Carrara Studio (originally a union of Ray Dream and Infini-D) offers 3D graphics applications for modeling, animation, rendering, and special effects. It delivers broadcast-quality output and claims the largest installed user base in the prosumer market, which Eovia defines as "serious hobbyists, educators, students, freelance designers, and the creative departments of mid-sized businesses."
The program ships with 14 tutorials that have been pleasantly improved in version 3. The Content CD contains over 400MB of usable files, textures, and tools. You also get the SDK, including modelers and renderers, and a fully functional, upgradable version of the 3D modeler Amapi 3D 5.
Rooms with a View
Carrara Studio opens in its "assembly room" with a perspective view of the 3D workspace, picturing each of the three axes as a separate "orthogonal grid" upon which you can draw directly, in 2D. You can manipulate an object either in 3D perspective view or on the 2D projection of your object on either the x or y axes.
Carrara's basic tool buttons (select, scale, and rotate) and view controls (pan, dolly, magnify, test render) line the left side of the screen. A row of buttons at the top of the workspace creates primitives, splines, vertex objects, text, "environmental primitives" (fire, fog, etc.), formula-based objects, metaballs, particles, forces (push forces, like the wind; dampening forces; etc.), and effects. Click any primitive (or its variant on a rollout menu) and drop that primitive into the scene.
On the right side of the screen, use one of the view control buttons to display any (or all four) of the standard 3D views. Just below these, other buttons offer seven different view modes, including wireframe, shaded, Gauraud, or full-texture.
Property, time-control, and library panels are concealed at the fringes of your screen, ready to be pulled open, like drawers, as needed.
When working in a tight scene among multiple objects, CS3 automatically pops up a list of the objects under your cursor; click one to clarify your choice. While this feature is a great idea, you often have to move your cursor down a list of options; by the time you move it back to the object you want to edit, the program may assume that you want the object currently under your cursor, rather than the one you selected.
Management by Moving Around
All 3D functions reside in Carrara's "assembly rooms," for a progressive, compartmental workflow that walks your project through its production steps. Each "room" features the tools you need to complete that task—modeling, assembling (described above), texturing, storyboarding, and rendering.
Studio uses five rendering engines to render shaded and textured objects, anti-aliased, wireframe, and transparent walls in real time. Carrara Studio can also render files in sequence with its batch queue.
Its Photon Mapping combines the strengths of raytracing and radiosity. Rendering features include Phong Shading, Reflection, Refraction, Radiosity, Caustics, Area Light Emitters, Sky Dome Illumination, and Environment Illumination.
In the assembly room, you can create or import any model, and then add bones by clicking where you want articulation points. Set the range of allowed motion at each joint, by moving the limbs as you would move a puppet, and save those ranges to a motion library. Use inverse or forward kinematics and constraints to control the way characters can move.
Subdivision Modeling subdivides rough polygonal objects without adding vertices to create smooth, realistic objects. The Spline Modeler creates lathed objects, toroidal objects, tubular objects, and more, based on patches, instead of faces, to generate smooth surfaces at any level of zoom. The Vertex Modeler offers Multi-Resolution Mesh and Boolean Operations. Finally, the real-time Metaball Modeler lets you create 3D objects as simply as you would play with clay.
The new Terrain Modeler creates realistic landscapes, from dunes to forests to mountain ranges. Finally, the Formula Modeler creates complex 3D objects based on equations (or helps students visualize complex mathematical expressions).
Create animations in the Sequencer (timeline) or assign each object a motion path—a fully editable Bezier curve with alignment and banking controls. Achieve simpler animation tasks, such as spinning 3D text or logos, in one click, by adding Behaviors, such as Bounce, Point At, Spin, and Track, to any object.
The Texture Editor lets you combine and tweak multiple procedural shaders, texture maps, bump mapping, and more. It can handle objects with multiple surfaces and apply different shaders to each surface. Master Shaders let you apply one shader to multiple objects.
The Physics Engine adds "forces," accounting for properties such as rubber, ice, or metal. It automatically calculates object motions and collisions.
Studio also includes special effects such as explosions, smoke, fire, rolling clouds, rainbows, lens flares, 3D light rays, glowing objects, and depth of field. Volumic Sky Simulation can create animated sunrises, clouds, moon phases, rainbows, and weather control. Multiple Object Deformations include Atomize, Warp, Dissolve, Black Hole, and Explode.
Studio's Physics Engine includes Full Rigid Body Simulation, Collision Detection, Material Properties, Static and Dynamic Friction, Damping Force, Directional Force, Flow Force, and more.
Carl Desmond is a Senior Art Director at IgniteHealth Agency in Southern California. "I had a project for a pharmaceutical company," he says. "The goal was to integrate therapeutics and clinical information services to help manage gastrointestinal and autoimmune diseases.
"My knowledge of Carrara was very limited, as I had only ‘tinkered' with the program. I had to learn quickly to create the effects that I wanted, and Carrara made that easy. Producing the initial modeling was painless using the Spline Modeler, and every texture originally came straight from Carrara's preset shaders. To get the effect of motion, I just animated several lights, using keyframes and tweening, with Lens Flare applied. I then applied a movie as a texture map in the glow channel, and I had the effect I was looking for."
New in Carrara Studio 3
CS3's Scene Wizard offers ready-to-edit 3D scenes, and Tree Maker provides 26 editable tree shapes, with a forest of leaf patterns.
New Non-Photo-Realistic Rendering simulates painting, chalk, sketching, or watercolor. On the other hand, High Dynamic Range Image delivers photo-realistic renderings with reflections and complex lighting. True Alpha Channel exports renderings with selection masks and transparency to Photoshop.
The company now bundles two export features into CS3: WebXport 2 (Mac OS 9, Win) creates textured and animated 3D Web scenes using Viewpoint Experience Technology (VET), and ShockXport 2 (Mac OS 10, Win) is a Macromedia Shockwave extension.
Although the program can really slow down when your scene contains too many objects (if it does, exiting and relaunching the program seems to help), we found most tools and features easy to access and the tutorials among the most helpful we've seen in the 3D Space.