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 3D softwares comparisons table

Written by Benoît Saint-Moulin
Date : 2007-11-07 01:58:00


If you ever wanted starting in 3D creation today, you probably need to know with which 3D applications package with you will feel better and which is the most suitable for you and business ?

Many new CG artists try many softwares before really starting their 3D business, that's of courses the best solution to try out and know if you feel coMfortable with one than other, so after you can't know all specs of all 3D softwares when starting in 3D...

Here is a comparison table with cons. and pro. for the most know today top industries 3D applications. This table isn't intended to be complete with all softwares features available but try to surround the common today 3D cg artist tasks.


All softwares listed in this table was deeply tested during a total of about 12 months, during this 12 months,  I installed all releases and Service pack (EDU, PLE, full softwares,...) and try to use all of listed softwares to do the same work with when I created my students classroom projects like (Motion,  Realtime, Mag.Print, Architecture, Lowpoly, texturing,...)

I used all of this 3D applications in 10 past years, when I was working for companies in CG area, now it's relativly easy for me to switch from one to others and I have a good feeling with softwares interfaces...of courses that's always a long and a painfull tasks to switching but when you learned 2 or more package in 3D applications, technical features is always the same, the most difficult is to know where to found !

As I'm now CG Teacher / Educator, I will always say to my students the most important isn't the package, but technical understanding and that's a triangle will always have... 3 vertices :-) as in Autodesk 3ds max, NewTek LightWave, Blender,...

Also switching from one applications to others often is bad because you lose you feeling and way of works. When you are ready with one just stay on, don't listen to the sirens ! Each 3D applications is good and no one can be better than an others, today all 3D package can do all your dreams, you just must have ideas to do...

3D DCC applications analyses from 12 last months :

First thanks to all 3D pro and geek who re read my work and give me a lot of feedback ! Artists who read this articles are from many CG area and differents countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden,  USA, Vietnam,...) , all of this reader have used more than one 3D applications before jump into business.

I also was in contact (Phone call or emails) with peoples(2 or 3 usually) who working in each listed softwares company to avoid mistakes, I was requested functions knowledges, sometimes SDK, discussed about imports/exports common troubles, interface ergonomic, parameters finetune,...

The tested applications is base package with the low prices for starting in 3D, of courses many softwares listed have highend production version available !



Here is few how-to tested parts (in no order) :

  • Modeling Speacker using polygons and splines

  • Procedural and bitmaps materials, how applications can handle heavy materials scenes ?

  • How is easy to found / assign or to re-use datas ? Drag and Drop, libraries, assets,...

  • Fine tune lights parameters, using lights layers, IES data, include/Exclude, negative lights, softshadow, area shadow,...

  • Backward compatibilities with old softwares releases import and getting back maximum datas

  • Stability when modeling and manipulating (vertex, polygons, edges,...) high polygons datas (Maximum in this test was 2 millions polygons scenes)

  • Rendering quality using default render

  • Speed of rendering for web (550x450 antialiased pictures), broadcast (720x576, motion blur 5, motion AA), print (A3 200 DPI) render quality

  • Imports Silo3D 2.0 and Zbrush 2.5 Objetcs with high SubD sculpted meshes

  • Assign default bones and wire quick IK setup

  • N-Sided Quidam models import with ready rig and materials

  • Get back motion capture data from FBX and Point Oven, cleanup motion key datas (Datas are from friends in film productions / motion capture / motion builder)

  • Fcurves and motion mixer testing with datas I get back from animator

  • Working with OpenEXR and HDRI import/export pictures

  • Use env. with xStream from Vue 6

  • Imports OBJ, 3DS, Collada and FBX scenes and try getting back importants datas (lights, cameras, materials,...)

  • Imports Moi3D IGES nurbs models

  • CAD DXF and DWG (when possible)  imports with layers

  • Texture backing and re-apply it to projects before realtime exports

  • Exports scenes to 3D realtime VRML and X3D

  • Unwrap toolset and PeltMapping on human head and organic models

  • Datas exchange between xStream Vue 6 ! (OpenGL feedback and rendering quality/time)

  • Flash SWF exports for the web with and/or without plugins

  • Basic meshes scripting to do some rotation/translate, move along path and camera targetting

  • ...

3ds max 9 SP2
Autodesk Maya complete 8.5 Blender 3D 2.45 Luxology Modo 301 Maxon
R 10.1
Lightwave 9.3
Softimage XSI
Foundation 6.2
First market Viz - Games Games - Film VIZ - Realtime Viz - Games Motion - Design VFX - VIZ w/LWCAD Animation - Game - Film
End user prices * 5,000 € 2,500 € FREE 745 € 800 € 800 € 450 €
Annual subscription Yes
Yes None None None None
PLE None Yes NA None None None None
Trial Yes Yes NA Yes Yes Yes Yes
Languages FR EN EN A lots but EN is best EN JP CZ EN FR GE IT PL SP JP EN JP EN JP
Languages Switch None None All include None All include None None
Industries populated Very good Very good Low Low Good Very good Good
Core Aged
Old Old Old / Re-new Modern Old / Re-new Old / Re-new Modern
Learning path to be productive < 2 months < 3 months < 3 months < 1 month < 1 month < 2 months < 2 months
Company support for single users Low / Good Good Communities Very good Very good Very good Very good
Supports reactivities for single users Good Good Communities Very good Excellent ! Very good Low
Interface CAD style, Clean and powerful Like a Forge, flexible and powerful, but not intuitive ! Not as CG "industries" standard - Fast workflow, can be more intuitive Excellent ! Clean and intuitive A bit old, texts interface. Logical texts and clean interface !
Documentations Good Excellent ! Good Very good, (many videos) Very good Excellent !
(Shaders manual !)
Very Good
DVD training Good Very good Low Good Low Very good Good
TOP Import / Export needed by industries
3DS Very good Very good Good Low Very good Good Low
COLLADA Very good Very good Very good Good None None Very Good
FBX Very good Very good Very good Very good Very good Good Very Good
OBJ Very good Very good Good Very good Very good Good Good
VRML / X3D VRML 97 VRML 2 VRML 1 & 97 X3D VRML 2 VRML 97 Plugin
Point Oven Plugin Plugin 90% working Yes None Plugin Very good
DXF Very good Good Low Yes Good Good Plugin
IGES Good Low None None Plugin None Good
STL Very good Very good Good None Very good Plugin None
Rendering Internal, Mentalray Internal, Mentalray Internal Internal Internal Internal Mentalray
Quality Excellent ! Excellent ! Good Excellent ! Good Excellent ! Excellent !
Must have
render plugin
Vray Vray Yafray / Indigo None Adv.Render None 3Delight
Quality w/plugin Excellent ! Excellent ! Very good NA Very good Excellent ! Excellent !
Textures Baker Very good Very good Good Excellent ! Very good Excellent ! Very good
Top base package for industries need ! ( ** are only available in Highend Package only ! )
Animation tools (IK, Char Rig, Bones, Controller, Blending,...) Very good Excellent ! Good Low Good Good Excellent !
UV tools (Unwrap, Pelt...) Very good Excellent ! Excellent ! Excellent ! Excellent ! Good Excellent !
Painting None Very good Low Excellent ! Excellent ! None Very good**
Modeling Excellent ! Very good Good Very good Very good Excellent ! Excellent !
Modifiers Excellent ! Very good Good Very good Good Good Very good
NURBS Low Very good Low None None
None Very good
Dynamics / Rigid bodies Very good Excellent ! Very good None Very good** Very good Excellent !**
Soft bodies Very good Very good Good None Good** Good Very good
Hairs Very good Very good** Good None Very good** Good Very good**
Cloths Very good Very good** Good None Very good** None Very good
Particles Excellent ! Very good Good None Good Very good Very good
Fluids None Very good** Very good None None Good Good
Compositing None None Yes None None Yes Excellent !**
Nodes-Based Workflow None Yes None None None None None
Nodes-Based Materials Plug-ins Yes Yes None None Excellent ! Excellent !
Nodes-Based Compositing None None Yes None None None Excellent !**
CG shader / Games Excellent ! Excellent ! Yes None None Yes Excellent !
Top unique feature Biped

Video edit
Bodypaint Hypervoxel Render !
Anim tools
Scripting Good Excellent ! Very good Excellent ! Good Good Excellent !
Scripting Dev. Maxscript MEL, Python Python Perl, Lua, Python EXPRESSO
LScript Vb, Python, Jscript
C/C++ Dev. Good Very good Very good (opensource) None Very good Very good Good
Vue 6 xStream plugin Low Good None None Good Excellent ! Excellent !
The dark side ! Price, no new features ! Learning curve Interface / documentations No char Anim tools Default render Rig tools Imports
All you need for Film / Production Ready ?
Package Standard Unlimited Standard with
a lots scripts
Standard Studio Standard Essential
Prices * 5,000 € 8,500 € Free 745 € 3,200 € 800 € 2,500 €
All you need for Freelance / Designer Ready ?
Package Standard Complete Standard Standard Bundle Standard Foundation
Prices * 5,000 € 2,500 € Free 745 € 2,500 € 800 € 450 €
All you need for EDU / Student ready ?
Package Standard Ulimited Standard Standard Bundle Standard Advanced
Prices * 130 € 250 € Free 125 € 180 € 230 € 220 €
Can I Found a jobs with ?
VIZ / Design Excellent ! Good Good Good Excellent ! Good Low
Film Good Excellent ! Low Low Low Very good Excellent !
VFX / Motion Good Excellent ! Good Low Good Excellent ! Excellent !
Game Excellent ! Very good Low Good Low Good Very good
Web designer Low Low Good Good Excellent ! Good Low
3D Realtime / VR Excellent ! Very good Very good Good Low Good Low
Users communities and popularity ?
Nord America Excellent ! Excellent ! Good Excellent ! Good Very good Excellent !
Europe Very good Excellent ! Very good Excellent ! Good Good Good
Asia Very good Good Low Good Low Very good Excellent !
My last words ?
3ds max By far the most well know and used 3D dcc applications in the industries all around the world, so the prices for freelance is too much expenssive and old core based. The Bad since version 7 is the price vs poor new features, evolving !
Maya One of the most know by popularity in the Film and VFX industries. Maya downside's is on learning curve interface not intuitive and !
Blender A good all around application first for freelance. Blender downside's is on interface, who is not today "industries" common (no drag & drop, poor intuitive tools,...) and structured / centralised documentations, so it's the best free all arround solution.
Modo Probably the most modern 3D software and it is being developed rapidly. Very affordable and has a super strong user community. Multi-threading and a super flexible user interface And 3D sculpting tools!
Cinema4D Very good all around application suitable for freelance/designer best quality tools for the price ! Not enough popular yet !
LightWave An old but very powerful suitable first for VFX and VIZ market. LightWave downside's is on Rig tools, so Render engine and shaders are the best you can found !
Softimage XSI No doubt for the prices the Foundation is the best all around, so Imports/Exports is the dark side, but for 450 euro you can't get better (exlude Blender for free !)

* Please note that prices (correct in April 2007) do not include VAT, any annual fees or subscription costs and are rounded !

* This article was last updated on 08/03/27.

Conclusions :

As you view each softwares have their strong and weaks parts !

Of courses he is always users who are defending their favourite applications opposed to others,  this comparison table isn't writed in this way, I don't wont here to push an application more than others and had try to stay independant / free from softwares editors, of courses each softwares editor naturally prefer to be the best, so for now there is not, all is bad and good, that's depend on what's you want to do and your working area.

I already know this articles bring me head Fireball and Thunder from softwares editors :) but I hope they read this article to improve their softwares or fix the wrong !

I also hope my goal is reach with this table and a long hard work, I hope you get more ideas on what's solutions is the most suitable for you !


If you want discsuss or give your comments about this articles, feel free to do on this forum thread.


Links :

Making-of Dynamo Making-of Still Life Timbre en réalité augmentée Les outils de plantes 3D ? Comparatif Terragen Vs. Vue

Copyrights :

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