Carrara Pro 5.0 full review

In the past, the problem with Carrara Pro was the program's quirky interface. Sure, everything looked pretty on screen – from neat sliding drawers containing shaders and objects, to subtly coloured rooms giving access to various components of the programs. But all too often getting where you wanted to go required one or two mouse clicks too many; and one or two seconds too many spent waiting for the program's interface to keep up with you.

This is perhaps why Carrara failed to make the impact that a 3D program of such undoubted power really deserved. For many potential purchasers the program's interface proved to be too much of a deterrent: no matter that you had in your hands one of the market's premier 3D tools, capable of modelling and rendering high-quality images and animations. If the interface actually got in the way it was no good to you. Thankfully, the latest upgrade to Eovia's flagship 3D application seems to have addressed this issue. As well as introducing a host of new features, the developers have managed to maintain the overall feel of Carrara while cutting away some of the chaff to make the product a lot more user friendly.

Indeed, the first thing you'll notice when launching version 5.0 of a program built from the long deceased remnants of Macintosh 3D mainstays Infini-D and Ray Dream Studio, is how much it has in common with other – often more expensive – 3D applications. The much-maligned sliding shader drawer, for example, has now been incorporated into the program's main browser window and sits at the bottom of the screen for easy access. Browser wizards have also been redesigned and are accessible from many of the program's dialog boxes. Carrara's room-based interface still exists but in the main, the program's controls feel more accessible. In short, everything seems to be where it should be. This is a good move for Eovia, because users now have greater opportunity to see the program for what it is: a competitively priced 3D application that offers power and real value for money.

The new features in this upgrade are numerous and represent a serious step forward. These include the introduction of true volumetric clouds; paint and lasso selection tools; expanded presets, including tree presets; and new polygon and bevel tools. It's no exaggeration to say that almost every aspect of the program has had an overhaul. In the Modelling Room there are new curves, deformers and a soft selection tool. In the Render Room there are new transparency, refraction and Fresnel channels, as well as subsurface scattering and displacement mapping. In the Animation Room you can use spline interpolation, edit motion curves and edit particles (you can use objects as particles and apply forces to particles). In the Render Room there's ambient occlusion and fly-through optimisation for Global Illumination. As well as this, you can import native versions of Poser files; using the Transposer plug-in you can even import hair, clothes and Poser animation data.

I have merely scratched the surface of the myriad additions and improvements to Carrara. It is clear that Eovia is building up Carrara as a serious challenger to industry-standard 3D applications such as Maya and Cinema 3D. Yet despite all the great new features and enhancements there remains room for improvement. Modelling is one particular area that Eovia still needs to address. Although there is usually a work-around in Carrara for most modelling techniques, things could be better implemented. For that reason you may want to look at Carrara's stable mates Hexagon and Amapi, both of which offer a significantly superior modelling toolset. Do that, however, and Carrara starts to look a little more expensive. Similarly, although rendering results are highly impressive, speeds are not. In tests Cinema 4D rendered an identical scene more than two-and-a-half times faster than Carrara.

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