Image Armada

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, December 2005
Published by: Tangent3d and George Kilibarda
Requires: Win98, WinMe, Win2000, WinXP; Pentium VI or faster CPU, nVidia GeForce FX, GeForce 6000 series or ATI Radeon 9000 series, Radeon X series and higher video card
MSRP: US$25.00 (Standard), US$55.00 (Pro)

So you're an artist and one of the biggest frustrations you have is finding a gallery willing to showcase your works. Either that or you're frustrated with the look of your lackluster web presence. Fear no more, because now you can build your own virtual gallery space complete with lighting, walls, frames, couches and other furnishings. You can even allow people to walk around and experience your work in a virtual 3D space. Image armada is an interesting concept, a virtual gallery space which allows you to add your own art, photos and movies. All media on display can have text annotations, web links, music, and voice annotations attached to them. The product is supplied as two components: the Image Armada Builder and the Viewer.

Launching the Image Armada Builder presents you with a choice of gallery spaces to work with. Once loaded into the builder, you're presented with a gallery full of empty white placeholders to which you can add single or multiple artworks and media.

Adding artworks to the gallery models is very easy and there are plenty of options for configuration. Navigating through the gallery is done via the up/down and left/right keys. The scroller on the mouse changes your eye level and the left mouse button allows you to select the Hanging Space (active area) where your art will be added and displayed. The right mouse button will activate a context menu allowing you to add, edit or delete artworks in the hanging space. Supported file types include BMP, JPG, PNG, TGA, MPG, AVI, WMV and ASF. Once images have been added to the gallery space you can save and preview the gallery.

When you're finished, the gallery can be packaged into an executable which can be distributed in what ever manner you see fit. You can even create autorun CDs. The executable is a self-contained gallery and viewer which, although easy to use, may require a little patience to configure correctly.

I found the motion effect when moving through the galleries more than a little annoying. Quite simply, I can do without it. The effect should be configurable so that the motion level can be reduced. The current level of realism is unnecessary. To delve deeper into the creative possibilities, I downloaded several gallery examples. The Graffiti Gallery was by far the best example of how to best use this application. With graffiti art scrawled on brick walls in a quasi inner city environment, it was a great contextual example. I noticed that there were some items which had transparency, but nowhere in the help or documentation could I find out how to use this feature. In the end I realized that all I had to do was save the graphic in TGA format with alpha channels. This should have been documented.

I was looking forward to trying the drawing styles for the gallery but apparently it was disabled in my version of the software. It seems that I need at least a 9000 series ATI card in my machine—which I happen to have. I found that looking for help was pointless as it only stated what I already knew. Tangent 3D could take a page out of the book of many of the other companies that have made a success of customer support and open a moderated user forum and feedback center. They'll soon find an army of users providing support for this product.

With some work I can see Image Armada turning into an excellent promotional and educational tool. Imagine being able to recreate ancient cities and buildings complete with historically accurate artworks and artifacts and also to be able to provide a soundtrack from which you can learn something about the culture and history of the artwork and artifact and then link to web sites to learn more. Much of this can be done already. All that is missing is an editor for the buildings themselves and an effective interface to add more artifacts. Include the capability to add the equivalent of non-player characters as found in games and models from other packages, and you have a winning combination.

Cons: Some of the models need a little work spatially as the structures sometimes get in the way of the experience. If there was a more advanced modeler available with this tool and better documentation and examples, Image Armada would be a complete solution.The lack of a real gallery layout editor is a little frustrating—it would be nice to be able to design your gallery layout and then add the art. Poor documentation and help. User interface could do with some improvements.

Pros: I like that images gain in detail the closer you get to them. Video and audio support is an excellent feature as is the proximity trigger to activate them. Easy to use and install. Highly configurable. I found Image Armada to be a very interesting concept that with some improvements could be a great concept. Putting the shortfalls aside, I enjoyed reviewing Image Armada and I think I can find plenty of uses for it. Image Armada delivers what it promises. Recommended.

Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!





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