3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 6: The Software Landscape | 3
Lesson 6 - The Software Landscape - Part 3
Affordable Packages For Windows
It's fair to assume that most of this audience is looking to get started in 3-D with an affordable product that runs on Windows 95. "Affordable" here means around $300 to $400. Fractal Design's Ray Dream Studio is probably the largest selling single product. Macromedia offers 3D Extreme, both as part of the Director studio package and separately. These are both very substantial companies with wide product lines and are certain to be around for a while.
There are people who just love Caligari True Space, and the upcoming 3.0 version seems a very ambitious product indeed. The Caligari user interface is very intuitive and many people who might otherwise find 3-D applications too intimidating will feel more comfortable with True Space.
Other products worth exploring are Specular International's Infini-D, 3/D Eye's TriSpectives, and the Byte by Byte Soft F/X mentioned above.
What About the Mac?
3-D developments on the Macintosh have followed their own particular course. Theoretically, Apple should have been the first to embrace 3-D graphics as a natural extension of their early dominance of the 2-D computer graphics world. But this did not happen. Among the high-end applications, only Lightwave 3D is being ported to the Power Macintosh.
The high-end 3-D world on Apple has been owned exclusively by Strata Inc. The new Strata Studio Pro 2.0 (at around $1,000) is the best-known professional quality package for the Power Mac.
At the lower end, however, the choices are certainly adequate enough. Fractal Design's Ray Dream Studio is available for both Mac and Power Mac, as is Macromedia's 3D Extreme and Specular International's Infini-D. Byte by Byte offers Sculpt, rather than Soft F/X for the Macintosh. Macintosh users are certainly familiar with the commitment of both Fractal (Painter) and Macromedia (Director) to the Apple platform, and should feel comfortable about the future of these products.
A Final Suggestion
I must repeat at the close of this brief overview that things are changing very rapidly and that the beginner must be willing to jump in and grab a product to get started. Find a price range you can live with and pick something. Each product has its advantages and disadvantages, and comparing features is particularly tricky. Many applications claim to offer features that, as a practical matter, do not work well enough to be useful, or work well only with the most powerful hardware. Indeed, money spent on hardware is generally more important in 3-D animation than on software. 3-D animation requires all the RAM memory and processing power you can afford. Pick a product and learn to use it. Once you are inside the 3D design process, things will look very different than they do from the outside.
The following is a list of the websites of all the companies mentioned in this tutorial.
- Alias/Wavefront (SGI) www.aw.sgi.com
- Byte by Byte www.bytebybyte.com
- Caligari Corp. www.caligari.com
- Fractal Design Corp. www.fractal.com
- Kinetix (Autodesk) www.ktx.com
- Macromedia www.macromedia.com
- NewTek www.newtek.com
- Softimage www.softimage.com
- Specular International www.specular.com
- Strata Inc. www.strata3d.com
- 3D/Eye Inc. www.eye.com
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Created: April 3, 1997
Revised: March 6, 1998