By Michael Burns | on October 18, 2007
Price When Reviewed: 135 . 39 . 7
Swift 3D is a tool for creating 3D interactive Flash material for the Web and mobile devices, rendering 3D objects as vector files. Though it deals with sophisticated content, it has a number of features that make it as straightforward as Flash and even more user friendly.
Lathe and Extrusion editors make short work of 3D object creation, while tools under the Advanced Modeler stage allow the assignment of smoothing groups to blend hard edges and the fine-tuning of surface meshes.
Though the tools are nowhere near a replacement for a full-fledged 3D suite, the Swift 3D workflow does offer some unique gems in the workflow.
One of these is the Advanced Modeler’s Surface Groups feature that, by assigning groupings to selected points or face selections, makes it easy to edit individual parts of the model and apply materials to these sections.
One of the standout features is Mesh Morphing (above), which is a way of animating deformations to the vertices of a solid mesh. Working in the Advanced Modeler, you set up morph groups (regions of polygons that are affected by the deformation) and morph targets (instances of the deformation that act as a starting and ending point) and animate them in the Scene Editor’s timeline.
Once you’ve set up the animation you can apply materials and lighting to the scene as normal. It works well and has the potential to be a powerful tool.
Viewports have been tweaked for this version, with any Viewport in the Scene Editor able to now display an Orthographic view, which is handy for positioning and comparing sizes of objects.
Another notable feature is a yellow Layout bounding box that works like a video safe area, only rendering content within the bounding box in the final stages – the Render Preview however will display the contents of the entire viewport. Also new are the real-time updates that occur to the other viewports when changes are made in the active area, though this has to be activated by clicking the Redraw All Viewports box.
Electric Rain has introduced new features to its RAViX rendering engine, with useful touches such as variable compression settings to the Optimization dialog, along with a live preview of the effect as it renders, as well as the ability to export to XAML format for creating 3D interface elements for Windows Vista.
The most important output feature, though, is the ability to export true 3D models using 3DS files. These can be exported as individual objects or an entire scene, though some settings like Mesh Morpher animations, Environment and Background Color aren’t maintained. Taking these setbacks into account however, the 3DS export and the animation enhancements still make this a very interesting upgrade for a unique tool.