3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 22: Getting Started in 3-D | 2 | WebReference

3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 22: Getting Started in 3-D | 2

Lesson 22 - Getting Started in 3-D - Part 2

So what do we mean, when we speak of "professional-level" 3-D, and why should we care?

Let's take the second question first.

Professional level 3-D graphics is a gold rush fully comparable with the Internet as a revolutionary economic phenomenon. Demand for persons with skills in this arena overwhelms supply, and this situation is only going to become more extreme. In the past, the cost of the necessary hardware and software inherently limited the market for 3-D graphics, as we have just said, to the entertainment industry (and its stepchild, the games industry). But affordable 3-D opens up vast new vistas. Print graphics will increasing go 3-D. 3-D technology is sweeping through architecture and product design. Realistic 3-D animation as a learning or demonstrative tool is taking off in educational CD's, corporate presentations and courtroom demonstrations. The range of possibilities for this new medium has barely begun to be explored. In my view, the largest element of growth will be on the Internet. The Web will become a video medium like television and suddenly all of the hundreds of thousands of corporate web sites will require broadcast quality graphics and titling. 3-D graphics and animation will be ubiquitous.

Thus, 3-D graphics represents a most realistic career move, and not just an indulgence. Take myself as a simple example. Although I had been a 3-D enthusiast and hobbyist for some years, I began pursuing the medium professionally only about a year ago, studying at a couple of schools and picking up freelance work. Today, it's my full-time employment, and the future is very promising.

So back to the first question. What is "professional-level" 3-D?

The 3-D professional or aspiring professional has command over at least one, and preferably more than one, of those applications that are recognized as "professional." The idea is a little bit arbitrary, but it is valid nonetheless. Although, as we will discuss, many previously lower-end applications are improving radically, a certain tradition has been established for the present.

The packages designed to run on SGI workstations are the ultimate professional standard. To oversimplify only a little, they are Alias (meaning Alias PowerAnimator) owned by SGI itself and Softimage, owned by Microsoft. These applications are the standard of the entertainment industry and cost about $15,000. Real command over either of these packages means instant employment at a very respectable salary. Even where an major employer, such as Pixar or Pacific Data Images, uses primarily its own proprietary software, expertise in Alias or Softimage is considered a necessary qualification. By the way, Softimage is always pronounced in the French manner, with the accent on the last syllable, as the company is based in Montreal.

Softimage was ported to Windows NT a couple of years ago and, as we mentioned in an earlier lesson, this was the breakthrough event in establishing that operating system as a professional alternative. People have been hotly debating whether Alias would also be so ported, and SGI's recent decision to move their own hardware to NT means, obviously, that their software will move over as well.

$15,000 may sound like a lot of money (and there are annual licensing fees as well!), but for someone already making a living in the business, the price is hardly impossible. But the audience for whom I write here is not likely to be able to make such a commitment. Thus, to learn this software, they will likely find some educational institution where these applications are taught and available to work with in a lab. In any case, both of these applications are so sophisticated that formal training is essential. These are lifetime artist tools of the highest order.

So you don't have $15,000, and you still want to get started with professional level tools. What are your choices?

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Created: September 23, 1997
Revised: September 23, 1997

URL: http://webreference.com/3d/lesson22/part2.html