Issue: Volume: 23 Issue: 3 (March 2000)

REVIEWS: 3D Studio Viz R3

By Joe Greco

In 3D Studio Viz, Autodesk combined the core technology of its 3D Studio Max R3 with tools that bring 3D visualization to architects, land planners, mechanical engineers, and other professional designers. The third release of the product introduces a new interface, new tools, and enhanced interoperability with other Autodesk products, including AutoCAD 2000.

The most noticeable interface change in Viz R3 involves the nine tabbed divisions at the top of the screen. Their purpose is to define different categories, in cluding the creation and editing of 2D and 3D shapes, arch itectural elements, materials, and lighting. For in stance, selecting the AEC tab displays icons for elements such as stairs, windows, and doors.
Studio Viz R3's Asset Browser enables Internet search capability with which users can find 2D and 3D content to add to their Viz models.

The new interface is an improvement because it makes the most common tools more accessible, eliminating some mouse clicks. However, Autodesk didn't carry out this idea to its fullest extent. I was hoping that when I selected one of these new icons, its most important modification op tions also would pop up directly below (for in stance, that the Angle field, already selected, would pop up when I chose the Twist tool).

Other edits are still tricky in Viz. For example, rounding an edge continues to be a chore because it is not a one-step operation, as it is in competing prod ucts like formZ and Rhino, both of which have a 3D-fillet tool.

My favorite among the tools enhanced in R3 is Modeling Context, which enables users to set the way shapes interact with each other. For instance, when the Modeling Context mode is not active, Viz creates every shape as a separate object. However, when the mode is invoked, on-the-fly Booleans can be created by specifying that the next shape be created as a Union, Subtraction, or Inter section to the existing shape. This is a great modeling addition. However, it should be noted that editing these newly created shapes, such as enlarging a subtracted cutout, can be difficult because the new shapes become part of the original object and cannot be readily selected.

Defining workplanes is an important task in 3D modeling, and a new feature called AutoGrid makes this easy. When you choose this tool, Viz displays a 3D x,y,z icon that automatically reorients itself when the mouse passes over the different faces of a model, thereby creating a temporary workplane. Any object created in this mode is automatically oriented to the face nearest to the mouse.

Viz R2 featured an Asset Manager that enabled users to browse and access 3D content from their local disk or a network. In Viz R3, this tool is called the Asset Browser, and the tool expands its search capability to the Internet, making it one of R3's most impressive new features. The new Asset Browser runs on top of Internet Explorer 5.0. Without leaving Viz, users can access sites that have 3D content. Additionally, 2D content such as materials and textures also can be dragged directly from a Web site onto a Viz model.

Viz R3 also improves another feature introduced in R2: DWG Linking. Previously, Viz users could work only with standard AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT, and Architectural Desktop files, but now they also can work with Autodesk's entire Design 2000 family of products, including AutoCAD 2000, Auto CAD Map, Land Development Desk top, Architectural Desktop, and Mechanical Desktop. I tried Viz R3's enhanced DWG Linking with AutoCAD 2000 and found that working between the two programs opened the door to some of Viz's best new interoperability features.

For instance, Viz's Partial Reload feature is a time-saver that enables users to update only a small portion of a drawing. Also, Viz now has layers, and it recognizes the ones defined in AutoCAD 2000. Users working with XREFS in AutoCAD 2000 will be happy to learn that DWG Linking no longer ignores these files.

Despite a few minor shortcomings, 3D Studio Viz R3 is an excellent upgrade. The new features in this package make it a worthwhile purchase for most users.

Joe Greco is a writer, trainer, and consultant specializing in CAD. He can be reached at

Price: $1995
Minimum System Requirements: Windows 98/NT; 200MHz Pentium processor; 128MB of RAM; 300MB of hard-disk space; 800x600 graphics card
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