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Author: Pope de Flash | Website: http://www.flashkit.com

Ok so lets talk Swift 3D.

We've all been waiting for the stand-alone from Vecta for the last year. While we were waiting and listening to all the hype about how great the gradient engine would be in the stand-alone. A little company called Electric Rain worked feverously in relative obscurity to create a little program that would change the face of Flash and the web - Swift 3D.

Electric Rain has hit the nail on the head the first time round. Sure there are some shortcomings and room for improvement but over all, the product delivers great control and clean files. Swift 3D also enables you to create primitive models in the program. Thats right, you can build your stuff right in the program. You don't have to have Max or anything else. Big news for the little guy who can't afford the startup costs for 3D solutions.

I spent some time with the guys from Electric Rain at Flash Forward 2000. Both Mike and John Soucie (the owners of Electric Rain) assured me that their goal is to meet the designers needs. And if their attentive note taking while we discussed interface and controls is anything to go by I'd say they weren't bluffing.

Let's take a look at the interface.

If you were new to 3D then I would say you are going to have it easy with this product. And for those of you who are use to working in 3D Studio Max, Maya or Bryce, life just got easier. You can open a file by importing a .3DS file directly (which will keep all its paths and lighting - super cool :) into S3D or you can import an .EPS/Illustrator file.

There is a small bug that John told me that is currently being fixed. If you create an .AI file in any other program other than Illustrator, the file cannot be imported. This will be in the first fix and available shortly. However you can save your files as an EPS file and import them and they'll work fine. I've done it and it rocks, as you will see a little latter in the review.

Swift 3D also comes with primitive tools, which allow you to create text, spheres, cones, and torus'. You cannot create a cube directly on the stage (bummer) but you can create a cube through a character map function in the text area (They walk you through the process in the manual). They are limited. For example, you can't change the shape of the sphere, only its radius and all attributes must be changed in the dialog box; there are no handles for x, y, z on the stage. This is a little annoying for those who have worked in 3D and want that control. I know that John is looking into enhancing the abilities of this part of the program though no promises were made.

Next to the primitive tools are the Scaling, Reset Transformation, Camera Pan, Secondary Camera (second view side by side like top and front views), Zoom, and a Context Sensitive help Button.

The timeline resembles the Flash Timeline. You have a frame-based line but the layers are defined by position, rotation and scale. Adding key frames to this timeline is really simple. Just set the playhead to the frame you want and then make the adjustment to the object. For example, if you move the object to a new section on the screen a keyframe is placed in the position layer. If you rotate the object with the "track ball" it puts a key frame in the rotation layer. And if you scale the object it puts a keyframe in the scale layer. This makes tracking actions fast and easy.

The attribute box sits on the left side. Here you control the width, depth, height, lens size, etc. To change the attributes of an object, select it with the picker tool and all the available attributes for that object will appear. You don't have the control that you have in the big packages but then again your looking for the smallest footprint you can find. So in my opinion there is more than enough control over the objects.

Now for the cool part. Swift 3D uses track balls to move the object for rotation and for lighting attributes. Just click and drag to position them. You can't get much more straightforward than that.

You can also change the light properties, both motion and color. Just click on the light and in the attributes box and you will see a box that says color. Just click on that box, select the new color you want then click the Apply button. Want the light to move across the screen? Just move the playhead to the frame you want the light to stop in and drag the trackball to position the light and your done!

Now here is a little thing I don't care for. Any changes that you make require you to click on the apply button before they take place. Not a big deal but stops the flow if your use to it.

Then next to the track balls are the color pallet and the motion paths. There is so much you can do in these two areas I can't go into detail here. Suffice to say, you have a great deal of control over creating custom motion paths for the models and lights, as well as the ability to create custom materials in the color pallet.

I'm happy to report that the manual is easy to read and understand. They took their time and wrote the book in English not geekonese. If you need an answer or want to understand a feature just open the manual and walk through it. It's like talking to an old friend. They may be the first company to create a manual that won't sit on the shelf and they may also be the first company to avoid having to answer the same phone calls over and over again.

Render times for most of the objects were done in less than two minutes. Text seems to bog down a bit and create large files. All those polygons. They have created a render engine they call RAVID. RAVID ROCKS! Just look at the examples in this review. Give me a break they were done on my flight back from Flash Forward 2000.

In short if you're looking for a 3D solution for Flash then Electric Rain's Swift 3D is your answer.

De Pope Blesses Des Product

» Level Intermediate

Added: 2000-12-14
Rating: 6.93 Votes: 90
(10 being the highest)
» Author
Eddie is one of the principles of the niche information and technology firm, Caddy Fusion Group. He is also the co-author of a up and coming Flash book and the former Content Editor of Flashkit.com
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