Carrara Pro 4
From what was originally a curious hybrid of pre-PowerPC old-timers Infini-D and Ray Dream Studio, Carrara has evolved into a 3D design package of genuine power and elegance. Now at version 4, the program has dropped its ‘Studio’ tag and instead comes in two flavours. For lower-end users there is Carrara Standard, while for more advanced users there is Carrara Pro. Both versions of the software represent excellent value for money. For 2D designers looking to make the jump into the third dimension, Carrara offers a painless introduction to the genre – and the software doesn’t neglect its existing user base, offering a raft of attractive new features.
Let’s look at some of these features, beginning with advancements that are common to both versions of the software. These range from minor tweaks, such as updated scene manipulators (allowing for smoother scaling, moving and rotation of objects) to the excellent new Terrain Editor, which creates photorealistic landscapes complete with a wide range of erosion effects. This is a joy to use and, while not quite up to the standard of Bryce or Vue d’Esprit, the results are excellent. Other new enhancements include refinements to motion paths and the timeline interface, but by far the biggest new feature is the introduction of an Inverse Kinematics tool.
Until fairly recently this was a high-end feature available only in industry-standard 3D packages. By adding IK to its toolset, Carrara instantly becomes a far more attractive proposition for users wishing to take advantage of the program’s undoubted rendering power within an animation workflow.
Alongside the new IK tool is another powerful animation feature: Morph Targets. This allows modellers to deform surfaces based on defined geometry changes. In other words, a host of realistic animation effects can be created – from making characters smile to adding squash and stretch to moving objects.
Carrara Pro (roughly £100 more than the Standard version) adds other new features to mix. These include network rendering; 3D motion-blur and vector motion-blur for producing film-like renders; the ability to import sounds into a scene; and enhanced import capabilities (Carrara Pro will now import BVH, LWO, COB and FBX files, as well as native Poser files).
Although none of Carrara’s new features will be new to 3D designers, this upgrade succeeds in making the software an even more attractive mid-range package at a very competitive price. As always with Carrara, however, it’s the program’s interface that will probably prove to be the deciding factor for new users. I like the stylish ‘organic’ feel of the software, but there are plenty of others around who feel that it actually inhibits functionality. Whatever your choice, Carrara remains an important member of the 3D Mac community and gets better with each new incarnation.