• Price When Reviewed: 997 . 1330 . 1594

  • Pros: Impressively accurate rendering. Wide variety of innovative tools. Offers animation of all objects including colours, real-time shading, interactive rendering, and extract from animation facility.

  • Cons: Steep learning curve. Fairly high price. No obvious construction history, though unlimited undo is available. No paper manual.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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Form.Z has been one of the more capable 3D modelling applications for some years, but version 6.0 sees it take a significant step.

As well as new modelling tools and output functions, this update introduces real animation to the package for the first time. The only motion previously available was walkthroughs and fly-bys.

There’s a full arsenal of primitives, text and terrain tools, metaballs, patches, and NURBS-based surfaces. The package offers great control over objects, and you can quickly and easily edit an object’s parameters after their initial creation.

Form.Z makes great use of parametric derivative objects, which can be generated from other objects including 2D shapes or 3D extrusions. New tools in this version include the S-Loft operation that combines skinning and lofting to generate objects that branch, while the Cap tool enables new surfaces to be formed from boundaries of other objects.

However, if you come to this package cold or with experience in geometric-based modellers, you’ll be facing a steep learning curve. There’s only an electronic version of the manual supplied, but Auto.des.sys has incorporated a form
of tool tip for each section, probably to address the challenge. The inclusion of a 2D drafting module is just one indication that the whole approach to modelling here is different.

Different isn’t necessarily bad though. The package is very flexible when it comes to the wide variety of views and real-time shading options offered. Simply being able to drag-&-drop surface styles onto objects is a real timesaver. Previous stability issues have also been addressed, as the package was rock solid and fast on the various machines we tested on.

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The new animation functions (above) adhere to the object-centric nature of the package, adjusting parameters over time to animate physical changes to any of the Form.Z entities – objects, lights, cameras, and surface styles. 
You can animate by either keyframing or following a path. The key component is the Animation Editor, which allows you to modify the timing and nature of the animation by tweaking function curves (f-curves) between keyframes on a graph. 
Once you’ve got the hang of this process, any animated parameter becomes very flexible – allowing realistic squash and stretch for example, or a door swinging back on its hinges and rebounding off a wall. Surfaces can be animated too, so you could animate metal becoming red-hot for example. Dragging any element into the Animation Score palette automatically assigns an animation track to all relevant parameters, which is a very efficient method. 
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