While this is only a quick review, we’re going to dive as deep as we can into the v8 release of Zaxwerks 3D ProAnimator to see what this 3D animation package can do, how accessible it is, and how it compares to the programs you’ve already got. The standalone version of the software is reviewed here, but if you prefer, it’s also available as an After Effects plug-in, now compatible with CC 2014.
Starting out, you can create your own 3D text, and it’s nice to see that little details like kerning controls (with their standard Option-left/right shortcut) haven’t been forgotten.
Creating some 3D text.
You can also import a 3D model in one of a variety of formats, or an Illustrator file, create one of a number of primitives, or create a new lathe object. Similar to Illustrator’s Revolve effect, here it’s much faster and easier to use—and of course it’s actually a 3D object in 3D space, not just a 2D picture of one.
Or creating something else?
While ProAnimator is not primarily a modelling tool, extensive controls over materials are provided, along with a great many preset materials, object style options and lighting rigs.
Some fancy text in one of the provided Object Styles.
Indeed, the presets continue into other areas of the program. Once you’ve got your objects looking good, you can delve into the preset Object Animations or Camera Animations. You can mix the two, but the app advises against it. As there are so many presets, you can explore in a fun way by pressing TRY repeatedly, to cycle through the presets randomly.
Preset animations ahoy!
Stop when you find one you like, then tweak the poses and transitions between them in the settings below. These transitions are a lot like Motion’s behaviors, and as such will automatically adapt to changes such as fixing a typo in the underlying text.
Though I’m only just scratching the surface, it’s obvious that there’s a great deal of depth here, as you’d expect from a program coming up for its 8th major release. For example, the Object Drawing tools are as capable as Illustrator’s equivalents, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that most of the shortcuts work in the same way.
Draw the side of a vase, see it in 3D.
The sheer number of presets should be more than enough to get you started, and everything is customisable. The interface offers a selection of Workspaces at the bottom of the window which help to manage the complexity, or if you want it all, just show everything at once.
One or two crashes were unwelcome but manageable, as was a phantom model that appeared in my 3D Preview once but disappeared after restarting the app. Oddly, on making a new file, I was always warned of a missing image: it seems that one of the default swatches didn’t install properly. These are relatively minor issues, though, and can be worked around.
Like many other cross-platform apps, it doesn’t quite feel Mac-like, with some icons and buttons (even the spinning beachball) feeling a little alien, but it’s better in this regard than many other cross-platform apps—don’t get me started on Blender. In short, it’s a little unusual, but nothing too crazy.
Many important features are included, including a fast ray tracer and real-time GPU rendering, depth-of-field support, variable anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion, interlaced rendering, motion blur, and more. I wish it supported direct export to ProRes 4444 or the new ProRes 4444 XQ, but Uncompressed works fine.
Lots of tweaky little options here too.
3D ProAnimator is an impressive piece of kit, going beyond what many other packages offer. While the focus is on motion graphics rather than general purpose 3D animation, that can be a real help; 3D animation and modelling can be a daunting task. While other apps have their own strengths around integration with FCP X and/or Motion, 3D ProAnimator’s depth and breadth of features means it can stand on its own. Recommended for anyone who needs high quality 3D motion graphics in a hurry, and is happy to work with AE or a standalone app.
Price: Zaxwerks 3D ProAnimator v8 Standalone OR AE: $499, or $199 upgrade
Web: Many bundles are also available : http://zaxwerks.com/price_list.shtml