Years ago, I took a look at Craft Animations’ rigs when it was exclusive to 3ds Max, and found it to be indispensable not only for pipelines with vehicles, but also for camera animation work. The whole tool set is based on prefab rigs that are wired up to respond to the rules of physics with a touch of AI. The idea is to take care of the majority of animation on the fly instead of a key-framing approach. It’s done by activating the rig and conforming the scale and positions of features to your hero model. Then, all of the animation is transferred to the model, and you are good to go.
The huge toolset includes Four-Wheeled Vehicles, Two-Wheeled Vehicles, Fixed Wing Aircraft, Helicopters and Treaded Vehicles. Then you get into the cameras: an AutoZoom for keeping a subject framed while the camera moves, a Humanizer to add random noise, and Motion Filtering to emulate things like the bounce you get on a car’s camera mount.
Each of the modules can be mixed and matched, and all of them can be controlled in real-time (depending on CPU and GPU) with external inputs, such as game controllers and joysticks. So, for car simulations, you could potentially program a steering wheel setup. Other inputs can be used to control accessories like gun turrets and characters’ heads.
The product has expanded its platform from Max to include Maya, CINEMA 4D, and Softimage on both Windows and OSX. The master collection of everything is not an inexpensive investment, so it could be out of reach for hobbyists, but the modules are offered individually so if you need a car but not a helicopter, you can limit your purchase to the car. But for companies doing lots of vehicle work, as I said before, Craft is still indispensable.
Prices: Craft Master Bundle, $4,970; Craft Camera Tools Bundle, $986; Craft Vehicle Tools $3,772; Single Add-Ons, $99-$1,199.