CyberStudio

 

Issue 30

Nov/Dec 87

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Has ANTIC Software developed the ultimate ST Graphics package?

    'worth buying a memory upgrade'

Cyberstudio CAD 3-D may be the most advanced of the many graphics packages currently available for the Atari ST. It is a program which allows one to draw 'flat' two dimensional shapes and objects and transform them into 'real' three dimensional objects with depth. For those who may have logged a few dozen hours on the original CAD 3-D (version 1.0) there should be little difficulty in adjusting to the new version. Version 2.0 requires one megabyte of RAM therefore if you own a half-megabyte Atari you will need a memory upgrade in order to use this program. It's not an unreasonable suggestion, for this program it's worth buying a memory upgrade!

CAD 3-D 2.0 is an 'object-oriented' graphics program which allows one to create three dimensional drawings and place them in a three dimensional universe. CAD 3-D creations may also be output as screen images and saved in either Degas, Neochrome, or C.O.L.R. Object Editor formats. They may even be printed as hard copy. Then, using the Cybermate animation/ editing program, which is included with CAD 3-D 2.0, groups of sequential frames can be created and your objects can move with smooth animation. Using the optional new Stereotek Liquid Glasses, objects may also be viewed in breath-taking stereo.

When the program is first booted-up we see the familiar drop-down gem menus across the top of the screen. The left third of the screen is the ICON CONTROL PANEL and the right two-thirds of the screen consists of the four VIEW WINDOWS which are used to look at the 3-D Universe. The CAD 3-D Universe is a transparent cube and all objects created by CAD 3-D appear inside the cube. The windows labelled TOP, RIGHT, and FRONT (which can be flipped to BOTTOM, LEFT and BACK) correspond to the various faces of the cube. These windows are fixed and cannot be moved, unlike the fourth window which is labelled CAMERA. The CAMERA window is like an actual movie camera on a 'boom' located outside the universe's cube. It is able to move to any position near, far, over, under or around.

There are three ways to begin to create an new object. The first way is to use the PRIMITIVES ICON. It allows you to create basic shapes and offers you the choice of SPHERE 1, SPHERE 2, SPHERE 3, TORUS, CUBE, or WEDGE. You may also choose to create an original object through the EXTRUDE or SPIN functions. EXTRUDE operates like a jigsaw, allowing a shape to be cut out as if you were cutting a shape from a piece of wood. After Extrude cuts the shape, it adds depth. You can then alter the thickness and size using the scaling tools. SPIN creates an object of revolution as if you were to create it by using a lathe. After the outline of an object is drawn on the Spin screen, it is spun to create depth.

When using Spin or Extrude you are brought to separate work screens. These work screens contain their own sets of drop-down windows which provide tools to aid in producing objects of greater accuracy. Once an object is created it can be rescaled, manipulated or placed in a group of one or more other objects as a single element of a greater construction. After your object is created the ROTATE and SCALE slider bars at the top of the screen allow you to rotate your object (or objects) either vertically or horizontally and then scale them to be either smaller or larger.

Using the camera window, you can ZOOM in or out, change the PERSPECTIVE or ROTATE the camera. These functions only affect the camera's point of view and don't change the actual objects. Using the OBJECT JOIN icon, you can join objects together in a variety of ways to create a third, unique, object.

The next set of icons allow for moving objects within the 'cube' universe. You can DRAG objects to any location within the non-camera windows as well as reposition them in relation to any other object. You can also rotate objects in three different ways. Center Pivot Point Rotation is used to rotate objects around the imaginary center point of the 3-D universe, Group Pivot Point is used to rotate objects around an imaginary point in the center of the object, and Arbitrary Pivot Point allows one to rotate objects around any selected point access within the 3-D universe.

There are also separate Icons which allow even more precise control over changing the positioning of objects, their size or their relationship to one-another on the screen. Double clicking on the SUPERVIEW icon creates a full screen, 16 colour, low resolution display of the CAD-3D composition from the same view point of the camera window. It is this image that is used when you elect to save to Degas, Neochrome or C.O.L.R formats.

A new feature in superview mode allows you to use the mouse to rotate, zoom, change the perspective, or bank the camera angle, in real time while the image shown in superview is in wireframe mode. Clicking once on superview brings the super view mode setting menu to the screen. It allows you to load a Degas picture into the background, display the image in stereo for Stereotek glasses, change the images from object oriented to a pixel image background and change the mode of the colour image displayed.

All objects which are displayed are affected by lighting. By clicking on the LIGHTING icon a control box appears which allows you absolute control in position and intensity of three different light sources and an ambient light. The ESTABLISH SCALE icon allows to choose a scale of measurement to use later with the OBJECT MEASUREMENT icon and the TAPE MEASURE ICON. With the Object Measure icon, you can rescale an object by editing it's length, width or height and with Tape Measure you can measure the distances between icons. The final icons control the animation facilities which record sequential image files for plotter/ GDOS output or animation files for the Cybermate system.

Cybermate is an advanced language which animated CAD 3-D 2.0 creations. Using advanced delta compression techniques, Cybermate transforms a one megabyte ST into a ten megabyte frame buffer. Thousands of animation frames of 3-D objects can be stored in RAM and played back at speeds up to sixty frames a second (21 times faster than a film).

Cybermate also allows the addition of sound effects or music (created by the very competent G.I.S.T Sound Editor) to the 3-D films.

CONCLUSION

CAD 3-D 2.0 is exceptional value for money, it's an incredibly advanced and useful graphics program made as user-friendly and convenient as possible.

Creative use of CAD 3-D can design impressive logos, breathtaking special effects in film or video, brilliant images for use with Degas or Neochrome, well designed 3-D sprites, as well as many other inventive uses. CAD 3-D 2.0's restrictions appear to be only the bounds of the user's imagination.

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