Eovia, the company bought by TGS and who also own the old MetaCreations product Cararra, has released version 6 of the unorthodox 3D modelling and rendering program Amapi. Amapi is primarily a 3D modelling and rendering program that takes an unusual approach to interface design that many people love, and others loath. Though geared towards modelling, it can perform some basic animation tasks too. However, in this new version Eovia has added a special Web 3D and dynamics system called 3Space.
3Space is designed as a system for creating interactive 3D with dynamics animations and effects for Web pages. It’s designed to reproduce simulations of motion and collisions using forces, masses and other properties such as damping, stiffness, and roughness that you apply to objects.
3Space is based on the ZAP file format. It’s very compact because it only sends the instructions used to construct the 3D scene, and not the 3D scene itself. The browser player uses OpenGL to render the scene – so all objects are generated using polygons for display. The current version of the 3Space browser does not support Internet Explorer on the Mac, only Netscape 4.7 or later, which is a severe limitation.
Modelling in Amapi – its primary focus – has seen some decent upgrading too. The smoothing tools have been refined, and the smoothing tool interface is a bit easier to understand. Combined with the excellent polygon tools, it makes for very competent subdivision surfaces modelling. The tessellation tool, which is different from the smoothing tool that rounds off a model’s edges, has been improved and now offers different subdivision types including a slice tool for cutting up objects.
Amapi 6 also adds more primitives and a height field object that creates a relief from a grayscale image. New deformers add to Amapi’s decent tool set and you can choose to wrap an object around a sphere or cylinder, or use a bitmap image.
Introduced in an earlier version, Amapi 6 has dynamic geometry, otherwise known as construction history. The new version offers a wider gamut of operations that can be contained within an object’s dynamic geometry. The Extrude tool can work on multiple selections on an object or even the entire object, so, for example, you could extrude all the faces of a geodesic sphere to create a golf ball. A new Bump/ Unbump feature lets you exaggerate or smooth contoured surfaces, which is a great accompaniment to the new Height Field tools.
Amapi’s materials editing system used to leave a lot to be desired. Thankfully, there’s a new interface to the system that works a lot better and makes more sense, even though technologically not much has changed.
The previous version of Amapi tended to be unstable on both platforms and unfortunately so does this latest version, which crashed far too often. The Mac version was terribly unstable and had the annoying quirk of refusing to open your saved files. The only way to retrieve them was to Import them.