We here at Zoom Creates have been getting all kinds of interesting work lately. Some of this new work has led us down the path of animating in the third dimension. Naturally, we wanted to take a good look at some of the tools out there that could help us reach our goal.
First, because the dev team here is a mixed Linux/Windows environment, we took a look at the open source Blender project (www.blender.org). This is quite the powerhouse of software at our fingertips, but the UI is daunting to say the least. Kris tried out the 64 bit version on his Windows 7 machine, and ran into some serious road blocks with some of the different export file types. I downloaded version 2.49 from the Debian repositories and it worked without a single problem (nice going Linux). While Kris was struggling to get his environment up and running, I decided that I would follow some tutorials and make something.
I decided that something should be a tree. Trees are good for first time 3D modeling, as they have a lot of layers to them. You’ve got the bark, the leaves, the multiple layers of branches, etc. I made life easy on myself and downloaded and compiled ngPlant. It’s an open source program that helps you create the basic structure of a tree very easily. After building my tree, I imported it into Blender and added my textures. what you see to the left is my finished product. It’s far from perfect, it could use some smoothing, some better lighting and reflections, and could be filled out a bit better, but hey, it’s pretty cool for a few hours worth of work.
Meanwhile, Kris was still having trouble, so he decided that he should check out 3ds Max. He used this software a few version numbers ago, and is working with the trial version now to see if it’s the right tool for the job. We’ll see.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite 3D modeling program is.