I want to learn a 3D app to compliment my motion graphics work in After Effects. Is Maya the way to go? What about Lightwave, Max or Cinema 4 D?
Keep in mind that I have to be able to get up to speed relatively quickly and 3D will only be 20% of what I do on any given project.
I do motion graphics and a while back was deciding between C4D and Maya. Best thing to do is to try out the demo/personal learning versions and see which one you like. IMO, If you want something that you'll be able to learn quickly then go w/ C4D, if you want a 3D app that can handle pretty much any thing you throw at go w/ Maya. Here's something I previously posted about the C4D vs. Maya thing..
"Totally agree that a lot of things in maya aren't really "artist-friendly", and am rather envious of certain aspects of C4D, toon and shade, huge plug-in support, great UI, small things like having an "only select visible" option (damn you alias!)... but... maya has great dynamics, fluids, paint effects, extensive nurbs modeling tools, true history (unlike C4D in which you need to essentially flatten or 'make editable' an object, ugh), node based hypershade, IPR, list goes on and on.
Is maya the fastest, most intuitive and "best" 3D mograph tool? probably not. but i know i won't be hitting any design ceilings in the near future, even if it takes longer and i end up pulling some hair out of frustration. and until C4D develops a bit more by added some essential pieces to it's arsenal (i.e. the above listed, mental ray or external renderers, etc.) i'm gonna stick w/ it for a bit longer."
A nice thing is two of the main things I envied about C4D, sketch and toon, and a good multi-pass rendering system, has been addressed w/ Maya 7 (Toon Shader, and Layers Manager.) So I'm pretty happy w/ my decision so far.
I agree with Jon W. I know alot of people who love C4D for the ease of use. (Mostly in broadcast apps.) It depends on how far you want to push 3D in your work. I have also found 3D Studio to be very user friendly and competent. for only 20% .... C4D sounds like the way to go.