing it out to me!

Emacs (3, Funny)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639274)

Just maker sure you enable large memory support in the kernel before use.

Blender (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639282)

Can't be beat in terms of price/performance. Period.

Now, if you want to be one of the "big boys" (i.e. just can't stand the thought of *not* pissing money all over the place), load up your platinum card and break off a Maya or MAX license. About a year from now, you might be producing something approaching a test render.

It's really a question of time vs. money. If you've got the cash, the 3D companies will be more than happy to take it from you. If you've got the time, send $100 to blender.org and learn Blender.

(will be marked troll because I said "pissing..." watch.)

Best. (4, Insightful)

torre (620087) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639293)

Hi, To answer your question... there isn't any one best. And you shouldn't attempt to measure it as such. Each package has its strong points and weaknesses. You must judge them according to your needs and your workflow... There's no need in spending thousands of dollars on the software and training on the more expensive packages if all you need is modeling to do web graphics.

Also, stay away from the marketing hype and common misconceptions that one renderer is better than another...Every commercial render out there is capable of doing a good job. Each renderer has it's own personality that you must learn to work with. Some like Mental Ray or Lightwave have some easy default provided by some company like Newtech, Alias Wavefront, Avid, or even Discreet. (BTW don't be fooled by renders like Mental ray or Renderman, the true power of these renders come out when you write your own shaders - a non trivial not for novice task- and not using the defaults) Others like the Maya default render require you become more personal with how the render works to achieve the same results. It all depends on what you need to achieve your goals. There's no need to spend more money if you'll never use some of the more advanced features like micro-polygon displacement, or multi million polygon scenes.

My suggestion is it not to listen to too many people, download the demo's and see which one fit your bill. All the advice that we as a community can offer can't tell you which one will agree with your artistic/technical side most and your situation. Its all comes down to a personal choice once you've weeded out your requirements.

but that's just my 2 cents.

DigitalBlasphemy.com (1)

squisher (212661) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639305)

Go to Digital Blasphemy [digitalblasphemy.com] . There are great rendered background pictures on that page (some for free, more for the paying user) and it usually says which program has been used to create the picture.
From reading these comments it seems that each software has its advantages over the other...

Bye, Squisher

Nobody ever says anything about... (3, Informative)

Ziviyr (95582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639315)

Realsoft 3D [realsoft.com]

Which has always seemed to be pretty advanced to me.

recommending 3DS Max won't do much good (1)

Grahf666 (118413) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639317)

The original question asked about 3d software for a Mac OS X system. There is no 3DS Max for OS X.

grr... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639318)

small off-subject point, but: A computer graphic design course ISN'T COMPUTER SCIENCE!!!

Cinema 4D (2)

Pike65 (454932) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639326)

I'm pretty much a complete novice and I've been using Cinema 4D for about five months on and off - mainly because I got it free from the front of a magasine ; )

It is pretty simple (of course, I only have the simple version) and is easy to get to grips with. And it's a helluva lot cheaper than most of your other options. But . . .

No particle stuff or NURBS, which kinda sucks, and the lighting can be a little soggy, but I'm entirely self taught so that may just be me. And you're right about the renderer - I haven't got photorealistic out of it yet. Then again, I do abstracts, so I'm not likely to either . . .

Graphical UIs are for wussies. (5, Funny)

uglyMood (322284) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639333)

Go with the POV-Ray [povray.org] raytracer and do what I do -- TYPE your graphics. I swear, you young punks today don't know what 3D graphics are... mutter, grumble...

Besides, it's free.

Render, modeller, compositor (5, Informative)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639339)

First thing, you should be careful with your terminology.

A modeller lets you create models and scenes. A renderer turns these scenes into 2D images. A compositor lets you turn these 2D images into other 2D images, and usually also lets you assemble them into single-file animation formats. Don't expect to do any "real" 3D work without at least one of each.

It's confusing because many modellers have renderers built in. They are usually inadequate for complex jobs. (Though, in fairness, one blockbuster 100% computer animated feature film has been made using Maya's built-in renderer, so it's not exactly useless.) However, thanks to the wonders of Open Source, the modeller is now the only part you have to buy.

Here's what I suggest:

  • Get Maya Complete. This will cost money.
  • Get Liquid [nomadicmonkey.com] , which will cost you nothing. This will export Maya to RenderMan(TM).
  • Get Aqsis [aqsis.com] , which will cost you nothing. This is your renderer. It is RenderMan(tm) compliant, which is the de facto standard for communication between renderers and modellers.
  • Get Cinelerra [heroinewarrior.com] , which will cost you nothing. This is your compositor. (Available only for Linux, unfortunately, but it's free.)

If you find yourself making money with these, you can replace and augment bits if you find them not doing what you want. (For example, replace Aqsis with RDC [dotcsw.com] or PRMan [pixar.com] and replace Cinelerra with Shake [apple.com] or After Effects [adobe.com] . You can even augment Maya with Houdini [sidefx.com] or SoftImage [softimage.com] if you feel like spending money.)

The key here is to stick with standards so you can drop in replacements into your production line.

Good luck.

lightwave (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639340)

As I am a professional animator for film and TV, and based on the fact that you are using a Mac, there is only one choice. Lightwave.

I'm a PC person myself and have been using 3dsmax since the days of 3D Studio. Now I use 3dsmaxR5. I've kept very much up to speed with what the other packages out there can do, just in case I get a project that needs something specific that Max may not do. So far, Max has been able to do everything for me, but I am continually impressed with what Lightwave is capable of.

The latest version has an excellent renderer, especially if GI, radiosity, or HDRI type renders are your thing. The modelling capabilities seem to be very well rounded - organic modeling is a cinch now - used to be ugly. I'm not sure how robust the character animation side of it is though - my Character Studio and Bones in Max are pretty much all I need. After seeing the latest version of LW, I've been tempted to pick it up and add it to my repetoire. I just may...

It's a shame you insist on a Mac though, because its just not meant for that kind of work. Your best bet is really a PC, since you could try Max, Maya, SoftXSI, and even Truespace, which is an incredible value. You can get better hardware and run a better OS for it (NT, 2K). Except for Truespace, all of these above mentioned packages will cost you thousands of dollars however, which is the only drawback.

However, when I was a college student and just wanted to LEARN 3d, I used a pirated version. (yes, its bad I know) Once I learned it and started using it for my work, I had to buy it. Its sometimes the only way to learn a high-end package when you're a broke student. It may not be entirely legal/moral, but if I never had the chance to learn Max in college, I couldn't be paying Discreet tons of money now for their great product. Something to consider...

The software packages that... (-1)

Trollificus (253741) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639351)

...worked best for me were either Maya [aliaswavefront.com] , or 3D Studio Max [discreet.com] with Cebas Final Render [finalrender.com] . The artwork in the Final Render Gallery [finalrender.com] speaks for itself. =)

Be wary, though. If you're thinking of getting into professional modelling, it is not going to be cheap. Heh, if you thought Photoshop cost too much, wait until you get quotes for 3ds Max. ;p~

MOD UP THAT MOTHERFUCKER (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639366)

ASAP

schvenk@Interface.com (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639354)

Hi. I found an error. It's schvenk@Interface.com and not schvenk@InterfaceNOSPAMThis.com

POV-Ray (5, Informative)

Fastball (91927) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639355)

If you're interested in good looking stills, broke, and understand very high level scripting languages, you might want to look at POV-Ray [povray.org] . Additionally, if you're working on a Windows platform, an outstanding modeller called Moray [stmuc.com] that works with POV-Ray. The author is very responsive and makes one of the finer modellers I've worked with. POV-Ray has a deathly slow renderer though.

I use Strata (2)

Jeremiah Blatz (173527) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639358)

I've been using Strata 3D [strata.com] for years. It's no Maya, but it's got a fairly decent modeler and a decent ray-tracer. I like it because it's pretty straightforward to use (as opposed to, say, Blender). New versions have IK and all that junk, and the animation support is almost good. (Note that these are compared to some theoretical package that's easy to use and powerful. AFAIK, such a thing doesn't exist.) Anyway, there's a demo in their online store [strata.com] , try it out. (The MacOSX version doesn't have a demo yet, but 3.7 runs fine under Classic.)

check out Apple's site. (1)

nuckin futs (574289) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639359)

They have stories [apple.com] of professionals and what they use. Maybe one of the stories there applies to what you want to do.

link correction... (1)

nuckin futs (574289) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639372)

doh. use this [apple.com] link instead and use the keyword 3D to display the stories.

Here's a comparison (5, Informative)

cooldev (204270) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639362)

Zaon has a thread [zaon.org] dedicated to answering this question.

There's a permanant thread to the above link from CGTalk's [cgtalk.com] discussion forum to keep this subject from coming up again and again. I highly recommend visititing CGTalk to view some of the discussions and images. They have forums for the major packages, threads for posting work in progress and finished images, and it's and all around great site with many professionals.

Mac OS X Rendering/Modelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639363)

For the Mac, if you're primarily concerned with modelling and rendering stills, I'd pick Lightwave. Lightwave does not suck, as someone has said, it has one of the nicer rendering engines out there and is quite a capable animation package. 3DS Max only runs on PC. Maya, while a superb modeller and animation package has a lousy rendering engine (although Mental Ray is now available in Beta). If you plan on using Maya with Mental Ray, I'd say this is your clear choice, otherwise, Lightwave. Electric Image has the worlds fastest phong renderer and produces very nice images, but isn't a very good modelling package. I'd recommend using Form Z with it if you go that route. Electric Image isn't a very good animation package. Hash (www.hash.com) is a very inexpense ($300) package that is geared toward character animation but is pretty good all around, although the renderer and modelling tools might not suit you. There it is, in a nutshell.

Best rendering package? (5, Insightful)

Trogre (513942) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639381)

POV-Ray.

It's one of few that can actually do mathematically perfect surfaces at arbitrary resolutions without having to decompose the scene into polygons. Of course, this is because it is a raytracer and not a zbuffer-based renderer, so it isn't the fastest out there.

It doesn't have a native modeller, but many third-party modellers can export as POV scene format.

The GIMP (1, Troll)

Andrewkov (140579) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639387)

This is Slashdot. Use The GIMP. That is all you need. For everything.

Cinema all the way, baby! (3, Informative)

rgoer (521471) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639390)

I'd be using it in Mac OS X

So, um, did any of you guys recommending 3DSMax read this part of his initial query? Um... anyway, if OS X is to be your platform, the only software you need to bother with is Cinema 4D. Get r8 and a nice openGL card (whatever the newest nVidia card Apple will sell you), and you will not be disappointed.

I've been using C4D since version 5, and have been using it in OS X since it has been possible to do so. Cinema is a wonderful piece of software: the modelling workflow puts 3DSMax to absolute shame, the animation system (while still lacking in some areas) is rapidly, and I mean rapidly catching up to the big [aliaswavefront.com] dogs [softimage.com] (check out this site [imashination.com] (Mash is a C4D developer) for some really beautiful examples of the leaps and bounds r8 has made in the soft-IK department), and you simply will not find a faster renderer (as far as single workstation rendering goes--I'm sure Pixar's n-cpu PrMan farm offers serious competition).

The biggest downfalls for C4D are a lack of n-sided polys and a lackluster implementation of boolean modelling. These weaknesses, when weighed against the outrageous strengths displayed in nearly every other area, make C4D the obvious choice for Mac users. Shit, I've found the environment to be even more work-condusive than Maya's sometimes... now if only Maxon could figure a way to incorporate something like A|W's marking-menus without legally stepping on some toes...

Carrara (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4639393)

I haven't used any of the higher end 3D apps (too pricey) but have found Carrara to be an overall nice program and a good value for the price. It has loads of nice features is fairly easy to learn, has 3D animation, keyframing, a nice renderer is OS X native (in rev 2.0) and exports to several formats that can be used in other graphic apps.

The only downside's I've found is that it's sometimes hard to produce certain kinds of precise shapes (like complex mechanical parts with many holes, odd angles and cutouts). The spiral tool produces really weird spirals and there is no workaround. Sometimes the 3D subtraction tool gets confused when you're punching holes through a shape and ends up producing strange spikey "teeth" around the hole, but this is the exception, not the rule.

I'd say that unless you have some money burning a hole in your pocket and truely see a need to jump right in to the high end apps, that Carrara might be a good bet. It does alot of things very well and it's price doesn't break the bank.

First get your true needs straight. (2)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639396)

The modeler and render components are *not* exclusive.

You can use 2 different programs.

Example, blender or ayam to model, and then export to something such as BMRT or POV-RAY.

Even 'high end' pacakges, such as Rhino3D, support this sort of thing, each pushes its strong suit.

Judge each component on its own level....

You also mention it will be on MAC OS.. that
limits your options greatly.

PS: done properly, Blender's internal render engine can do amazing things.

Mental Ray (2, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639403)

It's a ray tracer and that'll cost you. You may find you can render a cube or sphere without trouble but it's hard to efficiently ray trace something like a human figure with clothing etc. that has a few million polygons - all of which may be required at any point in the render. Mental Ray doesn't make use of some really quite cool advances in ray tracing that have been made in the last few years. For example it doesn't use Matt Pharr et al's caching techniques. It also has trouble displacement mapping - again because that requires massive tesselation which is difficult in a ray tracer. It's a trade off between realism (which is easy in a ray tracer) and efficiency (which a 'streaming' renderer like Renderman is good at).

Art of Illusion (3, Interesting)

Wayne Gramlich (449352) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639404)

The Art of Illusion 3D modeller is written in Java and runs on the Linux, Mac, and Windows platforms. (It does not currently use the Java3D interface, because that has not yet been licenced for the Mac platform.) Here's a URL:

http://www.artofillusion.org/ [artofillusion.org]

It is under a GPL license and seems to be pretty easy to use (i.e. not nearly as confusing as Blender is to initial users.)

Your milage may vary.

-Wayne

landscape rendering (1)

calyxa (618266) | more than 11 years ago | (#4639425)

yes, this is a blatant plug...

if you're interested in rendering landscapes (as opposed to building models and rendering those), I have to recommend MojoWorld. there's a free demo, there's also a free "Transporter" version of the program which lets you explore planets made by others.

http://www.pandromeda.com [pandromeda.com]

you may also want to look in to Bryce - it's relatively inexpensive, it's possible to do some limited modeling with it (I've seen some flat out amazing stuff done w/ only Bryce's tools - but note that Bryce is not "a modeler") - however, with Corel teetering on the brink, Bryce may not be around much longer (all the more reason to look into getting an older version for cheap!)

-calyxa

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