|By Douglas King
Geared toward animators who wish to give their digital creations an illustrated look, finalToon is a cartoon and illustration renderer for Discreet's 3ds max. The program also offers CG artists and designers a powerful tool for technical illustration. With it you can create stylized television cartoons, anime, and various technical designs and drawings.
FinalToon can be accessed from a number of areas within 3ds max. First, finalToon can be used as a rendering effect. The second area is in the Material Editor, where you can apply a Cartoon Material or a finalToon Shader. FinalToon texture maps are the third area, and include Hatching, Flat Mirror, Reflect/ Refract, and Thin Wall Refraction. Finally, a finalToon Material Converter exists in 3ds max's Utilities section, which is used to automate the conversion process from existing 3D materials to 2D.
|FinalToon enables artists to apply hand-drawn or cartoon-like stylized looks to their digital imagery.
When you activate finalToon in your scene as a render effect, there are four rollouts—Global Settings, Default Edges, File Output, and Canvas—in which you adjust the settings to suit your needs. You will spend the majority of your time in the Default Edges rollout, which incorporates Line Styles—the heart of finalToon—and enables you to create and fine-tune your own customized look for your creations.
FinalToon offers users a choice of six different line types: Fold Edges, Crease Edges, Intersection Edges, Material ID Edges, User-Defined Visible Edges, and Angle Edges. By clicking on any of the default buttons next to the individual line style, a new window opens called the Line Editor. In the Line Editor you will find a large number of options and controls. It is within this line editor that you define the exact style you want for your outline.
After defining the individual line styles, you can save the combinations as TON or FTS files. This feature is important because you will spend a good deal of time experimenting to get the look you wish. You can save the information for later use, or share with others who are working on the same project.
The program also comes with more than 30 preset line styles from which to choose. Among the options available are Felt Tip, Japanese, and Hand-Drawn. You can modify these to suit your needs and resave, building your own library.
FinalToon is the first line renderer for 3ds max to offer full support for Rendered Elements, which gives you the ability to render each of the line options separately. The program also provides the ability to output to Shockwave Flash and Adobe Systems' Illustrator.
A pet peeve of mine is companies that provide little or no documentation for their programs. Cebas Visual Technology is not among these. The online manual and tutorials are both well written and detailed. Supplied on the CD are hours of AVI videos that walk you through everything from authorization to setting up line hatching and material transparency.
It is difficult for me to find anything negative to say about this program. The interface is user-friendly, and I found it easy to create the looks I wanted. One downside is that the install program incorrectly sets the path for the texture maps used in all sample files. It presents a small inconvenience and is easily fixed by setting the correct path.
Compared to the Ink 'n' Paint material that ships with 3ds max, finalToon stands out in a few areas, specifically in its ability to adjust non-uniform line variations and save them as line styles. While Ink 'n' Paint does offer control over non-uniform line variations on ink outlines, finalToon provides fine detail over all intersections, edges, and creases, both visible and hidden.
I am not certain that I would use finalToon to create "traditional" 2D cartoons, such as those in the style of Don Bluth. (For these, I would lean more toward 3ds max's Ink 'n' Paint.) But for all types of non-traditional illustrated and stylized looks and technical illustration, I highly recommend finalToon.
Perhaps finalToon's greatest strength is its ability to create unique illustrations and technical renderings. In particular, the option of adding line hatching and canvas effects to an image is impressive. Cebas Visual Technology's finalToon fills a niche for digital artists, animators, and designers who want to create animations without a computer-animated look and feel, which is a popular trend today.
Douglas King is a Computer Graphics World contributing editor based in Dallas, Texas. He is currently developing animated projects for his company, Day III Productions.
Minimum System Requirements: 3ds max 4; 256mb of RAM
Cebas Visual Technology; www.cebas.com