REVIEW DECEMBER 12, 2000
Electric Rain Swift3D

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I also have to give high marks for documentation. I don't usually discuss manuals in my reviews, but Nick Petterssen, the author of the Swift3D manual, is quite a talented writer. He not only gives you all the information you need to use the program, but he does so in an entertaining and economical manner. Unfortunately, at least in the release I have, all of the documentation refers to the Windows version.

There are some quirks with this program. Aside from the heavy memory requirements mentioned earlier, render times are incredibly long, especially for the relatively simple vectors this program outputs. With the Gundam model above, which had 9,883 polygons by Swift3D's reckoning, a single frame took 75 seconds to render on my G4 400. By comparison, Cinema 4D XL, with 4x4 oversampled antialiasing in Raytrace mode, was able to render out a TIFF of the same object in 35 seconds with significantly better results. Also, the render window in Swift3D previews a wireframe, so you can't even see your final output until it's finished rendering.

Gundam rendered in Cinema 4D XL 6.1 (Raytraced with 4x4 oversampling) from .3DS file. Render time at 640 x 480: 35 seconds.

Gundam rendered in Swift 3D (mesh shading) from .3DS file. Render time at 640 x 480: 75 seconds.

 

Also on the quirky side, I was unable to interrupt a preview of the Gundam's animation until I tried to force quit Swift3D, which I did when I realized that the animation preview was looping. The Stop button simply wouldn't respond. Nor would any menu items.

The bottom line
I can't help but think a little more could have gone into this program. While Swift3D is obviously geared toward saving space, it would still be nice to be able to access more advanced 3D features. After all, not all Flash work is done for the Web. It's used by presentation professionals as well, and their file size needs are a lot less restrictive than those of Web designers.

Keep in mind that any 3D package can output image sequences that can be imported into Flash or LiveMotion. This includes Pixels 3D and Strata 3D, both of which are available for free and come with pretty sophisticated modeling, animation and rendering capabilities. (Strata 3D is available from http://www.3d.com; Pixels 3D 3.63 is available from http://www.pixels3d.com.)

The difference is that Swift3D outputs vectors, which means much smaller files. And the price point, $139, is pretty decent. So our final recommendation is mixed. If you need sophisticated 3D in your presentations, you won't find it in Swift3D. But if you just need to do simple 3D text animations and have a great need to keep your file size down, Swift 3D is for you. Final recommendation: Neutral.

For more information, visit http://www.erain.com.

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