> So, any suggestions?
> Maya and SoftImage at least *seem* a bit out of my league
> due to their heavy price tags.
> Lightwave 6 looks promising, but hasn't surfaced yet.
> BTW when is it supposed to be realeased anyway?
> 3D Studio MAX R3 is out there and looks better than before.
> Perhaps you could even get something done without buying all
> the plugins available first... Also, I'm used to an all-in-one
> UI from tS so the Modeler/Layout separation in LW seems a bit
> odd to me.
If you're used to Truespace prices, why don't you try out Animation
Master. It's the main 3D software that I use. You can check out some
of my work at: http://www.veryComputer.com/. It's an excellent
package for characters and organic modeling. The animation tools are
very advanced and yet very simple. Also, the software only costs $200,
which isn't out of anyone's league.
> Here are some things which are important to me:
> - Usable straight out of the box, possibly with the addition
> of *free* plugins/scripts.
Yep, very usable. Version 7.1 has pose sliders, much like Maya's blend
shapes. It has advanced constraints for cool setups. The bones and IK
are very capable. Well, check out www.hash.com for more info. But let
me tell you, the next version, V8, will have a ton of cool stuff, like
soft body dynamics, cloth, flocking, etc.
> - Reasonably easy to extend throught scripts etc.
Hmm, no scripting here, but Hash is a very responsive company. If you
want a cool feature, they'll probably write one out for the next
> - Decent importing of 3D CAD models, mostly from SolidWorks
I'm not familiar with SolidWorks, but AM can import quad polygon dxf
models and convert them to splines. However, if you have a high polygon
count, it'll be really slow. Also triangles don't import well.
> - Customizable user interface.
You can move windows around all you want in the interface. It's not as
cutomizable as Poser 4, but it's kinda similar to Maya's layout.
> - Speed and stability (ie. no huge slow-downs or crashes) with
> large scenes.
Well, speed comes with a fast CPU and lots of ram. It depends how big
your scene is, because it may slow down for heavy scenes, but what
> - Fast, 'clean', fluid user interface. Perhaps tS has spoiled me,
> but wading through lots of menus isn't my idea of modeling.
AM's modeler is quite simplistic in that it only has a few tools to
use. It's much like stiching a mesh together and then molding like
clay. It'll take a while to get used to if you're used to polygons, but
it's extremely powerful.
> - Good (character) animation tools. Bones, motion curves, morphing.
Dude. Bones, motion curves, morphing, that's all child's play. AM has
advanced bone constraints for awesome character setups. It also has a
"compensate" mode which lets your character grab a cup, you hit
"compensate" and then the cup is now constrained ot the hand. You no
longer need a mel scripter to make fancy buttons for you. You no longer
need to turn on and off constraints. As for morphing, AM has pose
sliders with inbetweens. Meaning, you can make a mouth go from closed
to pucker, but with inbetweens, you can set another pose like a pursed
lip in between the pucker and closed pose. Also, pose sliders work with
bones, so you can have a hand open and close slider, instead of
animating the fingers one by one.
In terms of constraints, AM has 14 of them: Aim at, Kinematic, Path,
Translate to, Orient like, Roll like, Aim roll at, Spherical limits,
Euler limits, translate limits, Surface, Scale like, Aim like two, Aim
roll like two. If your not familiar with constraints, it's essential
for good character setups.
> - Good network and batch rendering capabilities.
The network/batch rendering is availible from the network version of AM,
which is $700. You just need one license and AM will render on every
computer on the network.
> I would be *very* thankful for any opinions you have.
> I'd like to get a tool which I can stick with.
I would suggest checking out the $200 verison at least. If you don't
like it, just return it. Hash will give you 30 days to return it. If
you want to see samples of what people are doing with it, check out the
Hash site or visit my web site. If you do like it, the amount of money
you save from buying the more expensive software, you can buy a kick
3D Character Animation