3D and OSX
August 20, 2004 9:08 AM   Subscribe

So I'm on OS9, and I'm about to make the leap to OSX... and I need to find a 3D graphics program. I don't need to do the next Pixar film... all I really need to do is build/model simple shapes, adjust lighting, then map images (vector and raster) to them, and export as either vector or raster (preferably with alpha channel transparency) to use in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

I'm new to 3D, so please take that into consideration.
posted by silusGROK to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Illustrator's new 3d tools do a great job of this - and allow you to map bitmap and vector art to any surface on your 3d item, and give pretty good lighting control too. All without losing your initial 2d drawing.

I think it's all you need - especially since you can export the art with illustrator layers into photoshop (or even golive) and keep transparency, etc.
posted by luriete at 9:29 AM on August 20, 2004

Here are two suggestions, from low-end to highend. I'm skipping the SUPER-high end (Maya, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave), because those expensive/time-consuming options go way beyong your needs. But in my final option, you can do really complex stuff if you want (dinosaurs, etc.)

1) Zaxworks 3D Invigorator. This works as a plugin to Photoshop and some other software. It allows you to pull in Illustrator art, extrude it into 3D and then add all sorts of skins and lighting too it. You can map images on to it, etc. One negative is that it doesn't do vector output. This is a relatively cheap tool (around $300 I think) and it's used all the time, especially on TV.

There's a REALLY cheap app that is similar (though it lacks some of the complexity of Invigorator) called Xara 3D. It's about $50. It DOES do vector. The negative is that it only runs on PCs. But if there's a PC ANYWHERE in your life, it might be worth the 50 bucks.

2) Maxon's Cinema 4D XL. This $400 tool does most of what the big boy's (Maya, etc.) do for a fraction of the cost -- and it's MUCH easier to learn. It does both vector and bitmap, and it works well with Adobe software. If you ever get into Adobe After Effects, you'll REALLY like Cinema 4D, because it can output LAYERED AE files.
posted by grumblebee at 9:57 AM on August 20, 2004

And I also think you should look seriously into luriete's idea. He's talking about Illustrator CS.

Adobe used to have it's own 3D program, called Adobe Dimensions. It never sold well. So they took some of its code and loaded it into Illustrator CS.
posted by grumblebee at 9:59 AM on August 20, 2004

Yes - and the Illustrator CS tools are FAR more powerful than Dimensions was (although Dimensions was good for its time and the price). Plus: non-destructive fully vector 3d! Could you ask for more? Nope. Plus it will anti-alias for your screen graphics needs, and I think you can even animate the steps and save flash objects, although not sure about that part. And you can pretty much learn the 3d tools in 5 minutes if you've already used Illustrator.
posted by luriete at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2004

Illustrator is probably right for what you want to do, but if you want to learn a more powerful, free 3d program, check out Blender3d.
posted by signal at 11:25 AM on August 20, 2004

Blender is cool (powerful and free), but it's NOT for the faint of heart! In other words, there's a big learning curve and it's not intuitive.
posted by grumblebee at 12:09 PM on August 20, 2004

Response by poster: Hey thanks, everyone!

More ideas welcome, of course... but it's good to know that Illustrator CS — which is part of my purchase plan already — fits the bill.
posted by silusGROK at 1:06 PM on August 20, 2004

Especially because you're new to 3D, you should look at SketchUp, which is primarily aimed at architects but has a very simple direct-interaction UI for pushing and pulling the faces, edges, and vertices of objects around.
posted by nicwolff at 2:57 PM on August 20, 2004

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