May 7, 2010

Modeling (in 3D): Silo to the Rescue on the Way to Failing Blender ( a list of 3D tools I Looked into)

(image from

Back in February, I bought this book “Blender For Dummies” on an impulse when browsing in a Barnes and Noble one day after looking at the pretty color pictures inside, hoping to become a master of 3D art quickly. Little did I know that the learning curve to Blender Mastery is really really steep, with it’s mile-long feature list and unconventional UI. And the book simply has too much information and moves too fast. I couldn’t keep up with all the hotkeys and features in both the book and Blender. So I started looking for alternatives – something that a 3D noob like me could pick up and play with right away while learning by doing. Some of the software packages/services I tried/researched: (I didn’t know the difference between modeling, animation, rigging…etc so the list is a bit random as I tried things I found related to 3D art. I looked at these packages from an indie game point of view so I ignored some of the film/animation-specific features. )

Animeeple: Animation software and service package. Price is quite reasonable and I was able to see something moving on screen quickly. It does not do modeling but might be suited down the line for animations.
Mixamo: Animation web service that allows you to apply animation to your own models. A bit pricier than Animeeple but some say the quality is better. It just started offering a (limited) function to create your own model, but at large it is still an animation service. I might consider it down the line for animations as well.
Evolver Pro: You can create 3D model with this web service. It is good if you want realistic looking human characters, but I wanted something simpler for my game and I also didn’t like the generic look of these models I created with Evolver Pro on the website. I also tried to transfer the model I created here to Animeeple directly but it didn’t work for me after several tries over two days. However this is probably one of the fastest way to create a 3D human character if you are in a rush and have no interest in learning more about 3D modeling.
DAZ Studio 3: Modeling and animation tool which is also integrated with their web service (for buying models/animations). I gave it a try but the integration with web service isn’t straightforward enough, and the interface keeps breaking on my Mac. Also¬† licensing for games isn’t very clear so I am a bit hesitant in using it.
Cheetah3D: 3D modeling software for the Mac. It seems like it is quite popular for indie game developers to work with Cheetah3D. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet but could be a good option for people looking for a lower priced modeling package.
Wings 3D: 3D modeling software and it is an open-sourced project (FREE!). I didn’t try it yet either, primarily because the website looked outdated and I wasn’t sure if it’s still being supported.
Carrara: A complete 3D tool (modeling, animation….etc). A bit expensive and I wasn’t sure how the licensing would work for independent games. I read somewhere that you can get it for cheap if you buy this book, which includes a Carrara 6 Pro, and upgrade it to the current version. (I don’t know if that would work so try it at your own risk. )
Modo: 3D modeling tool. Great website and the demo looks pretty amazing. But a bit pricey for me as well. A lot of people stand by it however.
Quidam: Very interesting modeling software. It claims to provide a new way to 3D modeling. I didn’t get to try it because of the price, and also not sure how the licensing would work. ( I really don’t like to use a software package with which I have to worry about licensing/royalty/additional cost).
Poser Pro: A bit pricey and licensing seems complicated. Also I don’t really know if it’s good for 3D modeling.

And finally, I found Silo: a 3D modeling tool that’s easy to pick up and play with! I don’t know if it’s the nice looking website and software UI, or the excellent online tutorials (Thank you Glen Southern). I was able to make a 3D model and understand the basic tools within a few hours. I had the tutorial videos playing while I try what I learned at the same time. (see my setup below)

I’ve been trying Silo for two days now and I am very happy with what I’ve seen. Maybe it’s the video tutorials, I found it much easier to learn than Blender. It’s a perfect tool for a complete beginner like me who is hoping to make simple 3D models quickly. I’ve gotten much further with it after only two days than I’ve with Blender, which I’ve started learning since a few weeks back.I suggest you give Silo a try as well!

As for Blender, I will still try to understand it. It has a lot of features that I am sure will come in handy. Also I’ll need to move the models from Silo to Blender for animations and for use with Unity (or so I read). Still a long way to go before I get my art sorted, but Silo is making it one step closer! :)

edit: 2010-05-12

I found a great Blender modeling video tutorial on CGtuts+. I’ve given Blender some more time this past week and even though I still find Silo easier to use, Blender is starting to make sense for me.

For anyone interested, here’s the link

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