• Price When Reviewed: $700; upgrade $150

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

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As a 3D design and animation package, Realsoft 3D covers all the ground you’d expect from a reasonably high-end package. However, it aims itself at those less familiar with 3D work, as well as at the professional – so it covers that ground a little more thinly than some other products. For example, hair, global lighting, glows and lens effects, and footstep-driven character animation are all supported, but they aren’t as complete or comprehensive as in some packages, and they often aren’t as flexible as they could be. That said, the basic modelling and animation functions are strong. All animatable functions have interactive graphs for easy keyframe editing. The package contains its own scripting language for anyone who wants to write new materials, or add their own automatic animation controls, or extra tools. If users want to write code for Realsoft, they’ll find it a lot easier with version 4.5’s JavaScript, although most probably won’t ever touch it. Dynamics are easy to set up, with collision detection and gravity ready to use, and you can even have soft objects that deform when they’re hit. Fluid dynamics mean that if an object’s weight is unevenly distributed, then that will be taken into account when it’s hit. Particle systems are easy to set up – they can even be painted onto the screen – but they’re treated just like any other object, and can be animated and modified in the same ways. This takes a bit of getting used to, but makes for versatile particles. Rendering – particularly network rendering – has improved significantly. It’s easier to render through firewalls and over the Internet using Realsoft 4.5. Users can also organize render farms more efficiently. Displacement mapping for subdivision surfaces and NURBS is supported, and caustics have been introduced to the renderer. There’s also better handling of lens flares, glows, and post-processing effects. Point lights can now use shadow mapping (which usually reduces their render time significantly), and global illumination has been improved. The brand new “Construction” tab offers some new modelling tools based on the idea that a complex object is really just a simple object with a series of constructors attached to it. For example, to create a bent pipe, first build a pipe, then apply a bend constructor to it. The advantage is that users can go back later and adjust the bend. This isn’t new in 3D by any means, but the intention is to spread the philosophy throughout the package in subsequent releases. The idea is a sound one, and it’s already been added to the skeleton tool with excellent results. Other tweaks to the bones functions make working with and weighting skeletons a little easier. Version 4.5 streamlines an already strong package. It doesn’t quite allow the package to compete with its more expensive brethren, and anyone who can afford it will probably want to go for a package such as NewTek LightWave. That said, Realsoft 3D has a range of features that isn’t available anywhere else in this price bracket – and if you want a package you can learn quickly, but which will be able to make a good stab at pretty much any project thrown at it, it’s well worth a look.