The long-awaited Carrara 8.5 hit the digital streets on the 26th of August. The point release comes packed with a beefy list of updates. As with any such release, some are super happy, some are dismissive, some others are firmly on the fence. Taking a look at just what is on offer gives us a good hint as to reasons for the mixed response.
What’s in the box?
The overwhelming bulk of the update relates to incorporating Genesis in to Carrara. This means that TriAx weight maps, the new DSON file format, smart content (plus CMS), and AutoFit have come to Carrara. Perhaps cynically, this can be viewed as paying for the privilege to purchase and use Gen 5 and 6 content.
On top of these new features are improvements to keyframe and animation tools, and new viewport representations for lights. According to some users that took part in the beta there are additional improvements not included in the new features list, such as improved stability, and faster viewport response.
For some, the hands-down best part about Carrara 8.5 is it finally offers support for Mac OSX 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8. The final cherry on top is the inclusion of Genesis content. Carrara 8.5 Pro buyers will get access to Victoria 5 and Michael 5 pro bundles. Carrara 8.5 (standard) users will receive starter bundles for the same figures. See the product page on the Carrara at DAZ’s store for full list of features.
Never been a better time to get Carrara?
If you are a long-time DAZ Studio or Poser (or even Bryce) user who has wondered if Carrara would be a good next step, then with Carrara being ready for Genesis 1 and 2 there really hasn’t been a better time. Carrara can do just about anything these other programs can, and then a whole lot more. Carrara has solid modelling and UV mapping tools, texture and weight painting, terrain and vegetation generation, volumetrics, rigid and soft body dynamics (which anecdotally have, or are being improved), and a fast and flexible render engine with many great features (multipass, SSS, global illumination etc). See tech specs for full mouth watering features gravy (currently only lists Carrara 8 features).
If you are already a Carrara user then the price of upgrading might seem a little steep, especially if you already own the included Genesis figures. If you couldn’t care a fig for TriAx, Genesis, and smart content then the upgrade might seem like an insult. Of course, if you’re a Mac user with a newer OS, then you’re probably just happy (or less angry) to finally have access to a version of the program that’s going to work with little hassle.
If you are a platinum club member you receive 50% off the current $285 ($171) for Carrara Pro. 40% off standard Carrara, usually $149.95. If you are an owner of a previous Carrara version (purchased through DAZ 3D), you can pick up Carrara Pro for $85, and standard for $44.98.
Carrara 8.5 Verdict
Regardless of what you think about Genesis and TriAx, 8.5 is a solid point release and a good base for Carrara 9, which is forecast for a Q1 2014 release. Getting full implementation for Genesis in Carrara was always going to be high on DAZ 3D’s list of priorities, so it is good that it is done and more-or-less out of the way – get that AutoFit with G2 working! With this done, DAZ will be able to spend more time getting a stellar 9 finalised and polished.
It would have been great to see some little hints for 9 dropped into the 8.5 release, and perhaps they are there for a closer inspection. Sure would be good to see a features list, but I’m getting away from the topic at hand.
Carrara 8.5 probably has the most to offer to new users that are only just picking up Carrara. For current users there is still a lot here, but paying for what is essentially a content delivery pipeline might not sit too easily, especially for those that already own the included Genesis content.