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Using Electric Rain's Swift 3D 4.5 With Macromedia Flash. It Rocks!

What you'll find with this new release is a tight focus on the rendering options in Swift 3D

It may only be a point release but that doesn't mean that Electric Rain, makers of the #1 3D modeling software tool for Flash animators hasn't come out swinging. What you'll find with this new release is a tight focus on the rendering options in Swift 3D.

Quick Run Down on Swift 3D
First I have to admit I'm partial to Electric Rain's Swift 3D. To me, it has always been the small product that stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Soft Image, Max and the other big 3D boys. Swift 3D isn't the only Flash 4D design product on the market. It's simple the one outselling its competition. According to erain.com over 40,000 developers have bought Swift 3D.

So what makes it special? The answer is lies with its focus; it's designed for Flash animation by Flash animators. You see the Flash animation group isn't like other groups. We have special wants and needs, a real desire to deliver solutions over the Internet and deliver high-impact solutions. When companies launch discreet release products such as plasma that die on the vine they miss that point. Flash developers don't want a huge animation suite that costs thousands of dollars. They want a tight tool focused on 3D animation that can be effectively delivered on the Web.

How Easy Is It To Use Swift 3D? This easy
The easy-to-use Swift 3D layout lets you jump in and begin modeling. Imagine that you've never designed or modeled in 3D in your life. Heck, you wouldn't know a 3D model if it hit you in the face. But, the boss said you have to have 3D on your Web and you open up Swift 3D. What do you do?

First, ask yourself the question, do you have an EPS version of the company logo? A spinning logo would be cool. Enter Swift 3D. You can create a new file in Swift 3D, select File - Import and directly import an EPS file.

The EPS file opens into Swift 3D. The colors and design have been retained. You'll also see that the file has been extruded to give it some depth.

If you want to choose the different elements that make up the logo, you select the Hierarchy Tools. Here you can expand the groups to gain deeper control over the objects.

OK, you now have a 3D logo. So what? This stuff is supposed to spin and dance. No problem there. You can leverage a powerful tool called the Gallery Tool, which is make up of six different tool sets:

  • Materials
  • Animations
  • Lighting
  • Environments
  • Models
  • Bevels
Each of these solutions helps build a more stunning model. For instance, we can replace the Materials used to build the Electric Rain model with reflective surfaces.

Next, add one of the many instant animation sequences.

Add some funky lighting to show off your model's shadows and effects.

You can keep adding all sorts of effects. The next step is to go to the preview and export screen. Here you can choose to export as either a vector animation or a bitmap animation. Here is the logo as a vector animation:

It's as the export stage, however, that the new upgrade really shines.

Exporting with Swift 3D
Most of the new features in Swift 3D 4.5 are hosted in the rendering part of the product. The first feature that will delight you is the new choice of export options. Check out this list:

  • Windows AVI
  • QuickTime MOV
  • Macromedia Flash Video (FLV)
  • Flash Player (SWF)
  • Swift 3D Flash Importer (SWFT)
  • Encapsulated Postscript (EPS)
  • Adobe Illustrator (AI)
  • Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)
Yeah, you saw it right; now there's support for SVG. To get to these lovely choices you'll need to select the Preview And Export Editor tab and click on the Vector button. This brings up the updated Ravix 4 encoding engine. Cool stuff.

The EPS export has been enhanced to support level 3, which includes area shading.

You'll also find greater control over shadows in your export under the Fill Options. Here you can choose shadow color, density, reflections, and specula lighting.

For me, the best feature to finally make it into Swift 3D is support for Pen Outlines. Now you can really make cartoon animations look like classic cartoon animations.

What's Missing?
As with any product, I always come away wishing there was more. Two features that could have a huge impact on the application and audience using it are missing from Swift 3D. The first is support for ActionScript. It would be great to be able to build applications and interfaces directly in Swift 3D without having to crack open Flash. The other feature that I long to see is the support for plug-ins or a way to extend the feature set in Swift 3D beyond what you get from eRain. Think of PhotoShop plug-ins for Swift 3D.

The Bottom Line
Currently Swift 3D sells for $350 but can be upgraded for as little as $138.

If you're seriously into Flash animation you seriously have to consider adding Swift 3D to your toolset. I don't rave about many products, but the price and value Swift 3D brings to your design make it easy to rave about.

More Stories By Matthew David

Matthew has written books for Friends of Ed, Pearson Press, New Riders, Wiley, Focal Press and Peach Pit. He is also experience at leading teams top deliver bestselling titles books that come with accompanying video training and media. An example is Flash MX Magic, a book written by 7 authors, with an accompanying web site and CD. The book sold over 45,000 copies in 12 languages. Matthew is also the author of 400+ articles.

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SYS-CON Canada News Desk 08/03/05 01:39:07 PM EDT

Using Electric Rain's Swift 3D 4.5 With Macromedia Flash. It Rocks! It may only be a point release but that doesn't mean that Electric Rain, makers of the #1 3D modeling software tool for Flash animators hasn't come out swinging. What you'll find with this new release is a tight focus on the rendering options in Swift 3D.