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Issue: Volume: 23 Issue: 4 (April 2000)

REVIEWS: Amapi 3D 5




By David Cohn

Amapi 3D Version 5 from Template Graphics Soft ware (TGS) is a powerful NURBS and polygon modeler aimed at professional modelers and animators but, at $399, is affordable for most users. Because of the price, and because it runs on both PC and Macintosh platforms, the product has a diverse user base. Designers regularly use the program to model objects for industrial, interior, product, advertising, architecture, and video games as well as for film and multimedia presentations.
Amapi 3D's Natural Design Interface places tools on a unique floating palette. Models can be displayed in wireframe or shaded modes, and the program can render to the screen or to a file.




Amapi 3D offers what TGS calls a "Natural Design Interface"-actually two different interfaces. When the workspace is configured for the Standard interface, a single toolbar containing all the construction, modeling, and assembly tool kits appears near the left side of the workspace.

When the workspace is configured for the Workshop interface, Amapi displays one of its three main palettes floating near the top-right corner of the workspace. You toggle through the palettes by moving the cursor off the right edge of the workspace.

Building a model in Amapi 3D is straightforward. You begin by creating construction lines, surfaces, or volumes, then modifying the geometry. A wealth of new tools in Version 5 makes it easy to dynamically edit objects by changing their outline, profile, or basic structure. A MetaNurbs deformation bounding box enables you to taper, bend, or twist objects, while the five new smoothing options-Bezier, Doo-Sabin, Catmull-Clark, loop, and butterfly-enable you to create organic surfaces.

After you create several objects, you use the tools on the assembly palette to compose a scene. You can move, rotate, and scale individual objects, or you can group objects and apply functions to the group. Other tools enable you to snap precisely to points on an object, and a LayOn tool enables you to position a facet from a selected object against the facet of another. A duplication tool creates copies of all or part of an object.

Amapi 3D's models are readily transferable to Discreet's 3D Studio Max, Play's ElectricImage, Abvent's Artlantis, and other rendering and animation programs. In fact, Amapi imports from 3D Studio Max DXF, IGES, Illustrator, and VRML formats and exports to more than 20 popular file formats. But TGS includes enough rendering and animation capabilities to make Amapi 3D quite capable in its own right.

The workspace displays models in several modes, including wireframe, flat solid, smooth shade, and a combined wireframe-shade mode. You can add lights, cameras, and materials to create realistic renderings. In addition to the workspace, you can create additional views in their own windows, and control the orientation and display modes individually in each window.

The program's Phong renderer provides control over ambient, diffuse, spec ular, and transparency par a meters, while multilevel shaders enable you to add bump textures and 3D "noise." Version 5's new ActiveStyles technology combines Phong, raytracing, and artistic rendering in one integrated solution.

When it comes to animation, Amapi enables you to define Bezier spline motion paths for objects, cameras, and lights. Keyframes are automatically set up by the curve shape. Version 5 now supports object morphing, and Amapi can render to various video compression/decompression formats, in clud ing Microsoft Video 1, Cine pak, and Intel Indeo as well as Quick Time on the Mac. In addition, with TGS's new ZAP dynamic geometry protocol, supported by Amapi 3D as an export format, you can save animations in a compact form for distribution on the Web. The ZAP protocol sends only key data of 3D geometry, and the free 3D ZAP player then reconstructs the geometry on the client side.

If any negatives exist, they relate primarily to Amapi 3D's somewhat steep learning curve. Although the manual contains a tutorial, command reference, and sample exercises, they are all a bit difficult to follow. Instead of providing additional context-sensitive online help, the help files consist solely of HTML versions of the Introduction and Tutorial sections of the manual.

Once mastered, Amapi 3D will reward users with a powerful modeler, augmented with good rendering and animation tools. And at only $399, Amapi 3D is within the reach of virtually all Mac and PC users.

David Cohn is a computer consultant and technical writer based in Bellingham, Washington. He's the author of AutoCAD 2000: The Complete Reference. You can contact him via email at dcohn@az.com.

Price: $399
Minimum System Requirements: Intel compatibles: 133MHz Pentium or higher; Windows 95/98/NT; 32MB of RAM; 15MB of disk space; SVGA monitor with 32,000 colors. Macintosh: Power Mac processor; Mac OS 8.X or higher; 24MB of RAM; 15MB of disk space; 256-color monitor.
Template Graphics Software
San Diego, CA
www.tgs.com
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