3D is used everywhere nowadays: films, TV, games, architecture, engineering, product design. Virtually wherever you look, you'll find 3D used in many cases. To generate content to match demand, you need 3D software.
The Day It Hit Me That 3D Really Is Everywhere
A number of years ago, I was looking at a magazine advert for a digital SLR camera. It was a lovely close-up shot of the camera, and I happened to know that the image of the camera had been made using 3D software.
"Wow!" I thought." "This is an advert for a well-known brand of camera, and they haven't used a camera to take a photo of a camera."
Nowadays, it's very common for product shots and many other images to be made using 3D software. I'll talk about some of the reasons why below.
What Is 3D?
Don't be fooled into thinking that 3D simply refers to the 3D pop-out effect which you see when putting on the special glasses at the cinema. 3D is used to create any image, be it an image for print or a standard 2D movie. Here's a great movie by our very own Matt Umney which explains the concept nicely in a few minutes:
Now that you know exactly what 3D software is, the next thing to know is how you create it. For that, you need some form of 3D software.
What Is 3D Software?
This was briefly covered by Matt's movie above, but 3D software basically refers to software that lets you create content in a 3D environment. There are several disciplines to 3D, which all take time to learn about. But to create final content, you need to:
- Model / build an object.
- Apply materials.
- Add some lighting.
- Add some animation if you want to move it about.
- Render out the final image in a format you want it to be in.
That final format can be a flat image like a jpeg, or an animation such as a QuickTime or .mp4 movie, a 3D file for use in a viewer or game engine, or many other formats.
The above workflow is very similar to working in real life. Except in 3D, you're not bound by constraints like budget for props or equipment and you can move your objects in any manner you wish.
There are many types of 3D software available. Some specialise in only one area, such as modelling or rendering. Or there are several fully-featured applications which contain tools for the entire content creation process, such as our very own Cinema 4D.
Why Do I Need 3D Software?
Put simply, if you're an artist or designer and you're not churning out content created in 3D, then you can't provide the content demanded by millions of viewers. Look around at work on TV, in films, in games, on billboards. Loads of it is generated in 3D. Some you might not even realise is done in 3D because it looks so real, like the digital SLR I mentioned above. To cement that idea, check this reel out which is full of work made in Cinema 4D 3D software:
Pretty cool, huh? You may have noticed that some clips in there feature some real-life filmed sequences and some computer-generated. The latter is largely done in 3D software because that software is good at creating content that you can't create any other way. 3D software makes the impossible, possible. As well as that, sometimes creating content in 3D works out far cheaper than making it in real life. For example, if you want 50 metre tall text, that's far cheaper to do in 3D than it is to manufacturer it.
Here are some of the reasons why 3D software is used:
- Making the impossible, possible. Check out this Making Of by Neon for Woolmark. Note that many of the camera angles would have been impossible using real cameras, such as flying through the eye of a needle.
- Reusable assets and no need for expensive photoshoots. RPM was able to avoid costly photoshoots with sophisticated lighting when creating images of many spirit bottles for Diageo. Once the bottles were made in 3D, they could be reused in any other marketing scenario. Check out the case study.
- Easy to implement client changes. If your client wants a different colour, different camera angle, or the camera path altered, this is easy to do with 3D software.
- No need for multiple shots merged together. A project using a real camera can involve several trips to different studios to take shots of objects modelled to different scales. It can be a pain trying to get these shots to combine convincingly in one composition. With 3D software, you can build whatever you need in one scene and avoid this headache.
Some 3D software will also integrate very well with popular editing tools such as Adobe After Effects. Cinema 4D, for example, can save projects in layered format which you can bring into After Effects. This makes it very easy to composite your 3D work into your filmed project.
How Much Does 3D Software Cost?
3D software ranges in price from free to many thousands of pounds. The paid-for versions tend to be more stable and easier to use. Our very own Cinema 4D is well regarded as the easiest-to-use, professional 3D software. Several versions are available, which cater for most budgets. Pricing starts from £450 for a 3-month licence of our top version, or you can buy perpetual versions from £650 ex VAT.
How Do I Get Started With 3D Software?
Like anything, learning a new skill requires some time. But the best way to get started is by trying it and seeing how you get on. Naturally, we recommend our own software, which is used by hundreds of thousands of artists around the world. See below to get a free trial and we'll also send you a load of tutorials to help you get started.
Get Your FREE How To Get Started With 3D Animation Guide
We've compiled a stack of information about how to get started in 3D animation in a handy 6 page pdf. And how much is this invaluable guide? How about I just give it to you for FREE?
This FREE guide contains details on:
- What is 3D?
- Examples of 3D in action
- 3D Disciplines
- Types of 3D software
- What to look for in 3D software
- How to get started
- Where to learn 3D
- Jobs in 3D
- 3D magazines and websites
- 3D software recommendations for general-purpose, product design and architecture.
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