Hobbyist Forums banner

1 - 12 of 12 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,318 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I've decided to try some 3d modeling. I have no experience with this, though I have done some 2d cad in the past. Can someone recommend which free package I should try first?

Desirable features to me are (in no particular order):
- free
- cross-platform (Linux and 'dows at least)
- open source
- easy to learn
- easy to use
- powerful
- ability to rotate view in real-time, preferably with proper perspective
- good rendering
- ability to import and export popular formats
- animation support
- popular -- able to get help from a friendly community of users

The most important is probably easy to learn, but I don't want to learn a throw-away package; so I'd like something that's reasonably powerful.

The options I'm immediately aware of are Blender and Art of Illusion. Would one of these be a good choice? Which would be better? Why?

Thanks


Paul
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,589 Posts
From everything I've read for Freeware I would recommend Blender.

I have it and have dabbled with it.

If you end up spending a few bucks though you can get sometimes get a used but legal copy of 3D Studio Max as high as version 8 on Ebay for under $200 bucks.

One thing I like about it as opposed to most other of the popular 3D programs is that it has a dimensioning(measuring system) built in. It helps my feeble mind more easily keep a sense of scale and find errors.

Having said that I must buckle down and actually study it and/or Blender instead of just playing with them. Until very recently I had been working a lot of hours, so I was too braindead when I finally got home to even think of serious study.

Try Blender.com and also Fourmadmen's website, fourmadmen.com has a lot of info on it, the stuff in his gallery was done with Blender.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,174 Posts
I know that it isn't free or cheap, but I am currently studying Maya 8 at school. I am working towards a degree in computer animation. I have downloaded Blender and my lessons in Maya are helping me out a great deal.

For at home playing around and doing some simple animations, I say go with Blender. I have seen a lot of FourMadMens stuff and it is incredible.

Plus Maya will require you to upgrade your computer most likely due to its system requirements.

Maya is the software that was used by Weta Digital to create a large number of the CG effects in LOTR and King Kong. Gollum was created entirely in Maya and all of the upgrades to that software were done by Weta since version 1.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,318 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Well, I had decided to go for Blender, but...
The first opportunity I had to play around with one was when I wanted to experiment with the Enterprise "3-footer" geometry (see separate thread -- lots of models fit to photographs on page 3), and of course I wanted to do so right now! without delay for learning curve.
I played with Blender for about 5 minutes, which is obviously not enough time to learn how to do anything useful. Since I had also downloaded and installed Art of Illusion, I gave it a quick shot and was able to get started with useful modeling within a couple of minutes. So, I'm using it for my 3-footer Enterprise project.

I've found Art of Illusion to be intuitive, easy to learn, easy to use, and powerful. However, its UI is pretty basic. Things I wish it could do that it doesn't seem to be able to do:

- Move by a specific amount entered numerically (I have to calculate the resulting final position and enter it; worse, I have to do so individually for each object in a group that I want to move by the same offset!)
(One can drag move a group, but the mouse precision is too low sometimes.)

- Measure geometry, e.g., select two surfaces and read the distance as shortest line, x-component, y-component, and z-component.

- Position is always by center; I'd like to be able to view and enter position of bottom edge, for example.

- When editing a spline (or a mesh), I can't enter specific coordinates for points or even view the current position (relative or otherwise). The best I can do is drag move and watch the progress distance; but mouse precision is often too low. Also, while I can delete points, I don't seem to be able to add them. (Maybe I can but it's not clear how.)

- Background images (aka template) cannot be moved or scaled (it doesn't even center); also they are lost when you close and reload -- not saved! If they would just center, I'd be much happier (I can scale the images with an external app); but since they don't, I have to have exactly the same window size each time or my view no longer matches the image. This is particularly a problem when I switch between my laptop and my desktop, which have different resolutions (my laptop's wide screen whereas my desktop has two monitors rotated in the "page" orientation -- tall and narrow). This makes it very cumbersome to repeat comparisons of the model to photographs.

- The extrude tool seems to be horribly broken! Instead of making clean extrusions, I get a big mess that scarcely resembles the source object.

- I'd like to be able to move two objects until specific surfaces touch (or are a specific distance apart); to do so, I have to calculate the desired coordinates of the center points of the two based on the object dimensions and then enter the result.

- I'd like to be able to define relationships between objects in a group, so that one part is anchored relative to another. (I can group and move/scale/rotate the whole group together, but there's no concept of anchoring -- all positions are absolute; I'd like to be able to make them be relative to other objects.)

- When I rotate the view angle, I get no readout as to how far I've rotated it. (Unless the view is a defined camera, in which case I can look at the change in angle by noting the starting angle and subtracting it from the final angle manually after the rotate is completed.) The same goes for translational movement of the view.

I haven't done much with the renderer or textures and such yet.

There are of course little quirks that are annoying but readily worked around. I expect that of any package, unfortunately.



Overall, Art of Illusion is very good for a free and easy program; I recommend it for anyone as a first 3d modeling program.
But I want more editing features.



Which of the things I've listed above does blender do?
What about Wings 3d? Or your other open-source, cross-platform 3d modeling software package of choice?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
923 Posts
Well, it is too bad that your platform choice was so limited...

As for ease of use, I would point out that I went from zero experience (this was day one) to this...


... in two weeks with Strata (a free version I have). And this is where I ended up by the end of March...




While I haven't had time to refine my model even more, it wouldn't be that hard. From my reading I have already outline changes I want to make when I have time to play with it again.

While it would be nice to have everything, for me free and easy to learn were the deciding factors... even the Macs I did most of this stuff on I got for free.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,318 Posts
Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
It looks like it has a free 30-day demo (i.e., hookware) then costs $495 ($995 for the Suite, plug-ins extra). That is outside the consideration for the best free package, obviously. It looks pretty neat and sounds like reasonable pricing, but the goal here was free (and preferably open source).

Out of curiosity, does it do the things I discuss as missing features in art of illusion, above?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,607 Posts
Some of the comments people make about Blender being hard is a little unfair. Anything that is powerful has a learning curve. It's true that it's not intuitive but once you learn the basics it is fast. There are tons of tutorials out there and the video tutorials by people like "Greybeard" and written tutorials by "Sphynx" are a great way to learn Blender. Part of the Sphynx tutorial series is mirrored on my site. There are more parts to the series but I have not put them up yet.

uss_columbia said:
Which of the things I've listed above does blender do?
----- Move by a specific amount entered numerically (I have to calculate the resulting final position and enter it; worse, I have to do so individually for each object in a group that I want to move by the same offset!)
(One can drag move a group, but the mouse precision is too low sometimes.)


Objects (in object mode) and mesh selections (in edit mode) can be moved by manual entry you can also move with precision using the ALT and SHIFT keys. ALT will move the selection snapped to the grid (10, 1, .1, .01, etc.) depending on the zoom level. SHIFT is like a miro dial and will move the selection in the smallest positional increment.

----- Measure geometry, e.g., select two surfaces and read the distance as shortest line, x-component, y-component, and z-component.

Measurements in Blender are given for edge lenghts and the angle between two edges. These options (length and angle) can be turned on individually and are shown as edges are selected. There is also a "Mesh Caliper" script that greatly expands on the base functionality in Blender.

----- Position is always by center; I'd like to be able to view and enter position of bottom edge, for example.

Object centerpoint can be moved anywhere.

----- When editing a spline (or a mesh), I can't enter specific coordinates for points or even view the current position (relative or otherwise). The best I can do is drag move and watch the progress distance; but mouse precision is often too low. Also, while I can delete points, I don't seem to be able to add them. (Maybe I can but it's not clear how.)

Any selection in blender can be moved via manual X/Y/Z entries. A single vertex, a group of faces, whatever.

----- Background images (aka template) cannot be moved or scaled (it doesn't even center); also they are lost when you close and reload -- not saved! If they would just center, I'd be much happier (I can scale the images with an external app); but since they don't, I have to have exactly the same window size each time or my view no longer matches the image. This is particularly a problem when I switch between my laptop and my desktop, which have different resolutions (my laptop's wide screen whereas my desktop has two monitors rotated in the "page" orientation -- tall and narrow). This makes it very cumbersome to repeat comparisons of the model to photographs.

Background images can be moved and scaled. Each 3D view port can have a seperate image. And you can have as many viewports shown as you have screen realestate to hold them. I typically have 3 3D/camera views and a button view as my normal setup.

----- The extrude tool seems to be horribly broken! Instead of making clean extrusions, I get a big mess that scarcely resembles the source object.

Extrusion can be free floating, contrained to an axis, constrained to the face normal average of the selection.

----- I'd like to be able to move two objects until specific surfaces touch (or are a specific distance apart); to do so, I have to calculate the desired coordinates of the center points of the two based on the object dimensions and then enter the result.

There is no built in method of doing this as it is described above but it can be done quite easily (especially in edit mode).

----- I'd like to be able to define relationships between objects in a group, so that one part is anchored relative to another. (I can group and move/scale/rotate the whole group together, but there's no concept of anchoring -- all positions are absolute; I'd like to be able to make them be relative to other objects.)

Blender has two systems for this: Object groups and object chains (parent/child relationships).

----- When I rotate the view angle, I get no readout as to how far I've rotated it. (Unless the view is a defined camera, in which case I can look at the change in angle by noting the starting angle and subtracting it from the final angle manually after the rotate is completed.) The same goes for translational movement of the view.

Rotating the view does not give a rotation readout. You however get readouts on rotating objects themselves (meshes, cameras, etc.). Also the keyboard number keys will rotate the views (x steps in 90 degress and is confiugrable).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,318 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
^ I had seen the tutorial on your site and planned (still plan) to go through it.
(The UI was definitely not intuitive, but that's what tutorials are for.)
Really, easy to use is much more important in the long run than easy to learn.
I'll definitely give Blender a shot before (or when) I start my next project.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
923 Posts
uss_columbia said:
It looks like it has a free 30-day demo (i.e., hookware) then costs $495 ($995 for the Suite, plug-ins extra). That is outside the consideration for the best free package, obviously. It looks pretty neat and sounds like reasonable pricing, but the goal here was free (and preferably open source).
Well, ya have to remember that the software I'm using isn't the current version... what I'm using is from back in 1994. I don't have a compelling reason to buy the current version (which is the pricing you pointed out) as I don't do any of this for a living, it is all just for the fun of it. Before I invest money on software I would need to know that the software will provide me with a return on that investment.

This software was both free and easy to learn. The only requirement is an older Mac that can at least run Classic Mac software. And like I said, the Macs I've used for this I got for free as well (PowerBook 3400c/200, Power Macintosh 8600/300 and PowerMac G4).

In the end, I doubt that most people would be willing to take the steps needed to use this software (the free version)... in your case, you would need to get an older Mac to run this on (which is often more than what most Windows users could handle to begin with).

Out of curiosity, does it do the things I discuss as missing features in art of illusion, above?
To the degree I could tell from your descriptions (and my experience with the software)... yes.

I would point out that the easiest way to tell if this can do what you want is to see if I was able to do what you need. But again, remember that I did most of this on 1994 software using a 1997 PowerBook... If Strata's 13 year old software was able to produce what I made while in the hands of a novice like me, one can only imagine what today's version can do. :cool:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,318 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
^ Yup. If I could justify buying a 3d package from my hobby budget, I'd seriously consider Strata; I'd at least do the free 30 day evaluation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
Shaw said:
Well, ya have to remember that the software I'm using isn't the current version... what I'm using is from back in 1994. I don't have a compelling reason to buy the current version (which is the pricing you pointed out) as I don't do any of this for a living, it is all just for the fun of it. Before I invest money on software I would need to know that the software will provide me with a return on that investment.

This software was both free and easy to learn. The only requirement is an older Mac that can at least run Classic Mac software. And like I said, the Macs I've used for this I got for free as well (PowerBook 3400c/200, Power Macintosh 8600/300 and PowerMac G4).

In the end, I doubt that most people would be willing to take the steps needed to use this software (the free version)... in your case, you would need to get an older Mac to run this on (which is often more than what most Windows users could handle to begin with).

To the degree I could tell from your descriptions (and my experience with the software)... yes.

I would point out that the easiest way to tell if this can do what you want is to see if I was able to do what you need. But again, remember that I did most of this on 1994 software using a 1997 PowerBook... If Strata's 13 year old software was able to produce what I made while in the hands of a novice like me, one can only imagine what today's version can do. :cool:
How can I get a copy of the "free" version?
 
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Top