When I finally ended up buying Carrara, I already knew that this was what I was looking for… “an affordable 3d animation studio that has vertex modeling capabilities that has the ability to work with Poser/Daz3d figures and props the way they were designed to work”.
Personally, I’m far more impressed now that I’ve owned it for a while, that I was back when I used to drool over the awesome older info page they used to have here. Too bad the new advertising doesn’t even give anyone a clue!
When I first started looking for such a program, a friend sent me a link to Carrara - but Eovia sold it then. Version 5 was being advertised heavily on the new Vertex Modeler and its Poser compatibility. They sure made it look easy compared to trying to work with Poser stuff in anything like Blender or Max. Carrara allowed conforming figures to work - just like they did in Poser.
Sure, when I finally did buy it, Carrara 8 was in beta and the timing was such that I got it for an extremely tiny price. But I was saving up the entire amount for Carrara 7 Pro and, when my savings exceeded that amount, I came to buy and found that I didn’t need nearly the amount that I had to work with. So I ended up giving all of that money to Daz3d anyways. Nothing wrong with having a huge pile of cool new products to install along with the shiny new software, right?!!!
I knew that, especially after Daz got their hands on it, that my Gen 3 (and now Gen 4, since Daz gave me all of that with my Carrara purchase!) would load from the browser, but I was really surprised that everything, including loading, just seemed to work better than the version of Poser that I had. The browser was there immediately upon program load - unlike the hours it seemed to take Poser whenever I switched runtimes. Everything just seemed better and more powerful.
Right away, I decided to try my hand at performing some mesh changes on some clothes that I’ve always wanted to tweak. Carrara’s vertex modeler was amazing! I could tweak anything - so I did… and often… still do, all the time.
What I got from Carrara that I did not expect:
- Content -
Beyond the enormous “Native Content” pack that comes with Carrara, Daz3d literally filled my account with downloads. Much of it came from the fact that I became a Platinum Club member in the same order, but they sure got generous with free gear for a sale of software that I feel was already worth far beyond its meager price. The Native content also includes a gigantic collection of assets that were made in Carrara for use in Carrara. You can tell that most of it was included specifically to allow new (and Vet) users to study and learn from. Together with the very informative and well organized (well written) manual, the user can learn some really powerful skills towards their own goals as they explore that particular task. Learning through dissection, so-to-speak.
- Assembly Room Bliss -
First impressions left me loving the control of the view. Standard controls on the interface, or just use ‘Alt’ with the mouse. Easy to take for granted, but I still love how Carrara’s work space handles with my mouse
The standard ‘scene building’ window is the “Assembly Room”. Carrara can remain quite responsive even with a whole pile of junk in memory. The ease of view control, ease of selection and organization, the flexibility of how one sets up the viewport, not to mention the incredible sequencer (timeline) keyframe editor - which very sensibly resides in the same screen space as the browser - giving the user plenty of work space real estate. Tools that are more similar to what one would expect from 3d modeling software are well placed along the interface - which is customizable. Never tried that though… they made it just the way I prefer to work, so…
- Texture Room -
Anyone using figures made for Poser will get to know this room right away - unless they like their people looking blue!
The power that the user has over how each material renders in shear perfection! With enough imagination and determination, nearly any CG suite should give good results. Carrara makes this really fun and even intuitive. On top of that, Carrara makes keyframe animation really easy for your shaders as well! Here’s a great example of using Native Content for help on how certain channels work to create an enormously wide variety of effects.
- Render Room -
Carrara’s render engine is a dream come true. Super easy batch rendering (allowing multiple render tasks to occur as you sleep/work, etc.,) and a mind-boggling array of settings that can turn out anything from super-fast tests to week-long single frame shots. In Poser, it seemed that the longer the render took, the better the render. In Carrara, you have to be careful not to use this foolish mentality. Sure, excellence will take time in any render engine. But Carrara has capabilities that many scenes really don’t need in order to get superb results. But you can actually use Carrara features to actually handle the entire lighting operation of a scene using its powerful realistic sky editor and a ‘sun’ light, and then go into the render room and specify how much liberty you’d like to give the render engine for its calculations. But take away the need for the software to calculate everything for you, an artist can decide to get really clever with global ambiance and light placement - setting up each shader just right and turning out fantastic results with amazing speed - even with full raytracing! Carrara’s render speeds simply blew me away when I first used it. I still strive diligently for scene efficiency in this respect - as I mainly only render animations, I need to have some speed considerations or I’d never get anything done. So I’ve found some settings with lighting scenes and in the render room that I’m happy with, and use those as good starting points.
- Working File Efficiency -
Some of my friends here, on the forums, and I have discussed to some length regarding the many ways that we can keep our scene files sizes tidy and efficient. Carrara’s menu helps big time with a very simple set of features tied to “Edit > Remove Unused Masters” as follows:
Edit > Remove Unused Masters
> Remove Unused Objects
> Remove Unused Shaders
> Consolidate Like Shaders
These simple commands can bring file sizes way, way down from where they’d be otherwise.
SciFi Funk (Daz forum handle) has put together some great sets of tutorials on how he uses the vertex modeler to actually delete parts of Daz Products that will never be ‘seen’ by Carrara’s cameras, bringing asset sizes far below their starting point. Although many artists would never need to go through such extremes, it’s a handy gift to have that availability - especially in his case; building gigantic scenes with many highly detailed products sold here, along with models he’s created himself within Carrara, to achieve very massive city scenes.
Keeping assets organized within each saved file is super fast and easy with Carrara’s “grouping” feature without actually disrupting the way that the Poser runtime file handling works.
I’ve not yet explored physics and particle systems in Carrara yet - but that’s going to happen fairly soon. I’ve seen many examples and read many tips, and I already know enough to know that with Carrara, I’ll be able to perform 100% of the video footage for my episodic movies from within Carrara. I’m going for a certain “look”, which just so happens to be given easily by Carrara.
If you take a small look for Carrara-compatible products at Daz3d, you may not find much in the new store. I’m fairly certain, by how well they’ve been getting this place to work, that this will be fixed sometime in the near future. In the meantime, perhaps one of us should see if we could get a good thread displaying Carrara products ‘stickied’ in the Carrara forum? Would be nice because I’ve started a habit of purchasing Carrara products - whether I really need them for my project or not - simply because they’re a great way to see how other artists work with Carrara scenes/features, etc.,
I’ve been pleasantly satisfied with the results and commend each of them for the quality of their products. But even more, I thank them for the expertise that they’ve sent my way for such affordable prices. And then we get to the freebies section of the forum! I haven’t looked lately, but the old forums had a true wealth of top-notch learning offered freely by Carrara enthusiasts that have really propelled my skills immensely! This forum can be the same way. Sure you’ll find a healthy pile of smart-ankle posts and even some petty bickering, but if you wade through that, you can get some real help and advice in here.
Nowadays, I decide to ignore the advice given regarding the perpetual use of beta software and opt to stick with the Carrara 8.5 beta (currently as of this writing build 172), which I’ve grown very comfortable with. I did the same when I first bought Carrara 7 Pro - which then entitled me to use the Carrara 8 beta and a free copy of 8 upon release - which turned out for me to be a huge benefit. I’m sure that when the Carrara 9 beta becomes open for testing I’ll move onto that as well - we’ll see when the time comes.
All in all, though, If Carrara 7 Pro was all that I had available to use (or even 6 for that matter), I’d still be using it and loving every minute of it. They’re all excellent suites and for me, yes… Carrara does nearly everything for my work. I only use DS and Hex as a combination suite (using the bridge that comes installed on each of them) to perform some minor file changes to figures that I want to give more morph flexibility to for my animations. But that’s just me. All of my scene creation, actual figure morphs, animation, lighting, rendering, etc., takes place strictly within Carrara.