Price: £115 plus VAT
Company: Electric Image
While the heavyweight 3D applications battle it out for supremacy in the games and effects market, a smaller battle quietly rages on: Electric Image Amorphium and Pixologic ZBrush are the contenders for the best ‘organic modeller’ crown. With the latter receiving a major update recently, it’s now Amorphium’s turn. The tidy interface has been created to accommodate the non-technical user (there are no multi-nested menus to wade through) and works well, with both drop-down menus and clear icons to help navigation. While a printed manual is available, the online version is a click away, along with lots of tutorials. Good job too, as Amorphium 3 is positively bursting with features. The Composer window is where all projects start and end. It includes object-creation tools and the rendering engine, Raydiocity. To the left is the tools palette containing transformations, lights, objects, and even an object parenting/hierarchy mode. Raydiocity is a high-quality renderer with numerous options (both anti-aliasing and oversampling values start at 1-x-1 pixels, rising to 64-x-64), plus a radiosity effect. Standard meshes (cubes, spheres, cylinders and cones) can be created, and 3D Text is easily generated from the expandable toolboxes within the tools palette. Basic Brushes can pull, push, pinch, and smooth areas of the target object. Amorphium 3 specializes in realistic materials, however, with Composer allowing access to objects such as the excellent Wax. Working as its name suggests, extra ‘wax’ is added to objects with the mouse, effectively growing the surface. The wax can also be melted away, even leaving holes in the object. Biospheres are Amorphium’s version of metaballs – sticky mercury-like spheres that gel together. Although well implemented and fun, they’d benefit enormously from a particle system to give them liquid-like properties. Smoke spheres can add realistic smoky, dust-like clouds, but it’s the Tin tool that really shines. Offering subdivision surfaces, Tin offers a smoothed version of the usual geometry shapes, and lets users add, remove, and generally transform the object’s control cage at vertex, edge, and polygon-face levels. Subdividing a single polygon face is as easy as clicking two adjacent edges of the target polygon. Boolean operations (add, subtract, and intersect) are also simple: just select the two meshes you wish to combine. Further modification is carried out using Meshman. Meshman tools can both increase and decrease the polygon count intelligently, while vertices can be welded and un-welded with ease. Objects with faulty polygons can also be repaired. Masking is particularly thorough, and works well with the Paint module. Consisting of adjustable brush, eraser, and smoothing tools, Paint is highly responsive. HeightShop is another great tool, wrapping 2D images around objects and using its brightness to emboss the surface. Very effective, and enormous fun. The all-important import and export formats include Amorphium2, 3DS, LightWave, and Alias|Wavefront – and Web designers will be overjoyed to learn that Amorphium 3 has Flash output that includes soft shadows.