27 Replies Latest reply on Apr 23, 2008 7:24 PM by Joey Morelli

    3D Software..

    (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
      I do simple to intermediate animations for DVD menus and advanced slide shows. I'm looking to step up a little bit and mess around with shorts' as a hobbyist. I was wondering if there were an affordable - easy to use - solution to some animation software. So far I've heard maya is the way to go (I'm mac so 3ds max is out) but the learning curve is EXTREMELY steep.

      So first off, is maya the way to go?

      Secondly, are there any valuable tutorials or help centers that would help me start with at least the basics and not require years of practice to create a simple shape or animation that I could plug into after effects?
        • 1. Re: 3D Software..
          A. Cobb Level 3
          Any 3D program is going to have a learning curve, but Cinema 4D has earned a very good reputation with AE users over the years. I haven't used it in any depth in a very, very long time, but from playing around with the demo of the latest version, I'd say it is easy to use for a 3D program. You can always grab the demo and try it out for yourself:

          • 2. Re: 3D Software..
            David Wigforss-Hv1BNN Level 2
            I was gonna recommend my favorite 3d package, Softimage XSI, but you'd need to run Bootcamp/Windows in order to use it..

            If you're complete novice to 3D, I think you might find Maya too difficult. Cinema4D might be easier to pickup, but I never really tried to use it much. I tried the demo and hated the interface.
            • 3. Re: 3D Software..
              bogiesan-gyyClL Level 3
              Google 3D for Macintosh. There are many low cost products from free to $200.

              Blender is free, open source, full of oddball bugs, but has a huge and surprisingly engaged user base, tons of scripts and wizards.

              • 4. Re: 3D Software..
                Level 1
                I just made the switch to Cinema4D last month and finished my first project in it last week. Really really cool. There's still some specialty stuff I'll do in Lightwave, but it's awesome.
                • 5. Re: 3D Software..
                  (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                  Well other than my AE knowledge I'm a complete novice to 3D programs. If I pick up Cinema 4D and watch some tutorials / read up on it how long would it take to grasp the basic concepts?
                  • 6. Re: 3D Software..
                    Level 1
                    It took me about 4 good evenings of tutorials, coming from another package at an intermediate level. I still limp around in certain areas, but I can pretty much do the motion graphics related stuff that I want for now. I imagine there are a zillion possibilities I haven't even begun to think of.
                    • 7. Re: 3D Software..
                      David Wigforss-Hv1BNN Level 2
                      Another program you should look at is Modo. You may find that you enjoy using it more than Cinema4D. Be aware, that it only has very basic animation tools as of yet. Those will be coming in the future. They've started with modelling, and have added rendering and texturing. The company is founded by people that created Lightwave.

                      And if you're really feeling crazy, Houdini just announced a mac version... Don't happen to be nuclear scientist do you? :)

                      As for learning 3D... Largely, it depends on your level of dedication. Definately download the demo before you purchase it. If it's available, print out the pdf manual and read it. After you've finished, you'll have a broad understanding of the program. You will know what to look for when you need help remembering how to do things. There are many areas to 3D animation, and there's quite a bit involved with all of the stages. Basic process: Modelling, Generating UV maps, texturing (Cinema4D's Bodypaint is great for that), rigging, enveloping/skinning, animating, lighting, rendering.

                      In a week or two, you should be able to create a primative (cube, for instance), move it around the screen, texture it, add lights and camera, and render.

                      Hope that helps,

                      PS To get you started with modelling, start digesting this... http://www.subdivisionmodeling.com/page1.htm
                      • 8. Re: 3D Software..
                        A. Cobb Level 3
                        I did some procedural modeling in Houdini a few years back. It's really powerful, and a lot of fun once you get the hang of node-based thinking, but to say it's not for novices is a tremendous understatement.
                        • 9. Re: 3D Software..
                          (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                          Thanks this has been a big help. I'll definitely check out modo. I just came from the lightwave website actually and I was largely impressed (though it looks very complex for my tastes). Just to give you a very bland idea as to what I'd shoot to build in these programs:


                          so I'll look at modo, and I've bookmarked that website (thanks david), but just to save download time - based on that tutorial which program should I shoot for; modo or c4d?
                          • 10. Re: 3D Software..
                            David Wigforss-Hv1BNN Level 2
                            I might lean toward Modo.. But again, it depends on what you want to accomplish. You could, in theory, utilize both programs. Remember, they're just starting to add animation features to Modo.. So far, I think you can only pretty much animate cameras/flythrus. Maybe you can animate transforms on objects, not sure.. Read up on it so you know it's features and limitations.

                            EDIT: Actually, I just took a quick glance at the tutorial.. I don't think you could animate the vines in Modo... So maybe Cinema4D is better for you.. Or you could definately do it in Lightwave. Dunno how Cinema works, but one nice thing with LW is, it has free render nodes, so you can setup a renderfarm for free. At least with XSI/Maya, you need to purchase additional Mental Ray nodes for renderfarms...

                            My first 3D program I learned was Lightwave. I learned modelling with it, but hated it when I tried to animate stuff. I thought, there must be a better way than this... Well, there was, IMO. I first saw Softimage:XSI at NAB 2000 (I think it was). Impressed but it was outta my league. Then after working with Lightwave for a couple of years (my officemates did the 3D for Invader Zim with it), I heard that Valve switched their pipeline over in the middle of production to XSI. They came out and did a demo for us and I was sold. I find it intuitive, very well thought out, and simply AMAZING. Most importantly, it's a joy to work in, and dare I say, fun? I don't always have too many opportunities to utilize 3D on my show, but when I do, they are much more enjoyable.
                            • 11. Re: 3D Software..
                              Joey Morelli Level 1
                              How ya doin', paisan?

                              Nobody can tell you how long it will take you to learn any program. They don't know you & your learning style... only you know that. I know nothing about modo. I am a self-taught Cinema 4D user (Mac) and there is no other way to go for After Effects compatibility IMHO. I have been using it for just over 2 years now (since R8). Here's my very first project (personal) done without the use of a single tutorial:


                              I completed this during downtime at work using a Dual 2.5 G5 / C4D 9.1. If you run the hours concurrent, it took me about 2 weeks. It was completely done with primitives and 2 extruded splines. I learn by doing... that's my style.

                              I now have version R10.5 Studio Bundle w/ the MoGraph Module and it is incredible (not to mention free lifetime Tech Support with the software - wink wink):


                              The Core program and one module is on sale on the website - 24% off!


                              P.S. - You can absolutely do that "growing vines" animation easily in C4D.
                              • 12. Re: 3D Software..
                                Ko Maruyama User Group Manager
                                Nice work to have it done in 99% primitives! but wow - look at that mesh density!

                                One major feature that many After Effects users (including myself) appreciate is the ability to export Camera, Light, and Null Layer PSR data to an AEC file. No effects necessary, just save out the project. Plus, it's easy to export object alphas to use as trackmattes.
                                • 13. Re: 3D Software..
                                  (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                                  Silver that's amazing! See I'm utterly and completely novice to that type of software. I think Id do most of the animations in AE and just use the 3d software to build my 3d objects (than again Ive never used the stuff so I dont know what I'm saying). from the looks of it c4d seems awesome. Silver how long had you been working with animation / 3d software before you made that?
                                  • 14. Re: 3D Software..
                                    Level 1
                                    mesh density may look higher than it is if hypernurbs were used. (like the + key in xsi)
                                    • 15. Re: 3D Software..
                                      Level 1
                                      While there's no automatic import of camera data into AE, Blender is a FREE open source app that's fairly easy to use for primitives and complex enough for some really great work. I admit to being a blender head and to using Blender quite often even though I have and use C4D. I actually prefer modeling in Blender.

                                      Check out this link to see what's possible with this free app.


                                      I'd figure on about 2 or 3 days of fiddling around before it sinks in.

                                      I especially like this the watch which is down the page a bit. Don't forget to take a look at the sample movies.
                                      • 16. Re: 3D Software..
                                        (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                                        Rick, blender seems amazing, a bit too good to be true.. It looks awesome. I'll download that first and If I dont like it I'll move on to some free trials of C4D and Lightwave. Are there free tutorials for it, and can I import my work into AE? (Do I have to pay to render like maya?)
                                        • 17. Re: 3D Software..
                                          Mylenium Most Valuable Participant
                                          Blender is free as in completely free of charge. The built-in renderer does lack some features, but for you as a total beginner these have absolutely no relevance. You would do just fine. As for the ongoing debate: C4D is easy to learn, but you will still need to invest a few evenings of watching tutorials and reading the manual and stuff. Blender, while free, is not as easy to learn as it relies a lot on already existing 3D knowledge from other programs, but the community is very active and you can find a sizeable number of tutorials. modo is nice, but it's not what you are looking for, I'd say. Indeed animated extrusions and stuff are not yet easily to do and I'd wait for v4 or v5 even before even considering it. That is if you are not developing into a top-notch modeler who needs this kind of polygonal modeling over night. Then the current 302 will certainly give you a lot of fun. :-)

                                          • 18. Re: 3D Software..
                                            David Wigforss-Hv1BNN Level 2
                                            To clarify: You get some nodes free for rendering in every 3D program..

                                            Also, you'll render your stuff and import it like any other piece of footage.. You won't be importing models into AE and animating them there. There's a plugin for that, 3D Invigorator, but it wasn't good enough for my needs... Once you start rendering passes, you'll start to use areas of AE that you may not have used that often, including track mattes and blend modes for compositing your images back together. C4D supposedly has the best integration with AE, as was stated above - able to import cameras, lights, nulls. Jonas mentioned that there's a plugin for Max that allows you to transfer keyframes back and forth... I still can't get it to work properly with XSI...
                                            • 19. Re: 3D Software..
                                              Mylenium Most Valuable Participant
                                              >Jonas mentioned that there's a plugin for Max that allows you to
                                              >transfer keyframes back and forth

                                              For the record: MAX2AE. Has also build in some tools for getting AE cams back into C4D (though there are free scripts for AE that do something simalar for C4D).

                                              • 20. Re: 3D Software..
                                                (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                                                So would you suggest learning straight from the C4D trial as it will be easier - as stated - and will have better AE integration? I'm assuming once I learn to work with the program and enjoy it I'd purchase it (its very pricy as all these programs are). Or should I learn with Blender and try to render there and then import into AE.. I'm just trying to go down the right path from the get go so I don't have to wallow in my confused frustration..
                                                • 21. Re: 3D Software..
                                                  Mylenium Most Valuable Participant
                                                  Well, if you're in no rush, then you can take the time to learn blender. However, you should be aware that as an Open Source app, features can change at any point without warning and development is not constant - you may get 3 new versions in a month or no new version for more than 2 years. You also have no one you can ask "officially" in terms of getting instant support with technical matters. As for C4D's priceyness: Until the end of June there's a "spring Special" that allows you to buy the base version and pick out a module for a reduced price, maybe that can make the decision a bit easier. If you are a student, you can also get academic pricing for the full Studio Bundle.

                                                  • 22. Re: 3D Software..
                                                    (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                                                    I am a student but my school doesn't carry it in the tech store.. I'm going to download the C4D trial as well and try both. If anyone can direct me to tutorials or some valuable reading that would be awesome. Basically I'm looking for the best way to ease into this area of animation at the best price, and all the while having the ability to integrate my projects into existing ones.

                                                    Mylenum, can you direct me to that bundle price?
                                                    • 23. Re: 3D Software..
                                                      Mylenium Most Valuable Participant

                                                      Student pricing is something like 400 dollars for the whole suite. you only need a confirmation form from your school/ university.

                                                      For tutorials, look up Cineversity. There are enough free examples. Also look at sites like C4D-Cafe. I also did an extensive series on the MoGraph module over at Creative COW.

                                                      • 24. Re: 3D Software..
                                                        (Michael_Martorella) Level 1
                                                        Ok, where on the website can I select to purchase the student suite if I decide to purchase it? I looked around the add to cart page and didn't see an option.
                                                        • 25. Re: 3D Software..
                                                          Ko Maruyama User Group Manager
                                                          You can call 877-ANIMATE to talk to sales. Ask for Michael to talk about your school's involvement in educational offers too.
                                                          • 27. Re: 3D Software..
                                                            Joey Morelli Level 1
                                                            Yeah...definitely no polygon budget there :) I didn't plan any of it I just "sculpted it". A lot of it was done using Hypernurbs objects and Symmetry objects. A 2K frame render on a Dual 2.5 G5 took 45 minutes (same frame on a Octocore MacPro took 6 minutes). You want to see my first vehicle attempt?


                                                            All work time running concurrent...took me about a month. I got some advice from my friends over at 3D Attack.us on technique as this is loaded with very complicated shapes. This time, I started the body with a primitive box and began with knife cuts & pushing / pulling points ("sculpting it"). You want to talk about a messed up mesh :P I probably did every procedural thing wrong in the modeling... but I am very pleased with the final comp (in Photoshop) so that's all that matters to me. I need formal training as well (someday).

                                                            Here is the full Studio Bundle ($3495.00 retail) for students @ $695.00:


                                                            Pretty ridiculous price...and I would sign right up with Cineversity and start bangin' on tutorials.


                                                            P.S. - I learned the basics of 3D in Film School / Digital Media classes working with Softimage & Alias Wavefront back in '98 but never used any of it after graduation that year. I am a Senior Video Editor / Compositor by trade (almost 10 years now) and don't have the time to devote to full formal 3D C4D training - though I really want to. It was After Effects adding Z-Depth back in v.5 that gave me back the 3D bug (around '00 - 01 I think) and I started toying around with Invigorator in AE. Made me want to take it further...but never had the time. One can dream...and I have more personal projects to post...and will be doing more soon as I can...because I am hooked. I too use the imported camera / light data in AE - it is sweet.