So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Microspot 3D Toolbox
- Some instability
This is a useful 3-D tool with potential for Mac users on a budget.
Price$ 15.00 (AUD)
Note: The price of this product is in US$.
Microspot 3D Toolbox is a bit of a curiosity: it's a truly modular 3-D application. You start off with a free base application that's useful in its own right as an object viewer. It lets you open 3DMF, Google Sketchup (.SKP) and 3DS files. If you've got 3DS Max, Vue or Poser in your workflow, you can import a combination of models from them — and Sketchup — into the same scene.
This scene can then be customised by dragging image files into the scene from the desktop, to create backgrounds and provide textures for objects. Texture replacement on models can take a bit of time, but if you click Ungroup you can separate models into component parts ready for individual texture application. You can also drill down further through the levels of grouping contained within the object, by using the Edit Group Menu command or alternatively Option-double clicking the 3-D object. Either method will open a new sub-document window with the object broken down into its components.
Once you've done this, holding down Ctrl and dragging textures onto the component will restrict their application to that single component. If you're thinking of buying Photoshop Extended for its 3-D texturing capabilities, you might want to check this out first.
However, if you want to save work, or do anything complicated, you'll need to purchase a serial number. This opens up the Library, Save and Export functions. You'll then also have access to Microspot's custom library and be able to start working with the plug-in pack modules. These modules, available for an additional cost, offer textures, modelling primitives, wall-creation tools and modelling tools. You can make the output look more natural by adding the Light and Render pack, which offers point lights, spotlights, sun and ambient brightness, and three renderers, including a raytrace renderer.
The most useful module is the Animation pack, which includes the Animation Tweener palette. This displays all animated objects, as well as any camera and light animations. You can animate several objects using variable 'tween' timings, as if they were on separate animation timeline tracks. The interface is slow to update in places, but the finished result looks fine once exported to QuickTime.
The Camera and Alignment pack is useful for animation too, with palettes for aligning objects, aligning the camera and nudging objects into place and switching the cursor options.
Several actions, such as Apply Gravity or Add Base Plate, provide workflow shortcuts when working in 3-D space. The base plate is a ground plane to cast shadows onto while rendering, but you'll need the Light & Render pack to use anything but wireframe and preview rendering.
The application crashed a couple of times, so it's essential to save your work.
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