Finding Carrara - My Story

I briefly write my story through the years in 3D digital graphics, starting with my finding Carrara in the first place. It's quite short compared to everything that went on in that time, so I might write more about these times in future articles and link to them here as well... we'll see.

Finding Carrara - My Story

Working with 3D as a hobby, all because of a fun gaming community I belonged to back in the day, has become one of my favorite pastimes ever!

I started with texture editing for existing models which led me to working with UV Mapping to optimize the relationships between model mesh and texture image maps.

One of my teammates introduced me to Poser, which quickly took my heart. I loved all of the wonderful possibilities regarding creating characters using assorted content that is all designed to be compatible with one another. It's really quite genius.

Daz 3D began making human figures capable of taking on many realistic shapes through morphs so we could really make the custom character of our dreams. They were very popular, so many content-creating artists would make compatible options for these figures, and the power of selection would grow these figures to Poser Stardom!

- Both worlds collide in the image on the right, a convention poster I created in Poser for the Neverwinter Nights community - Daz3D's Victoria 3 taking on Daz 3D's Millennium Dragon!

After discovering all of this, I was already at a point where I have discovered Poser's animation tools - rendering static images was no longer enough for me.

Well, animating characters wearing conforming clothing and hair started to introduce problems. It's been so long since those days that remembering the exact issues is difficult. I do recall poke-through more than anything, though.

I started looking for 3D modeling software capable of loading and working with these figures just the way I could in Poser. Turned out that this isn't exactly what professional animators do, so the simple answer was: "No". The less simple answer involved a complex work-around process which still didn't result in a working environment I'd feel comfortable in.

All I really wanted was 3d modeling/tweaking capabilities in Poser. There are magnets and deformers. That's not what I wanted.

It was after I had already given up the search and kept trying other ways to resolve my issues directly within Poser, when I was waiting for my daughter in a Doctor's office and saw a fellow working with Victoria 3, Daz 3D's previous premiere figure of that time.

"Carrara 5 Pro", he said, and demonstrated to me how he could use a (included with Pro) plugin called "TransPoser" to load Poser compatible figures into Carrara with all rigging and morphs intact. Even the MAT and INJ files worked to change materials and and morphs respectively. I was utterly flabbergasted! I had to find this software and start saving for it right away!

One day, the link to Eovia's Carrara 5 Pro product pages was broken, so I did a search only to find Carrara 6 - and it was now in the hands of, you guessed it: Daz 3D!

Daz 3D not only had a great reputation for their excellence in rigged, morph-accepting, Poser-compatible human (and other) figures, but they also had (still have) frequent discounts to incredibly affordable prices!

I was thrilled!

And Carrara 6 Pro looked even more like it was designed specifically for me than Carrara 5 Pro was - 6 Pro didn't require TransPoser

Poser figures and props, etc., were just natively compatible! Sweet!

Being the provider of my family, it took me quite some time to save up enough to take the plunge.

I'll never forget the day when my wonderful, beautiful wife told me to go ahead and order that thing. "What thing?", I asked, not having a clue what she was talking about. "That club membership and software you want for your 3D hobby thingy". I nearly blew a fuse with delight!

The Club Membership she was talking about was Daz 3D's Platinum Club. A membership which offers unrealistically low prices for club products every day of every week, along with a whole slew of other savings, benefits, a special forum category, and weekly freebies - so members are always able to download something new, no matter their budget.

At that time (and almost always) membership also gave incredible discounts for Carrara software. I had so much fun figuring what all to include in this amazing order!

Carrara, when sold through Daz 3D, includes an amazing bundle of Daz 3D figure goodies for the premiere figure at the time of that particular release. I started with Carrara 7 Pro, just before the release of Carrara 8 Pro, and included access to the otherwise closed beta for Carrara 8 Pro, which was sporting Carrara's very first 64 bit architecture, among many other new wonders.

That time Victoria 4 and Michael 4, along with their other generation 4 pals that were created using the same uni-mesh (so that texture maps and other things were compatible) had been their premiere figures for quite some time, and the support library of content available was massive and amazing! Still is!

So Carrara came with the Victorial 4.2 Starter Bundle, the Michael 4 Starter Bundle, and a slew of other useful (and fun!) goodies.

These were the last generation of Daz 3D figures that were made specifically for Poser and, hence, Carrara 8 or earlier.

Daz 3D built their next uni-mesh figure using the latest technology of its time, and built a new Daz Studio* around that technology.

Carrara 8.5 Upgrade was created to support this technology, and the developers added a lot more, making 8.5 Pro my favorite release by far!

* See the DAZ Zone for more about the amazing Daz Studio

So there I was, working full time plus overtime, spending what little free time I could find to download file after file of amazing content... I was in Bliss Zone!

Still very much a newbie at all of this 3D stuff - and brand-spanking new with Carrara, I was still stuck in all of my Poser ways, being at the beginnings of my switch. In fact, I often found it easier at times to just hop back into Poser if I wanted to do something very quickly - like shoot off a quick render of something.

Carrara is vast. I've said it at the top of the page, but that is an entirely different meaning. As a Poser convert, I was a little overwhelmed at how endless a Carrara scene can be.

Sure, Poser can be quite endless as well, when it comes down to it. But Carrara scenes open with the camera backed off quite a bit comparatively, almost begging the user to add a whole lot of scenery - and it can handle that quite well!

To make for a simple 360 degree surrounding scene for Poser, I was using Stonemason's Millennium Environment, which is a really cool product for that. It loads as 180, but most texture packs for it also include the other 180, which matches seamlessly, so I used it that way all the time. Like I said... I was a total newbie!

With Carrara, we don't need such things. Carrara has a whole bunch of preset landscapes and scenes, but just tossing in a few terrain pieces populated with some Carrara trees is easy and fun, and can quickly create a fully realized 360 degree environment.

The realistic sky completes the scene and can use the Sun light and Moon light for both illumination as well as an impression of the actual thing - sun or moon, as well as having full atmospheric parameters to adjust for just the right setting.

I remember how I was amazed at how much faster the content library (runtime) loads in Carrara compared to Poser. I almost forgot how long it takes to switch runtimes in Poser. They just fire right into view in Carrara. Pretty cool.

Rendering is another beautiful thing in Carrara. Unlike Daz Studio, Carrara gives so many options to choose from for setting up the render engine. I can make it render really, really fast if I want, or go for more of an automated super-realistic approach, which can take much longer.

But it's really nice how we can set it up to work anywhere in between, or even at those extremes.

The Carrara Discussion Forum was a very welcome hangout for me. I was a little nervous to actually go in an start asking questions at first. There was so much to read that I really didn't have to - kind of. But there were some basic things that were really preventing me from being productive, and I really needed to find out - so I took the plunge and asked.

My question was answered almost immediately... and it wasn't degrading or snobby... it was a welcoming, friendly answer, with a real "open arms" feeling to go ahead and ask more noob questions if I want. So I did. I asked about everything and anything I wanted to know - and I got answers, often several different approaches, every single time!

At that rate, it didn't take me long to stop feeling utterly useless. In fact, I was feeling really quite advanced fairly early on. Only now do I realize how incredibly naive I was in that regard! Again... Carrara is vast, now referring to that the same way as at the top of the page - vast in what it can do... what we can do using it... Vast!