Price: £299 plus VAT
SceneWeaver is a tool for assembling photo-realistic 3D environments for Macromedia Shockwave 3D and Director 8.5 projects. It takes photographic stills, panoramas, or complete spheres, and lets users place 3D objects into the images so they integrate with the correct perspective. If the objects are placed in an interactive scene, the perspective is preserved as the image is rotated. Panoramas can be created by any of the range of products on the market. RealViz’s own Stitcher 3.5 can create panoramas or the fully spherical room images used in our test. 3D objects can be models extracted from photographs using the company’s ImageModeler application, or they can be conventional 3D models from other sources, saved in the Wavefront OBJ format with texture maps. SceneWeaver is available in the standalone form tested here, or as part of the £1,399 RealViz Interactive package that also includes Stitcher and ImageModeler. This suite makes sense, as the other two applications can be used to create environment images and models, which SceneWeaver can then assemble into projects. The suite is Windows only – SceneWeaver is supplied for Mac and Windows. The most likely deployments seem to be in interactive Web catalogues or virtual tours where items that weren’t in the original photographs can be integrated; and possibly photographic simulations where you want to incorporate an object such as a car or building so it has the correct perspective. It’s always been possible to integrate rotating 3D objects into the centre of QuickTime VR panoramic movies – VR Toolbox’ VR Worx suite offers this, for instance, as did the now defunct MGI Interactive Imaging Suite. SceneWeaver is more sophisticated because it lets users calibrate the image by setting perspective guides, and aligning the imported object to them. This means that it doesn’t have to be positioned in the exact centre of a scene. Imported objects can be precisely aligned to the apparent positions of photographic items within a scene. By default, they are imported aligned to the ‘floor’, but can be moved around the ‘room’. They can also be scaled and rotated, with red collision warnings displayed if they intersect walls or other objects. If you want to place, say, a 3D model of a computer onto a desktop in the original scene, just create a temporary primitive shape in the scene, pin the edges to the corners of the desk, then select the stacking alignment tool that forces the model to sit on the top surface. The primitive can be hidden or deleted, leaving the computer apparently on the desk. The correct perspective is then preserved however the scene is rotated. There’s scope for animating imported objects, too. On the other hand, users can’t match the lighting of the 3D objects to the scene; they won’t cast shadows or reflect the environment, so the realism of the imports only works up to a point. SceneWeaver is supplied with two decent tutorials. It’s vital to work through these, as the process isn’t particularly self-explanatory. They include instructions for outputting to Director. SceneWeaver is a well thought out product and the price is reasonable for what it does – but it may be a solution in search of a problem.