capsule review

Strata 3Dpro 3.0

After languishing on the sidelines for years, Strata is back, with a new parent company, C3D Digital, and a new name: Strata 3Dpro 3.0. But while this update helps Strata retain its position as the most user-friendly 3-D application, with rendering and animation features comparable to more expensive packages, the Strata community may not find enough new additions here to make it worth the wait.

Just the Basics

At first glance, there's no noticeable difference between Strata 3Dpro and its previous incarnation, Strata Studio Pro. The distinctive interface and efficient workflow are unchanged, but behind the scenes you'll find support for the G4's AltiVec engine and multiprocessor environment.

Strata 3Dpro 3.0's implementation of standard 3-D tools for modeling, texturing, and animation are straightforward and intuitive, as are the comprehensive bone and inverse kinematics systems. The texturing tools come with a large library of textures and shaders and allow WYSIWYG texture editing directly on objects. For modeling, Strata's flexible Skin and Hull tools let you generate 3-D objects from 2-D curves. You can also convert objects into Bézier surfaces.

The Bad and the Good

Strata 3Dpro's tool set stops short of giving users full control over modeling and interface variables. Because the program calculates mesh-object resolution automatically, you can't customize the polygon count for optimal redraw and rendering times. It also lacks options for subgeometry component editing such as polygon extrusion and vertex welding. There are still no hot keys for panning, tilting, or zooming, and the program's single undo can be extremely limiting for professional production work. Strata 3Dpro does directly import the Amapi model format, however, so users have access to a spline-based modeler.

Where Strata 3Dpro really delivers is in rendering. The ray-tracing and radiosity renderer offers fine numeric control over shadow quality, primary light-ray fidelity, even the number of secondary light rays, letting you balance image quality and rendering time. The result is photo-realistic still images and QuickTime movies at up to broadcast or film resolution.

Hidden Power: Strata 3Dpro's Esoterica settings let you fine-tune your images.
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