Although Eovia’s Carrara Studio 3 boasts an impressive list of new features, such as HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging) support and new controls for subdivision surfaces modeling, it’s the program’s $399 price tag that will sway many people. But don’t let its modest price fool you — Carrara has a large array of high-end tools, wrapped in a package that new and experienced users will find comfortable. Originally developed by MetaCreations, Carrara has an interface similar in form and function to that of packages such as Bryce and Kai’s Power Tools, both from Corel, and Curious Labs’ Poser. If you’re familiar with any of these programs, you’ll recognize many of Carrara’s modeling and navigation tools.
Carrara’s workspace is divided into separate “rooms,” or modes, that provide environments for modeling, scene building, texturing, and animation. This setup is great for beginners, but the program’s modal approach may frustrate some experienced users. For instance, the dialog boxes and other interface elements force you into a particular mode, rather than letting you move freely from one function to another. Because arranging and modeling are in two separate rooms, you can’t arrange models as you are modeling, which is a drag if you want to see how changes in one model fit in with other models in your scene. Also, the program’s three projection planes create a somewhat cluttered workspace.
Carrara offers a number of new modeling tools such as subdivision surfaces (sub-D) modeling, spline modeling, and powerful Booleans. A new creasing feature lets you create hard edges in your sub-D models. Eovia has optimized all modeling tools for better performance, and the Spline modeler now includes a Bevel option.
The biggest addition to the modeling room is the completely new Tree Maker, which allows you to edit and customize 26 basic tree shapes to create everything from simple potted plants to entire forests.
Carrara 3 includes both a UV Editor, for creating precise texture maps, and a much faster Vertex Modeler.
Carrara’s ray tracer has always produced beautiful results, but version 3 packs some much-needed modern rendering features.
HDRI is a different approach to calculating realistic-looking lighting. It uses a special HDR image, which wraps around the outside of your scene. The color information in the HDR file defines not just lighting intensity but also subtle color shifts and shadow hues. HDRI renderings are more realistic than normal lighting techniques and don’t require complicated light setups.
The new Non-Photorealistic Renderer lets you create everything from toon styles to natural-media renderings that look like paint, chalk, watercolors, or pencil. You’ll need to experiment to get the hang of the controls, but the Non-Photorealistic Renderer is quite speedy.
Other rendering improvements include soft shadows in the program’s ray tracer, an improved Global Illumination rendering engine, and alpha-channel rendering.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
At $399, Carrara Studio 3 is an exceptional value — the program’s new features make it even swifter and more sophisticated. However, though it costs less than some competing packages, its interface is more limited and constrained.