Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 02/06/07 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

STRATA 3D CX 5.1

Damn Cool Upgrades All Around By Ko Maruyama
Wow.  Strata 3D.  It was one of the very first 3D software packages I learned.  I don't remember what version it was when I tried to learn it, but I do remember that it was one of the easiest to learn and one of the most affordable packages that would run on the Mac OS.  Now, Strata has kicked out some kickin' software for the Mac again, packed with options - -and Universal Binary power.

Strata 3D is just coming onto my radar again.  After several years of being away from the 3D application, I nearly got whiplash when the eye-popping graphics showed up in the Strata newsletter.  Okay - so I haven't been paying close attention to the software - and maybe you haven't either.  But I'm coming back around.



Strata 3D CX 5.1 gets my top props for bringing so many updates across the board at once.  Most importantly for new Intel Mac users - the software has been made Universal Binary format, which allows it to render 60% faster than it does on Power PC Macs.




In an advanced training method (certainly much more riveting than the VHS tapes of covered wagons that I watched), Strata 3D offers a podcast which you can subscribe to for lessons (about every other week).  The lessons are really great - although they are designed for the intermediate to advanced user, Strata 3D CX is  a 3D application that allows you to get up to speed and pass "beginner" status quickly.

click for larger image

While Strata 3D claims a "tight connection" to Adobe Illustrator, it has been too long for this integration - but a welcomed addition.  On the other hand, the application now allows for exporting renders to Adobe Photoshop layers.  Rather than rendering separate passes, channels of the raytraced image can be rendered directly to Photoshop.  The color compositing layers include the family of post effects, atmospheric passes, transmitted light, specular, reflected, ambient light, shadow color, diffuse image, and background image.   In Adobe Photoshop the depth maps, shadows, shader alphas, object alphas, object masks and transparencies show up as layers in the Channels.

An existing feature in Strata 3D CX 5.1 is found in the modeling features of the application.  MetaSurfaces are similar to other "meta" objects in other applications which mesh objects together like amorphous blobs, blending the polygonal shapes seamlessly into each other.

Another existing feature, which is an important feature for a design 3D application is found in the particle collision.  Strata 3D CX particles can be set to bounce off geometry in your scene.  You can control the amount of bounce/friction and potential when they collide with objets in the scene.

Strata 3D CX 5.1 has also implemented scripting.  Lua scripting is used in several other applications, including WOW, Anime Studio (aka Moho) and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

You can get Strata 3D CX 5.1 base package right now for only $695 (Save $100). For more serious users, check out the Strata 3D Suite (Mac and PC) for $1,784US.  For a limited time, you can get the software bundle for $995. (regularly Strata 3D CX 5.1 for $794, Strata Live 3D for $495 and Strata Foto 3D for $495).  These come with a 30 day money back guarantee.

If you're upgrading from CX4, you can get CX 5.1 for $179US.

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:Product Review, 3D software, Strata 5.0, Strata 5.1, Lua Scripting, 3D Photoshop Layers

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