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Caligari trueSpace 6 3D Design Software

Manufacturer: Caligari
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided NewTechReview with a NFR unit of this product for review.
Reviewed by Scott R. Garrigus
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At version 5.1, Caligari introduced a number of nice features in their trueSpace 3D graphics software product. As noted in my past review, these features included Metamuscle, Subdivision Surfaces, and Magic Ring tools as well as radiosity rendering and Macromedia Flash export to name a few. Now with the introduction of trueSpace 6, Caligari ups the ante once again by providing some feature updates and a host of new functions that will not only be useful to 3D artists and animators, but game developers as well.

The trueSpace interface has been slightly improved with a new object properties toolbar, wire draw mode for objects and lights, and per object setting of real-time display mode. The new draw mode functions greatly improve your work efficiency with the program, because now you can set the display mode of each individual object. Some objects can be left solid, while others are set to wireframe. This allows you to take some of the strain off of your CPU and makes the software more responsive, especially when dealing with complex scenes. The Icon Helper is also quite nice in that it allows you to assign hot keys to any of the interface icons. You no longer need to search endless menus to access the appropriate function. trueSpace’s undo function is still in need of some work though. Not everything can be undone in every situation and access to previous undo tasks is not available. The addition of an undo history function would be very welcome.

trueSpace’s modeling aspects have gained some significant improvements including full color coded layers support, NURBS Trim Curve extrusion, Capping and Curve projection, Chamfers and Fillets, Radial, Grid, and Spline array tools, as well as Bend, Taper, and Skew deform tools. Most impressive, however, are the Shelling and Mirrored Modeling functions. Using the Shell tool, you can select any solid polyhedral object and convert it to a shelled object. This can be quite useful for creating objects that are naturally hollow. Even more useful is the Mirrored Modeler tool, which allows you to create perfectly symmetrical models in half the usual time. This tool is extremely useful for creating complex organic models like 3D characters.

Some of the most exciting new features in version 6 have to do with animation. The new Scene Editor with audio tracks and layer paint functionality makes dealing with animation much more enjoyable and efficient. Each object in a scene is given its own track in the Editor, and the animation properties for each object can be accessed and controlled from here. In addition, parameters for the array tools and taper, bend, and skew tools can be animated, and sounds can be attached to objects for dynamic rendering of the audio track of a scene with Doppler shift and attenuation. This allows you to create truly immersive 3D environments. But the most noticeable animation addition to trueSpace is the Facial Animator (now at version 1.2). With the Facial Animator you can create animated talking heads with control over head shapes, textures, as well as facial emotions. The heads can also be made to literally speak using synthesized speech or prerecorded real speech via audio WAV files. The lip synching and facial expressions are automatically generated to follow the speech and you can photorender the animation using key frames. The Facial Animator comes with a number of predesigned head models but you can also add custom heads and poses. In some cases the Animator works quite well, but unfortunately, not always. Creating custom heads is not an easy task. The power is there, but it takes quite a bit of time to master it. I found that the lip synch animation didn’t work very well for synthesized speech. It actually works much better when using prerecord WAV files, but even then it’s not always perfect. The Facial Animator is definitely a welcome addition, but it still needs some work. I’m hoping Caligari will put some more development time into this feature, because it can be quite useful.

Of course, as per the usual, trueSpace produces wonderfully rendered scenes. And it ought to considering it uses the new LightWorks 6.6 rendering engine. But there are some other new features that add to the program’s output quality including textured area lights, light emission from any object, texture baking, an advanced UV Editor, and UV Paint. Game developers will love the new texture baking function, which allows you to convert the rendered lighting of a scene into the actual textures. Video games can have added realism and conserve computing power this way. Using the UV Editor you can edit object textures, and using UV Paint you can paint onto textures. Both are also very useful in the creation of 3D art for game development.

Even at version 6, trueSpace needs improvements. The undo function is limited and an undo history is needed, and the Facial Animator could use more tweaking. But all of the other new additions to the program are quite wonderful and bring the level of trueSpace’s functionality that much closer to high-end. With the release of version 6, trueSpace is still the best 3D graphics, animation, and rendering package for the price.
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