Product Review: Page (1) of 5 - 02/07/03 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Electric Rain Swift3D LW 2

Vector rendering plug-in for Newtek LightWave By Kevin Schmitt
Having tried the standalone version of Swift3D 1.0 back in the late summer of 2000, several problems immediately cropped up that led to me proclaiming the product not at all useful for my needs. As I was not writing product reviews at the time, that proclamation was pretty much heard only by myself. But now that I've gotten my hands on the LightWave plug-in version of Swift3D, now in its second iteration, I have the opportunity to explain just how nicely the Swift3D concept has evolved to an audience that probably, by now, could very well number in the double digits.

A Little Bit o' History
Swift3D, for all of its various incarnations, pretty much boils down to doing one thing: rendering out 3D content into SWF (or other vector-based) files. For that, it relies on Electric Rain's proprietary 3D-to-vector rendering engine, dubbed Ravix (now at version 3). It seems that between the time that Swift3D v1 was released and the myriad products that exist today under the Swift3D banner Electric Rain realized that the real product was the Ravix engine, and for folks like me, that shift turned Swift3D from an interesting novelty into a bona fide production tool. There are a couple of reasons why I was so down on Swift3D when I initially tried it out a while back.

First, I'm pretty comfortable already with my 3D package of choice, LightWave. I don't mind learning new things in the 3D realm, but the standalone version of Swift3D wasn't (and by many accounts, still isn't) exactly the most full-featured of 3D tools, which made me long for the ability to use LightWave as the 3D content creation front-end for Swift3D output.

Second, the Ravix engine was pretty capable of rendering out some nice and compact SWF files, but at the end of the day, they were still SWF files. If you wanted to bring them into Flash, you either had to do a LoadMovie command to bring the clips into movies on the fly, or import them into Flash and go through the tedium of deconstructing a series of frames to make them work the way you wanted, with neither solution being optimal. The long and short of it was that you really, really, REALLY had to want 3D content in Flash pretty badly for Swift3D to be worth the effort you invariably had to put into the product to get it to do any semblance at all of what you wanted.

Several things have happened to rectify this situation, at least for me. First, Electric Rain decided to offer Swift3D as a plug-in to LightWave (as well as 3ds max), eliminating the need for users of those programs to learn another 3D application (or go through the convoluted process of getting pre-existing content from those programs into Swift3D) to get access to the Ravix engine. This was an Excellent Move. Second, the Swift3D LW 2 plug-in now takes advantage of the third-party file format support feature in Flash MX to offer very tight integration with the Flash authoring environment (which Electric Rain has dubbed "SmartLayer"), which gets rid of my other knock that Ravix-rendered content was very hard to work with inside of Flash itself. This was another Excellent Move. So now that Electric Rain offers the 'zact version of Swift3D that I was hoping for from the very beginning, let's take a closer look at Swift3D LW 2 and see what's going on.

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Related Keywords:SWF, Electric Rain, Swift3D, LightWave, plug-in, rendering, Ravix, Flash, SWF, EPS, Freehand, Illustrator, Toon Boom

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