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Rendering isometric animations

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So far I have been using 3DS Max to do the job, but I don't want to use it anymore. Animating in that program is way too difficult and time-consuming to use for the simple things I need. Plus the bugs (yes bugs) are driving me nuts. I am creating a 2D isometric game and I need the objects in the game to be viewable from 16 different directions. Just like StarCraft. For this reason I have modeled them in 3D, animated them, and then used the video post feature in 3DS Max, in combination with 16 different cameras. Doing this produces alot of files (64 in the below example) which I merge onto a single large image using a special program I made for this single purpose. Here's a sample I made with 3DS Max and my merger application so you can understand what result I'm talking about: Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us That 16-split-rendering-thing works splendidly. My problem is animating with 3DS Max! It really is driving me nuts. So my questions are 2: 1) What other program would you recommend for animating models I've created in 3DS, and then importing them back again for the 16-split-rendering? Given that the animations are preferably skeleton-based, and I find 99% of the extra features in 3DS Max uneccessary. 2) Is my whole approach of creating these sprites wrong? Does some other program make this process much more painless? If so, tell me how a pro would do such things.

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Hello,
More or less, I'm faced with this situation, as I am thinking of making my next project isometric.
I'm not using 3DS as I can not afford it.
But, imho, the program one uses is not really the point.. Isometric projections need a lot of frames, and perspective projections need a lot of meshes..
2) Painless? importing bones and meshes , designing them and making it work into an 3d environment is also painful..I think much more painful than rendering isometric projection sprites.

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