• Price: 60 . 115 . 552

  • Company: E Frontier

  • Pros: Full-function 3D modeller/renderer in three levels for reasonable prices. Integrates with Poser, ArchiCAD, Illustrator and Photoshop.

  • Cons: Claims of ease of use are exaggerated. Entry level LE lacks bevels and support for VRML and Shockwave 3D.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 6 out of 10 We rate this 6 out of 10

Shade 7 is a general-purpose 3D design program that was originally launched in 1986 in its native Japan. Following the takeover of Curious Labs (best known for Poser) by Shade’s developer e-frontier, the latest Shade 7 is being promoted in the West. It’s pitched as a beginner-level 3D tool (or a tool for 2D designers and illustrators with minimal 3D needs) which may be true when considering the price, but nevertheless it’s a sophisticated modelling tool with a steep learning curve.

There are three versions with prices ranging from peanuts to reasonable, plus keen cross-grade offers for Poser users. Shade 7 Designer LE (for £60 plus VAT) is the entry level version, with a decent set of modelling, lighting and rendering tools but a maximum rendered size of 1,600-x-1,200 pixels. You only get ‘lite’ text support and no bevelling – both are popular beginners’ effects. Shade 7 Standard (£115 plus VAT) has extra modelling tools and added rendering effects, for a maximum render of 4,000-x-4,000 pixels. Shade 7 Professional costs £552 plus VAT and is more CAD-oriented. It supports network-distributed rendering up to 22,528-x-22,528 pixels, Callisto rendering (which uses different techniques within the same image for the best result), full glow tools, depth of field, and radiosity scanline control.

PoserFusion is built into all three versions. It imports Poser objects and scenes into Shade, with integration with other objects and animations if you want to use a better set of rendering features. Shade users can also create new Poser content such as figures, animals, cloth and accessories, and export these as Poser 3D objects.

 border=0 /><p>The PoserFusion import brings in native PZ3 and PZZ?files but in our case all the materials disappeared.
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Also supplied is MagicalSketch, an application for quickly roughing out 2D shapes that are then converted to 3D automatically. Professional has an interesting tool for building 3D rooms from 2D floor plans. 
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All versions can import or export a decent range of standard and proprietary 3D and animation output formats, though the 3DS Max format is confined to Professional, while Designer LE can’t do VRML 2.0 or Shockwave 3D. 
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