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Building on the modeling prowess that has brought the program a small but loyal following, the latest version of TGS's Amapi 3D offers a number of enhancements and adds rendering features. But Amapi 3D 4.1, like its predecessors, takes a decidedly nonstandard approach to interface designone that will likely get in the way of productivity for many aspiring 3-D artists.
When you open Amapi, you quickly realize that in regard to interface design, icons are not always better than words. Often-inscrutable icons surround the main working view (a full-screen perspective on the 3-D space). You can't customize the icons, and although you can choose a more "standardized" interface mode, this simply places the default tool icons into a tool bar with no clear organization. Color coding the icons and offering pop-up labels showing the tools' names would go a long way toward making the program more usable.
Amapi organizes tools into three general categories: construction (for creating primitives and surfaces from scratch), modeling (for manipulating surfaces and vertices), and assembly (for moving, scaling, and other editing operations). This scheme is somewhat confusingfor example, creating NURBS (nonuniform rational B-splines) objects is a modeling operation, yet the NURBS tool is in the construction category. Once you get accustomed to this approach, however, you'll find a fairly powerful set of modeling tools, including advanced NURBS and surface-generation capabilities. Boolean and trimming tools let you fine-tune a model's shape and edge characteristics, and the mold tool offers a "vertex magnet" for the virtual clay-style editing of a shape. The advanced modeling tools are limited, though; you can't change a polygonal shape into a NURBS shape, for example, and NURBS-based objects often convert during the editing process into less accurate polygons.
Version 4.1 includes a host of new rendering features, such as OpenGL support and texture mapping for objects, but you'll likely still want an external, full-featured rendering and animation package. The program is somewhat sluggish, even on a fast G3 system, and prone to crashes. The documentation could use some editing, and the online help requires launching a Web browsernot an option if you need to devote all your available memory to Amapi itself.
Those with some 3-D experience may be able to figure out Amapi 3D 4.1's operational intricacies, but such users may be happier with the more capable (and more expensive) form-Z, from autodessys. Those new to 3-D are better off with a more straightforward package, such as MetaCreations' Infini-D or Play's Amorphium.
RATING: PROS: Extensive surface-editing tools; powerful Boolean capabilities; new rendering features. CONS: Nonstandard interface; sluggish performance. COMPANY: TGS (800/544-4847, http://www.tgs.com ). LIST PRICE: $399.
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