I making a short 10-minute film this May featuring a talking dog as one of the main characters. The film will form part of a film production masters thesis on Talking Animals in Film. I was wondering could I achieve this in 3D Studio Max if I was to learn the programme. Or would I be better off trying to achieve it in Maya or Blender or some other programme I haven't considered? And how long would it take to achieve the effect of a talking dog and how would I go about it? Thanks.
Any of the 3 packages you mention could do the job. Spend a year or two learning the basics of modeling, texture mapping, animation, lighting, and rendering, then start on the actual film. There is no possible way to guess how long a 10 minute film would take to produce without knowing the number of shots, how many characters, are they all talking, etc., etc. I'm not trying to be a wise guy here, it's just that the learning curve is very steep to get where you want to be with the project. There is a great plugin for Max, called Di-O-Matic, which, once you have all the above steps done, makes it easier to achieve the lip sync part of it:
I say "easy", but take a look at the talking dog tutorial on the main page to see what's entailed - yup, another steep learning curve.
There's also the 2D/3D approach where you use a program like Crazy Talk Animator to do the job, taking photographs of the dogs, then animating them in 2D space. With the new version, Animator 2, which just came out, you can achieve a lot which a much shallower learning curve, but it's not true 3D. But if you look back at how it was done in the fifties, painting the mouth on film frame by frame, it's a lot less tedious, short of the learning curve. Good luck with it.
I use 3DsMax but you could do this in either of the software you mentioned. You would need to model the dog, texture it, create a rig and then apply the skin modifier. 3DsMax has CAT modelling tools which would be usefull for easily creating a canine rig. The tricky bit comes when you want to make the dog talk. You could use the old morph target technique which has restrictions. Or you could create a face rig with bones to maipulate the jaw etc. What you want to achieve is not too hard. But it is difficult to do well. If you have enough computing power you could add realistic hair and rendering effects. You would also need skills in compositing software like After Effects. You could easily write a book on the answer to your question.
Here's another situation and see how this works. Suppose you're creating a "Star War" type movie and want to have a light sabor battle. It would take a long time to paint every frame (usually 30 of them a second). What type of software would any of you recommend to do this? With the talking dog, you could paint every frame, but that's time consuming. I'm kinda new to this technology, but do some wonderful things with Sony Vegas Studio. The main point is if a movie doesn't have something in the frame, how can you easily "paint" each frame (or maybe there's something that can paint a series of 5-10 frames if the object doesn't move)? Thanks in advance for any advise on this.