Price: £299 plus VAT
Many companies have launched 3D applications into the mid-range market and boasted of their high-end prowess, and an equal number have fallen at the first fence. Not so Eovia Carrara Studio 1.1 – a fine update to the application it acquired last year from MetaCreations – and one that delivers impressive 3D tools and features for a bargain price. Carrara Studio is the heir to 3D stables Ray Dream Studio and Infini-D, and pulls together a suite of tools that are both powerful and surprising. It offers not only solid modelling tools in the form of vertex, spline, metaball, text, formula, and terrain modeling, but bolts on an complex shader tree, complete particle system, and modifiers such as shatter, explode, morph targets, bounce, and inverse kinematics. For statistics fans, it has well over 600 features. Even the lighting and camera options come fully loaded. Expect to be able to deploy tracking cameras, complete with depth-of-field, focal length controls, title and action-safe areas. There’s a dizzying array of lights for a product of this price, including spots, bulbs, point-at control, the ability to make any object glow, gels, moon, sun – and all can interact volumetrically with a scene. Lighting special effects include 3D lens flares, stars, pulsators, nebular, and glow controls. The interface works hard to cut through the confusion. It retains its Bryce-like influence, with chunky buttons, slider draws for object attributes, shader libraries, and animation timeline. Using a room metaphor, the modeling process is broken down into five areas: assembly of the scene, model construction, storyboarding, texturing, and rendering. And while flipping between rooms can be disorientating for a new user, it quickly becomes second nature and keeps the interface free from clutter. All modelling is done in a live preview mode, so you can quickly see how your model is progressing. There are some innovative touches to the assembly room, too: the three axes are projected onto the scene, each model projects its outline onto these 3D grids. The result is you can simply grab a projection, and use it to rapidly position the model where you need. Area selection rendering is present, so you can drag a marquee over the scene and get a rough render in the modelling window. Particle generators Real-world physics and the particle system deserve a special mention. The physics system means that you can apply gravity to a ball, for example, and it will fall and bounce, deforming as it would in the real world. Other modifiers force objects to always point at other objects, or track them across the scene. The particle system is great. It lets you place a fire, complete with volumetric smoke, into a scene, then animate and shade each particle. Impressive for a £299 package. Eovia hasn’t changed Carrara much since its debut last year, and its sale from MetaCreations has hampered this rounded package’s market share. However, when Digit last reviewed Carrara, we felt that while brilliant, it was marred by tons of bugs. Carrara Studio 1.1 is a much-improved release, far more stable, predictable, and less frustrating. Eovia claims it has fixed nearly 100 major bugs, and the difference shows. Eovia has also added a swath of goodies to the package. You get a CD with tons of models, plus 25 plug-ins for cartoon rendering and advanced procedural modeling. Eovia Amapi 5 is also included. All this makes for astounding value, and an absolute Digit Best Buy.