Strata ProCreator

There can be few more complicated tasks in the realm of human endeavour than 3D modelling and animation (Open heart surgery ranks near the top of the list, but a heart’s a heart – 3D modellers have to re-create the entire universe, including some bits that have never been seen by the human eye). While it’s certainly possible to produce stunning images within a very small set of tools, most 3D artists and animators need (or desire) the most comprehensive tool set available. Yet one area that is often overlooked in the lust for state-of-the-art features like metaballs, NURBS, inverse kinematics and particles is basic texturing. Texturing – the art of dressing up models to closely emulate the appearance of real-world counterparts – falls into two categories. You can cannibalize the real world by taking photographs and wrapping them around your models, or you can employ the power of the computer to generate procedural textures. The former often consume less memory and, for obvious reasons, can be more lifelike, but procedural textures make life simpler since there are fewer files to manage. ProCreator is a new plug-in for Strata’s modelling and animation package Studio Pro and it adds a number of procedural texturing tricks to the modeller’s arsenal. While all modelling packages ship with an array of procedural textures (woods, marbles, metals, plastics, etc) it can often prove difficult to achieve the effect you want. For example, to create a single wooden plank is simple; creating a room’s worth of wooden floorboards quickly racks up the number of objects, adding to memory requirements and rendering time. ProCreator provides a texturing tool specifically for creating wooden planking, making that bare wooden floor a snap: one plane, one texture. There’s a similar tool for creating tiles of other material, from flagstones to polished floor tiles. A separate procedure does a wonderful job of simulating concrete from just-poured to old and rust-stained. ProCreator offers the means to create entire planets with a few clicks of the mouse. You can specify different ground colours, and a variety of shades for sea levels – making it simple to generate a universe full of planets with an infinite range of mountains, valleys, and so on. One omission from the planetary shader is the ability to create atmospheric effects like cloud cover, but it remains a great time-saver for sci-fi enthusiasts.There are less familiar effects available, too. Spline reflection lets you create iridescent colour reflections. And the colour spectrum shader generates rainbow-hued effects like stained glass. A Shader simulates silk – difficult using traditional procedural textures.

OUR VERDICT

There’s probably nothing here the dedicated modeller can’t live without, but it certainly makes life a lot simpler. ProCreator suffers the drawback of all plug-in collections: there are probably one or two elements you really want, and a couple you don’t. But modelling professionals using Studio Pro will find ProCreator a worthwhile addition to their toolbox.

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