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Feral

Q(which?): Maya, Lightweave, Softimage and Max too, oh my!

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Feral    166
Hello hello! I''m in the process of looking at waaay to expensive 3d (modeling/animation/etc.) programs and was wondering if anyone would care to offer any advice.. I''m currently mostly interested in sold polygonal modeling with good export options (or failing that a useable api to write a custom exporter with, but I''d like to avoid that if at all possible.. on general principle if nothing else). I am mostly worried about making (low polly)models for use in game rather than movies and rendered output currently though. I am also a precision freak so being able to specify the location, size and other parameters of things easily and precisely is rather important to me. However, given the cost of these type of programs and given that my favorite artist tends to learn new programs rather glacially slow I''d like to get one good solid 3d program and be able to stick with it for the foreseeable future. So far my thoughts are so: GameSpace(light): Horrible interface, neither artist nor I like it. It does seem to have a nice set of export/import options, as well as good options on primitives.. tedious and hard to get presion it seems though) .. Down right affordable. Maya(PLE): Nice, deep as a well.. good viewport manipulation.. tedious and a touch troublesome mesh editing.. Initial primitive creation seems.. well primitive.. very. 3ds Max(gmax): kind of benchmark.. like the 4 view, nice enough primitive selection and options (bit limited as I recall) .. but apparently 1.5k more than the rest of the options.. I don''t think their brand name is worth that much.. Softimage|XSI: well the website looked nice .. looked pretty promising. But seems there is no demo available.. Lightwave: Like the price basically, and good upgrade path currently.. but seems there is no demo either. It would seem to come with all the goodies.. cloth sim and so on.. their gallery had alot of .. uhm.. interesting models as far as characters go but some nice realistic ones in the back so good results would seem possible. Comments welcome.

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digisoap    241
Presion? Do you mean precision? VERY easy to be precise in gameSpace: just use the object info palette (select object, right-click arrow icon). I should also mention that precision is, for the most part, completely pointless in games, as the player's are going to care at all as long as the game looks good. And when modeling characters, you're going to end up w/ verts in locations like 1.239242984, and you've just got to let it go, so long as it looks good. Programmers and their obsession w/ precision...sheesh . 4-view is also possible in gameSpace, as is any other view number - either as floating windows or the more traditional CAD-style 4-view like in 3DSMAX.

You don't like the interface? Interesting; most users really like the gameSpace/trueSpace interface, compared to other 3D software, due to its level of interactivity and easy access to all program features. If your artist is more of a techie person than a designer, I can see them not liking it - those types of people usually prefer the horror known as the 3DSMAX interface (though it is, slowly, improving). I'd recommend giving gameSpace another try - plus, you can rearrange EVERYTHING - the location of EVERY SINGLE ICON - until the layout is of your liking. Let me also recommend turning off the 3D widgets, as they just get in the way, other than the viewport nav widget in the bottom right-hand corner.

And speaking of 3DSMAX, there is MUCH more to the program that is game-related than just their brand. I'm not the biggest fan of the program's interface, but it's tools for game development are, to put it simply, the BEST, though you may have to develop your own exporters - and I've got no idea why "general principle" would stop you from doing this, as it is COMMON industry practice to do so, even if there are other convertors freely available.

What format are you trying to get to? Do you have an engine? What formats does it support? Skeletal or Hierarchal animation? Can it support multiple textures per object/polygon? Consider these kinds of things, more than interface, when looking at 3D programs - it may turn out the only program you can afford/is best suited to what you need is the one w/ the interface you like the least; but once you/your artist has/have defined custom/learned the program's hotkeys, the interface won't matter one iota: I've got the same hotkeys, more or less, in trueSpace/gameSpace and Lightwave & Maya, so I can go from one program to the other, and regardless of interface, do what I need to do.

-Nick "digisoap" Robalik
Web & Print Design, 2D & 3D Illustration and Animation, Game Design
http://www.digital-soapbox.com
nick@digital-soabox.com


[edited by - digisoap on May 27, 2004 3:17:50 AM]

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Kandolo    325
I know and use many 3d Programs... but I''m still very fond of Cinema 4d (www.maxon.de). I keep coming back to it.

Granted, it does a lot more than you''ll need it to do, but it has an amazing interface and is pretty versatile. Its also not that expensive.

- T

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daveangel    138
Actually there is a demo of softimage and lightwave since I am using them right now you just gotta look harder. They will send you a link to the demo if you register on their website I think that''s how it works if I remeber.
I''ve used most of these programs and my superficial overview of them is:
maya is the best if you want to be able to use it anywhere since it runs on macs,linux,windows not to mention it is one of the most stable pieces of software I''ve ever used.
3dmax is quite easy to pick up and start using right away learning curve really low only problem with it is when you try to do anything overly complex you''ll need a plugin like character studio,shagfur,etc to get it done not to mention it really pisses me off how sometimes it''ll just crash in the middle of a long render for no apparent reason at all!
as far as rendering goes softimage used to look the best since it used mental ray but now I believe 3dmax,maya is also using it so that shouldn''t matter to you.
As far as lightwave goes I could never get used to how the split the program into 2 different programs instead of integrating it all?


If God played dice, He''d win.
—Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos

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Feral    166
digisoap:
Ah yes precision, *blames user error on language* stupid English... Really I''m
more concerned with precision for object placement, not so much were a vert
lies, though at times I''ve found that important as well (like when merging
verts, but yes most programs these days are pretty good about that) ..

By and large though I just dabble though I hope to get to the point where I can
model some space ships again.


*fires up gameSpaceLight* .. fiddles around a while, deleting the object a few
time inadvertently(etc.) .. I swear this interface fights me every step of the
way.. did a nice search for text and found the Object Info panel though so that
is a good thing, even if I cannot place it where I want (keep snapping back to
the bottom left corner just above the row of icons.. cleverly covering the
expanded icons from that toolbar up *sigh*) but UI frustrations aside there are
a few things I like about this program..


I don''t suppose there is anyway to get the ''Primitive shape'' and ''Primitive
properties'' dialogs up after the object (torus in this case) has been created?
.. One simple miss click and well, start over. At least so it seems.


Noted about the 3d widgets, which I kind of like, but I''ve also noted them
getting in the way, not doing what I want and in general.. yes.



When I mentioned ''general principle'' I''m referring to the cost of the
programs.. For as much as they cost I tend to think they should wash my socks
too! *wink* .. but that aside I rather expect to have to write an exporter and
such like, if nothing else to parse a existing file format (ever popular .3ds
for example) to get it into a more game friendly format. .. Format wise for
now.. well it really does not matter, this game
is stupidly simple so all I really need is verts and texture cords, though I''d
like to keep my options open and be able to export to Torque, etc. if I feel
like using it for something someday.

I''m a touch paranoid about interfaces from my experiences with various code
editors and how using (for example) a bunch of key combinations becomes second
nature and you no longer thing/remember what to hit.. Then all of a sudden you
get distracted and have no flipping clue how to do something simple. Of course
I think this only partially is a worry with the 3d programs but well, I''m just
a touch paranoid! But as you said, once over the learning curve it is not so
bad.


Kandolo:

Thank you for mentioning CINEMA 4D, I''ll have to look at that closer.


daveangel:

Thank you for noting there are demos for them.. I''ll have to go find them. Also
thank you for your comments on the programs.


all:

Hum, fun fun!

Thank you all for your insightful comments!

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FenrirWolf    288
Me, I'm a Lightwave dude. I've tried Max, and I didn't care for the interface, too. A more artistic friend of mine constantly complains about Max's interface and pines for the way Lightwave does a few things. (Like having bones easily seperated from the geometry.)

I tried out the GS lite dealie, but the interface was a bit of a turn off. I don't like things that intrude into my scenes's view. But maybe that's just because I am spoiled by having two monitors. Since most of Lightwave's tools are subwindows I can drag them onto the seperate monitor and have a nice, uncluttered view of my scene/models.

Maya, I can't speak for, as I've never tried it. But it seems like Maya is gaining ground insofar as being a gaming tool. I hear a fair number of people model in Lightwave but render in Maya, or some other combination like that. Me, I can only afford only one of these big-name 3D packages.

As for the split between modeler and layout, a lot of people usually go "EWWW!" at first. But when I've played around with other 3D packages where everything is integrated as one, their interfaces usually are very cluttered and a lot more confusing to newbies (*cough* 3DS Max *cough*). There's the added benefit in that since objects are entirely seperate (including surfacing), then it's REAL easy to swap things in and out and reuse stuff. Heck, the scene files for Lightwave are just plain text files, so search-n-replacing is all that is needed to swap, say a low-polygon proxy model with its higher-poly cousin.

On the other side, I admit that the Hub does a good job of keeping everything syncronized. This is certainly better than the pre-6.0 days when you had to manually reload models in Layout if you had changed them in Modeler...

---
- 2D/Pixel Artist - 3D Artist - Game Programmer - Ulfr Fenris
[[ Gaping Wolf Software ]] [[ GameGenesis Forums ]]

[edited by - FenrirWolf on May 27, 2004 2:39:34 PM]

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Logodae    332
For a nice polygon modeller w/ good export options, I'd recommend Wings3D. I don't know if it has the precision you're looking for, since I don't usually model that way, but I'd guess it does. Worth trying out, anyway, since it's free.


"Sweet, peaceful eyelash spiders! Live in love by the ocean of my eyes!" - Jennifer Diane Reitz


[edited by - Logodae on May 27, 2004 6:06:12 PM]

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digisoap    241
quote:
Original post by Raduprv
Why not Blender? It''s free, has a big community behind it, it''s improving constantly..


Because the interface sucks and it''s the most obtuse 3D program out there...maybe that''s why it''s now free?

Feral:
When in doubt, right-click; this works in tS/gS for just about everything. After you''ve created an object (and assuming the "magic ring" is still active) right-click on the primitive icon. If you''ve already "finalized" the object (e.g., the magic ring - that red/green/blue/yellow widget that shows up around the object when creating), then you can''t make changes to it like that - same as every other 3D program except 3DMAX, more or less.

And to stop the object info panel from snapping to the edge, don''t drag it all the way down to the bottom. And why do you have the icons expanded all the time anyways? They''re made to expand for a reason: to give more 3D modeling/texturing/animation screen real estate). And, I''ll say it again, LEARN THE SHORTCUTS, or make you''re own. I hardly even use the icons any more, and usually have them all minimized (tab, just like in Photoshop, or two clicks on the icon bar to make it shrink to a little box that, when rolled-over, shows all icons connected to it again).



-Nick "digisoap" Robalik
Web & Print Design, 2D & 3D Illustration and Animation, Game Design
http://www.digital-soapbox.com
nick@digital-soabox.com

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Raduprv    997
quote:
Original post by digisoap
quote:
Original post by Raduprv
Why not Blender? It''s free, has a big community behind it, it''s improving constantly..


Because the interface sucks and it''s the most obtuse 3D program out there...maybe that''s why it''s now free?



I am not an artist, but I did talk with Blender artists, and with the !Blender artists.
From what I understand, the Blender GUI does not actually SUCK, it''s just non standard, so it takes some getting used to. But I heard they are working at it.
Anyway, my wife tried Blender (she previously worked with Max, and a little Maya), and she said she likes Blender, even tho it''s a little annoying at times, because of the non standard GUI.
But then again, Blender is free, and if not for the high volume of pirated Max and Maya on the ''market'', almost everyone would use Blender.

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Tormentlord    100
download the 3dsmax 6 demo off the website, and find a crack using [blahblahblahblah]...

problem solved

did i say that outloud?

[edited by - digisoap on June 13, 2004 6:12:38 PM]

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Feral    166
Tormentlord:

If I wanted to be a fucking thief I would not be posting here.


All:

Blender is now opensource because of a concentrated effort by devoted people who pooled money and bought it from .. Hum, Nin? something like that.. origianal creators anyway, as I recall anyway.

It''s interface is ''nonstandard'' because (also presuming I recall right) it originated on irix machines or something like.

An while as Raduprv mentioned it is constantly improving it is also constantly changing.. I''d much prefer to lean a stable rather unchanging and very powerfull program than try and keep to grips with an ever changing one, even if the price is right.

Anyway..

About gameSpace:
I think one of the major selling points of gameSpace is their very nice and flexable primitive selections.. baking the primitive when you (miss!) click on something else though really gets in my way. I''ll miss the nice primitive manipulations but honeslty I think that is all...


About Maya:
I''ve been able to get PLE to do what I''ve wanted it to everytime I''ve sat down with it, and from what I''ve seen those that like Maya really like Maya, so I consider that a pretty good sign.

So while expenisive we''ve gone with Maya Complete 6 (and yes I''m personaly responsable for Maya bonus pack being pulled till the goof in charge of updating their store includes the proper version of Maya Complete in it *laugh* .. someone goofed!)

It also helped abit that newtek (Lightwave folks) have yet to answer my email.

Thank you all (except Tormentlord) for your comments, very helpfull!

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3dmodelerguy    160
I have used many many 3d programmers in the past year and this is what i think of them:

Max : The interface was not to my liking but i did like the modeling feature it had, mainly all the modifiers. I personnaly did not like the animation and found it hard to do when it came to character animation. For the price, i think it is a little high.(used for about 2-3 months)

Blender : I Only used it for about 2-3 days becuase i could just not get the interface at all, IMO the worst interface i have ever seen and used. For the price, hey you can''t beat nothing (unless someone will pay you to use there program).

Milkshape : Milkshape it is very good modeling tool for its price. only downside it it does not have many advance modeling or animation features but milkshape has a LARGE amouint of file formats it is able to load and save. For the price, 30 dollars is not that bad.(used for about 1-2 months)

XSI : Never Used so can''t say. for the price, the higher end version is very expensive if i remember correctly

GameSpace : Not the bad of a program but if you wanted to get that, I would just say send a little more and get truesapce. For the price, it is pretty low compared to most of the other all in one programs.(I used this for 30 days)

Maya PLE : Maya is a very good all around stable program. The modeling it pretty easy to get used to. I have tried the animation but could not get uesd to it for some reason. As for the price the complete version, which IMO is not so complete is 2000 but to get the real power of maya you need to spend like 6000 - 7000 dollars which put me off to buting this program.(used for about 2-3 months)

And now for last, which is what i think is the best.

Lightwave 8 : I have been using lightwave for about 5 months now and have no regret in buying it. First of all, as for the price, I don''t think you can get any better cuase for 1295, that is the price for safeharbor where i bougt my lightwave7.5 w/8.0 upgrade and had no problems get the 7.5 and the 8.0 upgrade, you get lightwave 8.0 with cd manual, its 1395 for lightwave and printed manual. now here is a small list of new feature that LW8 come withinfo from the safeharbor website : http://www.sharbor.com/products/NTKN0300081.html)

*Dynamics
Rigid Body Dynamics
Improved Soft Body Dynamics
Improved Cloth Dynamics
Bone Dynamics
Improved Particle System Tools
*Great new Bone and animation feature right in layout
*Some new modeler tools like supershift

Now for modeling in layout, I think the lightwave has one of the best modelers around. It''s very easy to move around and well I have asked arounf about lightwave and I could not find any bad remarks for the modeler atleast. I must admit the animation and rigging in LW7.5 was hard, 8.0 has add some great new tools for animation and rigging. One thing the does bother alot of people, is the all modelering in done it modeler, and all animtion, lighting, camares,and anything else to does with setting up scence and object properities but I like it becuase it keeps Modeler and layout nice and clean even tho there is a workflow downgrade, but i am not a professional at this.

well there is my semi-long review of all those products. IMO I think Lightwave it the best for what you get out of the box and then you have the great community. there are also some great companies that build great plugins for lightwave, worley is one the them with there SASlite which comes with lightwave, and there newest product, FPrime.

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Raduprv    997
Gamespace (or at least the version we tried in November) is bug ridden. 512 RAM is just not enough for it, didn''t save the MD2s properly, etc.

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FenrirWolf    288
Amen, 3dmodelerguy, I can''t praise FPrime enough. It''s an amazing add on for Lightwave. It gives you near-realtime previews of your scenes, without having to press F9 and then wait for a render. And that''s including things like radiosity, motion blur, and so on.

Sadly, the only thing that won''t show up in FPrime is surface shader plugins and particle effects. This has to do with the way the Lightwave SDK works. Appearently, Worley is working with Newtek to expand the SDK interface, so hopefully in LW9 we''ll see better tools.

FPrime is > < this close from becoming an entirely new rendering engine plugin for Lightwave. (One of my biggest issues with LW is the fact that it only supports its built-in renderer, which is great but is rather slow.)

All in all, LW is a steal price-wise. Character animation, particle effects, soft/hardbody physics, and studio-quality renderer all in one package.

As for alternatives, Anim8tor looks like it would be a good program. It''s a somewhat LW-ish modeler/layout hybrid program that supports making models and then populating them into scenes. I haven''t played with it much, but it looks like all the basic tools are there -- Modeling, surfacing, animation, bones, etc.

I tried Wings3d and it''s a good modeler, easy to learn and very fast. If it only supported something other than very basic planar surfacing, though... You would still need some 3rd party program to actually texture your model.

Blender reminds me of Gimp. It''s a very capable program that can do most of what the "Big Boys" can do, but it''s got an interface that is very non-intuiative. Basically, a programmer''s GUI. It''s learning curve is more like a sheer cliff compared to most other modelers. But if you take the time to learn it, I am sure it''s quite rewarding as it has a pretty active community.

---
- 2D/Pixel Artist - 3D Artist - Game Programmer - Ulfr Fenris
[[ Gaping Wolf Software ]] [[ GameGenesis Forums ]]

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Jamaludin    151
in my opinion, it depends on the amount of skill you and your colleages already have. If you are to begin 3d studio max would be good, its hard but its the most easiest of the packages on the market, from there you could step up to Maya and/or Softimage since they are a tad harder to get into.

Max is very solid version six with the built in metal ray renderen, and new selection tools made it allot easier. Its a good solid starting program which can make beautifull results.

just my 2 cents..

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Feral    166
To be honest what I have seen of them(Max, Maya, Lightwave, Softimage) are all good, solid can produce fantastic results and so on. Really what I have seen of some of blender''s output is pretty spiff as well.

I tend to agree with the gimp/blender comment, very capable and so on but not so intuitive interface *unless you are thinking like they are!*.

To quote myself: (regarding Maya(PLE) )
> tedious and a touch troublesome mesh editing..
Interesting that I said that.. I''ve come to like how maya does mesh editing, though by no means do I have a clue what I am doing yet. (Just got Complete6 up and running on dad''s machine today, barly touched it -- I hate his mouse by the way )

I agree the statement, ''LW is a steal price-wise'' .. but you know.. they *still* have not replyed to my email. Though I imagine someone would be there if I called them.

By the by, If anyone wants to learn a marketing lesson LightWave''s lack of a easy to download demo and no responce to email cost them a sale..

Well anyway...

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Matei    190
I started with no 3D modelling experience whatsoever, and I learned Blender to the point where I can model almost anything I need for my game (medieval buildings and low-polygon people/weapons). However, this is one program where you''ll have to read the tutorials. It''s very important to learn how to find each useful window and how to use the hotkeys. The interface is designed to be very fast to use, although there are still parts which seem illogical to me. Luckily, there is a fairly large community site, www.elysiun.com, where you can get most questions answered. You will almost certainly have to use it at some point, unless you''re really good at finding tutorials.

There are Blender exporters for 3DS, Wavefront OBJ, MD2/3/4/5, and various other formats, and Blender supports scripting through Python, which makes it very easy to write a custom exporter with exactly the information you want. I wrote a basic one in less than an hour after looking at the Python API documentation and at the scripts that come with Blender. However, if you do get stuck, it can be very frustrating, because the documentation is sparse, and again, you''ll pretty much have to ask on an online forum. Also, if you want anything fancier than just mesh export, it gets harder; I''m still trying to figure out the exact conventions Blender uses for bones in order to export skeletons for skeletal animation. Part of the problem is that the Python API changes fairly often - hopefully they''ll stop doing that with future releases.

At only 2 MB though, Blender might be worth a try, if you have enough time to read a bunch of tutorials.

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Myopic Rhino    2317
quote:
Original post by Tormentlord
download the 3dsmax 6 demo off the website, and find a crack using [blahblahblahblah]...

problem solved

did i say that outloud?
Unfortunately, yes, so now you're nearly banned. Nick may upgrade that to a full ban due to our strict antipiracy policy.

[edited by - digisoap on June 13, 2004 6:12:15 PM]

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Feral    166
Frankly the instructions he provided should be obliterated as well. No point in shooting the messager and leaving the message posted after all.



Anyway...


Fwiw my Artist is getting up to speed pretty quickly with Maya and is pretty happy. From what I have seen of it I''d not suggest a resolution less than 1280x1024, which is a touch small for his 17" monitor. Still, nice excuse to get him a larger monitor and I''ll be able to get my dual head going again *and* a monitor for my old computer too! Yay!

As far as MentalRay goes 3dsMax6, Maya6 and Softimage:XSI have at least some version of it. I am not sure about Lightwave though.

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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
I think lightwave was the first to offer MentalRay and they offer it eons before XSI, Max or Maya too.

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Sansui    122
Well I myself would go for 3dMax its the best in my opinion you can customize pretty much anything you want in max whichmakes me happy. But on the other hand for lowpoly modeling I actually prefer Wings 3d and then importing to Max.

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Guest Anonymous Poster   
Guest Anonymous Poster
Oh yes, i vote for 3dsmax at all tasks to create animated models, backgrounds, digital image content generally. The wide range of features, that come within the standard package is quite good. If you want that the UI fit to your needs, you can easily create a toolset window, use your own icons to speeden up your work for multiple times. I''m not a programmer, but you can script you own menus. Nearly everything is possible with max, version 6 is great with all the integrated render machines like mental ray. It''s expensive, but it worths even you not use all function of that huge package (and that''s the same with any other software) And i also suggest Wings3D for subdivision purposes, i''ve read a thread, that also professionals use Wings3D beside their big package, sometimes. Yesterday i worked through the very easy Tutorials at www.wings3d.com and finally (after 30min) i must say, such a great modeler and no way to pay. Many modeling features i''ve never seen in max. The intelligent selection of sub objects is great. I see also an advantage compared to 3dsmax, no problems with damaged wires and surfaces, but no meshsmooth-Preview, just the temporary smooth/subdivision function, but it works great. Surprise surprise, there are still hidden treasures beside the top sellers. Note: I''m not a vendor or familiar to distribution purposes, but i work with max for years ago, in business and other funny purposes, and finally i''m addicted to create digital art with such great tools like max. Maya, Lightwave and so on..sure they have advantages and disadvantages compared to max, but you have to make your decision, because to master all that tools you need 7 lives like a cat, and who get''s such a life span, just the undead. Sometimes i take a look at Maya and other packages, Maya may be the best choice in rigging bones or is it lightwave, or is it finally still max. I''m a allrounder in many fields of 3D, therefore it''s not so difficult for me to make a decision for one package, specialists should look more concentrated on specific functional details. For the generalist, 3dsmax with no additional plugins is a great tool. That''s all, i can say.

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