Price: £720 plus VAT
AXELedge is a complete solution for creating 3D Web content. It does require viewers to download an extra plug-in for their browser, but it will play on most systems without much argument. The authoring package is laid out well, and to create a project, you simply work your way along the top menu bar from model through to publish. It’s all very logical, and you’ll be setting up your first 3D Web site in no time. The first step in an AXELedge project is to create your 3D world by building and texturing objects. Modelling is basic – you can create objects one face at a time, use primitives, or build lathed objects. For more complex projects, you can import VRML files. Objects can have simple colour maps, or image textures wrapped onto them. You can also use reflection maps to simulate shiny objects. For animation, you can deploy basic keyframes and skeletons, or you can create and animate particle systems. Particles are simple: add an icon, and particles will start spraying from it. You can then set size, gravity, and speed to set up smoke, flames, and explosions. The package will render your animation with a traditional 3D look, or in a more cartoony style. Interaction is provided with sensors and reactions. Sensors can be key presses, mouse clicks, time triggers, or even other animated events. Reactions can be animations, audio, hyperlinks and the like. They’re assembled, and linked using a flowchart display. The result is a robust system for interactive animations. You can link events to each other to create complex motions and sequences. However, there are limitations, and anything more than the basic interaction is going to be beyond the scope of the program. The main problem with AXELedge isn’t anything to do with the software itself, but that Macromedia already got there first. With its huge base of users, Macromedia has set the pace for the 3D Internet. Whatever you think about technological monopolies, they do tend to prevail in the end. AXELedge will have an uphill struggle.