To the Pros out there
first if I posted this in the wrong place, please let me know and I'll repost it correctly
I'm currently a student, and because I'm part of the Autodesk design community I have over 25 different Autodesk products available to me. however, that seems a tad overwhelming. My difficulty comes in finding the differences between the different softwares. Should I choose 3Ds Max, Maya, or Mudbox? They all seem to do the same thing, but I feel like there is a deeper difference. Some of the programs I have to choose from are:
3Ds Max Design (different from just 3ds Max?)
among others. I'm primarily an animator for the annual FIRST Robotics Visualization Challenge (basically, create a 30 sec animation that demonstrates the solution to a given problem, ie use biomimicry to solve a current problem). I'm also interested in pursuing CS as my major, and perhaps going into Film or Game Design.
so the question is basically, what are the differences, which are easier to learn/use, and any other information about the topic you care to share
I am a 3ds max user, and have used it for everything, from simple graphic design to film and game design.
however, i'm not sure about what to tell you.. i started on 3dsmax 8 years ago so for historical and experience reasons, i have continued on with it.
from what i have learned, maya is the best software for working on character animation..
mudbox is a skulpting software so it's a but different from maya or 3dsmax. mudbox could be ok for skulpting a character, that could then be animated in maya, 3dsmax or motionbuilder..
motion builder is recomended if you are going to work with motion capture, as it provides good mechanisms for integrating and compositing mocap-driven skeletal animation into meshes
i believe showcase should not be included in your possibility lists, as it is more oriented to design reviewing, presentation, and teamwork sharing
sketchbook is for drawing purposes, and although i have never used it, i think it's designed for use with tablet pcs and pen tablets
i'm not sure what are the differences from 3dsmax and 3dsmax design, althoguh i must admit that i have never look much into it (when this version of 3dsmax was announced i also thought "huh? what exactly is this? =)" i think this version of 3dsmax aims more directly into architectural stuff
if you're looking into animation then i think you should look at maya or 3dsmax. i think 3dsmax can be more flexible, although maya as i said i think (not sure), offers benefits especially in character animation
so first, about automation and scripting:
maya programming is based on MEL, which is similar to tcl or perl.
i have never used it because i don't use maya, but i think there are lots of resources and samples around the web
3dsmax programming is in maxscript, i'm not sure what it is similar to, but it should be familiar to anyone who is familiar with other programming languages. i have only used it for little automation stuff, and for scripting mathmatical interconnections and behaviours between objects. latest versions of 3dsmax also support .NET, although i can't tell you for sure what you can do with it
i think you should try out the interfaces of both of then, do a tutorial on each and figure out for yourself which one you prefer
although if you'r working on robotics, i feel that you will find in 3dsmax all that you need
another thing, 3dsmax only runs on windows, while maya runs on other OS
i think film industry for special effects both use 3dsmax or maya, depending on their own preferences.
animation industry prefers maya.
and i think game design industry points to 3dsmax, although that will depend on the software/libraries you are using for the game (i've used OGRE 3d game engine, and there are plugins for both 3dsmax and maya.. but some engines may have plugins only for one of them)
the most important point is:
whatever software you choose (i'm talking about 3dsmax and maya), the important thing is that you learn and understand the concepts about 3d modelling and animating. if at some point you have the need to switch to another software, as long as you know what you're doing, the only thing you will need to learn is your to use the now interface. all the concepts should follow the same idea i guess..
the final personal advice i can give is: do you have experienced friends or anyone who could personally give you some help and support on any of the packages? if you do, that could be a good argument to choose it =)
thanks so much for you're quick and very detailed response. Your insight is much appreciated.
could you go into what the difference is between sculpting (mudbox) and modeling (maya)?
I think I'm leaning towards having most of my team learn 3Ds Max and then having my character specialist learn Maya/Mudbox.
when you model in 3d you usually use on of the multiple methods available, from nurbs modelling to boolean composition, to polygon modelling, or procedural/modifier based modelling or a mix of everything.
i generally use a mix of polygon and modifier modelling although boolean is one of those things that sometimes just come in handy to do some specific stuff inbetween.. and there are still other methods, i'm not being exaustive.
polygon modelling is when you start from a simple figure/primitive, and model your way up with vertex and face/polygon transformation..
skulpting in 3d is very like skulpting in real life, and that means that your tool will be like "floating" over the surface of your initial object (a sphere or a cube for example), and at every click or drag of the tool, it's like if you are carving stone, so you can configure brush shape, size, intensity, etc.. and model things without thinking about polygons or vertexes.. it's really good for organic stuff, although any of the methods requires practice.
i think polygon based modelling is better if you'r planning to work on game design (because you have to consider the fact that for real time animation, your polygon resolution should be low), although i'm not experienced with skulpting to tell you that skulpting won't get you the best topology on the surface of the mesh.
another advantage of polygon modelling is that for complex animation you should take into consideration every aspect of the polygon topology, because if it's not exactly right you might get undesired effects.
so i guess that skulpting bay be easier to get the visual aspect that you want, but polygon gives you better control of what you are sending into the animation mechanisms, although that also requires some knowledge about modelling for animation, and about animation (if you don't know what problems animation will give you, you won't know what you should avoid while modelling)
i hope you understood both techniques, and as in my previous post, i haven't told you which one you should use, only what's good on one and another, so you should make your own decisions =)
what you should do is little tests about what you plan on really doing: try modelling something with mudbox and animating in maya, and modelling the same thing in maya and animating it, so you can see the differences between them. you will see that skulpture modelling is much more intuitive (requires no knowledge about 3d topology and theory), but it will possibly give you more trouble while animating (when you try to rig a character for example.)
of course, at the first shot, skulpting will turn out much better, because if you don't know what you'r doing when you polygon-model, then your topology will turn out a good crap and will fail a lot in rigging and animating =)
ok, final consideration (my personal consideration):
skulpting (mudbox) is more intuitive and more easy to learn and to
transmit your ideas, and initially will probably even give you better results in animation
modelling in maya give you better control of your final result, so it enables you to refine your model to animate perfectly, although that requires some knowledge and experience, and it's also less intuitive (especially if you want to model what you'r imagining, in an optimal way for animation...)
when you start out, you'll try to model what you imagine, so it will turn out crap for animating. when you learn the rules about modelling for animation, you will see that to follow those rules will make it much more difficult to model exactly your idea.
anyway, if you're experienced and know what you'r doing, i personally think that modelling in maya will give you better results.
for a beginner it will probably give you much worse results
so that's it i guess =)