Mon, 28 Sep 2009 Swift 3D 6 review
3D Flash and XAML export tool gets big modelling boost
- Manufacturer: Electric Rain
- Pros: Soft Shadow rendering, 3D Boolean operations, clone and array, advanced texture mapping, background image tracing
- Cons: Flash-based online user guide seems more up to date than supplied PDF version, some finesse could be added to the Mac interface
- Price: $249 (£152), upgrade from version 5: $99 (£60.50)
- Star rating:
As well being able to export XAML and Flash-based 3D from full models imported from programs like 3ds Max, Swift 3D offers an Advance Modeller of its own plus a library of 3D primitive shapes. Here you can apply bitmap materials to groups of surfaces, then use the Edit Texture button on the main toolbar to enable a further range of mapping tools. A new texture-editing mode gives an extra level of control over how the texture is positioned and displayed on the mesh surface.
Version 6 lets you apply Boolean operations, to create, change and edit 3D objects by combining two primitives. It’s a very quick way of modelling. The Boolean operation is non-destructive, so after creating a union of the objects or using one to add or subtract from the other, you can drill down into the scene hierarchy to adjust the properties of the component shapes at any time.
There’s a new addition to extrusion and lathe operations – background image tracing. This allows you to bring in bitmap images and trace round them in either the lathe or extrude editor windows. Once you switch to Scene Editor, the shape is presented in 3D form. It’s quick to use for logos or text, while Swift 3D’s tangent and curve tools can be used for more tricky work.
You can now create clones of objects in Swift 3D, instancing the object so that if the original is changed, all of the clones change in the same manner. Also useful is the new array feature, which lets you distribute the cloned objects along defined axes with adjustable positioning.
Rendering has been improved with Soft Shadows, which enhances the visual realism of exported Swift 3D scenes. This effect is adjusted using the light size control, where a 0 value gives hard-edged shadows, but increasing it by small increments creates renderings that have shadows with blurred edges.
Swift 3D builds on the support for the Papervision format in version 5, now allowing output of a whole Swift 3D project as a Papervision 2.0 (PV3D) and Collada (.dae) project – a great timesaver.