Best 3D software on a budget?

This hasn’t been addressed lately, and I’m ready to spend some $$:

I’m shopping for an inexpensive (say, sub $3k) rapid 3D visualization package.

…Meaning I don’t need machinable data, I need a quick way to import engineering models, model my own, and produce killer renderings. Illustrator and Photoshop don’t always hack it.

I grew up on Alias, but can’t afford it.
I love Rhino…but hate Flamingo. I definitely want an integrated package since I like to model and render simultaneously, and don’t want to have to jump through hoops whenever I change the model or scene.

Autodesk VIZ looks cool–great renderer–but I’m skeptical about its modeler. It looks like it’s targeted towards architecture.

Should I consider MAYA? I know its not meant for designers, but its affordable and has killer features…

Maya’s great. Once i figured out how to get the iges importer to work well, ive been able to crank out some really nice renders. The implementaion of mental ray in version 6 is pretty damn good. The good thing about an animation package as compared to an engineering program is that the renderer is very customizable. Also, there are literally hundreds of training sites/dvds/online stuff for maya. There seems to be far less for solidworks/alias/rhino.
I use maya personally, but I’d also check out 3d studio max. I’ve seen some great renders using brazil, (some sort of pluggin for it).
Check out, there’s TONS of great work all around it, really inspirational. Theres plenty of examples of good renders there.

Also, with maya, you have the personal learning edition, so you can learn it/play around with it before purchasing.

you know i use Maya. absolutely no regrets.

That’s a good topic. I am in the same process. please help us!
I am a guy from autocad-3dmax era. I used to use autocad for modeling and 3dmax for texturing and rendering. I started my studies when autocad 9 was the greatest software…
I am now looking for a new challenge…

here’s one thread w some numbers. think still good. lots of threads on this topic. some w pics and links. worth looking up.

If you are a Rhino user, you might be interested to take a look at Brazil ( - announced but not yet released.

Some of the latest rendering technologies has become available at lower prices now, or made it to lower-end products. Here is a short list of products that are probably worth checking out:

Softimage XSI Foundation (includes mental ray) USD495.00 -

messiah:studio (worstation USD299.00; Pro USD995.00) just came down in price -

Carrara (standard USD279.00; pro USD579.00) -

Blender (free) -

Alias ImageStudio (rendering only) USD1,499.00 -

Presenter3D (rendering only) USD795.00 -

Nobody seems to mention Newtek Lightwave. I believe it costs around $1000.

There’s a reason for that. I used to be a lightwave user, even up to around 7.5. Lightwave’s biggest advantage is that it offers many of the features (like a pretty good renderer) of maya or xsi, but for less. The problem for ID’ers is that there are no nurbs to speak of. It’s just polygons and subdivision surfaces. Great for modeling characters and animation, not so good for product. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but doing boolean operations tends to screw up the models, and that’s one of the only ways to achieve hard product designs.
Lightwave is also split into two programs, the modeler and animator, and this is just archaic. They should have integrated the two programs 3 versions ago. The graph editor for animating just sucks. It’s non-intuitive and doesn’t allow for the kind of control maya does.

This isn’t to say you can’t produce excellent renders. You can. has some absolutely amazing examples. It’s just that the interface is so frustrating. When i made the switch to maya, i thought it would be difficult because of how complicated i heard it was. While it is a complicated program, Alias offers so much simple, free training that you can learn most of the basics in an evening. Alias also has a really good team of interface designers, whos work you’ll apreciate more and more as you work with the program.

Lightwave’s biggest selling feature was the price, but that was when maya was $5000. Now that alias dropped it so low, the extra couple hundred you pay more than makes up for what you get, both in features and your ability to apply them quickly (learning curve).

what doesnt get mentioned is Maya <-> Alias. i was considering LW early on. Maya renderer had a bad rep back then. but w Maya NURBs that offset rendering problems. kicker for me was being able to share files w all the corporate Alias users. cant load a .wire into any other app afaik. for IDer that might be important.

Now that they have a full integration of mental ray, the renderer is one of the strong points! although i have heard that XSI still does the integration better.

Maya 6’s vector exporter is really great too, ive used it for a couple of projects so far. Its great to fake an illustrator line drawing, and have it actually be paths. You can export flash movies as well, and it’s all paths. Really useful feature! The range is incredible, you can export it as a simple line drawing path, or you can start adding gradients IN Maya, and the gradients will transfer to the illustrator or flash. It creates generally messy lines, but at least you can edit them. It’s much better than starting from scratch.

To add a couple:

Cinema 4D (from USD695.00) -

Shade (from USD99.00) -

Just bought Maya 6! …Taking advantage of my year-end budget before the holiday break. Keep the thread going though, I want to make sure I made the right choice!

:smiley: Merry Christmas to me!

wow, that’s great. If I get some time when I get home from work, I’ll post up some links to some tutorials, I’ve got too many, so i’ll try to crop. I’m sure most of you have heard of it, but cg, if you have any extra cash, you might want to invest in some gnomon dvds. They are absolutely great. Everything from basic modeling to advanced particle effects. Syd Meade even has a couple dvds, although i haven’t seen them yet.
What platform did you buy it for?

I know a lot of IDer’s using Maya for modeling purposes now…seems like it’s crossing over from the Animation/Illustration realm…

I’ll have to check it out…

Hey Cg,
Congrats to you!
I wonder which version did you buy? Student or commercial? I have another question to everybody: How long is Maya Complete Student version’s Licence? Is it one year like StudioTools?
Thanks… :smiley:

I am using 3dstudiomax but very good but little complicated.I think you made a good choice.Maya is the next step of 3dstudiomax and the best in that category.