Georgiou, February 2005, send
to the web site
4/1.2GHz processor or faster, Windows 98/NT/2000/XP,
256MB RAM; Mac OS X 10.2+, 1GHz CPU or faster, 512MB
RAM, 1024 x 768 monitor resolution
working on a project recently for a client who creates
hi-tech furniture. He asked me if there were any tools
for taking his designs online and allowing people to interact
with them on the Web and in 3D. After some research I came
across Swift 3D. It's a very powerful and easy to use 3D
production tool aimed at producing 3D for use in Flash.
The application itself allows you to create, modify, import
and export 3D. Many of the tools available in the application
would not be out of place in many high-end 3D software
installing Swift 3D I got to grips with the available learning
materials, and let me tell you there is plenty of support
for this, both directly from Electric Rain and from the
legion of users out there. Electric Rain provides an enormous
amount of support online ranging from tutorials to an extensive
3D user interface is a little on the busy side with plenty
of windows to keep you occupied. My main recommendation
here is that you consider investing in a display with lots
of real estate. I'm running 1600 by 1200 and find it comfortable.
I tried setting my display resolution to 1024x768 and while
Swift 3D remained usable it felt quite cluttered.
objects in Swift 3D is fairly straightforward and any modeling
can be done in one of three ways. There is an extrusion
editor for creating objects from 2D shapes. There is also
a lathe editor for taking a 2D shape and spinning it around
an axis (lathe) to create a 3D shape. Using a pen tool
you create a basic shape and then using one of the editors
create the 3D primitive. The nice thing about the 2D shape
is that it can be edited at any time and the changes will
also be reflected in the 3D object directly. Using the
timeline with this editing feature allows you to effectively
animate the shapes directly from the editor.
editor is the most useful of the editing/creation modes,
allowing you to create and edit a number of primitives.
You can manipulate the models through some very simple
but effective tools. With the editor you can rotate, extrude,
weld, round, flatten, smooth and scale your model. One
shortfall was the lack of dimensioning in the editor so
that you couldn't really create accurately scaled models.
You could however create your model in a 3DS or DXF-compatible
application and import the resulting file. You can also
import drawings and trace them to create your models—a
rather nice feature.
Once you've created your model you can then apply a whole
range of very nice surface treatments and textures. The
extensive built-in library of textures is very cool and
the ability to group surfaces allows you to apply treatments
and effects like the recently popular cell-shading style.
Surfaces can be smooth, shiny, transparent, glossy and
reflective. The ability to use procedural texturing also
adds to Swift 3D's capabilities.
The Animation capabilities are nice as well as somewhat
familiar if you have worked with Flash. Swift 3D can be
used to create the animation either on the fly or through
the use of some very nice presets. Objects can also be
animated using paths, this is very easily achieved via
the definition of spline or line-based paths. How your
object moves and behaves along this path is also fully
configurable. The animation capabilities are not limited
to the objects alone but also apply to the camera and lighting.
Output from Swift 3D is handled through the preview and
export editor. In this editor you can preview and refine
animations and output files to your heart's content. The
file formats supported by the editor are quite extensive,
with support for both raster and vector-based formats.
The Editor gives you additional control over how vector
files are handled, allowing you to emphasize things such
as line work and detail for animation. The export engine
also handles many of the attributes in your file so that
when you export to SWFT format you can again tweak and
modify the interactivity directly within Flash. I would
like to see the engine extended to handle a couple of video
All told, Swift 3D performs well and is an extremely good
deal for anyone who's adventurous enough to want to play
with 3D on the web. When you decide to buy, let me make
one recommendation: buy the full package as it comes in
a very cool metal box (which looks great) and includes
a great manual. If you want to be able to use it immediately
do yourself a favor and also purchase the additional download
Cons: The tool set could be enhanced with the addition
of a cut command. The ability to define units of measurement
for accurate modeling would also be nice.
Pros: Excellent direct and third-party support. The customer-only
web site is an excellent idea for distributing upgrades
and info. Excellent reference and learning materials. Fast
and easy to use. Very powerful. Excellent modeling and
animation facilities. The timeline tool is a great link
between Swift 3D and Flash. Swift 3D has full 3ds and DXF
Electric Rain have done a lovely job of producing Swift
3D v4. The product itself is extremely stable and feature
packed. As an authoring tool for creating 3D components
for web sites it is extremely successful. Its tools are
powerful and easy to use and remain a great way to produce
3D animations for the web. I also found working in the
program very easy with no significant functional incongruities.
I also get the impression from the online demos that, should
you be well versed in 3D, you could produce some very impressive
work with this relatively inexpensive tool. I highly recommended
this product for any one who wants to create 3D for the
web or presentations.
Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org