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Why I finally gave up on Carrara
Posted: 14 July 2012 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I started with Carrara some years ago now, at version 5. I’ve used it on and off over the years, and have generally managed to do what I needed with it, although at times it’s been quite a struggle.  I’ve done product illustrations, logotypes, some animations, some physics. No character animation or soft body stuff though. And not really used any DAZ content, except for some experimentats.

But I recently decided to try something else, and got myself Cinema 4D. I’d like to share my initial experience, since I suspect many here are in a similar situaition.


THE GOOD

Carrara is an amaingly complete and competent program. Looking at its feature list, it’s geally got it all. There are very few areas it doesn’t cover or support. If you look at features per dollar, it’s probably second to none. As a learing tool, and for getting your feet wet in 3D, it’s excellent. It covers all the bases, so you can get to grips with the nomenclature and concepts. Ppolygons, edges, vertices, extrusion, shaders, bump maps, displacement, procedural shaders, lighting, rendering, ambient occlusion, global illumination, animation, motion blur, vector blur, hair. The list just goes on and on - Carrara really has it all!


THE BAD

As I see it, the main (dare I say only) problem with Carrara is its flakyness. It crashes. It locks up. It enters what I call “zombie mode” (i.e., windows can me moved, menus pulled down, but no commands work). It leaks memory while rendering. It often fails to import files from other programs - sometimes antirely, often partially, with wierd looking or missing geometry.

Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t *always* do these things, as evdenced by all the example scenes you can find on the forums, as well as the result I’ve manaed to accomplish myself over the years. But it happens often enough to be a real problem. At least if you’re trying to get a job done on a deadline, and not just goof around.

I’ve mainly used it on a Mac, and occasionally on a PC. It seems somewhat more stable on the PC (I haven’t encountered the “zombie mode” there yet, for example). So perhaps PC users have a better experience than I have. Also, I assume you can learn how to use the program to avoid all its pitfalls, and be productive. But I haven’t.

And, yes, I’ve tried to be a good citizen over the years and filed bug reports, provided small, reproducible test cases, etc. Occasionally a problem has been improved/fixed. But most of my bug reports are still lingering with little or no attention, year after year, and the bugs have remained in the program (I haven’t used 8.x, mind you, but the forums here don’t seem to indicate any significant quality improvements).


THE UGLY

So, I’ve asked myself, why is this so. Being a professional software developer myself, I have some experience with what can go wrong with a program. So here are my thoughts.

1. Loss of original developers. Carrara has been around for many years (started as Raydream, if memory serves me). It seems quite lilkely that the original developers and architects behind it arew long gone. At least most of them. It’s possible that there are many areas of the program that aren’t well understood by the current developers/maintainers.

2. Featuritis. Each new version needs some new “killer features”. At least that’s what marketing people tend to believe. As you keep adding new features to a complex piece of software, the quality tends to deteriorate over time. Particularly if those features are added by people not intimately familiary with the original software design.

3. Focus on content - not software. It’s clear that DAZ focus and main revenue is the content they sell, not the software. That’s why they can sell Carrara for a fraction of what other apps cost (and give away DAZ Studio for free). This is also indicated by features added over the last few verisons, as they have focused more on supporting new content capabilities and formats than making the existing features of the program work reliably.


So I finally decided to give up on Carrara, at least for my professional needs. I still like the program. It has a nice overall feel to it, and it’s quite approachable (as far 3D programs go), and fun to use. I’d still recommend it if you just want to play around and learn the concepts. But not if you need to get a real work done, fit into a workflow with files from other 3D apps, or keep a deadline.

I’ve been using Cinema 4D for a couple of weeks now. It certainly has its learning curve (but having used Carrara helped a lot). I miss a few things from Carrara. But overall, I’m a happy camper. Yes, the program is more expensive (particularly if you want the top-of-the-line Studio version). But it hasn’t failed me yet. It has imported the files I’ve thrown at it with little or no problem. It’s not leaked memory as far as I can tell. It has rendered reasonably fast with good looking results (yes, it supports network renderering, just like Carrara). And it hasn’t crashed on me once. Not a single time! For such a complex piece of software, that’s pretty impressive. I’m sure there are bugs, and it will probably crash on me some day. But so far, it’s been night and day as far as reliability is concerned.

So, let’s see if this posting gets yanked by the forum admins, or whether I’ll get totally shot down by the Carrara fan-boys. It doesn’t really matter, since I doubt I’ll be coming back here very often. Anyway, thanks or the years we shared. I’ve learned a lot, and I blieve I “got what I paid for”, so I have no hard feelings. I just wish things would have been different, or improved significantly over the years, since I really liked you.

Bye, Carrara.

-JM

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Posted: 14 July 2012 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yeah, I think your analysis is pretty spot on, as the Brits say.


The only area I’d see it differently is in the flakiness. Honestly, I’ve found it to be one of the least flaky programs, especially of this kind of complexity, that I’ve used (some recent betas are exceptions, though). But yeah, my personal opinion (could be totally wrong) is that its days are numbered. I just can’t see a small company handling all of those software packages simultaneously, it’s just not cost effective.


But one area that I think Carrara has pretty much locked up is the ability to render humans and characters (ie, content). Say what you will, but for those CG folks who need to render characters, there really isn’t much in the way of choices. Doing it on any of the big professional applications is horrendously difficult, and requires either a lot of money or someone to model and rig from scratch. Once they lose that edge, and content can flow freely into Blender and some others, I think the fat lady will sing.


Though saying goodbye to any software seems a bit premature, to me at least. It’s all about the tool and the task, and you use whatever is best. So I know a lot of hobbyists like to form strict allegiances to certain software like some kind of personal, emotional attachment, but for me I have about the same attachment as I do with my Makita drill. I like it, and it does a nice job, and the battery has a nice long life, but I don’t get angry when someone says Makita drills suck. I really don’t care, as long as it does what I need it to do. I’ll always keep it, as long as it works, and use it when I need it.

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Posted: 14 July 2012 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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lol! you can NEVER have too many tools!
I collect tools, esp free or cheap ones!
I keep adding programs to my computer that I do not know how to use, Houdini apprentice, MikuMikuDance and Metasequoia being some of the latest.
got Messiah, wings3D, Realsoft and several builds of Blender, iClone, Unity, Unreal to name a few!
Carrara is the only one that I can actually figure out.
if I had endless money I would definately have Cinema4D, Autodesk’s suite of goodies, Modo, Zbrush, Realflow, Adobe’s creative suite and a bloody beast of a computer!
and still only be able to do crap!

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Posted: 14 July 2012 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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        The Wizz——-I think you gave a honest and fair post. No harm in getting a more professional application. I have to chime in on flakeyness….....I have never really found alot of that. I will say this the better your rigs the less flakeyness goes on…..especially more memory——but overall I have found Carrara pretty stable——especially 8.1.

        come back in a few months and drop us more info on your experiences. Always interesting to see how the other side lives. Somehow ...I think you will keep Carrara in your tool kit as pound for pound for speed of results—-its unmatched and we just hope that 8.5 and beyond gives us even more fun.

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Posted: 14 July 2012 12:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, I’m sure I’ll drop back into Carrara from time to time. Especially if I need to revisit scenes I’ve already done in Carrara to make minor alterations or new renderings. It’s not like I’ll delete it from my harddrive. Anyway, the reliability issues I’ve experienced over the years have been very real and very annoying and time consuming. I’ve used it on a number of different Macs, with various versions of MacOS as time has progressed. And I never found it to be reliable (mind you, I have’t used version 8.x). And it’s not just one problem. I’ve found issues with many aspects of the app. Most of the problems have been reproducible, and I have filed bug reports (which often have been confirmed by DAZ or others). So they shold have been fixable, given the amount of time that has elapsed.

Anyway, moving forward, I’ll focus on Cinema4D for my 3D work, now that I bought it. I’ll try to post back here with my experience once I have used it a bit more.

I should also mention that I bought modo two years ago. However, I didn’t find it particularly approachable, and never really groked its shader method (despite spending quite some time trying to). Carrara is certainly easier to get to grips with. Cinema4D was also quite understandable in this area, and its modelling tools are more diversified (while modo seems focused squarely on mesh modelling). I’m sure modo is an excellent program once you get the hang of it. I just never made it over the hump and became productive.

As always, YMMV, so if Carrara is rock solid for you, good for you. I can only speak for myself, and my own experience. Loved the program, hated its flakyness.

-JM

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Posted: 14 July 2012 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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mmm

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Posted: 14 July 2012 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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TheWizz - 14 July 2012 12:55 PM

As always, YMMV, so if Carrara is rock solid for you, good for you. I can only speak for myself, and my own experience. Loved the program, hated its flakyness.


I think the difference in flakiness might be a Mac vs. PC version issue. I’ve been using software for many, many years, since the 80’s, and in all those years, no matter what application I’ve used that had both Mac and PC versions, you’d always hear the Mac guys complaining that:

1. The cool new version of the software that was just released doesn’t include the Mac version, that’s coming later, and

2. They’re experiencing all kinds of bugs with the Mac version


I feel bad for the Mac guys, cuz we all know it’s a much better platform, it’s just that (at least I believe this is the case…) developers tend to put less focus and resources on Mac versions because it’s often a much smaller market for them. I started out with a Mac when it first came out, loved it, but unfortunately had to move over to a PC, as much as I hate it, because it’s ultimately so much easier, for many reasons.

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Posted: 14 July 2012 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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That could very well be the case for Carrara (i.e., being more solid under Windows). I can’t really tell, since I’ve mainly used it on my Macs.

But so far, C4D has been rock solid on my Mac, so apparently it can be done.

-JM

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Posted: 15 July 2012 02:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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As I see it, the main (dare I say only) problem with Carrara is its flakyness. It crashes. It locks up. It enters what I call “zombie mode” (i.e., windows can me moved, menus pulled down, but no commands work).

for the last three months I’ve used Carrara continually all day everyday (ecept when I am asleep smile ) well no I render then

and it rarely locks up
and when it does it will happen at fairly predictable times

eg when I have too many windows open in the shader room and i start closing them rapidly with the auto render left on

I am on PC so it could be that

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Posted: 15 July 2012 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Unlike most rantings on this passionate subject, I found TheWizz to have made well-reasoned arguments. (Bravo!)


Since 3D work in his/her world is mostly for professional purposes, I don’t blame the demand for stability. That’s very important and I’m sure that “the big boys” in the market ought to provide a better platform in that regard.


At the risk of being labelled an apologist or shill for Daz, I’ve always tried to support their side in these arguments. This is primarily driven by a video tour of the Daz office that I once watched. I was surprised at how small the team is and I immediately understood why development cycles were taking so long. After all, there are nearly 1000 developers working on SQL Server at Microsoft and at least that many testers…every build gets put through close to 1,000,000 automated tests (maybe more than that now). Clearly, Daz cannot put that sort of resource against Carrara.


However, I confess that it is getting harder to defend Daz’s position. I am just a hobbyist with 3D and Carrara is just about perfect for me. But I do want the next version to be released before the universe is consumed by heat-death. grin


I hope Carrara 8.5 sees the light of day Real Soon Now. I do look forward to reports from TheWizz (or anyone else) about working with other tools…I find them interesting even if I likely won’t jump ship to a new product any time soon.

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Posted: 15 July 2012 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’ve got to say, for my part, Carrara 7.2 Pro has been very stable for me, and I’m on a Mac running OSX 10.4.11. Granted it’s the now obsolete PPC architecture. I do however, sometimes use an Intel iMac as a render node running the latest version of OS X, and I have had only two issues that cause a crash. I’ve had a supposed crash when I quit the program. The OS thinks it has crashed and wants to know if I want to send a bug report. The other issue is if I have multiple scenes in the Batch Queue. When it finishes a render, and it goes to load the next scene it crashes.


I also occasionally get a randomization or gamma issue on the Intel render node when using shaders that use random functions or a scene that has GI enabled. Otherwise it works fine.

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I find it somewhat liberating not to be encumbered by accuracy.

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Posted: 15 July 2012 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I would add that the cycle of improvement / new versions seems to have stalled recently.  I came in on C6 and updates to C7 and C8 came through fairly regularly.  But Daz seems to have been working on integrating Genesis into C8.5 for over a year now and progress is painfully slow.  And in the meantime, the other improvements and bug fixes that regular Carrara users have been asking for seem to be going nowhere.  Carrara is still a very capable program - and I am probably one of the “fan boys” that were referred to earlier - but I do worry that without significant new impetus, Carrara may be facing a bleak future.  Let’s hope that Daz get their act together and deliver the improvements that we have all been waiting for.

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Posted: 15 July 2012 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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My thoughts on Carrara development

When I think about how Daz 3D has really pushed for Genisis compatibility I wonder if they are only thinking of those customers who wish to use Carrara as another model posing toy.
The serious companies, such as Dreamworks, Blue Sky, and Disney Pixar use their software to make their own unique characters, sometimes grabbing personal traits from their voice actors. Carrara has this capability.
Carrara Pro has the beginnings of being a great animation software, needing only a few new tools and upgraded modules to be capable.
Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that there are Carrara customers that use the software professionally, but, Genisis compatibility is not really giving them the needed tools for a professional. Although I am not currently using Carrara to make a living, I still understand it has some vital limitations that keep it from becoming the software of choice for professional use.

We really need new tools, and improved tools to make the Pro version of Carrara a viable contender in professional animation software.

I don’t wish to bash Daz, selling models is their bread and butter, but Carrara is the tool used by many for their bread and butter, or possibly even a new artists future bread and butter.
Carrara is a great tool, I just want to see it achieve notoriety as a full featured animation software that anyone can learn.

C’mon development team….please, bring the pro version of Carrara up to the standard of truely professional.

When looking at what would make Carrara Pro great, I see:
improved soft bodies,
rag doll physics,
updated particle system that includes dynamic fire, true fluid dynamics and dynamic smoke,
a new (easy to use) magnet system with either attracting or repellant forces,
more realistic billowing clouds.
.....etc….?

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Posted: 15 July 2012 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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McGuiver - 15 July 2012 10:56 AM

C’mon development team….please, bring the pro version of Carrara up to the standard of truely professional.

Why?


Why do you guys continue to believe that the goal for Carrara should be to be a tool that high end professionals would want? Why?


DAZ does what makes DAZ the most money. They define who their market is, and they do what they can to get those people to buy stuff. Just like any other company. DAZ’s market is NOT professionals. Never has been, and I’m not sure why it would ever be. They enjoy a niche market right now, that almost nobody else has.


In terms of numbers, there are vastly more hobbyists who want to buy content and inexpensive/free 3D software than there are high or middle level professionals who would switch to Carrara. Not even close. So why would you spend all that development money on adding high end features that most hobbyists have little or no use for, and certainly don’t want to pay for, instead of doing stuff that the hobbyists want?


Most high end professional studios would never switch software. The logistics alone are a nightmare, not to mention the fact that most have their own in-house and/or proprietary software, or used established software that caters to them. Most high end studios have direct connections to those developers, and the developers understand their needs. Does DAZ have that? No. Could they break into that business? I’d be very surprised if they could. Very surprised. Personally, I can’t imagine it could happen. 


It’s a hugely different market. Hugely different. Pros want features and are willing to pay for them. Hobbyists are not. You can’t have a business model where you charge $100 per user for an upgrade with tons of new high end features that cost you $300 per user to implement.


Yes, it would be nice if DAZ would put in the features I want, many of which are high end features. But I realize that’s not possible. They MUST focus on their market and their source of revenue, which is hobbyists buying a $19.95 set of V4 clothing. Otherwise they have no revenue.

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Posted: 15 July 2012 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Joe, I think you are right - Daz should not be competing directly with the likes of Maya and 3DS Max.  Many hobbyists start with Poser and Daz Studio, and for some that is all they will ever need. For others, they will get a taste for 3D and want to take things further, to add more professional features, while still having access to a large library of content that they have invested in. That is where I see Carrara’s biggest niche. It is affordable, powerful and easy to use in that role.  But they need to deliver Genesis compatibility as soon as possible AND address the bugs and features that regular users have been asking for for a long time now.  I think that they can earn good money from doing that - and at the moment, Carrara users are probably mostly not buying too much Genesis content until it is fully integrated into their platform of choice.

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Posted: 15 July 2012 05:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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PhilW - 15 July 2012 03:56 PM

But they need to deliver Genesis compatibility as soon as possible ...  I think that they can earn good money from doing that

Not from me.

Why?
- I bought Studio 4 Pro. Will not buy software anymore from DAZ which is more than 20$. No bad feelings, just a decision.
- for stills I can import Genesis into Carrara
- for my humble attempts on animation I’m back to V4. With all the “perfect”-fixes V4 bends and looks better than Genesis. And all the aniblocks and Carrara hair etc. I bought work on V4 better or only but not on Genesis. Hoping more for “perfect”-fixes for M4 than for Carrara 8.5
- the (for me) most impressive feature in DS4 is the smoothing modifier. Not in Carrara 8.5? Fine.



************************************

Back to the thread starter: I really would like to know how things are going on in C4D from the perspective of a Carrara user. Especially shaders and render times. Hope to see some impressions the following months ... (especially regarding the ship wreck DAZ is now for 5, 6 or 8 weeks, which make C4D an option if the forced more or less non-spending on DAZ content keeps going)

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