Price: £595 plus VAT
Company: Right Hemisphere
Rather than cram everything into a single bloated application, Right Hemisphere – maker of the acclaimed Deep Paint 3D software – takes a different approach. Its latest release includes separate tools: Deep3D (aka Deep Paint 3D 2.0), DeepUV and Deep Exploration. In order, this suite takes care of 3D painting and texturing, UV mapping and editing, and 3D-model management and file conversion. Taking Deep3D first, the program ships with plug-ins for Alias|Wavefront Maya, Discreet 3DS Max, NewTek LightWave and Softimage, which allow you to export models to and from the respective originators to Deep3D – for texture editing and painting – and back again. The Maya plug-in works very well, shifting objects and textures back and forth between the two environments. Brush strokes The program offers the option of painting either directly onto the 2D texture canvas using it’s fine selection of brushes and texture – just as in Photoshop or any other conventional 2D painting application – or to paint directly on the object in 3D. If the latter option is chosen, there are two different modes to work in. The normal mode projects brush strokes onto the model using whatever texture projection is set up. This is like painting on the 2D canvas in terms of stretch and smear, just that you can see exactly which bit of the 3D surface is being painted on. The other option is projection paint mode. With this enabled, the projection is disregarded and your brush strokes are applied directly to the surface of the model based on the current viewing angle. The aim is to rotate the object so that the difficult-to-map area is head-on in the view. The software then projects paint perpendicular to the surface. If you paint off axis, then the paint will smear, so in Projection paint mode you do a lot of rotating the view to get at the bits you want to paint. However, there is a delay in enabling projection paint, especially if the model is large and there are many textures active. So it’s not quite as simple as paint, change view, paint some more. The ideal workflow is to paint most of the model using normal methods, and then use Projection paint for the really tricky bits. DeepUV is the replacement for Texture Weapons and is the company’s UV editing system. DeepUV is no longer integral to Deep3D, but a standalone application. The new system incorporates technology for unwrapping a model’s mesh so that it can be painted on with little distortion in Deep3D. Interaction between Deep3D and DeepUV could be a little more straightforward, though. Currently you load up a model in DeepUV, set the UVs, then choose one of three Export options – Paint with Deep3D, Send UV Update or Send texture Update – to send the data back to Deep3D. There doesn’t seem to be the same option to send data back to DeepUV from Deep3D though. Plus, DeepUV doesn’t open Deep3D .dp3 files, which is bizarre. Surely a common file format between the two apps would make sense. The third tool in the triad is Deep Exploration. This is a cracking little app that every 3D artist should have. On a basic level, it’s a 3D-file-format conversion tool – for instance, if you work with Maya you need Deep Exploration because it can open a huge variety of file formats and save .ma or .mb files. Maya’s Import and Export is severely limited. Incredibly, it can also save .max files. We know of no other program that can do this since Discreet does not, to our knowledge, make 3DS Max’s file format public. It does this only if you have a copy of Max 4 (and licence) installed locally or remotely, by invoking an instance of Max via the 3DS Max DCOM plug-in supplied. Ingenious. Its file format support is by no means exhaustive – for this you’d be better off with something like Okino PolyTrans – but most of the popular formats are there: 3DS, Obj, Dxf, Igs, stl, wrl and vrml to name a few. The major 3D suites’ scene/object formats are supported too – Lightwave Lwo, Lws, Softimage .xsi, and as mentioned Maya and Max too. Notably absent are Cinema 4D and ElectricImage. Batch conversion Where applicable, textures and UVs are exported with plenty of options for converting texture formats and scaling, for instance. To top it off, there’s a full Viewpoint VET output facility and batch conversion too. Objects loaded in can be viewed and manipulated in OpenGL, but also rendered with either raytracing or z-buffer quality. It’s an excellent system for managing and viewing 3D content. The only complaint with the 3D-texturing system, is that it is geared too much towards painting. Not everyone who creates 3D textures paints them, indeed in some cases painting a texture is simply not the way to go. Some might use a compositing approach to construct, rather than paint, a texture. For this, the ability to edit the UVs directly to match the texture – rather than the reverse – is invaluable. There is a free-transform feature, and selections with feathering like Photoshop’s, and it does works well, but something like a magnet or dragnet tool would be a much quicker, more direct option. Relaxing UVs DeepUV has excellent tools for relaxing UVs, so they melt and spread out like hot treacle on greaseproof paper. You can also stitch together disconnected UVs using the Joint function. DeepUV was also fairly prone to crashing and OpenGL errors, though. Right Hemisphere does say substandard graphics drivers are likely to crash the program, but we were using a 3Dlabs Wildcat, a known quantity and officially qualified by many 3D developers. OpenGL display was not great, since wireframe overlays did not show up – necessitating the use of the built-in, but slower, software rendering for display. Other cards may fare better. If you’re good at painting, and prefer the look of hand-painted textures, then the Deep3D/UV system is a superb addition to your 3D arsenal. However, compatibility issues with some graphics cards and a less-then-ideal workflow between the UV and 3D applications slightly dampened our enthusiasm for this otherwise excellent package.