I’m really not interested in working with other DAZ3D products/content at this time, just modeling my own stuff and animating them in Carrara for now (vehicles, logos, objects, simple stuff to start).
So, can someone steer me to the most complete, proper-order, “know nothing about 3D at all” documentation that exists for this product to get me off and running?
I consider everyone in here a total guru at this point, and I truly appreciate anyone who can point me in the right direction to help me hit the ground running if that’s at all possible. If it is possible in the 3D world, it will certainly be through Carrara.
Hi Bob. I floundered around in Carrara for a while too… Some things made sense, others were a total mystery.
I bought the Carrara5 Handbook. Some chapters were rather obvious and I skipped over them, but other chapters filled in many of the blanks. http://www.amazon.com/Carrara-5-Pro-Handbook-Graphics/dp/1584504633
The actual Carrara Manual use to be supplied as a book and it was actually a great reference. Once you knew a tool exists the manual usually provides a few crucial explanations as to how the tool works. I’m not saying “Go read the manual” unless you want to fall asleep, but I’ve heard some people still have it printed out from the pdf at a local printshop and they say it is well worth the money to have a physical copy.
Carrara’s original philosophy was to make 3D “fun” and “hands on”, so it tried to have a friendly interface that is mostly based on Drag-and-Drop (a byproduct of that new fangled “mouse” that PCs all seem to have these days, er, well, it was exciting and revolutionary a decade ago…). It’s not a term we hear any more, but a HUGE amount of Carrara’s interface is Drag-and-Drop or meant to be clicked on and manipulated with the mouse…. So much so that if you are using a touchpad on a laptop you will likely get fingercramps, and if you are not in love with your mouse you will physically have a lousy time in Carrara (I prefer to use a trackball). Other programs like Blender rely on fast keys to complete certain tasks…, Carara can program fast keys too but for the most part, the whole interface is meant to be clicked on and dragged around - along with the standard control keys: SHIFT, OPTION, CONTROL, etc… When you get stuck, or want to figure out a tool, dig right in and start clicking and dragging. Change the tool’s settings (usually listed in the tabs on the right) and then click+drag some more….
More recent additions don’t always adhere to this design sense, and to be honest there may not always be a way to make an interface be “fun” to click on…. Whatever the reason Carrara has a great many Number Fields where you are expected to type in a number even though you have no reference as to what the number actually DOES, or what the RANGE of numbers should be…. Carrara tends to use numbers that range from 0 to 100, except the whole program pushes you to inches and feet, and the Poser content generally ranges from -1 to +1…. Angles (and colors) are usually listed in degrees, but again this can be from 0 to 360, or from -180 to +180…. Sometimes it’s all an order of magnitude where a change of 10 is HUGE, and the real control is in the decimal range 0.10…. It’s all inconsistent, and worse there are never any indicators to suggest what kind of number range you are dealing with…. I suggest when entering random numbers to see what a number field does TRY TO START WITH VERY SMALL NUMBERS and work your way up. The reason is that very large numbers often mean more calculations, which will slow down Carrara possibly even putting it into an unresponsive tailspin while it attempts to calculate your instructions….
The trick to getting the most out of Carrara’s renderer, is in how you use the lights and shaders. You don’t get *better* pictures by cranking up the accuracy settings in Carrara’s render room, instead you get massively longer render times. Lighting and shading are whole topics unto themselves, but they make or break your image. It’s either “Art” or “Academic” because of the lights and shaders, in my opinion…. Usually newbies go straight to the Render Room and start cranking up all the settings, but that won’t make better images. The analogy is buying an expensive camera and putting all the settings at full manual—that doesn’t actually get you better photographs. The real meat of Carrara’s renderer is the shader tree, so spend a lot of time there “playing” with no real goal other than “to see”.... Look at your same shaders under different lights too, because they change substantially. In Carrara there is no such thing as a “perfect” shader that works under all conditions. You can almost always tweak shaders under different lights to bring out new things…. It’s really a matter of taste, so the better you understand these systems the better your renders will look.
Carrara is an art tool (like a paintbrush), not a science tool, so just because something works a certain way in real life (light breaking into a prism in a drop of water) doesn’t mean Carrara will do it, or do it efficiently. Being an “art tool” means it’s easier to just understand how shaders and light control Color and Saturation and Brightness so you can add or subtract shader values (or lights) as necessary…. If you attempt to show Carrara an encyclopedia on science and physics it just won’t care… It’s normal to “cheat” in Carrara to get the effect you want (that’s old-school 3D).... Parent a spotlight to a character’s face so their eyes always reflect highlights, use hdri because they look cool not because they are “accurate”. Avoid using time-consuming Global Illumination if you can do it with multiple conventional lights instead…. etc. Remember Carrara has been around for a LONG time making lovely images and animations on very slow computers, this is one of it’s STRENGTHS, not a weakness. There’s almost always a number of ways to skin a cat… I know this sounds abstract, but I’m trying to say don’t get too caught up in tech dogma, and listen to Carrara - when “she” does something very fast it’s because it’s easy for her, when she does something slow, she doesn’t like it so much… Let that feedback guide you as much as your eye.