This post is about something that surprised the hell out of me regarding Blender 2.83.2, Maya 2020, and 3DS Max 2021. I invite you to sit back while I regale you with a tale of art, love, loss, and (hopefully) reawakening.
When I was in art college (1985 to 1989) my focus was on 3D animation using Sculpt-Animate 4D on an Amiga. It was all triangles in wireframe, brute-force animation (ie. move each vertex for every frame), and looooong waits for the screen to refresh every time any change was made. The software was dead simple which meant I (and every other vertex jockey) was an expert after three weeks of playing around.
Then came the lean times, the bankruptcy, and years of trying to get back on our feet. 3D animation became no more than a fading dream.
In 2010, I retired from the civil service and a few months later, I started learning Blender. It was sooooo different from what I remembered and I complained constantly: “Why isn’t ‘y’ up? Why are there so many hidden features?” blah-blah-blah.
I wanted to switch to Max or Maya because I thought they were better tools… more complete, more professional… even their names were cooler. But the cost was prohibitive to a retired guy and they just weren’t buying my story about being a student. Yeah, maybe I should have tried to convince them I was a teacher instead. Eventually, I came grumbling back to Blender because, despite not really liking it, it was all I could afford.
Years of struggling led me to believe that if ever Maya became at all affordable, I’d sell my soul so I could switch.
In the meantime, I struggled on, trying to keep my chops up, not wanting to let go of the 3D ball. Blender 2.8 came along and, like everyone else, I jumped in and learned the new features and procedures. Meanwhile, all the ideas I had for animations had dried up. I stopped caring whether I ever did anything artistic again. I admit, part of it was petulance. If I couldn’t use the paint brush I wanted, what was the point?
Then about two weeks ago, I read on this forum about the 3DS Max Indie version. I was a tad excited, but my first thought was: I wonder if they’re doing a Maya Indie version, too. And they were! Finally, I could afford to leave Blender behind and jump to Maya, the King of 3D Animation Tools (flashing lights).
I downloaded both Maya and 3DS Max (not wanting to overlook any possibility that, despite being z-up, Max might be a better fit), grabbed some online courses, one for each, and dug in…
And you know what?
After all my complaining for all those years, after all the arguments… it suddenly struck me yesterday:
Blender is a better tool. It’s better thought-out. Everything is at your fingertips (keyboard shortcuts make that a literal statement) and where I was seeing cumbersomeness in Blender, I found profound cumbersomeness in both Maya and 3DS Max.
Big, fat surprise for me.
So, where do I stand now? Well, this morning I renewed my Blender Cloud membership. Since there’s a long weekend coming up (and the Kookie Cookie guys will likely have a sale) I’ll probably sign up with them again, too.
I also pulled an old character (Herman) out of mothballs and started retopologizing him. He was the star of the only 3D short I ever did, A Boy and His Ant (which got an honourable mention at the International Animation Festival in Montreal in 1989 (I know; you guys won’t have heard of the film or the festival; that was a long time ago.) My aim is to redo that short, even if it takes me until COVID-19 is a distant memory.
What else am I going to do with myself?