Even though the 3D Animation industry has been around for several decades, no single software package has emerged as the most powerful. While many a studio will argue the merits of Autodesk Maya, a fair percentage of video game development companies favor 3Ds Max, and many smaller studios stand stalwartly by Softimage for their production needs. With all of these programs existing in the same basic price bracket, there must be a reason behind these preferences.
Maya has long been the industry standard in 3D Animation software. With its massive toolset, it’s powerful processing capabilities, and polished user interface, even the most experienced animators can find themselves unable to fully exploit what Maya has to offer. The disadvantages to the program are mainly centered around it’s lack of ‘bells and whistles’ that other programs have begun to include, such as texture painting directly onto the model, or premade modifiers to shortcut modeling and animation processes. Additionally, the large price tag associated with this particular 3D software is aimed more towards a corporate budget than the average consumer, making it a more unlikely candidate for Freelance animators.
Softimage is another program often used in the film industry, due to its powerful built-in rendering capabilities. The ICE (Interactive Creative Environment) component, added to the program a few years ago, makes more complex effects, such as particle animation and unusual character rigging, possible to do without the need for an in-house development team.
3Ds Max has quickly become the program most commonly associated with video game design in America. The extensive library of free add-ons, coupled with the impressive list of premade modifiers, makes the workflow on simpler projects exponentially easier. This may not translate well into larger scenes, however, where the models aren’t as straightforward, and the use of modifiers may become problematic.
Cinema 4D is another program gaining in popularity, particularly due to its ability to integrate with Adobe Aftereffects. This, combined with the use of real-world measurement systems in terms of scaling assets, makes it highly desirable to the live-action industry. Likewise, the program Lightwave can be used for much the same purpose, but it’s lack of internal animation abilities may outweigh its impressive scenery modeling abilities, depending on the project.
In recent years, the advances in processing capabilities have made it possible for the average computer to run 3D Animation software to a certain extent. To accompany this leap, hobbyist developers have begun to try their hand at making their own inexpensive, if not free, 3D packages. From bare-bones Architecture modeling programs to completely comprehensive animation programs like Blender, consumers can now learn the basics before deciding to purchase the more expensive professional tools.
In the end, the decision of which piece of 3D Animation software to utilize comes down to a single factor- personal preference. As each program excels in different areas, and sports a different but equivalent user interface, the result becomes less of a tier list, and more of deciding which program fits the needs of the project or projects best.
Zco Corporation is a custom software company with headquarters in Nashua, New Hampshire, USA specializing in mobile app development, enterprise software, and 3D animation.
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