• Price When Reviewed: 390 . 95

  • Pros: Easy to use, with a familiar interface and high-quality rendering make Strata a good buy.

  • Cons: Arguably the worst feature is the single level of undo. This should really be addressed because mistakes are common in 3D.

  • 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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It’s all very well being a bit different. However, sometimes it’s good to be a part of the pack, learning from the mistakes and successes of the rest of the group.

There are plenty of differences between the current crop of 3D tools, but there are similarities, too – after 10 to 15 years of development, 3D software developers have learned what works and what doesn’t. And when a particular developer comes up with a great new feature, you can bet that the other programs will soon follow suit. Despite all this, Strata is one of those applications that goes against the grain of traditional 3D conventions.

Part of the reason for this departure is to make it more like an Adobe workflow. View manipulation follows the same scheme as Photoshop – hold the spacebar to pan, space-command-alt zooms in and out, and space-shift rotates the view. It works well, except that when you release the mouse after moving the view it sometimes jumps to a different position. The bigger the previous move, the bigger the jump.

Live linking

Designers and illustrators who are used to working with Adobe applications such as Photoshop will be drawn to Strata. From a marketing standpoint, this seems like a good idea. However, Adobe doesn’t make a 3D program, so attempting to transfer a workflow from a 2D application to the 3D space doesn’t make logical sense.

Strata makes great claims about the familiarity of the interface for 2D designers, but it essentially amounts to an old-fashioned multi-window interface with tabbed palettes and floating dialogs. This setup can be a pain – especially in 3D, where single-window interfaces are much easier to work with. Plus there’s only one level of undo, which can be infuriating.

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New features include Photoshop Live linking (above) – you can load a layered PSD file into Strata and use it as a texture map. Then if you need to make changes, hop back to Photoshop, do what you have to do, and save the file. In Strata CX you can click the update button in the texture panel to update the file applied to your object. It only supports bitmap layers though, so you can’t incorporate live text or adjustment layers. Blending modes aren’t supported either, and this undermines what should be an impressive feature.
Strata has embraced current 3D technology trends and moved the application forward in some key areas. Rendering and radiosity have long been Strata’s most impressive features, and CX now includes support for HDRI lighting too (below). 
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