Strata 3D CX


3D imaging program compromises high-end tools for ease of use

Month Reviewed: February 2005
Verdict: 6

Strata 3D is a 3D design and illustration package that’s been popular with Mac addicts for awhile. Now that a new PC version has been released, we figured we’d see what all the fuss is about. With a layout and functionality that mimics an Adobe design suite, designers will find the application easy to jump into. However, while the interface is inviting, the program falls short by catering too much to newbies at the expense of more advanced features.

Objects in Strata 3D start out as Bezier curves (these curves act a lot like NURBS, or non-uniform rational B-splines—a mathematical representation for smooth curves and surfaces). Once you have a basic shape built, it’s easy to edit individual curves and use shape deformers, but more advanced editing is difficult for several reasons: First, the app doesn’t allow patch modeling, which is essential for character sculpting. Second, in order to make precise changes to a model, you have to convert the object to polygons. No biggie, right? Well, one of the drawbacks to using polygons in Strata 3D is the lack of virtual handles needed to move points, edges, and faces in the X, Y, or Z direction. Instead, you are forced to select and move the point, edge, or face in one step. If you accidentally select the wrong point edge or face, you’ll have to undo your action and try again, which is frustrating to say the least.

Once you’ve created your object and want to render it, matters improve dramatically. Strata 3D offers a potent rendering package, with options that include Radiosity for soft shadows, and High Dynamic Range Images for realistic lighting and reflections. The process is simplified a great deal by a set of presets for basic rendering needs, including “good,” “better,” and “best” settings for raytracing, toon shading, and Radiosity. Advanced options, on the other hand, include windows full of lengthy listings with little to no explanation as to what the options do.

While Strata 3D may have everything necessary for a Macintosh 3D artist, we can’t recommend it when far more complete and flexible packages are available to a 3D enthusiast using a PC. --Michael Coleman

+Pixar: Adobe user friendly interface, Radiosity and HDRI support.

-Disney: Interface isn’t consistent, advanced options confusing, and no orthographic view!

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