Amapi Pro 7.5 full review

It’s been well over a decade since Amapi 3D first elbowed its way into the 3D software arena, and in that time the product has evolved almost beyond recognition. I happen to be one of the many who gathered around the Amapi stand at the 1993 Apple Expo in London, and can still remember the thrill of seeing Amapi in action for the first time. Compared to the limited range of alternative 3D software then available for my top-of-the-range 40MHz Quadra, Amapi really did seem to be quite revolutionary.

In the hands of its demonstrator, Amapi 3D appeared to be the all-purpose 3D solution. Its modelling capabilities seemed streets ahead of its rivals and the program sported curious interface, with a toolset that appeared and disappeared as you moved the mouse around the screen. When I purchased a copy of Amapi 3D, I was to discover, however, that the interface took some getting used to...

Over the years, Amapi’s unusual interface has been the biggest source of debate among users: you either like it or you don’t. While such polarization of opinion has possibly hampered Amapi’s acceptance into the 3D mainstream, what has never been in question, however, is the software’s inherent power as a 3D modeller – which, if you can manage to get your head around that interface, has always represented real value for money.

Lurking beneath Amapi’s idiosyncratic look and feel is a 3D polygon and NURBS modeller par excellence. Offering probably the most comprehensive set of modelling tools available in its price range. In common with stablemate Carrara Studio, the latest version of Amapi has added the word ‘Pro’ to its title. Now at version 7.5, Amapi Pro comes replete with a huge batch of improvements and extra tools that represent a significant increase in modelling capabilities.

Chief among these improvements is the introduction of the Dynamic Geometry Navigator, which gives access to an object’s construction history, letting you edit any stage of an object’s development – tweak the thickness of a chamfer or change the profile of a sweep, for example – and have the program update the changes to the object This is a feature that only heavyweight 3D programs such as Maya and Cinema 4D have offered up until now, and is a real productivity boost.

Curves boost
Another important feature that has been added to the mix is an integrated bézier curve drawing and addition tool. This makes the process of creating base objects much more intuitive, and is particularly useful for 2D designers familiar with vector drawing who wish to utilize their skills in the 3D world.

Amapi Pro 7.5 also comes with a set of advanced NURBS snapping assistants, giving modellers instant access to points, curves, intersections and more. Add to this improvements in NURBS modelling, variable radius filleting, contextual menus (finally), a faster real-time display engine and printing enhancements, and you have an affordable 3D modelling package which, in terms of sophistication, rivals the big boys. In other words, Amapi’s already excellent modelling toolset has got even better. And there’s more...

One of Amapi’s traditional failings has always been its limited rendering facilities. Indeed, if you could afford it, it was always advisable to export your Amapi models to another 3D program and render from there. In attempting to address this weakness, Eovia has adopted just this approach, incorporating closer integration with Carrara Studio and its superior rendering engine. Purchasers of Amapi Pro 7.5 now also receive an adapted version of Carrara Studio 3.0, which allows seamless import of Amapi documents. While this is something of a piecemeal solution – I would have preferred an updated Amapi rendering engine that allowed you to output images directly from within the program – it nevertheless holds a certain allure. Carrara Studio is in itself an excellent 3D application; working in combination with Amapi, users can now take advantage of the best aspects of each program.

Also introduced in Amapi Pro 7 is a full version of CADance, which enables the program to communicate with all major CAD/CAM systems. There is even support for the MicroScribe system, which lets you digitize 3D objects directly into Amapi. As well as this, there are numerous minor improvements, including the ability to use Booleans on NURBS surfaces, the Ruled Surface tool, which allows you to join open-ended NURBS surfaces and an updated Chamfer tool.

If all of this is good news to 3D users on a limited budget, there is, or course, the usual downside associated with most new releases of software. I ran Amapi Pro 7.5 on G4 and G5 machines, each with 1GB RAM installed, and experienced a number of problems: windows failed to redraw correctly; floating palettes either disappeared when required or refused to disappear when no longer required; the program regularly stalled, necessitating restarts; crashed when exporting to Carrara or refused to allow you to validate changes to objects.

Many of these symptoms were cured when I installed a patch, available freely from the Eovia Web site; but even the installation of the patch was problematic, requiring a complete re-install of Amapi Pro in order to get it to function correctly. Another negative is the printed manual, which, although well written is let down by a poorly executed index.

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