By Michael Burns | on February 12, 2009
Price: 370 . 115 . 170
Pros: 3D Paint; Vertex modelling enhancements; multi-pass rendering; stronger Daz 3D integration and free content; UV and modelling enhancements; Collada support.
Cons: Limited number of new features; user guide needs updating; no Collada for Mac version and Windows Collada import is missing.
The seventh version of Carrara, which is available in Express, Standard and Pro editions, aims to offer a fully featured 3D suite at an affordable price. We’ve looked at Daz Carrara 7 Pro here.
You can switch quickly between tabs to focus on each of four main 3D workflow tasks – modelling, texturing, animation and rendering. You open on the Assembly ‘room’, which provides a central location offering a large document window for working on the scene.
3D Paint, a key new feature, can be accessed from the main Assemble toolbar. It allows textures to be selected, edited and painted onto an object, as well as giving access to various channels and shading domains (RGB, RGBA etc). This isn’t unique to Carrara, but as one of the few major new features in this version it’s worth
a closer look.
The tool offers four standard methods of applying paint: the default paintbrush, an airbrush, an image stamper and the Line tool, as well as an eyedropper colour-picker and an eraser. The Tool tab offers the main colour selector, as well as options for the various tools. For example, you can choose brush orientation and use symmetry to mirror the textures across the selected axis when you paint. It’s possible to link the brush size to the pressure settings of a graphics tablet, but this also works by pressing the Ctrl key then left-clicking to resize.
We found, however, that once activated, the brush size occasionally seemed to have a life of its own. When working with primitives or text you’ll probably lack a base texture, so Carrara prompts you to add one. This happens a lot and soon becomes highly irritating, but the resulting dialog box gives you the choice of resolution and a number of file formats to save it in. This includes a PSD option, for fully supporting layered texture channels.
The image stamp and symmetrical painting functions worked well, but the tool as a whole isn’t as user-friendly as its equivalent in Mudbox, for example.
Another new feature is multi-pass rendering, which allows you to render the image out as multiple shader layers saved as separate image files. This offers several benefits. One is productivity – artists can render out a scene and perform post-production work on individual layers, rather than having to make changes to the scene and render the whole thing out again. So you could change a reflection colour, for example, or increase contrast by simply adjusting one layer.