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YA Software inquiry. Starting with Mesh.


Erwin Solo
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Yet Another (YA) Software inquiry. Starting with Mesh.  Hey, I'm looking for a program to make mesh and I'm close to punching the "buy" button on ZBrush by Pixologic in the coming week or so.  I already have Adobe Photoshop CS6 extended (with the 3D extensions).  I don't know really what I want to make.  $700+/- for a good program is not painful for me, but $3675+ for Maya and the like would be painful.  I want to dabble with pretty shapes like flowers and trees and also build things like the arched river bridge that I bought from a Mesh builder.  Do you have any advice for me?

I've been building for a while in SL.  I've dabbled in Blender, but don't like it.  Blender seems to require me to integrate several add-on programs, which is a pain.  I have used some of the in-world sculpt creating tools and find them quite limiting. 

While I might sell a thing or two, I'm more interested in creating for my personal enjoyment that making an SL store.  I've had a marketplace store before, but wasn't really into it.  Thanks for any advice!?

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Ok, so i really only can talk for Blender. And there i can tell you that it works out of the box if your goal is to make meshes. Of course there are a lot of addons available for blender, but most of these addons are bundled with the blender installation and you only need to enable them (if you ever feel curious to take a look there).

However the question about "the best tool to use" has been asked here all so often and it always ended up in somehting like:

 

  1. Watch out which tool is best supported by the comunity
  2. Which tool is most appealing to you.

 

At the end you may find that your creations are not so dependent on the tool that you use but more on the techniques you learn (my opinion).

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okay here we go *takes a deep breat and starts typing*..

- Zbrush: is only worth paying for (and yes i am using it myself)
*when you have a certain worklow that includes making the highpolygon models first and then later manually retopologizing them into a usable topology and polycount.
* when you plan on making really intense highdetail maps to export them (like HD displacement etc) which secondlife could not handle anyways (it doesn't even have displacement at all - yet). And  regular - up to good quality displacement maps u can make also in every other 3D software
* When you can't really wrap your head around 'organic' shapes and how to construct these from polygons by hand, and feel like you need a more sculpting like workflow.
* For concepting artwork and models.
* for technical modeling like bridges etc (which you mentioned) i have seen great artists handling this in zBrush - but it's not made for this. Placement and unit based building is not really intuitive and a quite troublesome. 
* Z-brush is more of a freeforming program with awesome features when it comes to conceptual design, and highpolygonal creations. And as exactly 'this' it has found a stable place in todays production pipelines. But it never comes 'alone' ; )

- Blender : i am using blender too for models made for SL. i did not 'need' any additional plugins or software to accomplish almost every task including rigging etc.
* more the other way around: it has even (in its latest version) an inbuild DAE exporter which supports options for a perfect exporting towards SL.
* Every plugin or feature you might want in addition (to the hundreds of them being already on bord and just one 'activate' click away) are free accessable all over the web and won't cost you a dime.
* Like the *riggify* skeleton / rig - which you dont even need, because you can download the avatar.blender file for free including the needed skeleton.
* so whatever u read: no you don't 'need' additional plugins - but if you want them they are easily accessable.

Blender, Max, Maya <-- even when you would have Zbrush- yes you need at least 'one regular 3D software' in addition.

* As mentioned above. Zbrush is not made to produce production-ripe or usable models right away. (you can accomplish it to some extend, but they allways need retopology and optimisaton processes which are still bothersome insides of Zbrush) and most artists take it out into a regular 3D software and re-edit the whole model.
* you also need it because you can't really do 'bakes', ...
* .. Nor do controlled UV mapping in Zbrush (it has one unwrapper plugin - but also the painting seams-controls are still not giving you controled outcome- the quick methods of UV unwrapping in there are meant to apply textures fast to these highpoligon models to paint on them, test and concept things)
* There are many other tasks in 3D software that you will need to produce your models that you can  not accomplish with Zbrush allone / or even at all.

So whatever you decide for. Keep this in mind. Zbrush is more of an additional thing.
For one exception: when you would like to make some good old secondlife sculpties. There has been a plugin for z-brush to make these. and due to their restricted faceamount etc, those didnt need to be retopologized or anything. But we want those pesky sculpties to be gone.. that's why we are happy we finally got mesh, right? ^.-

And since you found the prices for Maya or 3DS max rather painfull - you might want to have a second look at blender again, and become good friends =)

Cheers, Code




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I'm paying attention.  To be fair, I haven't tried Blender since mesh came to SL.  Last time I downloaded Blender was a couple of years ago.  So, I guess I should give Blender another try.  It is hard to believe that cheaper is better, but maybe so!

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If it was a couple of years ago.. THEN DO IT!

Blender has changed to a great extend. And honestly for the better.

The whole UI is now more conclusive, intuitive and really nice to handle and even nice to look at. (not anymore that old cluster made out of pink and orange buttons ...over buttons) I am guessing you will be nicely surprised =)

Functionality and content has also stepped up quite a lot. 

I have all these: Maya, Max, Blender, Zbrush (and a lot more) due to my work. And i still love to jump into blender for certain tasks.  Give it a go, it won't hurt, and it surely will not burden that bankaccount of yours.

Plus you have due to it being open source.. a huge community, lots of help and tutorials, plugins for everything u could possibly think of. and much more.

Some things are still not like in 3D max or maya, but it's mostly stuff you'd need more when planning on a 3D career in the film or game industry. So i guess for now you won't be missing those ; )

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Echoing what others have already said here: BLENDER.

I'm in the process of converting to and learning Blender myself, having used a messy workflow for years involving several different low/mid-range software packages. Blender will allow you to create pretty much anything you need for SL in the one program - so none of the annoying exporting/importing/exporting blah I have put up with until recently.

Plus as already mentioned, Blender's user interface has undergone massive changes in the past year or so, and is FAR more user friendly than it used to be (I had looked into Blender a couple of years back prior to the update, and had put off adopting it purely due to its painful interface at the time). Now, however, it is pretty logical and intuitive in its layout - probably scary for a mesh newcomer with all its options, but definitely worth sticking with.

Also a vast userbase as well. Free CAN mean good sometimes!

Just be sure to learn all the basic mesh theory principles (common to all generic mesh creation) before tackling anything ambitious, regardless of what software package you settle with. You will just be setting yourself up for a world of frustration otherwise.

For Blender specifics, a good starting point would be the tutorial video series at Gryllus (it assumes zero knowledge of 3D, and steps you through the basics of Blender upward).

CG Cookie has another good starter tutorial series.

But most of all - have FUN! :matte-motes-smile:

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I'm going to pipe in here not because I know so much but because I am "new".

Last November I was bored. I have done a LOT of things in SL but needed new learning and challenges. I too had tried Blender a couple of years ago. The tutorials were painful then and I was completely lost (AND I found out later the program had a new interface which indeed helps).

 

I gave myself a month to "learn Blender". Now of course I didn't really know Blender in a month, but in a couple of weeks of ten hour days, I at least could tell that when I DID learn it better, I would really enjoy the work. That has proved true and while it is painstaking and picky, I am that kind of gal so it works for me.

There are two or three BIG pluses to Blender. 

#1 it is free. Free is good. You can always spend that $700 on something fun :D

#2 There are TONS of good tutorials out there now as so many folks are using it. You can wander through them, look for beginner ones and later more advanced, and find ways to do things fairly easily. The Blender wiki is also updated well and very helpful.

#3 I forgot what I thought the third things was while typing the others, but there are lots of folks using Blender so it is easy to get good advice here. Also, while there are plenty of add ons and TONS of things Blender will do, many of those (and apparently much of Zbrush) are NOT workable in SL. I made something the other day and while it was lovely, there was no way to make it a reasonable land impact size for our little low tech corner of the virtual world. So, look for tutorials that are on LOW POLY modeling. Some modifies are great and work well for SL, some other features not so much.

So try Blender again. Give yourself some time -- whatever works for you. Find some good tutorials and follow along and ask questions when you need to. Google is your friend and typing in your Blender question there will usually get you an instant answer.

 


 

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Wow! Blender is all grown up now!  Thanks for the tip.  I've downloaded Blender and am working my way through the getting started videos.  This is very nice!  Thanks so much for letting me know! 

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Well, I made a set of stairs in Blender and uploaded to SL.  No one is going to confuse me with Leonardo da Vinci, but its a start! :matte-motes-smile:  Way cool!  Mesh is much cleaner that sculpties!  Now I just gotta learn how to texture them!

These tutorials I'm watching aren't very SL optimized.  I searched here on Community Forms and found a lot of YouTube tutorials from one-to-two years ago.  Could someone please update me on what's what in YouTube tutorials for Blender and SL for basic stuff for a beginner like me?  Thanks! 

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My experience so far being an experienced (but still learning) Blender user trying to get into Second Life is that the two subjects are rather mutually exclusive. I haven't seen any Blender specific forums that have a devoted Second Life community associated with it and most Second Life focused Blender tutorials use old versions of Blender.

My approach has been to attack the subjects separately. Go to CGCookie.com, Blenderartists.org and Blenderguru.com to name a few and learn what you can about Blender. Then just play around in Second life and ask questions in this forum to get Second Life figured out.

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Wow! Blender is all grown up now!  Thanks for the tip.  I've downloaded Blender and am working my way through the getting started videos.  This is very nice!  Thanks so much for letting me know! 

you are very welcome =)

These tutorials I'm watching aren't very SL optimized.  I searched here on Community Forms and found a lot of YouTube tutorials from one-to-two years ago.  Could someone please update me on what's what in YouTube tutorials for Blender and SL for basic stuff for a beginner like me? 

SL is a very own subject and there are rather not many things that are 'specially' for SL only. in general everything that covers: 3D modeling, UV-Mapping, and such matters is what you want to look for. So basically it doesn't matter from 'when' they are. (except of course for the fact that the user interface would be different now)

Let me dig out that list of tutorials that i sent someone else as reply..

I'll just copy paste the whole thing for you: 

For learning Blender in general and how to model, do UVs, LODs, materials and everything else you should have a look at blendercookie it is one of the best pages you can come across:

http://cgcookie.com/blender/category/tutorials/modeling/

Next I'd advise to have a visit at Polycount and Polycount forum, here you will learn a lot of the ins and outs of modeling and optimization as far as limiting your polycount goes as well as learning the raw basics and knowledge behind everything. modeling, normals, displacement, smoothinggroups, poly- / vertices- and faces- counts, topology, edgeflow  and many more things... 

Because knowing what everything is  /and does and how to achieve certain things- is a good step towards being able to produce "useable" content. (and there is a lot to know  ^.- )

http://wiki.polycount.com/CategoryTutorials
http://www.polycount.com/forum/


Next: Gaia Clary has made a really nice tutorial series on youtube about meshes, up to rigging clothing items etc. I keep refering it to people who are new at it because Gaia explains it very simple and understandable.

Most of it is made for Avastar the Blender-Modding Product they are selling but they contain a lot things which are applying also in general. Its definitely worth to watch for beginners (especially since everything is being set towards modeling or rigging for SL in certain):

http://www.youtube.com/user/gaiaclary/videos?view=0

For more usage and knowledge about Blender i can also suggest visiting Blender-Guru. Here you will find also many helpful tutorials:

http://www.blenderguru.com/

Furthermore for menues, functionalities and Help here is the official Blender-Wiki:
http://wiki.blender.org/

Apart from all of the above: Google is your best friend and a good advise: learn as much as you can and practice practice practice.. and keep optimization in mind, because a usable outcome is what counts rather then something that will have an incredible amount of landimpact and memory impact on everyone who has to render it =)

One last tip: to test your meshes ( no matter if rigged, physic or static models) use the enable Grid-Login option of your viewer and log in to the Aditi Grid / also named Beta-Grid. Here you will be able to upload your builds without actually spending your real SL money on them. And once it is stable and in its final state you can upload it in main secondlife.
(this will save you a lot Linden, especially since mesh uploads - depending on vert/faces count, physics, normals and LODs can be a lot more expensive then just the usual 10 Linden for an image) (how to get into the testgrid ? - you can find many helpfull infos about that on this forum and here: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Preview_Grid)


And in addition once you understand a bit more of the metaria. Here are also good threads about that in the forum.
And feel free to have a look into my humble thread about Topology: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Mesh/Topology-the-often-neglected-entity/td-p/1922789

That should help to get you started =) Cheers, Code

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Thanks!  I'm keeping this page bookmarked.  I'm currently working my way through a set of tutorials from Tufts University that I found by way of the Blender Education tab.

http://gryllus.net/Blender/3D.html 

After that, I plan to join CG Cookie, which you recommended, and I plan to focus on their low-poly courses.  There is a modest fee for those, but that's okay. 

http://cgcookie.com/blender?s=low%20poly%20game%20asset

 

I looked at Gaia Clary's videos.  I really like them, but clothing-design and custom-avatar-design isn't of much interest to me right now.  What is interesting to me is the ability to design non-clothing stuff in 3D without the limitations of SL's in-world tools. 

I have a friend that made a really neat custom avatar, and I might try that someday, in which case I'll know that I can use the then-current knowledge in Gaia Clary's circle.  From reading and watching her stuff, I get the impression that folks in that niche are still figuring out the finer points of the SL avatar.  I'll just let that mature a while before I try it. 

If I try a custom avatar, I think I'll design something that doesn't need clothes--like a robot--because I don't want to have to make all my own clothes.  If someone ever gets the self-adjusting mesh-clothing stuff worked out, then maybe I would make a custom human avatar.

Additionally, Gaia mentioned this site as being good too.  I've yet to dig into it though:

http://www.blenderguru.com/

 

Thanks again!  I'm keeping this page bookmarked.

 

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Did i hear lowpoly? *blinks* oh this makes my little artist-heart jump !

Please check out the mentioned polycount forums ..http://www.polycount.com/forum/

Keep digging into this. It's an absolute 'must' for everyone wanting to learn or know about perfectionism in lowpoly modeling. Big community, lots of people willing to help, big pool of tutorials and explanations. Even an own wiki page.

Something i'd love to see most creators to learn first before jumping into sculpting procedures and making some million poly massive objects or models..because at the end, to make a use out of them it all comes back down to knowing the very basics and how to create good topology on a certain level of poly count.

And since you are rather into making props at the moment than doing characters etc. You will find good ideas for those in there too =)


Ooops, and i almost forgot this one : http://www.3dtotal.com/tutorials/bishop/ 
you gonna love it. Lots of image tutorials. That might help you getting ideas and knowhow .

I am wishing you a good start into modeling !
Cheers, Code.

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Erwin,  you are well on your way here, but I'll also mention there is a free sculpting program called Sculptris that you can get off of the Pixologic (Zbrush)  Website:  http://pixologic.com/sculptris/emails/operating-system.php.  It's not exactly Zbrush, but it's the same idea and it's free and fun to use.  Check out youtube on this topic if you are curious.

I'll also mention here that despite owning  Zbrush, Mudbox, Lightwave and Modo, I LOVE Blender. I purchased  Lightwave and Modo when they were low priced options. This is no longer the case.  The upgrades on these programs now has them priced over 1000 usd   (I believe..maybe I wrong about that, but the prices are getting up there). This makes Blender even more valuable as a full featured 3d package.

My experience with  Zbrush as beginner was pretty frustrating.  It takes a long time to get up to speed with these programs.  Personally I took to Blender like a duck to water and I use it every single day.  I'm still struggling with Lightwave and Modo, however. 

As to add-ons.  ALL these 3d packages have add-ons.  But Blender's are for the most part free.  Addons/plug-ins  for commercial 3d packages can  run from free to a few hundred dollars, adding to an already substantial purchase price.

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