There is even the option to render them in AC3D itself, though you will need a third party program such as POV in order to do this.
|AC3D 6.0 :: $69.95|
Free 14 day trial version available
Windows 95, 98, ME, NT 4, 2000, XP or Linux x86
Pentium 120 (or equiv) minimum
64 MB RAM minimum
10 MB free hard disk space
preferable, but not necessary - 3D accelerated video card with OpenGL drivers
Mac OS X 10.3 or later
The main attraction of AC3D is as a design tool for creating objects to be imported into other graphics programs where they can be rendered, animated or incorporated into games. Say, for example, you are creating landscapes in a design program such as Bryce or Vue. With the help of AC3D you could design spaceships, houses or, assuming that you have sufficient of experience and talent, even organic forms such as animals and plants. These could be saved in one of a range of standard formats (including 3DS, VRML, DXF, Wavefront Object and many others) and then uploaded from disk into your target application.
For the full features list of AC3D see: http://www.ac3d.org/features.html
The trouble with many 3D modelling programs is that they are just so difficult to use. In my view, AC3D lies somewhere in the middle range between complexity and simplicity. You can get started pretty quickly just by clicking on a set of buttons in a palette and dropping ready-to-use shapes into the work area. These can then be deformed or resized using the mouse; they can be subdivided for greater smoothness, cut, copied and duplicated. There are some modification tools to let you adds spikes and bevels or combine one object with another. Creating logos (for web pages, say, or title sequences in an animation) is straightforward. You just add some text and then edit it using the standard modelling tools.
I have to say that I find the user interface of AC3D a bit clunky (little things like the cluttered layout, buttons of varying sizes and the lack of popup mouse menus), and there is no context sensitive help other than short tooltip ‘hints’. There is, however, a manual in the form of some linked HTML pages or, alternatively, as PDF. While it would be nice if some of these rough edges were smoothed off, that doesn’t alter the fact that AC3D is undoubtedly a very capable modeller which, at under $70 is good value.
|If you are looking for a low cost ‘all rounder’, Carrara 5 Basics would be a good option. Currently on a half-price sale for just $49.95 it is a surprisingly capable modeller/renderer/animator with a nice, approachable user interface. For more power, look at the Standard and Pro editions of Carrara also currently being sold at half price ($124.50 and $274.50 respectively). Carrara is available from Daz http://www.daz3d.com. For modelling smooth, organic, spiky and blobby shapes, EI Technology’s Amorphium is hard to beat. With its slick user interface and point, clock, pull and paint tools, this is also one of the most ‘fun’ 3D packages around. Amorphium 3 costs $99 from http://www.eitechnologygroup.com.|