Chris Yessios, founder of Auto•des•sys


“Form•Z is always going to be above all a 3D modeling and design tool. Rendering is a necessary component for visualizing models.”












“All we have to do is make sure Steve Jobs remains persuaded that the Mac can do a lot more than desktop publishing. It took him a while after he came back, but he finally recognized it.”




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The Future of Form•Z
Seven questions with Auto•des•sys cofounder Chris Yessios

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

[Editor's note: This is a corrected version of the story that appeared here July 26. I mistakenly reported that Form•Z 3.6 would come with support for the multiprocessing G4s. This was incorrect. Auto•des•sys says they will add support as soon as possible. We'll keep you updated.]

Last month Auto•des•sys, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, announced a major change in in the way it will market Form•Z, the company's flagship product and the modeler that helped make desktop 3D a commercial reality back at the time of its launch in 1991. Now, of course, rendering applications ship with increasingly powerful modelers of their own, all wrapped up in a tight, integrated package. On the other hand, Form•Z continues to challenge other developers with innovative new features that keep the program at the vanguard of modeling and making Form•Z an integral part of many a desktop artist's repertoire of tools.

The next release of Form•Z, version 3.6, is scheduled for July 31. According to Auto•des•sys, this will mark the last release of Form•Z as we know it. Beginning with the next major update after 3.6, Form•Z will be offered in a modular package designed to streamline the way artists work in 3D—and add a few extra touches to bring a more experimental approach to design.

Seven questions
We had a chance to interview Auto•des•sys Founder, CEO and President Chris Yessios about this new direction for Form•Z. While we were at it, we hit him up for some insights into the future of 3D on the Mac. Here's what he had to say.

Creative Mac: Your last news release said that Form•Z 3.6 would mark the end of Form•Z as we know it and that future releases will be somehow different from this one. What's going to be different in the future?

Chris Yessios: Form•Z will become modular and will open its architecture to plugins. Being modular means that there will be a general purpose core to which (mostly specialized) modules are attached, customizing the program towards one design field or another. For example, the drafting module currently included in form•Z is one that, while used extensively by a section of its users, it is completely ignored by many others. The latter group of users still has to carry the code, which represents an unnecessary load to their computer. When drafting becomes a truly modular component users will have the option to install it or not. There are a number of other parts of the program that would best be offered as optional modules, and there will be plenty more in the future.

CM: What are the benefits of your proposed modular structure in terms of development?

Yessios: The modular structure is intended to offer benefits to the end user. It does not really represent benefits in terms of development. If anything, it adds complexities to the development process, especially in switching from the current structure to the new.

CM: How are you guys coming along in working with NewTek to bring enhanced inter-application functionality between Lightwave and Form•Z?

Yessios: We are coming along just fine, even though the direct translator we are developing missed the v.3.6 deadline and will be included in the next update. Needless to say,... we have experienced excellent cooperation from the NewTek people, which has made the project fun to do.

CM: With everybody supporting different kinds of NURBS, what do you see is the future of NURBS, and what kind of support will you be supplying?

Yessios: Formally there is only one type of NURBS, even though it may admittedly be implemented in various ways. While I cannot talk for the others, I can say that we intend to follow the standards as closely as possible, which is more or less guaranteed when going with ACIS.

CM: Is Form•Z going to be focusing more on modeling or rendering in the future?

Yessios: Form•Z is always going to be above all a 3D modeling and design tool. Rendering is a necessary component for visualizing models. Given this, we intend to continue offering state of the art rendering.

CM: In what other ways are you expecting to change Form•Z after version 3.6? How, ultimately, will it be positioned—as an all-in-one animation package, as a modeler, etc.?

Yessios: There are more than one question here. One seems to ask if form•Z will include a lot more animation in the future to be positioned as an all in one package. Most likely yes, but the incentive will come not that much from a perception of what an all in one application is, but rather from a desire to further enhance our modeling tools. To make this more specific there are great modeling possibilities to be derived from animated morphing, form averaging and procedural form generation. You can expect to see a lot more of this in the future of form•Z. To answer the question from another perspective, you may expect form•Z to try to become even more of a design tool, encouraging explorations and experimentation.

CM: What's the future of 3D on the Mac?

Yessios: The answer in one word is "great." All we have to do is make sure Steve Jobs remains persuaded that the Mac can do a lot more than desktop publishing. It took him a while after he came back, but he finally recognized it.

About Form•Z 3.6
The latest 3.6 release of Form•Z, which will ship July 31, adds a number of features not previously seen. Some of the new features include:

  • Illustrator types of splines are now more "Illustrator-like" in both the way they are imported and exported and in the way they are edited in form•Z
  • Updated support of SAT/ACIS import/export to version 6, which has also improved its handling in IGES imports.
  • It adds to OpenGL and QuickDraw 3D the ability to display open lines and to work with the extended cursor, axis marks, snap highlights, and cross marks.
  • It includes a number of improvements to the Imager, ranging from general interface refinements to the ability to generate QuickTime VR files to directly access drafting options, such as for the removal of duplicate lines, and to autosave images for Surface Render, Hidden Line, Shaded Render and RenderZone.
  • A significant rendering upgrade, much of which derives from the newly incorporated LightWorks version 5.5.
  • Shader improvements like optional Summation Table Sampling that applies to all the image-based shaders and Analytic Area Sampling for most surface (wrapped) shaders.
  • A new type of light, the Line light, has been introduced. Additional overall improvements to the lights support the ability to set transparent shadows and intensity separately, per individual light, and improved control of the Accurate Glow parameter for all light types.
  • Rendering effects, such as Exposure Correction, Depth Blur and Background, have been enhanced. Their interface has been restructured. And they are now applied through postprocessing, which allows them to be computed independently from the main rendering of an image. A new postprocessed effect, Lens Flares, has also been introduced.
  • A variety of previously existing shaders have been improved, and new ones have been introduced. These include Textured Brick, Wood Boards and Solid Wood for all types of shaders; 2D/3D Cells for Bump shaders; and Woven and Multilayer Paint for Reflection shaders.

We'll bring you more on Form•Z after its next release. For more information now, visit the Auto•des•sys Web site at


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