3D modelling software breakdown

Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

One of the most important decisions you will have to make in your 3D career is deciding which software to use. It’s something that can dictate the entire direction of your career and the projects you take. But where do you start? In this article, we will give you a bitesize breakdown of the industry standard software in an effort to help you understand which one is best for you.

 

Autodesk Maya

Payment: Via subscription, terms make prices vary

Price: £234pm / £156pm (1-year plan) / £141pm (3-year plan)

Known for its array of powerful tools, Maya has become the most commonly used software across the industry. Built for feature film production it’s been used on CG films like Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Avengers: Infinity War.

With this software being one of the most robust and versatile; knowing how to use it will defiantly make you more competitive in your search – but it doesn’t come cheap with the basic package starting at £234 per month!

Pros:

  • Incredibly powerful 
  • Comprehensive CG toolset
  • Expensive and difficult to learn

Cons:

  • Overkill for many 3D artists

 

Autodesk 3Ds Max

Payment: Via subscription, terms make prices vary

Price: £234pm / £156pm (1-year plan) / £141pm (3-year plan)

Autodesk’s 3DSs Max predates the majority of programs available today, and with age comes stability. The modelling software is thought to be one of the most stable for Windows monitors and still homes a huge library of efficient functions.

3Ds Max is often used for character modelling and animation as well as for rendering photorealistic images of buildings and other objects. Inmodelling 3ds Max is unmatched in speed and simplicity.

Pros:

  • Easier to learn than Maya
  • Substantial feature set for modelling and VFX

Cons:

  • Windows only
  • Recent updates have been underwhelming

 

Autodesk Mudbox

Payment: Via subscription, terms make prices vary

Price: £12pm / £8pm (1-year plan) / £8pm (3-year plan)

Mudbox – also part of the Autodesk family – is one of the easiest software packages on offer and more aligned to editing and sculpting models. Generally, you would make a low polygon base mesh in a traditional 3D polygonal software like 3DS Max or Maya, then from there you would import it into Mudbox to add further detail.

Designed by a company named Skymatter, this software was created to improve creativity while working on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

 

Houdini, SideFX Software

Payment: Via subscription, terms make prices vary

Price: £202pm / £134 pm (1-year plan)

Another leading software like Maya, Houdini is also an industry standard tool recognised by the best in the business. It’s node-based style of production differentiates gives you a huge amount of control making it a popular choice with a number of artists giving lots of room for collaboration.

When considering this software, you should bear in mind programs like Maya or Blender store changes in a user history which makes it difficult to return to a previous version of your work.

It also has a free version called Houdini Apprentice so you can try before you buy!

Pros:

  • Industry-leading procedural software
  • Capable of incredible VFX simulations
  • Free version available to hone skills

Cons:

  • Complex node-based workflow

 

Cinema 4D, Maxon

Payment: Via subscription, terms make prices vary

Price: £3300 (one-time payment) / £55pm (billed annually) / £95pm (billed monthly)

Maxon’s Cinema 4D software is a serious competitor amongst Maya and Houdini. A big selling point is that the learning process is much more simplified but still maintains amazing quality graphics fast and hassle free.

It’s a multifaceted software it is caters for modelling, animation and rendering making it a top pick if you’re working across the three and has been known to integrate well with the adobe suite.

Pros:

  • Shallow learning curve
  • Hugely extensible with plugins

Cons:

  • Only the Studio version has all features
  • Perpetual licenses expensive

 

ZBrush, Pixologic

Payment: Via subscription, terms make prices vary

Price: £33pm / £145 (6 months) / £895 (one-time payment)  

As the name suggests this 3D software is all about the brushes. ZBrush has a stand out feature they called ‘Pixols’; a twist on pixels that contains X Y Z coordinates as well as material and colour data points. This component is the main reason the software is admired for its artistic functionality.

If you’re into 3D painting this is defiantly one to consider. While a license is relatively pricey, there have been free upgrades that keep this software equipped with the most cutting-edge in 3D.

Pros:

  • Incredible sculpting toolset
  • Handles millions of polys with ease

Cons:

  • Difficult to learn
  • Non-standard menus and UI
  • Needs a graphics tablet for best results

  

Modo, Foundry

Payment: Via subscription, terms make prices vary

Price: £51pm / £519pa / £1578 (one-time payment)

Modo is one of the best apps out there for the creation of polygonal forms with modelling at its core. It uses both direct tools and procedural techniques making it a sought-after platform for modellers.

Studios specializing in architectural design, product design, and CG for print have been seen to especially favour the software, but it seems to fly under the radar when it comes to visual effects and animation.

Pros:

  • Excellent subdivision surface modeller
  • Impressive MeshFusion Boolean workflow

Cons:

  • Some non-modelling tools feel underdeveloped

 

Blender

Payment: FREE!

If you’re on a budget Blender is a great pick. It’s a FREE application with rendering, animation, texturing and modelling tools. An extremely viable alternative to paid 3D programs that still maintains a high standard.

It has features like UV unwrapping, raster graphics editing, and sculpting. Blender is great for animation and has quality rigging, skinning, fluid simulation, smoke simulation, particle simulation, soft body simulation, and match moving features as well.

Pros:

  • Free!
  • Impressive feature set
  • Great community support

Cons:

  • A little daunting at first

 

 

As recruiters we are continuously evaluating the market to truly understand trends and stay relevant within the community. The above software have proven the most popular across the clients we have worked with but – as I’m sure you are aware – the market is constantly changing! Let us know if you think otherwise, we love to hear from you.

Start the conversation by reaching out to our VFX and Design Specialist – joel@yellowcat.london

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