Over the past few years there have been huge leaps and bounds in the development of modeling software, especially for us folks doing organic modeling– such as monsters, animals and other strange creatures!
At the New York Film Academy Animation School we have traditionally based our organic and hard surface modeling on Maya software. Maya is pretty much an industry standard and is used at places like Pixar Studios, who work intimately with Autodesk, the developers of Maya software, to constantly refine and improve its abilities.
More recently, we have introduced ZBrush for high-end organic and hard surface modeling. I especially enjoy using it for concepting – by that I mean quickly sketching in 3-D format ideas for characters and environments.
ZBrush is not for everybody because it’s quite a steep learning curve, and it is very different from traditional modeling software. I often tell my students that it was probably created by a race of insectoid aliens! That said, it is incredibly powerful and well worth the time invested in learning it, if you are interested in CG modeling for a profession or if you intend to make it a significant part of your 3-D focus.
We are also using Mudbox as I and many other fellow professionals believe it to be superior for texturing, especially in relationship to Zbrush. The reason being, Zbrush paints individual polygons, which means that the model has to be divided up into many millions of polygons in order to achieve the desired resolution for creating a texture map. This is in contrast to Mudbox, which does not need the surface to be divided up into such small units, and is more efficient for texture painting.
For smaller studios, especially in New York, Mudbox may be more frequently used (even for modeling). Mudbox is more user friendly (the hotkeys and user interface are very similar to those in Maya) and is much easier to learn. In the long run, these are just tools and it is a person using those tools that really makes the big difference. Ultimately, I am content to let my students choose the software they wish to use in order to create the models they require for their projects.
-Robert Appleton, Chair of NYFA Animation School