At $299 (formerly $795), trueSpace has got to be one of the most inexpensive professional 3D graphics creation applications on the market. At that price, Caligari hopes to bring 3D graphics within the reach of an entirely new level of users, and I believe they have succeeded. trueSpace 5.1 definitely rivals its competitors (some costing hundreds if not thousands more), and while it still requires a bit of a learning curve, youíll find that the power it provides is quite intoxicating.
The most unique aspect of the product is its user interface, which is entirely icon-based. After you work with the program for a while, youíll find this setup to be fast and efficient, but the user interface is also the main reason for the programís learning curve. If youíre used to working with a menu-based interface, it may take you some time to get up to speed. Luckily, there are tool tips provided and the program ships with one of the best userís guides Iíve seen. Not only does it contain complete coverage of the program along with tutorials, but it will also teach you a thing or two about 3D graphics along the way. All in all, it provides over 500 pages of content. This is the kind of guide all manufacturers should provide with their software. Even with its learning curve, the user interface provides a lot of flexibility by allowing you to create your own views and toolbars.
Like all professional 3D packages, trueSpace provides all the basics including traditional polygon modeling tools, as well as a complete set of NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline) tools with blending, skinning, and cross-sections. Additionally, youíll find new Metamuscle, Subdivision Surfaces, and Magic Ring tools. The Metamuscle tool lets you "create a spline that defines the shape of its resultant object through scalable spline points." In other words, you can create shapes that bulge when compressed and lengthen when stretched, just like muscles in the human body. This makes it much easier to animate models and bring your 3D characters to life. The Subdivision Surfaces tool provides easier polygon surface smoothing, and the Magic Ring provides a quick and easy way to adjust primitive object parameters with real-time drag and drop procedures that would otherwise take a much longer amount of time.
trueSpace has always provided exceptional rendering capabilities but Caligari has yet again managed to improve the quality and performance of the productís rendering engine. Youíll be pleasantly surprised. In addition to a great rendering engine, trueSpace 5.1 also supports radiosity Ė a feature that allows you to simulate realistic lighting conditions. The new lighting features in trueSpace use the specifications of actual real-life light sources and provide a realism that you have to see to believe. Itís almost as if you can reach in and touch the objects in a scene.
When youíve finished creating your 3D masterpiece, trueSpace allows you to export it in a variety of formats. These include VRML, DXF, 3D Studio, BMP, JPEG, Targa, PNG, and TIFF. For animated scenes you can export to AVI and FLC. If you plan to post your creations on the Web, trueSpace provides Macromedia Shockwave 3-D support. And with version 5.1, you get the Macromedia Flash Plug-in for free! The Flash Plug-in allows you to export very small files, which can be streamed across modem connections with the Macromedia Flash Player (downloaded by over 300 million Web users). If youíve ever thought about creating a Web site with a 3D interface environment, now you can.
I could say even more about this wonderful product, but there is just too much to tell. Aside from its not so intuitive user interface, trueSpace 5.1 provides a professional environment in which you can create some of the most realistic 3D scenes youíll ever lay eyes on. Itís powerful, flexible, and with a price tag of only $299, no other 3D graphics package can touch it.