Strata 3Dpro 3.0

After languishing on the sidelines for years, Strata is back – with a new parent company, C3D Digital, and a new product name: Strata 3Dpro 3.0. But while this update helps Strata retain its position as the most user-friendly 3D application, with rendering and animation features comparable to more expensive packages, the Strata community may not find enough new additions here to make it worth the wait. At first glance, there’s no noticeable difference between Strata 3Dpro and its previous incarnation, Strata Studio Pro. The distinctive interface and efficient workflow are unchanged, but behind the scenes you’ll find support for the G4 chip’s AltiVec engine and multiprocessor environment. Strata 3Dpro 3.0’s implementation of standard 3D-tools for modelling, texturing, and animation are straightforward and intuitive, as are the comprehensive bone and inverse-kinematics systems. The texturing tools come with a large library of textures and shaders, and allow WYSIWYG texture editing directly on objects. For modelling, Strata’s flexible Skin and Hull tools let you generate 3D objects from 2D curves. You can also convert objects into bézier surfaces. Control freak
Strata 3Dpro’s tool-set stops short of giving users full control over modelling and interface variables. Because the program calculates mesh-object resolution automatically, you can’t customize the polygon count for optimal redraw and rendering times. It also lacks options for sub-geometry component editing, such as polygon extrusion and vertex welding. There are still no hot keys for panning, tilting, or zooming, and the program’s single undo can be extremely limiting for professional production work. Strata 3Dpro does directly import the Amapi model format, however, so users have access to a spline-based modeller. Where Strata 3Dpro really delivers is in rendering. The ray-tracing and radiosity renderer offers fine numeric control over shadow quality, primary light-ray fidelity (even the number of secondary light rays), letting you balance image quality and rendering time. The result is photo-realistic still images and QuickTime movies at up to broadcast resolution.

OUR VERDICT

With 3Dpro 3.0, Strata lives up to its reputation as a viable and affordable 3D-solution for the Mac. The price should be attractive to architects and designers looking for a quality 3D-production tool, as well as to enthusiasts looking for an introduction to the world of 3D. More-experienced 3D professionals will find Strata easy to learn, but they may find its modelling and interface features limiting.

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