I figure I will put this out there because it needs to be said. For anyone getting into 3D, this is the process that you need to take.
You need a computer, make it a x86 PC running windows 2000
Professional, this is the best way to go right now. Linux
, are not options for you in terms of money and ease of use. A PC will be low cost and dynamic. If you already have a computer, there is nothing wrong with using that, unless you can't put more than 128 MB of RAM in it.
Put as much RAM
in it as you can. 128 will work, 256 will be comfortable and let you get into more complex projects, 512 will probably be more than you will use, but it isn't a bad thing.
Your processor speed matters, but if it can run windows 2000 you will be fine. Renders may turn out to be slow on a slow computer, but with enough RAM they will be slow and steady, and still allow you to get work done. If you can get a fast processor, good, if not, don't sweat it.
Get a good gaming graphics card. Go for a Geforce 2 MX
or a Geforce 3
if you can afford it. They will all work very very well. It will increase interactivity and minimize frustration.
Get access to broadband and use morpheus to pirate all the goddamned software you can find. Look for Lightwave
6.5b or 7.0, 3DS
Max R4, Maya
3D (rare), Softimage XSI 1.5 (rare), or Houdini
(super mega rare). - (The magic five, 95% of studios will own at least on of these programs) Finding good 3D software for the Mac is very difficult, Lightwave and Maya are the two programs you should be concerned with, and Maya for MacOSX was just recently released and will be extremely difficult to find, if not impossible.
Look for Photoshop
6.0, After effects
5.0, and Painter
(rare) to compliment your 3D software.
Get Sound Forge
5.0 and Cool Edit Pro
to mess around with any sound you might want.
Take the time to click every button in every program you have and figure out what it does. After you know the features pretty well start a project, if you are enthusiastic about 3D you will certainly have something you want to achieve.
Try to make it look good, but don't get frustrated if it doesn't. Completing something is much better than keeping your standards so high, you freak out and don't progress.
Reading is good, experience
is better, make sure you have both read about animation and do as much as possible.
While you are doing all this, save up to actually buy the educational, or full version of the software, it is worth it. I am not just saying this so I don't look like an ungrateful pirate, I truly mean it, all of that software is worth every penny.
Don't believe any nay-sayers or egotists, this is the way to go. I know about Blender
and other free projects, just avoid them, pirate, and save up for the real version of what you like best. The free projects won't be ready for at least 2.5 years, probably more. Blue Moon Rendering Tools
is a very good renderer and is free, but works off of the Renderman
standard, and it will be very difficult to get anything to interface with it.
And lastly, remember, take it further, take it further, take it further!
If you want to get into 3D, save this comment and make it a check list. I know that this is the best path to take to enter the world of 3D and computer animation, it will take you where you want to go.