Ventuz have finally unveiled their new version of software. That page with the graphic of a blanket covering the box seems to have been there for such a long time. Better text output, better textures, better performance; in common with other packages they are taking Collada models for flexibility (These are the models that Google and Adobe are taking into their software). The main pricing change is that there is now an Express version of the software that is free for both design use and for playback. This could make it a bargain for doing simple presentations on normal PC screens or projectors.
The Express version is quite versatile and can render to 1920 x 1080 so DVI output quality is great. What is missing are the SDK interfaces; it has simple keyboard control and simple file connections but any live links and programming interfaces are left for the Professional version. The quality is excellent, as before; the software uses DirectX drivers so it has the full gamut of Microsoft’s libraries.
I haven’t tried the live video input. There is just one in the Express version so I assume it could be the web cam; unlimited inputs in the Pro version. All the sophisticated mattes and keying missing in the Express, as are the screen shaping features required for tuning the projection display angles.
The Ventuz interface is slightly idiosyncratic and has features that are not found in other 3D software. Once you get used to it, the flexibility is great, but there is a learning curve. The basic interface can link lots of parts without any programming and has plugins to drive the animation easily. Once you have the Professional version, as a programmer, there is really no limit to the way that you can drive a DirectX screen. It is fully .Net compliant and has full live database access. For Broadcast, they now drive the new Deltacast cards to give full SD/HD broadcast quality output with a key signal.
The unfortunate aspect is that the Express version may only play out models that have been created with the Express designer. I think this was the wrong choice. I would prefer the situation where I could design a scene in the Professional version and then allow people to download the free player. I could imagine several ways of making this model work in marketing terms. This would allow someone to create demos that had almost the full power of the graphics but limited to the programming and connectability. If I have to send an expensive dongle to every one of my demos it would cost me a fortune, so I’m restricted to demos close to home. The Express version should also allow people to do some partial editing of the scenes or the variables. Anything that I expose as public in my scene should be able to be edited. I don’t want to have to send an even more expensive designer dongle to a show, where the customer may ask for last minute unexpected changes. I know I can read some form of set up files or spreadsheets, but it would be nice to be able to adjust a timing curve or change a colour at the last minute. I feel that I will be stuck with doing all my demo creation in the Express environment.
I do still like this software though, and will continue to explore it, but I won’t close my eyes to other packages. We have a Professional version at Happy Tuesdays, so do ask for a no-strings-attached quote if you have a project.