January 05th 2001 | Jens C Brynildsen
3D in Flash has been around for a few years now and we're recently seeing the second generation of dedicated SWF renderers arrive on the shelves. John Dalziel takes Electric Image's, Amorphium Pro out for a spin (and a swoosh, and a flyby).
Electric Image touts Amorphium Pro as the 3D package for graphic designers. It's this distinction that gives the product it's own character and it's own niche. The 'artist-friendly' (or 'trigonometrically impaired') theme is carried through every aspect of the product design.
For a start the GUI is very sexy. Designers like that. Electric Image have taken a leaf or two out of the Kai Krause book of interface design with subtly graduated shadows under the pop up boxes and beautifully rendered toolbox icons.
Even the Windows taskbar is hidden completely from view as the whole screen is replaced with a gorgeous but non-standard interface. Some Flashers will appreciate the irony.
The arty metaphor is even extended to modeling. For example, using the in built wax modeler is quite a 'touchy-feely' affair more akin to working clay than calculating vectors and matrices. Electric Image have really done their homework though, thoughtfully adding support for Wacom pads. Sculpting and painting your models with an Artpad in full 3D is an amazing experience.
A few years ago I worked in the games industry and consequently popped my 3D cherry on the games industry staple 3D Studio MAX. This means I'm a mesh modeler, preferring to build my models with deformed primitives.
Thankfully Amorphium Pro caters for the old school to, letting you employ a mixture of primitives and 'wax' modeling techniques to construct your objects.
If you're not happy with the in built modelers then it'll also let you import models from all the usual suspects, Lightwave, 3D Studio MAX, Maya, DXF. It'll even extrude an EPS file for you should you so wish.
My only real grumble with the program was that it didn't seem to support multi-tasking (when the program is not in focus then everything is paused). This makes background rendering is impossible and will become a real pain for long or complex renders. Unless you have the luxury of a spare machine to dedicate purely to rendering then you're going to have to sit it out.
That said, the quality of the renders are good and more importantly the Flash rendering is excellent. There are quite a number of toggles and settings to allow you to control the quality vs filesize of the final .SWF file. Gradients are supported and it will even make a valiant attempt to separate specular polygons if your feeling a bit broadband.
The documentation in the manual is thorough and free plug-ins and tutorials (including a Flash export tutorial) are available through Electric Image's website.All this power won't cost you an arm and a leg either (well maybe just an arm). It rocks up at an affordable $249 with discounts available for owners of version 1.0. Don't expect to be turning out work that'll piss all over FrameStore and Pixar though. Amorphium is great at what it does and what it does is the web. The export functions tell you that: Flash(.SWF), Quicktime(.MOV), GIF, JPEG, and PNG amongst others.
If you're going to be working primarily in other mediums then it may not be the ideal choice but if you are looking for a designer-friendly 3D program to create web content then this is the best you can get.
Jens has been working with Flash since version 3 came out. Since then, he's been an active member of the Flash community. He's created more than a hundred Flash games (thus the name of his blog) but he also creates web/standalone applications, does workshops and other consulting. He loves playing with new technology and he is convinced that the moment you stop learning you die (creatively speaking). Jens is also the Editor of this website.