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How to decide on 3D Software Packages for modeling in Film and Game industries.

Updated on July 3, 2015

All art and photos Copyright 2010 AwBuchen

Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Concept character sketch.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Concept character sketch.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Character UVW unwrap of texture in Zbrush.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Character UVW unwrap of texture in Zbrush.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Zbrush model.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Zbrush model.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Zbrush.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Zbrush.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Zbrush.
Copyright 2010 AwBuchen. Zbrush.

If you play video games on your computer or on one of the many game platforms available, like the Wii or PS4 or if you have watched movies like UP, or the Avatar lately you’ve seen CGI in action. CGI stands for Computer Generated Imagery and is images or more specifically, 3D images and special effects created on a computer by the use of special software no it doesn’t refer to the 3D where you wear those funny glasses and see things fly at or grab at you.

All those creatures and characters and the assets such as fire hydrants or guns and other weapons or furniture you see in animated movies such as “UP” or “Avatar” start off as simple ideas which are sketched out. Different ideas and concepts are worked out on paper using the desired media until they are refined and ready for the next step. That step is modeling.

Modeling is no longer done as it was in the old day for Claymation by using actual clay but instead is done using software specifically designed to create digital characters and assets using your reference drawings for the idea.

How you like to work has a big effect on which software package is right for you as well as price being one of the major factors because software can cost from hundreds of dollars to several thousands of dollars.

Let’s talk about the software. Industry has done some of the work for us in choosing a package especially if you wish to work in these fields or want to be competitive as a freelance artist? The most widely used packages are 3D Studio Max, Maya, and Softimage which are made by the same company which is Autodesk. There’s also Zbrush which is developed by Pixologic (incidentally this is my favorite pick) and finally Modo by Luxology.

Prices are as follows: (based on latest internet research)

Modo - $1,195.00

Zbrush - $699.00

Softimage - $3,790.00

Maya - $4,090.00

3D Studio Max - $3,495.00

Did you spit your coffee up on your lap top? Yes, these certainly are not inexpensive programs to create 3D artwork or models and assets for Games or Film but these are currently the industry standards for most companies.

Maya is by far the most popular and seems to be a prerequisite in every job offer for the entertainment industry. Really it’s a matter of taste, like “some people are PC’s while others are Mac’s” like the commercial says. Maya and 3D Studio Max compare to that commercial. They both do the same thing however; Maya is the more iconic version of the two whereas Max is the more statistical of the two. Both are fairly easy to learn and begin creating with and there are a myriad of tutorials available to learn how to do almost anything with either program.

Zbrush is in a whole different league when it comes to 3D modeling. Not only is the software more affordable, only $699 as opposed to all the rest over 1k. It is the most intuitive and unique software of its kind on the marketplace. Modo from Luxology and Mudbox from Autodesk try to emulate this software but fall short in my opinion. What is so unique your wondering? While other software in 3D normally works with polygons or nurb construction to create objects, Zbrush is digital “sculpting” software. It and you actually create objects much like sculpting a ball of moist clay using the digital sculpting tools built into the program. Highly intuitive and very fun and it is also largely used in the film and game industries now because the detail levels achievable are unbelievable. It’s my personal favorite but you must find the software that feels right for you and go with that choice.

How can you decide without laying out the huge cost of software? Each of these developers offers their titles on a 30 day trial offer. The software can be installed and is full featured so you can try everything and see which one allows you to work more naturally and with a smoother pipeline. After the 30 days the software ceases to work and you just uninstall it.

Softimage is one of the older 3D packages and was formerly owned by another company and then purchased by Autodesk. Maya is also a fairly recent acquisition of Autodesk. Modo is fairly new to the 3D world and I haven’t seen it widely used yet except for some people that just want to be different. Modo tries to incorporate a bit from every other program which in my opinion makes it difficult to learn and not fully extended in any one particular method of modeling. It contains some sculpting aspects of Zbrush the iconic interfaces of Maya and the input boxes for deeper control of 3D Studio Max but is priced much better for beginning modelers wishing to learn polygon modeling etc. In my opinion I would definitely consider Zbrush if you want to sculpt and don’t waste your time with the other sculpting imitators.

So download your free 30 day copy of all these titles and give them a thorough test drive before you decide to put some hard earned money on them and happy 3D modeling.

Tell me your opinion

Have you ever heard of digital sculpting before?

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    • ezpikins profile image

      Andrew Buchen 6 years ago from Texas

      Hi The Odd Spartan,

      Currently is the largest manufacturer of 3D industry software. They make the major players in the 3D field such as Maya that your currently using and 3D Studio Max. They also make a sculpting type software called Mudbox which I'm not to familiar with, I use Zbrush for sculpting. You might want to start here and try some demo packages out that's the best way to see if you like something in my opinion. Hope that helps?

    • The Odd Spartan profile image

      Christopher Rago 6 years ago from Hamilton, NJ

      Nice Hub. I am taking some 3d modeling classes in college, I am interested in the alternatives to maya.