The 3D team at Zappar have put together this handy post to help guide you into choosing the right tool for your objectives. We are going to evaluate what we believe are the most common tools, and look at several important considerations such as price, usability, availability of tutorials, as well as how suitable it is for the type of 3D development needed for ZapWorks

One important factor in getting started with augmented reality development is becoming familiar with 3D models, and 3D modelling software. 3D is a complex ecosystem to navigate as there is a very broad range of tools available that specialise in different functionality. This means that it can become a little overwhelming to understand which is the correct software to get started with.

The 3D team at Zappar have put together this handy post to help guide you into choosing the right tool for your objectives. We are going to evaluate what we believe are the most common tools, and look at several important considerations such as price, usability, availability of tutorials, as well as how suitable it is for the type of 3D development needed for ZapWorks Studio.

Check out our reviews below to see which 3D software you should get started with.

 

 


 

Maya

Suitability for ZapWorks Studio: 10/10

Price: £1,740 per year
(correct on 17th August 2018)

Strengths:

  • Very popular, used by most games, animation, film studios
  • Full 3D range of features: rendering, lighting, modelling, Uv mapping, sculpting, rigging, animation etc
  • The animation, in particular, is very good
  • Plug in support
  • Free for Students

Weaknesses:

  • Can be overwhelming to understand
  • Updates massively change the features

Tutorials:

Very good. Lots available from the community.

Learning Curve:

Easy to pick up, difficult to master due to the large breadth of features.

 

 

"Maya is a great piece of software that is very popular with the team here at Zappar. It is easy to adapt the tool to the project and style that we need to match it to. Once you understand how the different user flows work and how the pipeline needs to be put together, Maya becomes really powerful. Like any software, Maya has room for improvements, however, it is as close as we have in the 3D games / AR world to being an ‘industry standard’ and there are always loads of people in the community that are willing to help you out.” 

- Joe Coggins, 3D Artist at Zappar

 

Learn more about Maya

 


 

3ds Max

Suitability for ZapWorks Studio: 7/10

Price: £1,740 per year
(correct on 17th August 2018)

Strengths:

  • Incredibly powerful software, used for games, animation, architecture and film studios
  • Full 3D range of features: rendering, lighting, modelling, Uv mapping, sculpting, rigging, animation etc
  • Plug in support
  • Free for Students

Weaknesses:

  • The animation suite is somewhat lacking when compared to Maya
  • Can initially be unclear as to where all the tools and modifiers are located
  • The dependency on stacked based modifiers and functions can sometimes make modelling feel a little sticky

Tutorials:

Very good. 

Learning Curve:

The main hurdle with learning 3DS Max is learning the layout of where everything is due to the tools and modifiers being hidden in drop-down menus and behind ribbons, but once a user has an understanding of where the basics are located then they can easily start creating models quickly and efficiently with the tools provided.

 

 

"3DS Max is a very agile and powerful tool for creating content here at Zappar. It offers me a lot of choice, unique tools and modifiers for varying projects, which often require different outcomes. For modelling, UV Mapping and rendering 3DS Max is my go-to software, however, its suite of animation tools fall short when compared to Maya’s, in which I prefer to do my animation.” 

- Ed Aubrey, 3D Artist at Zappar

 

Learn more about 3ds Max

 


 

Blender

 

Suitability for ZapWorks Studio: 9/10

Price: Free 

Strengths:

  • Best free 3D software available
  • Active community created on an open source engine
  • Lots of support as it’s a community-based product
  • Great for creating painted assets, and stylized art

Weaknesses:

  • Difficult for beginners to get started with
  • UI and GUI can be difficult to navigate

Tutorials:

There are a lot of tutorials out there, but it can often be difficult to find the correct one to match your version.

Learning Curve:

From scratch, learning Blender is quite difficult, however, if you are coming from another 3D software then it should be fairly intuitive.

 

 

"Blender can be a tricky tool to get the hang of for beginners in 3D, and can also be pretty frustrating for those that have used other 3D softwares and are attempting the switch to blender. It’s UI and GUI is completely made through an open source community and hence why things may not particularly work in line with other parts of the software. Saying this, it’s a free software and if you’re looking for something cheap to use this is the best one on the market.” 

- Lucas Perez, Creative Director at Zappar

 

Learn more about Blender

 


 

Autocad 

Suitability for ZapWorks Studio: 1/10

It would be rare that a model could export correctly into ZapWorks Studio without an in-between workflow to lower the poly count

Price: £1406.40 per year
(correct on 17th August 2018)

Strengths:

  • Great for creating models in architecture, manufacturing, and product design

Weaknesses:

  • CAD is not great for developing for mobile platforms

Tutorials:

Medium.

Learning Curve:

Difficult to get started with, but worth the effort if in the right industry!

 

 

"If you are looking for a tool to learn in order to create 3D models for ZapWorks Studio, AutoCAD is not the one. It is a fantastic piece of software that is relied upon heavily in different industries, but it will be very different to create a streamlined workflow to get your work into ZapWorks.” 

- Matt Dewdney-Smith, Lead 3D Artist at Zappar

 

Learn more about AutoCAD.

 


 

ZBrush

Suitability for ZapWorks Studio: 4/10

Price: £690 per year
(correct on 17th August 2018)

Strengths:

  • Great at quickly producing concepts and basic shapes
  • Finalising details on high poly models
  • Creating nice painted textures

Weaknesses:

  • Doesn’t optimize well into game engines
  • Less features than other software (Maya, Blender, Max)

ZBrush is generally not used to create models that go straight into ZapWorks, but it can be very valuable in creating the details of the 3D model itself, especially when working on organic objects such as humans and animals.

Tutorials:

Very good.  

Learning Curve:

Difficult to get started (like most 3D software), but becomes familiar once you get to a certain level of competence.

 

 

"ZBrush is a very popular software that is used by many 3D artists in the industry. It will often be a 2nd or 3rd tool that a person would learn, meaning it is used primarily by those Mid-weight to Advanced category. The software doesn’t specifically create models that work straight in games/film/AR, however it is frequently used for heavy details on the 3D model itself which is especially useful for organic objects such as humans, animals, and other organisms. ZBrush has a lot of features which make creating things easy and hence why we have listed it, although we will not recommend exporting straight from the program into Zapworks.” 

- Joe Coggins, 3D artist at Zappar

 

Learn more about ZBrush

 


 

Cinema 4D

Suitability for ZapWorks Studio: 7/10

Strengths:

  • Ease-of-use
  • Mograph/xPresso
  • User-friendly interface
  • Perpetual license

Weaknesses:

  • UV unwrapping
  • Initial upfront cost
  • Nurb-based modelling adds a step

Price:

Cinema 4D pricing consists of an initial purchase and then a yearly “Maxon Service Agreement” or MSA. There are four different versions of Cinema 4D to choose from and Maxon typically releases a substantial upgrade each year:

Prime 

The most basic version of Cinema 4D contains all of your basic modelling tools with none of the bells and whistles.

Initial purchase: £555 + £145/y MSA
(correct on 17th August 2018)

Features:

  • Modelling 
  • Advanced Render
  • Materials & Texturing
  • Lighting
  • Basic Fields
  • UV Editing
  • Animation
  • Camera
  • API (C++, Python)
  • Prime Library(materials, objects, presets)

Broadcast

Used primarily for motion graphics production. Integrates directly with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Apple Final Cut, and Apple Motion.

Initial purchase: £1030+ £250/y MSA
(correct on 17th August 2018)

Included features (all features from Prime included):

  • Physical Renderer
  • Broadcast Library (materials, objects, presets)
  • Advanced Fields
  • OpenVDB Volume Modeling
  • Advanced Camera Tools
  • Team Render (3 nodes)
  • Mograph Tools

Visualise

Used primarily for architectural and product renderings and includes more advanced modelling toolset.

Initial purchase: £1270+ £300/y MSA
(correct on 17th August 2018)

Included features (all features from Prime included):

  • CAD Importer
  • Physical Renderer
  • Advanced Camera Tools
  • Team Render (3 nodes) Sketch & Toon
  • Visualize Library (Materials, objects, presets)
  • OpenVDB Volume Modeling

Studio

The full monty. Everything you need for any 3D project, from simple modelling to high-end 3D animation.

Initial purchase: £2,390+ £450/y MSA
(correct on 17th August 2018)

Included features (all features from Prime included):

  • ProRender (GPU-based renderer)
  • Hair System    
  • All libraries, advanced presets, and demo scenes
  • Team Render (unlimited nodes)
  • Dynamics
  • Sculpting
  • Advanced Character Tools
  • Motion/Object Tracker

Tutorials:

Those new to Cinema 4D will find a wealth of tutorials (free and paid) to choose from. As a part of the purchase and MSA you will be given access to the Cineversity website, which contains a robust tutorial and plugins library. 

Learning Curve:

Cinema 4D is a classic example of, “easy to learn, a lifetime to master.” New users will find themselves able to quickly model hard surface objects. The basic use of deformers and Mograph tools are also easy to assimilate. But to really get deep into the power of what Cinema 4D can do will take a lot of work.

 

Cinema 4D Screen Shot

 

"Cinema 4D’s ease of use and quick learning curve make it a great choice for working in augmented reality. The ability to easily create custom UI configurations for specific workflows adds to the positives about Cinema 4D.” 

- Rob Morris, ZapWorks User and Creative Director at Trifecta

 

Learn more about Cinema 4D

 

Final thoughts 

If you are getting started with 3D software for AR development, then you are likely going to begin by using either Maya, Max or Blender. As an open-source software, Blender is very attractive, but if you are working in a professional environment such as a creative agency, then you may decide that your team should be using Maya. 

Finally, 3D is a rapidly growing industry, and there has never been a more exciting time to learn the fundamentals.