Mostly free, also some cheap options for 3D art that are pretty good.
If you are interested in art, creating game art, CGI or just screwing around – there are indeed a lot of options. Initially, I became “re-interested” because I read that with this months new issue of 3D world, they were giving away a copy of Iclone 4, for free.
Basically if you want to get it, buy the magazine, because you must sign up, and it will request a word from a specific page number (I know, because I figured that’s what it would be, and tried it…yep.)
Iclone is primarily for “animating’, but stills can also be done quickly, and many have embraced it for those reasons, as everything is “real time.” There is no modeling facility, or any place to adapt or really alter or re-shape (from what I have read) models, which would likely taking place in an external package one must export to, or import from.
So…other than that…what options are there for someone who doesn’t want to become “too invested?” For something along those basic lines, you might try Daz Studio 4, which is free, and does “basically” a similar job. It also outputs to Lux render (A free GPU renderer) in a stand alone app, or pay $60 for Reality 2 (outputs direct to Daz.) Daz is mostly character related, and has posing, dressing and animation facility, along with rendering. You might call it a free “poser clone” in some ways. Other free software of the Daz site is Hexagon 2 (organic modeler, with a limited amount of painting ability) and Bryce 7, which could be compared to Vue Pioneer (both are free landscape renderers, which also allow one to create easy background/landscapes, trees land masses, etc.).
For the more engineer minded, try Blender (a complete package, also free) and Lux render, or if you have a few bucks for just better renders, try either Octane render (Nvidia GPU only so far, $200; or Furryball, $300) There are many other renderers, like Arion render or Maxwell render, (more expensive) but they all have specific requirements (plug in related; to specific applications like 3D studio Max, or Maya. all of these, with some effort on your part, can create images from photo realistic to cartoony, claymation type images.
If you want to get started modeling fairly cheap, try Sculptris (free, organic, Zbrush like) or Groboto (currently about $50) which is a primitives/boolean based, non-organic modeler. If you have a few bucks, try 3D Coat, which is quite powerful, various versions can cost up to $350, a non-professional version is $99. Sculptris can also light and paint, as can 3D Coat, which is preferred by some to Zbrush (easier/quicker to grasp) yet adds polygon modeling, voxel modeling and painting. (Voxel modeling is endlessy changeable, so, sort of like Groboto, you are never ‘stuck’ with what you have created; changes are easy and not painfully ‘permanent’). Other free modelers also exist, if you want to search for them, like Wings 3D (which is a more ‘standard’ polygonal subdivision modeler, also free).
My search basically started merely because I became interested in the potential of the Kinect to integrate into Iclone 5 (I learned, by the time all the money is spent, since one needs the “Pro” version, Iclone 5 actually costs about $700). So, I gave up one that, and started looking for other possibilities, which lead me to Ipi Soft, “motion capture for the masses.” Sure, it (the express version) costs $300, but – that is still cheaper than Iclone 5, 3DXchange, and the Kinect plugin, and the IPI software has a dozen formats it will export to. Icone 5…? It had just one. I might add that it used other types of computer cameras, and also the Sony PlayStation Eye cameras. Nice trick.
Admittedly, there are now other Kinect mo-cap solutions out there, but the one I located looked the best, and was actually being used by people to build some serious stuff. I f you are still hard up for the cash, try Brekel Kinect (free version) which has a ‘pro’ and a ‘face’ version also, along with a ‘point cloud’ version ($250 for all 3). These are some of the best I could locate.
Sure, Iclone 5 connects up to Unity Game engine (also free, pro version is used in many Nintendo games) but so does just about any software with the correct export format. So, if you are at all interested in making a game on your own, you will likely need some software to do it. Everything I have listed here can be used to make games, illustrations or any type of 3D art you might care to be interested in…but the difference here is it is fairly easy to set up a free system with free software, and not let go of a single penny, or keep it under a grand if you want some better stuff, but not a lot.
Maybe next time I will cover drawing and painting, photo manipulation applications along with video editing….there certainly is a lot of “free” out there, along with “cheap.”
Likely I will be reviewing some of this software (as I have downloaded a certain amount of it) in later weeks.