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Getting Your 3D Stuff into Director 8.5

A primer for starting out with Shockwave 3D By Dave Nagel
So you've rushed out and upgraded to Director 8.5. Well, maybe it no longer qualifies as a "rush," per se, since it's been out for several months now, but you get the idea. Sure, the Flash 5 and RealMedia support is great, along with a few decent interface enhancements, but hardly enough to justify this being a 0.5 upgrade. That is, until you add in the new 3D features. Macromedia (along with help from Intel) has finally stepped up to the 3D plate and seems poised to deliver, at long last, a cross-platform, scaleable and bandwidth-friendly interactive 3D standard, one which actually stands a decent chance of eventually gaining broad market acceptance. While all of that is great news for developers, there remains one nagging question: Now what?

In order to produce the next (or, as some may argue, the first) great interactive 3D experience, you actually have to get 3D content into Director somehow. For what is essentially a version 1.0 feature, Director's 3D capabilities are amazingly sophisticated, incorporating modeling, surfacing, keyframe animation, bones, particle generation, physics and more. But with sophistication comes complexity, as Director's implementation of 3D functionality may be a bit convoluted to both 3D artists and long-time Director users. So to help you get started, we're going to scratch the proverbial surface of 3D in Director by explaining the various methods of getting 3D content into the program.

Built-in options

Even if you haven't really done much in terms of playing around with Director 8.5's 3D features, chances are that you've at least come across 3D text, which is the simplest method of generating 3D content. Any text object in Director can now be made three-dimensional. Here's how:

1. Select a text object in the cast or on the stage. 2. Click the Text tab in the Property Inspector. 3. Change the Display pull-down menu from the default Normal to 3D Mode.

Viola! Extruded 3D text.

Wow! 3D text! The text on the top is a regular text sprite (in my very own chickenscratch font), while the text on the bottom has been converted to 3D text and rotated.

Now that you've changed the normal text to 3D text, you'll probably notice that you now have an entirely new tab in the Property Inspector to play with: the 3D Extruder. This panel contains many options familiar to 3D artists, including the ability to move and rotate the text in 3D space and adjustment settings for the text bevel, visible faces, smoothness, shading, specularity and light. While the options for 3D text aren't incredibly advanced, it is possible to achieve some nice visuals with this feature if you take the time to play around with it.

The 3D Extruder Panel

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