Price: £150 plus VAT
Movie 3D is a surprisingly high-spec 3D modelling and animation package from the makers of MoviePack. It’s basically a cut down version of Realsoft 3D 4.0 (reviewed in Digit #35). That said, considering Realsoft 3D cost around $700, and Movie 3D will cost about £150, it hasn’t been cut down very much. All that’s been removed from this already competitively priced package is the ability to program your own shaders to create new types of procedural material effects, and the simulation tools that let you add real-world physics to your animations. Automatic footstep animation tools have also now been removed (from both Realsoft and Movie 3D) – simply because, although they were a brave attempt at automating a difficult process, they weren’t very good. Plenty remains, though. It’s clear from the outset that Movie 3D’s features go way beyond what you’d expect at the price. All the basic modelling and animation tools are in place – including a useful, if rather unconventional, implementation of particle systems in which you can actually spray paint particles onto a scene, then animate them. The bones system isn’t the best IK implementation in the world, but it’s a long way from being the worst, and at this price, the fact that it even exists is a bonus. With a little work, you can create complex skeletons that will realistically control your animations. Another important animation technique is Choreography – this lets you teach objects to animate, based on other attributes. For example, it’s possible to teach muscles to bulge as they’re deformed, or, objects to move based on the intensity of a light. Well organized choreography can save you a lot of time in constructing complex animations. The star of Movie 3D, however, is its use of subdivision surfaces. You can create a subdivision object as quickly as any other primitive. Switching to edit mode, you can then work on faces, pulling them out, subdividing them, smoothing the object – either just around a given face, or over the whole surface of the object. It’s a very interactive process, and you’ll quickly be creating and refining complex shapes. The basic workflow of Movie 3D is easy to pick up. A combination of hot keys and mouse gestures let you move from one view to another, and manipulate objects in your scene. You can switch between wireframe, OpenGL, and fully rendered views at the click of a button, and all the objects in the scene are instantly available through a hierarchical Windows Explorer-style panel at the left of the screen. A family affair What makes Movie 3D a really interesting addition to the AIST suite, however, is the way it’s been integrated with the rest of the MoviePack series of products. You can take objects and scenes into MoviePack, and drop them straight onto the timeline as though they were video clips. You can also use Movie3D’s rendering engine within MoviePack for compositing. This opens up a realm of new compositing possibilities, and blurs the line between 2D and 3D work as never before. In addition, AIST has also added the ability to create custom skins for the package – altering the user interface in whatever way suits your working methods. Overall, Movie 3D represents good value for money. The range of tools is impressive, and, although quality varies, they can produce whatever effect you desire.