Strata 3D CX 5 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: 395 . 559

  • Pros: Renders to layers, and offers good Photoshop and Illustrator integration and file support. New subdivision tools, scripting support, bones and IK system, and history palette.

  • Cons: Animation still basic compared to competition. Limited undos.

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Strata is a 3D application aimed at giving designers the kind of simplicity they experience on the likes of Photoshop and Illustrator. It rejects the standard single-window approach found in high-end 3D applications in favour of loads of floating palettes. The approach gives graphic designers an accessible route into 3D design.

 align=right border=0 />The real plus in version CX 5 of Strata is the ability to render each image component to a native Photoshop file as a separate layer – including any textures, lights, shadows, and filters. This means that you have a multi-layered PSD file that can be dropped straight into a workflow when it comes to the compositing stage. 
The Render to Layers function also means that once an image is rendered you can work on individual facets of the scene, such as increasing the opacity or highlights of an effect, without a long and arduous re-rendering operation.
<div class=floatedimage><img src=here). However, it is possible to open another window and start working on a new project while rendering is taking place.

The Adobe look-&-feel is continued with the provision of a history palette, which offers multiple undo, as well as dockable palettes. Infinite undos, and a version of Photoshop’s Revert command wouldn’t hurt, but the versioning tools improve on previous versions of the software.

Other interface enhancements include an auto-collapse feature for stacking palettes. Native Illustrator and PDF file import comes in handy, too.

Strata is one of the most straightforward 3D packages available, and offers impressive power at an affordable price. Designers looking to dabble in 3D will feel right at home with the friendly interface and familiar tools.

Tech notes: Strata Live 3D

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Live 3D is Strata’s answer to Electric Rain’s Swift3D and is an equally welcome addition to getting animated 3D up on the Web, or into the latest PDF documents. Whereas Swift is based on Flash, Live 3D is based on Java and exported out to HTML, so doesn’t require plug-ins. It can save out an embedded Flash project too. Strata 3D CX 5 has a dedicated Render to Live 3D command. 
You’ll probably get more predictable results if you use this, but you can author your base animation using any VRML exporter. 
Once in Live 3D, you can fine tune the animation by removing extraneous geometry and animated keyframes and slimming down mesh complexity using a slider. A materials library is included for customizing the imported scenes and ambient and directional light sources can also be added to scenes. Interactivity is driven by scripting, and made up of a series of animated sequences. You can also create conditional relationships between scripts to create new animations and simulations.
Live 3D’s interface is rather murky and old-fashioned compared to CX 5, and feels as if it has been brought in wholesale from another package, but the base functionality works fine. 
(Bottles image by Carlos Vega. Light carving image by Ed Tuttle).</div>
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