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Graphics Software

Good Intro to Animation/Graphics Material? 48

An anonymous reader asks: "My wife, who is not at all a computer geek, wants to get more into computer graphics, with a desire to get into 3D and animation. She knows Photoshop well, but doesn't have much in the way of a computer background. I keep our computers running, but am graphics- and art-challenged. I'd like some recommendations on how to get her started: Books, URLs, software packages. For software, Linux or Windows doesn't matter to me, but I'd prefer free or relatively inexpensive. Please, help me turn my wife into a graphics geek!"
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Good Intro to Animation/Graphics Material?

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  • OpenGL is a rather inexpensive 3-D graphics library that is machine independent. If she doesn't know programming, she may want to look into the Python variation (PyOpenGL?), since python is fairly easy to pick up.
    • I really don't think programming graphic libraries is what she was looking for... and if it is I would start her out with SRGP long before that!
      • Well, *I* wasn't looking for programming graphics libraries when I took my Graphics Course in college, but that didn't stop my professor from teaching it...
        • Well *I* wish you took English Comprehension along with that graphics course.

          Key phrases in story:
          *** who is not at all a computer geek***.
          ***She knows Photoshop well, but doesn't have much in the way of a computer background.***

          hmmm... by the laws of probability and statistics is she looking to just make some cool shit and do things beyond the scope of Photoshop or start working on the next release of Blender?
  • blender (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    i must say that im rather graphicly challenged and i figured out how to make blender do the things i needed for the most part. Its got a wicked learning curve(although i didn't read the manual or the tutorial), but its free etc. i think it runs on win32, and i know it runs on linux
    • "...i figured out how to make blender do the things i needed for the most part. Its got a wicked learning curve..."

      Now that Blender is Open Source the developers are looking for user feedback to improve future releases. One target is the GUI. Go to Blender.org [blender.org] and offer your thoughts.

      Blender's render engine has also been on the low end of things, but that is likely to change soon as well. There are numerous efforts to make Blender export to Renderman format, as well as other higher end render programs.

      Also for you Poser types, check out the Makehuman [kino3d.com] Project for Blender.
  • uh (Score:2, Informative)

    by GiMP ( 10923 )
    Blender. Moonlight Creator. Softimage. Lightwave. Maya Alias/Wavefront.

    BTW: google.com is your friend.
  • OpenGL? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by krs-one ( 470715 ) <vic@ope n g l f o r ums.com> on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:15PM (#5008157) Homepage Journal
    You didn't specify if she was interested in learning how to program graphics, or just make pretty pictures. Personally, I would rather program them rather than just make them in a program like Lightwave or other 3D package.

    First, if she wants to learn to program graphics, I suggest she visit my site, openglforums.com [openglforums.com]. I think its a pretty good resource on OpenGL programming.

    However, if your wife just wants to make pretty graphics, there are a few free or inexpensive programs available. For example, there is Blender 3D [blender.nl] (for Linux), or MilkShape 3D [milkshape3d.com] (for Windows). The latter is about $25-30USD, and well worth the money.

    Hope this helps.

    • by PD ( 9577 )
      You forgot POVray!
    • "Personally, I would rather program them rather than just make them in a program like Lightwave or other 3D package."

      I know that's just your personal opinion, but what are you driving at ?

      As someone who has been involved with "just making pictures" for 13 years, I can tell you, that achieving desired effects can be very challenging artistically as well as technically.

      And which is why I personally consider 3D graphics "making" the best endeavour using the computer as a tool. With the current state of the tools, you're limited only by your imagination and spare time. No offence meant.
  • Inexpensive hmmm… (Score:5, Informative)

    by mhandlon ( 464241 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:27PM (#5008248)
    The problem is that graphics software.... Any 3d rendering/modeling application worthwhile is designed and priced for corporate use and finding books on open source/free applications, which usually prove, to have steep learning curves and so so results and shit interfaces.

    If she is really "serious" about this I would suggest Lightwave 3d [http://www.newtek.com] and the book Inside Lightwave 7 by Dan Ablan. Overall Lightwave has an excellent rendering engine an easy to pick up interface, isn't over prices for this level of computer graphics software, and she can create anything her imagination can come up with.

    But in the area of free, or very cheap, 3d modellers (particularly ones with nice UI's).

    Cost: Free (opensource)
    Features: Mesh-based modelling tools w/ subd's, Full UV support, Skeletal animation, Ray-Traced render engine via Povray.
    Interface: Very Max-Like, not hugely intuative, but good enough.
    Usability: I picked it up pretty quickly, but I've had experience with max, those who haven't may find it a little confusing initially.
    Rating: 8/10
    Comments: Support for other render engines coming soon, continually developed, so expect new features to keep cropping up

    Version: 0.97.5
    Cost: Free (opensource)
    Features: Good mesh-based modelling tools w/ subd's, simple render thru OpenGL. There are a lot of features I'd like to see yet (edge/poly creation, ability to do things without having to rightclick up a menu every 5 seconds), but as it's pre-1.0 I won't count this towards it.
    Interface: Fairly intuative, not the best overall, but second only to anim8or.
    Usability: Easy as hell, everythings pretty clearly labelled. I picked it up straight away.
    Rating: 7/10
    Comments: Single-pane view can get irritating occasionally, but overall a nice app. Purely for modelling, you won't get any pretty renders out of this, and the UV is limited. No animation capabilities. A lot more features expected before 1.0

    Version: 0.8
    Cost: Free
    Features: Mesh-based modelling tools w/subd's, scan-line render engine, skeletal animation and full UV texturing capabilities.
    Interface: Very nice, no tooltips, so can be a little tricky to get used to, but overall - good.
    Usability: Odd. The interface doesn't lend itself to good workflow, but not very easy to figure out intially.
    Rating: 9/10
    Comments: I'd say the best I found overall, espcially for pre-1.0 . Let down slightly by its render engine, but its enough to get the job done.

    Version: 2.1
    Cost: Freeware/Shareware
    Features: Mesh-based modelling tools w/subd's, no render engine (?), no animation, limited texturing capabilites.
    Interface: Can be confusing initially, due to it's extremely high ability for UI customisation. By default it's UI is a turn-off to say the least, but see dhromed's post a few down for information on customising, and a pic showing the possibilities.
    Usability: Lots of buttons, quite confusing, but not that hard to pick up.
    Rating: 6/10
    Comments: Quite difficult to figure out, tools appear to be very unstable (splitting a polygon caused all sorts of havok). Very customisable, which is a plus, but still lacking somewhat in features and stability.

    Version: 2.25
    Cost: Freeware (opensource)
    Features: Probably the most feature rich of the group. You'll find pretty much anything you'd expect from a commercial program, especially considering the amount of user-created plugins availble for cloth dynamics, fur etc etc. The exception to this is the apparent lack of edge, or polygon modelling. Vertex only, it would appear. You can perform any function you could perform on an edge or polygon, such as extrude, bevel, edge-bevel etc...but it's still one of its biggest downsides. Especially if you're from a box-modelling background, and can't do without your polygons, like me . Another one of its short comings is the render engine, even the best blender3d work, still has that "1995 computer graphics" looks to it. Shame.
    Interface: Many peoples first thoughts are "WTF??". Quite rightly so. It's pretty horrendous at first, you can't figure out what in the hell does what, when all you want to do is make a damn box. Bad blender, BAD!
    Usability: Despite the above, once you've spent a week or so learning it (it would be a lot quicker if there was actually any decent documentation available without having to buy the manual), things start clicking into place, and the interface is actually very efficient.
    Rating: 8/10
    Comments: Would be excellent if it wasn't for the steep learning curve. It's really not for anyone who hasn't got good experience in 3d, and a fair amount of time on their hands. However, it's extremely feature rich, and once you've learnt the interface, the speed of work-flow you can achieve is phenominal.

    Version: 1.6.4
    Cost: $20
    Features: Your basic box-modeller, no subd's, no render engine. skeletal-based animation, and full UV support. Amazing import/export list.
    Interface: Horrible. Confusing to even 3d veterans. Not at all intuative, its click click click every 3 seconds.
    Usability: Limited severely. The UI needs a total overhaul, the features are there, but it's just too irritating for my tastes. I use it purely as a format conversion tool.
    Comments: Good for what its designed for - games. But let down by its interface, makes everything such a chore.

    Version: 3.4
    Cost: $39.95
    Features: Mesh based modelling tools. Full UV texturing capabilities.
    Interface: Quite bad, menu elements are in odd places, overall - not very intuiative.
    Usability: Average. Things were easy-ish to find, but took some searching in odd places.
    Rating: 7/10
    Comments: Like milkshape, this is intended for low-poly model creation. Also like milkshape, let down by its interface, but has the tools to do the job.

    Version: 1.03 (aplha)
    Cost: Free
    Features: A fully featured nurbs editor (supposadly). Custom-coded raytracing render engine. Support for materials, not sure about UV texturing. No animation.
    Interface: Very simple looking, don't be decieved, there are a million keyboard shortcuts. Very confusing overall, despite its apparent simplicity.
    Usability: Easy once you get to grips with it, everything is nicely organised for fast workflow, and everything is kept beautifully simple, while still providing nice results.
    Rating: 8/10
    Comments: It has its problems, I'd say for one that it's too simple. So simple it can be confusing. The interface didn't look like the screenshots for me, so I think it may be customisable, but no idea how. There are a few bugs, but it's only in Alpha, so that's be be expected.

    Version: 1.0
    Price: $34
    Features: Where to begin? Certainly not a conventional modelling tool, but certainly one of my favourite, the results you can obtain are fantastic. let me explain.... this program works in a similar way to "meta-balls". You "sketch" out your object in spheres, and lines (with thickness references at each point you click), then you generate a mesh, which smooths over all these. Imagine the human body, all the muscles underneath, with a "skin" ontop. That's exactly what this program does. No render engine, no texturing, it's purely a modeller, to export into other programs.
    Interface: Fantastic; nicely laid out, everything easily accessable. The only thing I didn't like was the white background for the 3d windows.
    Usability: I hovered over a few tooltips, and I'd learned the program. It's that simple. Amazing little ap.
    Rating: 9/10
    Comments: It's certainly not usable for low poly work, its texturing capabilities are none, it doesn't have a render engine...BUT this is one of the most unique, original little programs I've come accross. Try it. TRY IT.
  • It sounds more like she wants to model, illustrate and animate rather than code to me.

    On both the Mac and Wintel sides, Cinema4D [maxon.net] is a fairly inexpensive, very powerful and very user friendly 3D modeling/rendering/animation suite. Probably the easiest to pick up that I've found personally.

    It's sold modularly now, so you just purchase the functionality that you need, and a free demo is available to gague your wife's interest.

    I've been using it for several years now personally over Lightwave/Maya/etc. The interface of Cinema is rather similar to the more "standard" packages on the market, and skills cross over rather well.

    Of note is that in order to use, well, any 3D modeling/rendering packages it's best to have at least an overview of the way vector-based drawing works -- ie beziers and the like.

    Not only does Adobe Illustrator give you those fundamentals, it works very nicely with any modelling package. Macromedia Freehand is also pretty interchangable in that regard, however the Postscript isn't as clean for complex work.
  • by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:34PM (#5008313) Homepage Journal
    There are three categories of knowledge you need to develop to do this successfully.
    1. Static image creation / editing.
    2. 3D modeling / animation.
    3. Video compositing / editing.

    Don't, don't, don't neglect any of these categories. Specifics within the categories are not as important as the categories themselves.


    1. Static image creation / editing:
    Photoshop is the 800 pound gorilla. If you don't photoshop (yes, I used it as a verb) you're starting with a disadvantage. If you want, though, you can use CorelDraw / PhotoPaint or even PaintShop Pro if you're feeling stingy.

    2. 3D modeling / animation
    Two entirely different skills that often use the same software. 3D Studio Max or Lightwave are the biggies here. SoftImage is good but expensive. Don't even think about character animation at this stage. By the time she's ready for it, she'll know what to do. The cheap products in this category aren't worth considering.

    3. Video compositing, editing
    Adobe AfterEffects for compositing / 2D animation is the heavy hitter in this category. Video editing software has really opened up lately, so it doesn't matter so much what you use now. Different people have different preferences. Premiere, VegasVideo, etc. will work just fine.

    Things not to use: Gimp, Linux, Macs
    • I also used to do this for a living, and I can tell you that there's no reason to avoid Linux if that's already the platform she's used to. It's used in many professional studios, and I hope the previous post didn't make you think that it's any less effective as a platform.

      The best advice I can give for a 3d newbie is to try to find people who are nearby and accessible. Look for user groups and attend them. What program you use is less important than the concepts learned. When I started out, I asked countless questions from more experienced users (still do), and I'll always be indebted to them.

      I'd look at the free version of Maya or GMAX. Those other programs are fine (Blender, etc.), but it may be hard to find support even from other users. There are plenty of Maya user groups for example, and if she can stick it out and learn it, she'll be rewarded. The free version of Maya used to have really annoying watermarks in the OpenGL viewports, but I believe the new version tones it down.

      If you don't mind shelling out a few, Hash Animation Master is an unbelievable package for the price.
      • Good suggestions, but the reason I suggest avoiding Linux is that though it may be fine for specific apps, the craft requires such a broad range of skills, you have more options in Windows. Same thing with Macs. I wish it wasn't this way, but you have to be realistic.
        • you think so? i fFind it pretty easy to get around to what i need in linux. i mean, sure, knowing how linux works at all is nice. like how to 'make' some cool new killer app you have just dug up. and a fFundamental knowledge of how a computer works. but this is all part and parecl of being (or, rather, becoming) a power user of any application.

          if the goal is, instead to just "turn on, paint, save, print, exit" then i would say any platform will do, as long as youi can get it setup right.
    • That is some really lame advice.

      OK, first, there is no point in discussing image editing programs since we've already established that she had good photoshop skills, and presumably a copy of photoshop.

      As to modeling animation, there is no reason not to consider cheap programs and also no reason not to launch right into character animation. In particular, if character animation is really what she wants to do, Hash's Animation Master is an excellent choice. Unfortunately, it lacks certain things needed for a lot of professional work (like a renderer that is slow and not particularly good). Also Blender used to be fairly good until the corporate collapse. I expect that now that it is opensourced, it will get back to and exceed where it was. In the mean time, the old versions are still available. This program isn't a good for character animation though as some higher end offerings or A:M.

      While I have little expertise here, there are a wide range of 3D program that appeal to still designers. Carrera Studio is one. Pixels3D seems to be another.

      Also, a pair of fun programs are Poser and Bryce.

      BTW, Lightwave and Max aren't really the biggies in the modelling and animation. The biggies are Maya and Softimage, followed not so closely by Houdini, Lightwave, and Max. Of those programs, I think Lightwave is the easiest to use, but Maya is the cheapest. Max is powerfull, but not as much as Maya, so I can't really see choosing it at this point, though lots of people do.

      I would explore using cheaper programs before really committing to something like Maya or Lightwave. They are expensive and take dedication. And the important thing is artistic ability, not what software used, so use something fun and affordable for now.

      Finally, compositing wasn't really brought up, but since you mentioned it, After Effects is not the heavy hitter. The heavy hitter would be Inferno or something from Quantel. After Effects is merely the cheapest program that can usually get the job done. Buy it if you need it and it's what you can afford. Otherwise skip it if you don't need it, or look else where if you can afford more. Like Combustion (from the the people who make Inferno).

      Finally, using Macs are fine. Using linux is likely to be headache fraught, especially for video editing. And for free software, in this case linux is expensive because you generally have few choices for good cheap software, with notable exceptions (wings3d and gimp, mainly). I suppose you can use Windows, but I'd strongly encourage a nice Mac instead.
      • Max is not a biggie in modelling and animation? How can you say that? Sure, it might not be the most widely used with film, but it still has it's share. Oh, and it's not like it's the most widely used program for game development either. Otherwise, I think you have some good ideas there. Don't be afraid to get yourself a nice Mac and pump out some beautiful stuff (regardless of what program you decide to use).
        • My point wasn't that Max wasn't a significant program. My point was that it isn't really one of the heavy weight biggies. I don't really know why, although I personally find it less intuitive than Softimage, and you have to spend a lot of money on plug ins (well, you used to, I don't know what the state of things is past version 3.0) to get it to do what Maya Complete will do (which is cheaper than the base Max anyway), and historically PCs weren't viewed as powerfull enough.

          Unfortunately, powerfull Macs cost more than I can afford. I have an old 8100, and an old 840av, but so far I've mainly only used the 8100 for running photoshop and illustrator, and the 840av for capturing video to send to a linux machine.

          I'm a developer, not really an artist. So, I figure in the real world, I would probably be working inside programs like Maya, XSI, Houdini, and Max writing scripts and plugins. But, until I get into such a job, I can work with a few stand alone programs (I really like Wings, Gimp has some cool features, though it isn't as polished as Photoshop, it is good enough for now, and I still hang on to my old copy of BMRT) and writing my own code.
      • My only beef with the previous post is that IMHO Macs are somewhat lacking for 3d work. The hardware just isn't keeping up, and the 3d performance is a wee bit sluggish. We have a few Macs around, and while I love Macs for 2d work, really a PC would be a better choice for 3d work.

        However, if you do end up going with a Mac (or already have one), great packages like Maya and Lightwave are available.
    • A previous slashdotter wrote "Don't use Gimp, Linux, or Macs", which I suppose is good advice unless you want to be a back-alley little production house like Dreamworks [infosatellite.com] eh? Or working on one of those chintzy low-budget films like Scooby-Doo, Harry Potter, and Stuart Little [gnu.org]. Granted, most of the better graphic design and animation tools are not available for Linux, but there are some good ones (Maya, Blender, Gimp) that are nothing to sneeze at.

      The recommendation to avoid Macs is particularly bizarre considering that Macs are widely used in the graphic design and animation industries and that the most common programs used for computer illustration, photo-manipulation, and editing, are available with identical feature sets for both Mac and PC (All the adobe apps especially).

      The recommendation to avoid Linux is strange since many of the high-end graphics houses that do work for film are heading towards using Linux and other free Unix-like systems, and not just for the render farm. Familiarity with Unix systems will not hurt anyone who wants to work in computer-graphics for film, it's definitely a proficiency to place prominently on the CV.

      The Gimp may not be optimal for use in print design due to the lack of cmyk and lab color models (due to patent issues?), but it's been great for those doing film and web work for some time. The ease with which gimp can be scripted using perl and other programming/scripting languages is amazing.

      That's my two cents. My dollar is that artistry and graphic design sense exist independent of platform and application choices. Work with what you've got. The first episode of South Park was made with construction paper, Paul Rand [artandculture.com] and Saul Bass [itesm.mx] were doing amazing designs (of the sort programs like Adobe Illustrator are often used to make) long before the personal computer existed. Use actualy physical tools or choose a platform that lets you concentrate on the art and not on futzing with the operating system. If that means Windows, Mac, or Linux to you, go for it.

    • why not gimp? gimp does amazing things, you know...

      or do you just mean "don't use gimp to edit animations". in which case, you are correct. if you had to, you could use the MPEG plugins and the animation pack to do what you need to. but the animation pack is obscenely clumsy, and the MPEG plugin seems to work almost never. (YMMV)

      HOWEVER, PLEASE NOTE: fFilmGimp is on the prowl!!!!!!
      http://www.gnu.org/directory/vid/misc/FilmGimp.htm l [gnu.org]
      sorry about the caps, but really really really, it looks incredible. i havent used it yet (no need, really) but it basically uses the gimp structure to work with a different kind of fFile, essentially.

      also, the gimp-win lists have been barraged with promos about fFilmGimp coming to win32. it should be arriving any day now. you know, in case you like that sort of thing.
  • by Ratbert42 ( 452340 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:38PM (#5008354)
    One hotspot is Flash cartoons. oddtodd.com [oddtodd.com] is an example of someone making a living (if you call that living) from Flash cartoons. There are numerous books on the subject.
    • I would have to agree with learning Flash. Since your wife already has Photoshop exp, basic Flash shouldn't be that difficult. As for animation and interactivity, it's good to get a decent book. Flash comes with tutorials, but the books are usually a good supplement. She wouldn't even need the latest version either (come to think, Flash MX is a hefty expense if you're not a student or know one :)). Flash 5 would suffice, and you could probably find it on clearance somewhere.

      Good luck!
    • mm. good point. only, i would suggest Adobe's LiveMotion. similar, but better. allows you to animate by seconds, not fFrames (if you want). fFor example. and it's adobe, which means a short learning curve fFrom photoshop.
  • by Troodon ( 213660 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:47PM (#5008454) Homepage
    Though a professional tool costing several thousand dollars AliasWavefront [aliaswavefront.com] offer a free version of Maya, which is a stalwart of the CG animation industry. You can either download it for free or buy a cheap cd with Maya Personal Learning Edition [aliaswavefront.com] on it.

    This recommendation comes with a proviso, the PL edition brands everything with an obvious watermark and isnt as fast in rendering images as the full product. But its more than sufficient to play about with.

    Another item which may be of interest is Learning Maya | Beginner's Guide [digitalriver.com], A DVD tutorial with a copy of Maya PL edition upon it, $20 or so. Looks a rather handy introduction, however the plain Maya PL edition comes with good tutorials and a pdf version of a book introducing CG animation.

  • Getting started (Score:3, Informative)

    by ip_vjl ( 410654 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @03:53PM (#5008528) Homepage
    I wouldn't suggest getting one of the high-end pieces of software yet. Since your wife hasn't gotten into this field yet, its not even certain she'll like it.

    You can use software like Hash Animation Master [sharbor.com] (hash site seems to be down - linking to a vendor) or Truespace [caligari.com] (older versions) as a way of getting some easier-to-use tools for only a couple hundred dollars. This will allow her to get her feet wet and see how much work is really involved in putting together even the simplest animation - which is a good way to tell if this is something for her or not.

    If she likes it, both of these programs can turn out decent output, though she probably won't be making feature length films. The concepts learned will translate to more sophisticated packages in the future. Even though the interfaces change, the skill in learning how to model, light, and convincingly move your characters is not application specific.

    As someone else has mentioned, if she wants to learn on pro software, Maya is available for free download, but it is a crippled version. Everything will be watermarked. OK for learning, but often the best way to learn is in producing things for others, which you wouldn't do with watermarked output.


    Browse your local bookstore. Many 3d books come with CDs with trial versions of software.


    Much of what she'll need to know doesn't involve the computer. Like I said earlier, knowing how to do things like light a scene is essential.

    I don't have the ISBNs handy (so no links, sorry) but look into books like:
    • Digital Character Animation by George Maistri
    • The Illusion of Life
    • Digital Lighting & Rendering


    Also, look at local colleges. They may offer a course in animation. This is good if she'd rather learn in an instructor-led environment.

  • May I suggest what my daughter is doing. Go to college! My child is enrolling at a decent art college, in an unnamed west coast city some 3000 miles from where I live, because there are NO good art schools on our side of the map. I spoke to her about online schooling,and she says that the courses she wants (graphic animation and the like) aren't widely available. The school she chose is "the school" for animation. People graduating from there go on to work for the really big animation and art businesses.
    • perhaps most important of any, is the school in vancouver where everyone at all goes to learn how to do 3-D.

      pixar hires people straight out of that school; sometimes sends people there to train.
  • was texturing and lighting. I got truespace to play around with, and found that given an object and calipers, it was realitivly trivial to make the model. But I stuggled mightily to get something that would look halfway decent when rendered. It ended up being something that I wasn't able to intuit by myself. Ultimately my limited experience has been making something is 5% modeling, 35% texturing, and 60% lighting.

    A book I found that helped my somewhat was The Art of 3-D Computer Animation and Imaging by Isaac Victor Kerlow, ISBN 0-471-28649-4. The short review was that it's a pretty complete overview, if a little dated (it was published in '96) but it has plenty of examples, and while it is layed out like a text book it is a very easy read. While my ability to texture and light stuff did improve to the point where you could tell what I rendered and what I was going for, it's still pretty lacking. It's just not an area I have a great deal of talent, which of course shouldn't reflect on the book.

    At least I'm not alone. Judging from all the cg in movies where the lighting doesn't match that of the scene, it's probably one of the most difficult elements to master.
  • by argel ( 83930 )
    Bryce [corel.com] might be a good way to let her get a feel for whether she would really like it or not. But if she likes playing around with it you'll need to get something to create objects with fairly quickly.

    • I believe that Bryce should be able to import Wavefront files (*.obj) from Wings3D just fine. You just need to use a seperate program (like Photoshop) to generate texture maps.
  • Give her Hash (Score:3, Informative)

    by jayrtfm ( 148260 ) <(moc.tnohpos) (ta) (hsalsj)> on Friday January 03, 2003 @04:31PM (#5008890) Homepage Journal
    Hash Animation Master does most of what Maya, Lightwave etc. does, at a much cheaper cost.

    WinImages [blackbeltsystems.com] is a "must have' program, especially since it's on sale. It includes a 3D render [blackbeltsystems.com] program.
    Besides Blender, there's another open source program at www.openfx.com which has its roots in the old Sculpt 3D program.

    Spend a few days looking at the sites in the dmoz.org 3D sections. When looking at which program to buy or put your time into, read through the discussion groups devoted to the program. For example, Caligari was mentioned, but if you read the sites forums, it doesen't seem to be a program worth dealing with.
    Maya, Softimage, Lightwave are often mentioned as the top programs, but you may not need that sort of power, and expense, if she's not planning to work for a company using those programs.

    New Riders publishes some execllent books, especially Digital Cinematography & Directing, Digital Lighting & Rendering, and Digital Texturing and Painting.

    DVD's are also a great source of "behind the scenes" info. Movie FX Mag [moviefxmag.com] has some good sections on CGI.

  • A good option for doing 3D modeling and animation is Hash's Animation Master [hash.com]. Last I checked, it was priced around $300...much more affordable than the professional software people have been listing here.

    I don't do much 3D animation work myself, but I've been told that individual artists often use this product to make demo animations, until they get some sort of break and are able to buy professional software.

    I don't believe there is a Linux port, and the Mac version is terribly unstable. Still, the Windows port is pretty solid.
  • I highly recommend trueSpace (any version) from Caligari [caligari.com].
    They've got a few Holiday Specials [caligari.com] (for 3 more days), one of which is trueSpace4 for $99!

    Another application that I recommend is Blender [blender3d.org]. It's free and runs on several Operating Systems.

  • DEFINITELY start reading the magazines associated with the business!!

    Cinefex [cinefex.com] is a terrific place to start. it's solid jargon, and talks tech easily. that's good, cos you discover most other publications just advertise a lot, and tell very little.

    Our pals at google [google.com] do have a nice listing of other trade publications you can look up.
  • Some background first : My Pop started his own CG/post studio in 1989 and I've been hooked ever since.

    You're asking in the wrong forum. Go to CGTalk.com and ask in Main Forum -> General

    Phrase your questions properly and make them interesting. They get a TON of the same questions (or its variants), so chances are you'll be ignored. However, this very aspect also means you can search the forums and explore through older related threads.

    My personal advice. You want to not spend any money first. Not until the user knows whether the toolset / style of the program suits them.

    There are 4 major professional 3D programs (some will include Houdini as well) they are

    Avid SoftImage XSI [3.0]
    (XSI Experience @ www.softimage.com)

    discreet 3ds max [5.0]
    (gmax @ www.discreet.com)

    Newtek Lightwave [7.5]
    (order from Newtek.com)

    Alias/Wavefront Maya [4.5]
    (Maya PLE @ www.aliaswavefront.com)

    The rest are prosumer.

    All of the above programs comes in a free demo version (on their respective company websites)

    These versions more or less offer the full functionality, but don't allow you to save in the formats that the commercial versions use. Also, they place watermark over the rendered images.

    For someone with no prior 3D experience, I suggest you try LightWave. If she likes it, its the cheapest to buy. But apart from that, mainly because its pretty easy to learn.

    An up and coming prog is Cinema4D. I haven't used this one personally, so I can't comment.

    CGTalk.com also has links to learning resources (from novice to complex) for most programs in their respective forums.

    RAPH.com has gallery of 3D art. Look over these, but don't pay much attention when considering which package to buy. Good artists can make good images in any program. BUT advanced tools DO make life as a 3D artist easier and more interesting.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.