View Full Version : Newb (student) need help decided on software

01 January 2005, 08:20 AM
Hey all! :D

I'm a Photoshop user (been designing websites, mostly) and I now want to enter the world of 3D authoring. There have been posts similar to this one before (I did a search), but I really didn't find the answers I'd been looking for for my rather specific question.

I want to decide on mastering a software which I can enjoy, and still gain industry-standard skills (Photoshop, for instance). I know once I really get into it, it'll become a part of my life and I will not want to look another way (Am I looking too far?).

I can learn well, IMO, by following tutorials and 'getting the feel' of things, and experimenting, of course. Resources for free apps like Blender or Wings don't come easy for me. My internet connection is slow, there's no in-software tutorial and I'd love to follow a book. Besides, they're not the industry-standard tool I'm looking to learn (not yet, at least).

I've downloaded Blender and am playing with that though, just for a test drive.

I found other software like Realsoft 3D and Carrara that seemed good. Actually, I even have the Special Edition release of Realsoft 5 that came along with IC CHIP Magazine. I enjoyed following the tutorial in the magazine and experimenting with SDS modelling. However, they're still not the industry standard software and learning resources are difficult to find as well.

I could invest in other software with the student discount (if I am eligible), but I feel after paying so much (even with the discount, it's a LOT for a student like myself) there shouldn't be any restrictions (commercial use).

So, here's where I need help. Which software do you suggest I learn 3D modelling (and eventually animation) with, which has enough learning resources, can be acquried at a considerably low price, but is still industry standard?

I looked at Maya PLE and Softimage Mod, but they have watermarks, which I feel will be obstructive to learning. Besides, even if I learnt Maya, how could I ever afford it?

Eventually, I WILL find a way to buy the software, but I don't want to pay and then regret later on (who does?). What do you suggest I do? I know I'm good at learning technical things so the learning curve will not be a problem as long as there are enough learning resources.

What say you? :) (Oh, and thanks for reading... I put in everything that's in my mind here).

01 January 2005, 06:24 PM
hehe, the all dreaded question, that will always pop up in one way or another...

so you tried a few, and are still trying to decide eh?

First off, I wouldn't discount Wings3d from your options... Wings3d is an industry standard in it's own right... I mean it really is a wonderful application for what it is meant for, And, given that it will export in several file formats, well, from there it is actually pretty easy to hop into another app for further work... :)

I just downloaded it in eleven minutes over dial up 56k, at 4kb transfer... eleven minutes and I am rocking with a box modeling app that will allow for some amazing potential in most any hands... cool

From there it is no easy choice... Personaly I play around with ZBrush, C4D, and have enjoyed some cool times with Carrara as well... for me it is only a hobby, so it is all good eh :D

Maybe somebody with some pro experience could shed a better light with regards to just which top apps to go for... though don't be surprised if nobody offers up the goods... this question of which app is really subjective, thus becomes redundant and irratating to many, after so many times...

just try em out and make up your own mind they will think... read up on em all and go from there they will think... and they are probably right eh ;)

good luck :)

01 January 2005, 03:07 AM
When I was deciding on software I was in the same boat and I hated hearing "only you can decide what package works for you". But it really is the truth.

I also wouldn't focus "mastering" one package as much as I would focus on mastering modeling and animation principles. Don't get me wrong, you should know the package you choose well but I think being able to transfer those skills to other packages could only widen your employment options. I know for me, even though I have chosen a specific software package (which I'm quite happy with) I plan to dabble with the other packages.

I would play with as many different packages as you can and visit as many forums for each respective package.

Here are some links that helped me when I was searching. I think they each do a great job of objectively comparing different packages and may open your eyes to things you hadn't previously considered affecting your decision.

Originally posted by livatlantis
I could invest in other software with the student discount (if I am eligible), but I feel after paying so much (even with the discount, it's a LOT for a student like myself) there shouldn't be any restrictions (commercial use).
I'd have to disagree with you on that. Paying a couple hundred dollars for an educational license of the same software that runs a few thousand dollars for a commercial license is a steal IMO. If I was elligible for it I would take it in a heartbeat with out any complaints.

01 January 2005, 03:47 AM
if you want to learn industry standard skills, you can use maya, max, XSI, c4d or lightwave. they are the most widely used and also most powerfull tools, each of them with its own advantages and disadvantages.

but the way of working and doing 3d is pretty much the same in any of those "big guys". i'm mostly using c4d, but with the 3dsmax demo i can model the same stuff, differences are only in workflow and names, for example maya has smoothproxy, max has meshsmooth, c4d has HyperNURBS-cages, and all of them provide you with smoothing options and do about 95% the same stuff with different names.

so you should only decide by your own comfort, as talent and continous hard work will can bring you to a studio with all of the big apps.

each of them has also students versions, all of them 'bout 100$ to 500$, whereas all complete packages with the same stuff like students' start at over 1,000$ for lightwave going up to more than 7,000$ for some other. only commercial stuff is forbidden with students license usually

01 January 2005, 08:01 AM
Hey all, thanks for your responses :) I appreciate it.

I see that this is among the most common questions a newbie asks, sorry for repeating lol. Anyway, I like what I see in Softimage XSI 4.2 Foundation (which even has an online Nepal store to make things easier) and Lightwave [8] educational versions. I'll download the free XSI 4.2 Mod Tool and the Lightwave [8] Update to try out both software to see which one I like. Both these software come at around $250 edu, and XSI at $175 (one-year).

I read somewhere that LW edu allows me to use it commercially, is this true? That'd be great!

And as Cirrus9 and kuii suggested, if I learn 3D techniques in one software, it won't really be that much of an uphill battle to use them on other software, right? :O

Which, of LW and XSI, would be better to learn at, do you think? I know I'll try them out to suit me, but just in your opinion?

Oh, and I'll get Wings3D just for some fun (and to indulge in my power to afford free software lol!) Thanks!

Thanks a lot! CGTalk is really a nice place :)

01 January 2005, 08:41 AM
Okay, I'm not a pro but I've been into 3d modeling and rendering for close to 3 years so I have recently been in your shoes. What I would suggest is starting out with a great modeling application, then move onto basic rendering, then dive into UV mapping and texturing, then advanced rendering. Once you're good with those then move into the animation realm (which I'm not even into after this long! ;)). Wings3d is a great modeling program so don't rule it out but I would really suggest looking into Modo and Silo also. I own both of these programs and I'm not regreting my purchases one single bit. I used to use Blender and Wings3d for modeling but Silo is one of the fastest modeling programs I've come across and Modo is growing to be an amazing modeler...glad I bought it.

Being a student you're in a great position for learning 3d graphics. Most of us that aren't students had to pay full price for our programs but you get wicked cool discounts to learn the can't use them commercially but for the price you get to learn with the greatest of the great tools that most can't afford! XSI is a good choice since you will have access to the Advance version being a student for around 300 USD. I personally use Cinema 4D XL and I'm loving it but it's all about personal preference which any user will tell you. Download as many trials and learning editions that you can and spend time with each of them before you spend your money. I think the only program that won't have a demo is Modo...well Zbrush2 doesn't have a demo but don't worry about Zbrush until you have some expericne with regular polygon modeling....don't get spoiled yet ;) That's really the best advice any of us can give honestly...try demos. Even though Modo and Silo aren't "industry standards" doesn't mean they aren't amazing products....actually Pro's in the industry are useing those two programs for modeling then importing into their rendering packages of choice or what ever their studios are using. I should warn you that you will hardly ever regret purchasing a program even if you don't master it...every piece of software has it's strong point that another program won't have. I've spent enough money to realize this. ;) You have the right idea so far, just make sure you're comfortable with what ever program(s) you end up with. Being a student, you can afford to buy/try out a few different programs depending on your cash flow. :)

Enjoy and welcome to the addictive world of 3d.


01 January 2005, 10:08 AM
Seems that you have to decide something basic at first. Industry-standard "usually" means "not cheap" and money seems to be one of your problems (Maya for example), so decide how much money you are willing to spend at maximum and then start thinking about options.

I would not try to decide a program "I will be happy with rest of my life" quite yet, since programs grow rapidly and new ones comes from the bushes. Get free programs at first (like Wings) and learn basic modeling methods well. Then decide what you expect from other parts of 3D programs. I mean about rendering quality, speed, workflow, texturing options, animation (especially CA will be a tough choise especially if money is an issue).

What ever you choose, make sure it has good import/export options or get separate conversion program for that. For me it seems that workflow is number one. It's really bad if you choose app which has every bells and whisles (but some you don't ever need) and you end up dislike how actual program behaves and it's UI customization does not help enough.

Separate modeling apps are always good choice to achieve different tasks, since some things are faster to do in application "A" and some are faster in application"B".

One BIG issue is to think "what are you going to do with 3D application" before getting the "final" one. Do you make Hollywood movies? Print art? Web design? Logo animations for TV?...and so on. I have teached 6 years of 3D and seen too many people who use absolutely wrong app for them just because they think "it's best in industry (what a statement by the way)". But when I ask about what they do not like in their "best app" it usually reveals that they could done same job more fluently with other app they even haven't heard of.


01 January 2005, 02:54 PM
Thanks to all for your thoughts, it's really helping me a lot!

So, right, I'll stress less on the 'industry standard' factor. The only reason I say this is because I have to use someone else's credit card to purchase (so have to go easy on that), and you don't find books for smaller software here. In fact, I'v only seen 3dsmax and Maya books. That's why I wanted something 'bigger'.

Downloading Wings3D now, but I doubt there are enough tutorials for newbies ;) I'll play around, though :)

Curious, if I download the Lightwave [8] update, I will be able to operate the demo version without a dongle, right? If not, LW is out of the question, since I won't be able to try it and I'll be left with XSI only.

I'll look for the educational price of C4D, since that comes into picture as well :) I think the concept of 'core' and modules is nice, since the newbs get what they need to start, and can add to the app as need grows.

The only XSI I can afford is Foundation 1-year lisence at $169 and maybe the Foundation Permanent at $270. That's about it. I don't think I can get 'Advanced'.

I'm not sure yet, but I think I'll be using the software mostly for creating advertisements (yep, corporate brainwashing lol), and well, movie effects and game objects, maybe. Can't be sure.

Between C4D, LW and XSI, which would work for me the most, do you think? Just opinions :)

01 January 2005, 05:22 PM
Good post, personally am in the same boat, still very new to 3D so am gonna keep an eye on this though at the moment I think I have all the knowledge I need to decide which 3D app to use.

01 January 2005, 05:36 PM
Hi Patrick :) How's the music going? Happy New Year's eh !

as for the app thing here people... just like 2D eh... many use PS, or PSP, some use PI, others maybe CD... they are just set's of tools, accessed through defined/user definable ? UI.... ok, workflow and the artist are kinda important too :D

back to 3D...Heck, I have seen some virtual worlds that were created with Bryce, and I am not talking as much about landscapes as I am there were sci fi buildings everywhere... spacecraft, being, etc... and given the much slower machines of the year of such works, and, from what I know of Bryce, I really have to suggest that was one awesome like, dedicated artist... and that is the point, which fits in with the subjectivity of this discussion.

They are all potentialy terrific sets of tools, some with better stuff in certain areas, others with lower resource requirements, some more user definable than others bla bla... the rest is within the artist... whether you are talking about why they prefer just which set of tools, and/or, their choice of what they create... it's about them getting down with a set of tools, and having some fun.... believe you me, after you get some modeling experience under your belt, you will find your way to a particular set or group of tools which you will prefer for whatever reason(s)... and the rest is about the art you create with such...

Just work with a few different demo's/apps, find some tutorials, and have fun...

might I suggest to first learn how to box model... there are a ton of tutorials to be found online for box modeling most everything one could imagine... you really have to find some things to model, and dive in... hunt them tut's down, read as much as you can in your spare times, regarding modeling, and 3d general, and practice till you find your own way on to great scenes ahead :) How corny eh ;)

happy modeling :)

01 January 2005, 04:40 AM
Thanks! I think I'm getting it, now ;) Maybe I haven't been fair to Wings3D, I found out it's really nice! I did the table modelling tutorial, and I enjoyed quite a lot! Is that how you model in other apps as well? Just to show my progress, here's the Wings3D screendump:

If modelling in most software is like how Wings3D does it, or how Realsoft does SDS, I'd be one happy newbie! Of course, if it's different, learning new techniques would be fun as well.
Oh, and here's a screendump after I exported the Wings model in a 3dsfile and imported into Realsoft to work on and render it. Here's where things are, a glass table on a marble floor (with glass legs, lol!!). It's just me playing around, though.

Anyway, here's my plan. I'll practive Wings3D (and I'll want your input as to whether that's how most software let you model) with tutorials (I've downloaded) and experiment. Like in the above table, the tutorial had the legs coming off at the ends (edges), but I didn't like there, so I added... well, a roof-like thing on all sides.

I'll download trial Softimage, Lightwave (and maybe Cinema4D much later) and see which one works with me which learning to model with Wings3D!

Thank you all for your help. :) These first steps can really get confusing lol. ;)

01 January 2005, 04:56 AM
Wings is awfully good for the price. ;) And it is a joy to work with for the most part, but I find the lack of certain features, like lathing, to be fairly frustrating. I know there are ways around those limitations, but when I was starting out, practically the de facto first step was to lathe a wineglass. It's hard to ask a beginner to forgo a basic modeling technique because you have to learn a complex workaround.

I've never spent all that much time fiddling with Blender, but what I do know of it says that it would be worth checking out. There's actually a few decent books on Blender, so that would fill one of your requirements.

As for high-end commercial apps, I agree with what a few others have said -- technique should come first. You can adapt your skills to any package fairly quickly down the road.

01 January 2005, 05:20 AM
Which, of LW and XSI, would be better to learn at, do you think? I know I'll try them out to suit me, but just in your opinion?
One things for sure, you'll find alot more training material for LW than XSI. Another thing LW has going for it is the price and the educational version which is fully working with no watermark. Ofcourse, commercial work is a no no, but you can get the skills you need with the educational version to make a demoreel and get hired :)

01 January 2005, 11:44 AM
First a comment of your Realsoft Render. A with any 3D app, if your object has a reflective material you need something around your model since otherwise it renders more or less black as in your render. Either build something around it (may take a time) or use reflection-maps to "fake" it has surrounding around it.

About "does other apps use same modeling techniques as Wings3D", I would say "nowadays most of them uses same method or have it as one option", but actual workflow and toolset will be more or less different.

Keep in mind that there is other modeling methods also which suite better for certain jobs and Realsoft is one heck of an app to have so much for being so cheap. Pity it's so buggy and has some workflow troubles (have not tried V5 yet, which may be much better).

Wings is a bit limited for methods...just a box-modeling is available, but it's good about it. For example it does not have option to start from "zero",add some points and later connect those points to create a polygons which I like doing with C4D. Also it does not have a spline/NURBS-tools to create smooth curves and connect them to form a surface. So check your Realsoft really has almost anything you need for long time.


01 January 2005, 03:20 PM
@saltydogdesign: You're right. The fact that it's free allowed me to experiment and tread new grounds (which would have probably been out of reach if not for Wings). Blender was a bit difficult for me because of the lack of books here and lack of easy available resources (even with an EXCELLENT user community at Elysiun). Oh well, maybe with the next realease (and hopefully better SDS features), I'll try it out again. Thanks for your ideas.

@warchills: Yep, LW is great for the educational price. Plus, I'll actually be getting the full thing, as you say. With XSI, I get "Foundation" only (for what I can pay). Is "XSI Foundation" as powerful as LW in terms of features (and restrictions?). The $169 one-year license appeals to me for the 'affordable' factor.

@pwallin: Thanks for the suggestions. I'll try building something around it (a room?). What's a reflection map? Is it an image wrapped around a 3D object? :O Thanks about the technique question. Well, I guess I still need to try out the trials. That will be sometime because I'll have to go to a friends house for broadband connection, and he's a busy guy.
I'm starting to feel some limitations Wings has (including the fact that I managed to destroy the exporter somehow, lol) but I'm enjoying learning on it. Recently, modeled a futuristic vase and a dog-like creature lol! So yep, that's fun.
I only have the Special Edition of Realsoft 5 (which of course, is less specal than full) with limitations polygon-count, save view to file, animations... Also, there are bugs like Ctrl+Z undoing sometimes, and sometimes removing materials from the library. The interface is really rough and unfinished as well. Definately not for a newbie like myself, but seems good for technical users ;)

Still need your suggestions (I don't mind biased opinions lol) on whether Lightwave [8] or Softimage XSI Foundation works better for students. Oh, and I guess I could somehow manage working at 1280 * 1204 display resolution (as XSI requires), but that would be be a bit troublesome on... say, a notebook (hooked onto an external display) I may get soon (since I may be travelling).

So, LW or XSI? Thanks for all your input! I appreciate it a lot! :D

01 January 2005, 06:14 PM
Hey hey, you had some good fun and did up a quick table with wings3d... go livatlantis go... :)

01 January 2005, 11:48 AM
Thanks ;) I'll post the next screen shot with an animal and a strange looking vase I've been playing around with :D

01 January 2005, 10:48 AM
I had worked with Cinema and 3ds max before. And my favourite was 3ds max. Last year I decided to by a 3d-package. So I had the same hard question to solve - which one?
I tested a lot (XSI, Maya, Blender...). And I decided to buy Maya for some reasons:

a) The price was very good - compared to 3ds max
b) the stability was very good - compared to 3ds max
c) The nurbs modeling was very good - compared to 3ds max ;-)

If you look first on Maya, you thing "o my god", 3ds max looks better designed, more intuative. But this is only the first impression. Maya is very powerful, logic, industry and movies standard. You can do so much, modeling, rendering, animating and even programming.

This was my choose, and I didn't regret.

Maya rulez :buttrock:

01 January 2005, 06:14 AM
Just reading through the posts and can only add that I just read (3D World) that Modo does have an educational version for $149.00 and if the student has a 3.0 grade average the price is lowered to $99.00.

01 January 2005, 02:38 PM
see how opinions can differ.

one suggestions: of course LW is still a great program and it's used so widely...but i personally think LW stopped evolving some time ago....most of the other apps offer you a lot more options.

any app has it's powers, for with Maya you'll find great high-end CA and NURBS tool sets as well as great renderman support etc.

with 3dsmax, you'll find somewhat zillions of plugins, and it gives you the choice to choose between the best desktop renderers (brazil FR, vray etc.) and is used widely in game art.

XSI is somewhat nmot too different from maya in the fields of usage.

c4d provides you with extreme stability (seriously, i personally use it for 2 years now and it crashed maybe one or two times du dirty plugins not working correctly, also it's got a super SubD modeller (mabye only second to modo or silo) and superfluent workflow as well as an not to steep learning curve. it's gt an inbuilt renderer whcih is fast, clean and fairly easy to use.

also all of them have disadvantages. maya is overal so complex to start with and besides the NURBS tools i can't find too good modelling options. 3dsmax is known as being slow and unstable as well a horrible GUI, and c4d lacks of industry-standard CA tools and the option to choose your renderer (although maxwell is coming for c4d, too).

and here's a list of typical usage profiles:

maya, XSI: film art, character animation for movies
3dsmax: game art
c4d: print, publishing (due to avaibilty on mac), matte painting, broadcast, movie special effects
LW: broadcast, TV-series, special effects.

01 January 2005, 02:40 PM
Just reading through the posts and can only add that I just read (3D World) that Modo does have an educational version for $149.00 and if the student has a 3.0 grade average the price is lowered to $99.00.

That's an interesting price structure. Reminds me of when I was a kid -- the local video arcade would give out free tokens for each A or B on your report card...

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