How does Blender compare to Animation:Master

Not counting the perhaps larger time investment to learn the interface of Blender, how do the two programs compare? I’ve always wanted A:M, but have been short on cash. I’ve heard Blender, once you know how to use all the shortcuts, is much faster then all the other programs, but I also know that A:M has generated a bit more publicity, I think. If Blender was not a free product, and cost the same as A:M ($300), which one would you buy? I just want to know which would be a better investment of my time and maybe money.
Thank you!

Here’s a Blender convert’s story about Animation Master.
I first saw Blender and Animation Master at Siggraph '99. My expirience with Blender at the show was “Here, take this. Free CD. Has a free program called Blender on it.” My expirience with Animation Master was at their show and I was completely stunned by how easy animation, and muscle systems (or SmartSkin as they call it) where. It was a really intruitive program, and it was the cheapest thing I saw at the show next to the $25 ILM T-Shirts. My friend got the student discounted version (HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting a student discount) right there on the spot from Mr. Hash himself.

I went home. I tried out Blender. I was totally confused then never touched the disc again. After using Animation Master I was able to pick it up and quickly learn in. Until about a year ago when I started doing some more complex projects with it that I felt the software starting to lack. Now, I had an old version and I’m sure most of these have been fixed, but I found A:M to be inadequate for modeling anything other than organic objects. Also the modeling process was a bit slow and your patchwork had to be PERFECT otherwise you’ll get wierd artifacts. This was painfully obvious when you had triangle patches. 5 sided patches do fix this however. That coupled with the slow rendering times and I started to get frustrated with the software.

Then I saw an article on Slashdot about Blender getting some new features, so I tried to give it a second try. After a lot of reading on the interace I started to dive right in because any expirience with a 3D program (except maybe Teddy) carries over to a new program. I fell in love with Blender. Modeling was fast. I didn’t have to worry so much abount splinemanship. Triangle textured well. Everything that I was working on at the time was so much better with Blender.

The only thing that I wish it had was real raytracing. Well, a few months later that was added. Then I was completely sold.Here’s what I’d say in summery to all of this.

Animation Master is fanstatic in one area (well, it’s good in other too). It’s right there in the name. Animation. The animation system is very very nice. That’s the only thing I missed when I moved to Blender was how well animation was done. However, since I haven’t done any complex characters yet this hasn’t become a problem yet. Animation Master has a good fur and shag system. Also cloth physics are built in.

Blender on the otherhand is way faster at rendering (and for my projects that’s really important), the modeling tools and interface, once learned, will allow you to model much faster. Blender might require that you understand how things work a little bit more and require more set up to get your scenes to look right (A:M has a really easy setup for realistic soft shadows and depth of field, but where kinda slow for rendering), but again Blender will reward you with great rendering speeds.

As far as the quality of work is concerned that is totally dependent on the artist. For a starting artist that is going to be doing stuff for fun I would recommend either A:M or Blender. When you start working professionally with other people I doubt many studios (I have only heard of one game studio) that actually used A:M. So decide what you want to get into.

If you are deadly serious and commited to making animated characters I would recommend taking a look at A:M. My goal with my 3D work is to make character animations, however I’m still sticking with Blender. The thing with Blender is that over the past year that I’ve been using the software, and after numerous projects (some are listed for download here, Freakishly Large Receptors was done using A:M) that I’ve had the pleasure of using Blender for I have complete confidence in the development’s team ability to imporve the software. EVERY time I got a project Blender was able to pull through becuase of a feature that was added a few weeks earlier. So I’m assuming that when I start doing character animations in the near future there will be some feature that will be added that will allow me to get it done. Not suprisingly animation is one of their top priorities, so maybe when I’m ready the software will be ready for me as well.

I’ve probably said enough but I hope that helps. The only thing that makes Blender a little bit harder to learn is the fact that the interface doesn’t act like any normal Windows program does. That’s why I was able to pick up A:M so easily. However Blender, once understood, is a powerful and agile tool. I can’t believe the projects I’ve been able to pull off with the time restraints that I’ve had with Blender.

If my life story doesn’t help just tell us what you want to do with your 3D software and maybe I’ll give you some more personalized advice :).

This topic has been covered at CGTalk so try a search over there for more. Things have developed since then though. Blender has made huge progress over the last year or two and the gap between the two programs has closed considerably. A:M has also been busy and they keep adding features.

First and foremost: Modelling. A:M is a spline based modeler. Splines are a remarkably difficult and unintuitive way of going about creating real world objects. Blenders mesh modelling is hands down way better.

Stability was a big concern in A:M for a while. They may or may not have fixed the crashing. Blender tends to be very stable. It does crash, especially with large scenes, but the problems are well known. If you have a bug report it to the developer, A:M or Blender, and it’ll get fixed.

A:M has been around for a while and they have some effects blender doesn’t have yet. Hair, cached renders, A:M’s radiosity is way better. A:M also has a plug that can import obj files so you can model elsewhere and then import objects to be rigged with their bones system (does that thing have undo yet?); for instance wings3D.

blender is open source. Models are native and can be edited in place while adding FX. Lots of Development going on. Can be used in Linux.

My experience with A:M was painfully crashworthy and left a scar. I’ve had experience with some other apps too. They all have their good and bad points. Personally, the work flow of blender is, for me, very good. And version 2.37 will be even better. Really, the learning curve is no different than any other 3D environment, just different. As are they all. Give blender a try, go through the tutorials and if it doesn’t suit you than you can grab A:M and give them a try. You’ve lost nothing and gained experience.

It’s smart to “gain experience” with lots of packages. But Blender does have the advantage of a very skilled, and very active, development-group. The fact that it’s open-source is really what enables that. Features arrive in a matter of weeks. People are obviously building this tool for themselves.

I’ll prophesy (“forsooth!”) that within the year, Blender will be “the tool to know.” Magazines all over the planet will be writing about it, belatedly as they always do, as though it were brand-new. This will be the year that Blender truly becomes “main stream.”

Rereading my post, I think should expand upon what I’ve said, because I wasn’t really very clear. I found Blender several years ago, (before the open source thing went down) and couldn’t stand the interface. I just came back about 6 months ago, looked at it, found instructions on the interface, tried it out, and liked the interface, and I am more then willing to learn how to use it. As for what I want to do with it, I’m not entirely sure, although I do know that I do what to do a lot of character animation, and animation in general. I mean, I have this dream of making a complete feature length animated film, but I know that not going to happen anytime in the near future. I can dream, though! But, if I learned Blender completely, would it be worth $300 for A:M? According to @ndy, from his work on mindfields, the particle system left him wanting a lot, although I don’t know it it’s been spruced up since then, and it sure would be nice to be able to push a button and have anime and cartoon shading like that, especially as I am interested in project that utilize that capability.

If price is a big issue it’s hard to beat free. A lot of people that I’ve heard of that have switched from Blender to another program have said that becuase they learned so much about 3D in Blender, their transition to different programs went very smoothly.

So yes, after learning Blender it will be worth $300 for A:M because you already know the basics: good modeling, texturing, scene composition, rigging characters, etc. The principles to making a good work in Blender are the same as making something good in Maya, Animation Master, 3D Studio Max, and so on.

Blender serves very well as a springboard for people that want to get into CG. If you get a job doing CG stuff you’ll probably have to learn another program anyway. And the likelyhood for you getting a job that requires you to know Blender or Animation Master will be about the same, quite honestly :).

My advice: Learn Blender. Take good art classes if you haven’t already (I’m very serious about that!). Sketch out your characters well before you start modeling them (do as much planning as possible on paper before you sit down in front of the computer). Make your own textures (another good reason why you should take art classes).

If you can do all of that in Blender you’ll be so much better off in that field. Tools will take far less time for you to learn how to use than it does to know how to make good CG art work. Most people think learning Blender takes a while. The truth is that Blender takes very little time to learn. Most of that time is spent just learning general 3D computer graphics, good (what artists like to call) “craftsmanship” and design. So even though you think it’s taking you a while to learn Blender it’s just becuase you are learning so many things at once. The same goes for A:M, or anyother program for that matter. The nice thing about Blender is that it is so straight forward that learning the tools is a very quick process, compared to other programs that have a ton of tools.

OK, you’ve convinced me to learn Blender. But, finding places to learn Blender, (at least, 2.0 and up), seems to be very hard to find with the exception of the manual, and to be honest I’d like to have some idea of how to use the program before I drop $45 on it, though I will probably buy it in the future. Does anybody know of some good free Blender 2.0 tutorials online?

You do know that you can download the manual for free?

My recommendation for starting is this one:

There are some others in the stickys and in people’s signatures.

Strange remark considering all cad made objects (that’s almost everything today) are modeled with splines.

But you are right, spline modeling feels like constructing and poly modeling feels more like drawing. And sds more like claying.

No, I was not aware. I have poked around the ftp site, but I hadn’t found anything like that, just some old tutorials. Sweet! Thank you!

You are referring to nurbs? Yes programs like Rhino are as good as it gets for constructive geometry. A:M doesn’t use constructive geometry, they are using patches. Sorry if I was off he mark there.

Well, there are some nice things with splines though. You have complete control over the curve. By positioning the handles of the spline you can define the amount of curve on both sides. Also since the patches are mathematically generated the resolution is infinite and you never have to subdivide a model. I think it offers the best control for the least amount of object data.

NURBS are a bit different since each point only has a weight value to define the curve.

The big gripe I had with A:Ms patch system is that sometimes a triangle patch is necessary. When you did that the forth edge that didn’t exist would fold in on itself and cause that swirl effect that ruined the texture and due to lighting cause a black crescent shape. They compensated for that by adding a five-point patch, which crashed my machine and most others as well unless you where running on a Mac. Apparently that version was really buggy and would have upgraded if it wasn’t for Blender.

That was also one of the things I missed was the control over the curves. Fortunatly for Blender they added the weighted creases which, again, pulled through for me when I needed it.