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3D Studio, Release 4

3D Studio, Release 4

3D Studio is a high-quality rendering package that generates realistic still and animated images from meshed, 3-D models constructed within 3D Studio, or imported in DXF file format.

The construction tools can generate nearly any 2-D or 3-D shape. The 3D Editor rendering tools add versatile lights and cameras, and assign surface materials that define all optical properties needed to simulate realistic response to light. Mapping facilities add local control to most optical properties and provide a means of combining external image detail, e.g., photographic or computer-generated images of color patterns or textures. The combination of effects is virtually endless. The software includes an extensive library of materials and maps, while additional tools let users modify existing materials and define new ones.

The Keyframer generates animations, providing the tools needed to move and modify model objects, light and cameras. It provides complete control of scenes at designated key frames. The Keyframer interpolates between these user-defined frames, generating intermediate motions and adjustments, automatically producing rendered, continuous animations.

Inverse kinematics. I animated a variety of machines and mechanisms using the earlier 3D Studio, and found the generation of keyframes to be tedious, particularly for mechanisms involving complex, nonlinear motions. The new Inverse Kinematics module (known as the IK) answers nearly all my wishes! The IK is an iterative solver that generates key frame data for 6 degree-of-freedom (DOF) joints between objects.

SPEC BOX 3D Studio is a production quality construction and rendering tool capable of generating realistic still and animated images of a wide range of 3-dimensional, meshed surface models. Release 4 adds powerful animation enhancements, speed improvements for model editing and preview rendering, as well as advanced tools for script control animation. It runs under MS DOS on 386 machines or better with 16M bytes of RAM and 40M bytes of free disk space (20 MB minimum) recommended. Available on both floppy and CD-ROM, all packages include a CD-ROM with a wealth of extras.
List Price: $2,995
Autodesk Inc., 2320 Marinship Way, Sausalito, CA 94965; ph. (800)228-3601

The IK includes a wealth of intuitive visualization and control aids to make and check kinematic setup, giving it an exceptional "smooth feel", and making the entire process very efficient. For my test example, I imported an AutoCAD Designer model of an oscillating steam engine in DXF format. The final engine animation, including metallic rendering, shadows, and reflections, was exceptional.

Next I loaded a complex model involving multiple linkages with spherical rod ends (3 DOFs) that accommodate slides and cranks at oblique angles. I had animated this model earlier with 3D Studio, and had spent hours generating keys to provide realistic linkage motions. The IK reduced the key-generation time dramatically, and produced a more realistic result than I had achieved before.

Perspective match. For users who combine 3-D studio models with bitmap backgrounds, the new Perspective Match capability is indispensable. To experiment, I took a Polaroid photo of my desk, scanned the photo, and added it as the background for the steam engine model. Initially the scene looked absurd, with totally inappropriate engine size and perspective. Entering the Perspective Match module, I quickly adjusted camera position, focal length, and field of view, comparing the model image to that of the "surrounding objects" in the background. The result was a convincing image of the engine, sitting on my desk. The new Fast Preview Animation capability produced a rough, rendered animation of the combined model against the scanned background in a few minutes, compared to several hours rendering time for the full resolution final with all visual effects.

Release 4 includes a Keyframe Scripting Language that permits fully automated keyframe generation with BASIC-like commands, a must for complex, parametric animations. Additional new features such as increased 3D Editor speed, "null" display mode for background Windows operation, and enhanced display and setup tools make Revision 4 even more appealing.

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