3D animation is a beautiful medley of art and math, where numbers and colors collide to create alternate worlds so tangible that it has become hard to draw a line between where reality ends and make-believe takes flight. With an intuitive 3D animation software package at your fingertips, you can build characters, objects and landscapes to populate new worlds of your own. You can bring them to life as well with colors, textures and movement.
Although the technical skills required to master the best 3D animation software can be daunting, no other tools pack so much unbridled creative power. The best professional 3D animation maker and creator software packages are intuitive and easy to work with, even though the task is a complicated one.
There are many factors to consider when looking into a 3D animation software package. Most software provides plenty of attention to detail for professionals, while allowing room to grow for newcomers to 3D animation software. Autodesk's 3D software works well for beginners, as the company provides many tools to help you acclimate to the software. The Foundry's 3D animation software is a great system for those who already have a background in 3D animation.
Purchasing high-end 3D modeling software is a major investment, so you should be selective. Most 3D animation software packages share some basic modeling and animation tools, but their specialized toolsets are often diverse and unique. After you've climbed the learning curve the first time, you probably won't want to switch over to a different application, so choose wisely. For more information, check out our articles about 3D animation software.
Top 3D Animation Software
Autodesk offers Maya and 3ds Max software options. This software company has incredibly versatile options, and it is possible to use this as someone new to animation or as someone who has done it for a while. The tools in Autodesk are endless, including simulation tools and varying lighting options. Autodesk also has a lot of features geared toward creating video games, and it has the potential to create manga images. The company also includes a number of support options, including email and online forums. Autodesk's huge variety of editing options and compatibility with extensions make it software that can grow with your abilities.
Autodesk's 3D animation software allows you to create characters, scenery and animations that are perfect for movies, games and broadcast television. This software's emphasis on customizable workflow and the many built-in features for creating lifelike characters make it a great 3D animation software option for both novices and pros.
Best Software for Rendering
Maxon 3D animation software is approachable but also intricate. This software is known for its fast rendering, and it also has great Photoshop-friendly capabilities. Maxon software is great for newcomers to 3D animation, but it still has the versatility to work for professional animators. You can choose the level on which you work and move up from there if you need more options. Overall, this is a user-friendly 3D animation option.
Maxon's 3D animation software is an approachable alternative to more intimidating packages. Known as Cinema 4D, this software is easier to learn than most, but it still possesses the depth required for professional use. The great toolset and approachability make it particularly relevant to graphic artists who have less familiarity with traditional 3D tools.
Best Software with Plugins
SideFX's software comes with extension capabilities to fulfill any needs you might have. You can integrate your own plugins, which makes this software flexible. The graphics in SideFX, known as Houdini, give you great options and precise control. This professional-grade program has some unique functions, such as the ability to build highly complex gas volumes. This 3D animation software might have a learning curve because of its many features and options, but you can always use the company's tutorials online to help you out.
SideFX's flexible 3D animation software package is famous for its high-quality graphics pipeline. The software, known as Houdini, is fully capable of modeling, texturing, rigging and animating 3D models. You can create entire worlds of 3D content, or you can fuse your 3D creations into real-world footage. This software is often included in large-scale cinematic projects that require contributions from multiple applications, because it is an ideal tool to draw all these elements together into one place. It is also highly extensible, offering the creative latitude to do whatever you can imagine.
3D Animation Software: What to Look For
Most 3D animation software is powerful and intricate, which makes choosing between programs difficult. To help you decide which application is right for you, we have highlighted the most import aspects of the best 3D animation software packages: the features, user interface and software extensibility.
There are multiple modeling styles, including polygon, subdivision and NURBS. Most 3D animation software packages specialize in the polygon and subdivision modeling methods, but the best packages offer NURBS as well. Polygon involves 2D shapes with connecting vertices to enclose the shape, while subdivision involves piecing together 3D shapes to create smooth surfaces. NURBS is a curve-based modeling technique that is ideal for building smooth, organic surfaces necessary for creating things like cars. You should also look for a soft-selection tool, which allows you to stretch and bend certain features on a model, for easy, accurate modeling.
You should select software that simulates a wide range of materials, like muscle, fur, hair, liquid and skin. These materials go a long way toward creating believable characters and settings for your animations. Having these features available within your application, without a cumbersome plugin, makes them much easier to apply to your models.
Your character models can really come to life in the animation stage of production if you have the right features at your disposal. You should look for software with support for multiple animation layers, allowing you to create complex animation with various motions happening at once. It is helpful to have the multiple animation layers with editable motion trails for customization of how your characters move and extra tracks for audio effects.
Intuitive User Interface
Those uninitiated to 3D modeling may find themselves lost in the ocean of features and tools before them. Unless you have prior experience, you should choose an application that is easy for anyone to understand. Intuitive placement of buttons and features allows you to find what you need without fighting through manuals. For professionals, it is helpful to have a customizable user interface. Creating a workspace that fits your unique workflow style can greatly increase your productivity.
3D animation software packages can do a lot, but they can't possibly cover everything you might want do. That is where extensibility comes into play. If your software can't do something you have in mind, you can extend it with plugins and scripts. This gives you the freedom to add functions and features to meet your specific needs.
World creation is extremely complex, and there are innumerable functions and toolsets you have to master, but it is doable. The best 3D animation software packages give you all the power you need to take those ideas out of your head and give them lives of their own. So go on and build. You are the creator of your world.