3D animation
April 4, 2007 9:31 PM   Subscribe

I do not know the first thing about 3D animation. help!

I have a good background in graphic design, and i moonlight as a flash programmer/designer - where i output and implement the majority of my work. I'm a big believer of learning-by-web, but I'm stumped here. I would like to create three-dimensional objects (not landscapes) that might find in all forms of modern media - the right-bottom corners of television, and video games introductions that blend live video with with CGI, to name a few. "Abstract information" is good, but ultimately this is about practical application. I'm not in a position to go back to school. And I exclusively use Mac OS X. I was hoping for some pointers.
posted by phaedon to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Don't know if this will help, but Blender is an open source 3D modeling, animation and compositing program. They have tutorials that look like they start at a pretty basic level.
posted by Good Brain at 9:47 PM on April 4, 2007

You'll need to give some more info. What are some examples of what you want to do? Modeling is an acquired skill. You'll need to practice or hire someone.

If you want to do it on your own, your best choice for OS-X is Maya, which is sold throug Discreet now.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:48 PM on April 4, 2007

I'm somewhat confused by what you want to do, but if you just want to create simple 3d models, any 3d package will be fine. Blender is great for the price. Maya is expensive, but will get the job done nicely.

There are tons of tutorials on the web for each 3d software package, but I would recommend starting with the tutorials that come included with whatever software you choose.

I'm a 3d animation student and use Maya on my Macbook Pro. A new version finally came out that is universal, and it runs great on my system.

Please post more clearly what you are wanting to do and I will try and post a more helpful answer.
posted by meta87 at 10:01 PM on April 4, 2007

Oh one more thing, www.CGTalk.com is a great community about this sort of thing.
posted by meta87 at 10:02 PM on April 4, 2007

Response by poster: hi meta87. well i thought i was being pretty specific. let me try again: im developing "primarily 2d" applications in which i want to introduce 3d elements basically as eye candy - and hopefully down the road, once im geared up for it, as part of the actual user interface for multimedia web applications.

what i'm not looking for is "how to make it look like a million orcs are storming the fort in lords of the ring" realism - but hey, then again, i'm not sure if there's really a distinction to be made there.
posted by phaedon at 10:24 PM on April 4, 2007

Hey there. I do this for a living. :)

Check out
Maya Personal Learning Edition, which may be overkill for your needs starting out but will certainly allow room to grow as you learn more. Time spent learning it will be time well invested.

There are tons of tutorials on the web, but I've heard good things about Gnomon Workshop DVDs.

If you've got more specific, practical kinds of questions, feel free to email me!
posted by milinar at 10:56 PM on April 4, 2007

phaedon: would these be in realtime or rendered? What kinds of objects, specifically? Could you give examples? That'll give us an idea of how to advise you better...
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:07 PM on April 4, 2007

Response by poster: ok. here's one example.

the beginning, and the ending, of this video

that's exactly up my alley. text, geometric shapes, gradients, 3d movement, commercial feel. with possibly video being masked, for certain applications.
posted by phaedon at 11:12 PM on April 4, 2007

Response by poster: and thanks milinar!
posted by phaedon at 11:13 PM on April 4, 2007

Text & simple geometric shapes you can do with a good compositing app. Masking is also a job for a compositing app. Lookin into something like Combustion/Shake/Digital Fusion first to see if that'll do what you want to do.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:28 PM on April 4, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks. More specific tutorials would be great.
posted by phaedon at 12:44 AM on April 5, 2007

If you're looking to dip your feet in the water without breaking the bank, I seriously recommend downloading Blender and then reading the "Noob to Pro" wikibook. Sure, Blender has its share of rough edges and interface quirks, but the basic modelling skills you learn can be transferred to more expensive commercial packages, if you can learn a different UI.

You might also want to have a look at After Effects, if you don't already use it. It's another compositing package (like Combustion, Shake, etc).
posted by Alterscape at 3:53 AM on April 5, 2007

Generally the workflow is this:
3d applications create the elements (the rings/white background)

Compositing (and/or editing software with compositing features) blend the two together.

The Mac 3d field is mostly:
Cinema4d, Lightwave, and Maya.

Most of them have a 'learning edition' or trial. Be warned, 3d isn't like flash. It's like programming in flash (on the difficulty scale.) To get 'really good' results, will take awhile.

The major compositors are:
Motion, After effects and Shake.

Technically, the job is for your video guy (or compositors) to put this together.

I suspect you're looking to build this for flash (for a website perhaps?)
posted by filmgeek at 5:51 AM on April 5, 2007

I think Maya may be overkill (and crazy expensive) for the kind of work you're describing, although it is the gold standard as far as off-the shelf 3D apps go.

I'm a Cinema 4D guy myself. It's terrific for all the kinds of tasks you describe, and all versions now ship with the amazing Body Paint (base package is $895). Very tight After Effects integration too.
posted by Scoo at 7:59 AM on April 5, 2007

I've recently begun to dig into 3d modeling again (dabbled on my Amiga in early university), and am using the Mac OS X platform.
My digging has lead me to buy Cheetah3d v4, which just came out. It's a very stable, usable platform for starting, has most any tool you could want (what it might lack would come under "work flow" or "organization integration" tools), and it renders quite nicely. Also: the value is incredible: only US$129, and fully functional (with save and export disabled) to try.
On the learning side, I found this book useful for some techniques/tips, and for organizing my thoughts with respect to tackling the creation of 3d object/renders and how to include them in 2d scenes or images (techniques like "faking" green screen shots in the 3d renderer so you can more easily composite them). It might also help you decide when/if/which "more advanced" modeler/renderer you might wish to use in the future.
I also find my high school drafting classes come in very handy for the vernacular of 3d modeling...your experience with 2d and design will help you as well.

I find Blender's interface incredibly baffling (and i've been using computers for 25 years). But the price is hard to argue with.
I found AC3d to be difficult to get into, also (perhaps because it's a port from another OS?)
And I find Poser to be amazingly difficult to work with...mostly because on my 20" iMacIntel with 2 Gb of RAM it's slower than molasses in January.

Hope this helps.
posted by I, Credulous at 8:06 AM on April 5, 2007

i've been researching almost the same question, and put some books in a wishlist on amazon that i thought might be of some help. can anyone provide recommendations on them? [if you want to send me a gift, let me know and i'll send you the shipping address]

if it's not too much of a hi-jack, it would be great if someone could point me towards a good explanation of the various fields involved in putting together a film and what exactly they do (texturing, lighting, character animation...). For example, what teams were needed to put together a film like Happy Feet (minus the live-action element)? What are the skills needed for the various tasks?
posted by prophetsearcher at 9:12 AM on April 5, 2007

I work on CG animated feature films and am partial to Maya, I second (or third?) the recommendation of Maya PLE to you. There are tons of Maya books available, ranging from "beginner" to "hardened, cynical veteran" skill level. As metioned before, prepare for a learning curve. The term 3D animation covers a wide spectrum of tasks and skill sets, you'll probably spend a while figuring out what you want to do and are good at.

Highend 3d is a cool site that covers some popular 3d packages.

Feel free to email me if you have more specific questions.
posted by shino-boy at 9:44 AM on April 5, 2007

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