Join George Maestri for an in-depth discussion in this video The 3D pipeline and tools, part of Getting Started in 3D and Animation.
- When you start working in 3D, you need to make some choices about what software to learn. There are a number of great packages you can choose from. Let's take a look at four of the more popular choices. Maya is Autodesk's 3D modeling, rendering, and animation software. Maya is very popular, and you'll see it used in feature films, television, as well as games. The software is excellent at character animation, visual effects, and image creation. 3ds Max is another Autodesk product.
It is available only on the Windows platform. Like Maya, it can do character animation and visual effects. 3ds Max has found a home in gaming, and also technical design. A number of architects and engineers use it for visualization. Cinema 4D is another very capable 3D software suite. It is the standard application for those doing motion graphics and broadcast for film. Cinema 4D also has character animation and visual effects tools. The software integrates quite well with After Effects.
In fact, Cinema 4D Lite ships with After Effects. Blender is unique in that it is open source and completely free to use. Blender isn't used as extensively on commercial projects, but that is slowly changing. A lot of indie game studios are using Blender, and it has both character animation and visual effects tools. In addition to these main packages, there are a bunch of other applications that can help make your project shine. Modelers may want to sculpt with ZBrush or Mudbox.
Animators may want to use MotionBuilder to edit motion data. To create even more realistic images, renderers such as V-Ray are seeing an increase in popularity. Now which software you choose depends on a number of factors. Not all of these run everywhere, so your operating system may be a factor. Cost may also be an issue. Blender is free, but so is Cinema 4D Lite if you have an After Effects license. Autodesk provides free licenses for student versions of its software as well. Many of you may be learning 3D with an eye on getting work.
If that is the case, do your research and understand what software is most commonly used in the jobs you're likely to pursue, but you really can't make a bad choice with any of these. And they all use the same underlying workflow, so learning one package makes learning the next one that much easier.