3D animation software can create both bizarre and life-like characters.
Computer animation technology has come a long way since the days of moving simple geometric shapes across a computer screen. Now movies immerse audiences in virtual worlds by creating characters and environments that don’t exist in real life. Learning to become a 3D animation artist requires using the right software. Each of these 3D animation programs offers all the tools an animation artists needs to create and animate life-like characters.
Blender is an open source title available as a free download. Unlike many open source projects, Blender has been widely adapted by professional animation artists because of the program’s professional features and powerful modeling tools. The Blender website features examples of complete animated films created entirely by the Blender animation software. Features include complex modeling, shading and rigging tools that allow for the creation of character life-like movements and physical environments.
Houdini is distinguished by its multi-platform availability. Houdini will run on Linux, Mac or Windows computer platforms. The program includes advanced features for creating particle effects used to create dust, debris and explosions. Character creation tools include interactive muscle and skin components that used “meatball” based tools that program skin response to muscle movements. Efficient rendering of animations is accomplished with Houdini’s “Mantra” technology.
Lightwave 3D has a long history as an animation tool used in broadcast and production facilities that depend on meeting tight deadlines. The interface design of Lightwave 3D is focused on providing an efficient work flow in facilities that may employ a team of animation artists. Lightwave 3D includes features like “FiberFX” to provide realistic hair and fur textures for character creation. “RealLens Camera” allows the user to exactly match the physical properties of an actual camera so images created in Lightwave 3D can integrate seamlessly into scenes from live action film or video.
Maya 3D has the distinction of being used by leading Hollywood studios in the production of major animated theatrical releases. The software is designed to integrate teams of animation artists working on individual components created by numbers of networked Maya 3D workstations. Maya 3D features advanced simulation tools to capture the complex physical properties and movements of 3D objects. Over 500 brush based tools make Maya a good choice for cartoon animators working with non-life-like characters.
Softimage is a good choice for artists looking to model facial features and create unique characters. The “Face Robot” tool set allows users to define facial features quickly and create facial expressions based on specific features. The non-destructive work flow environment ensures artists can retrieve previously discarded animation elements should the need arise. Softimage also includes non-linear time lines to plot animations and mix other animation elements together to form the final product.