Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Ulead Cool 3D Production Studio
- Wonderful array of easy-to-use templates, familiar and straightforward interface, excellent title animations, instantly play video files in background
- Some templates are slightly tacky, create-your-own 3D animations = hard
Cool 3D Production Studio is probably the most user-friendly 3D animation software on the market, but that isn't saying much really. Thankfully, the included templates and pre-made animations are almost worth the purchase price on their own.
Price$ 145.00 (AUD)
Like most budding filmmakers, you probably dream about injecting your videos with animated 3D effects. Unfortunately -- like most budding filmmakers -- you probably don't have the first idea of how to get the job done. Unless you happen to have a degree in physics or engineering, the process of modelling and animating a 3D object is formidably complex (and if you don't know your splines from your vectors; forget about it). When you factor in the bewildering array of adjustable permutations and lengthy waits between renders, it's no wonder that so many 3D aspirations go largely unrealised.
Thankfully, Ulead COOL 3D Production Studio goes a long way to simplifying the process. Like most of Ulead's software range, the application has been tailor-made with the entry-level user in mind. While not quite '3D animations for Dummies', it should nevertheless prove accessible for the average novice; especially when it comes to fancy titling effects. Naturally, creating your own 3D objects remains a much tougher hurdle to cross, but Ulead has included plenty of pre-built templates to get you off to a textbook-free start.
Indeed, it is the inclusion of these numerous templates that makes COOL 3D such an enticing purchase for non-animators. The EasyPalette virtual library includes hundreds of effects, filters and 3D objects which can be applied directly to your project by simply dragging and dropping them into the timeline. Whether you want to add a wall of bubbles to your scuba diving video, or a fiery explosion to your action movie title, there will almost certainly be a template available to suit your needs. While some effects are naturally more impressive than others (certain Flash-style animations are a bit ropey, for example), the overall quality remains high.
When it comes to navigation, COOL 3D Production Studio is a blessedly easy application to get to grips with. It adopts the same basic layout as Adobe After Effects; sporting a similar animation timeline for the precise positioning of objects. Attributes can be easily applied, tracked and adjusted via the Attribute Panel, with all properties and behaviours appearing in the aforementioned timeline. Tools and controls are intuitively laid out in a customisable array of panels and windows, which makes the sparsity of keyboard shortcuts forgivable. Basically, if you know your way around a non-linear editing suite, you shouldn't have any problems tackling COOL 3D's interface (at least when it comes to the basics).
As mentioned earlier, creating your own animations from scratch is a lot more complicated, though the Path and Lathe Object Editors do go some way to simplifying the process. It is important to note however, that there is no 'easy' way to learn 3D modelling -- expect lots of late nights in your future.
As you would probably expect, one of the easiest to achieve procedures in COOL 3D Studio is the creation of 3D titles or credits. By simply choosing an animated template and changing the text, it is possible to produce professional results with very little effort or know-how. Thankfully, rendering times are also very fast, allowing you to preview and adjust your handiwork instantaneously. The end results are highly impressive; with certain templates nearly rivalling slick Hollywood productions. Handily, your 3D titles can be placed over the top of video files; saving you the trouble of exporting your sequences to another application (this will also give your animated objects extra verve -- cloud footage behind a spacecraft, for example).
Finished projects can be saved in a variety of video formats, including AVI, QuickTime and RealVideo. While it can be used as a stand-alone application, COOL 3D Production Studio is also fully integratable with Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus and MediaStudio Pro 8.
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