We’ve had the Wasp3D guys over for a day or two of demos. They’ve been showing us their latest version and demonstrating the touch screen developments. It’s been interesting and they have some new techniques, but the vizRT designers are not convinced by the workflow yet.
DJ and Pulkit were very keen to show us all the latest additions to the designer interface, but the most impressive side seems to be the interactive interface builder. It is straightforward, although not simple, to put together an interface with a scrolling set of items which represents the menu. The items have some inertia built in automatically, so building a carousel menu can be done by adding a few objects together in a scene. The gestures in the system can then be used to control a piece of video or an animation. In their main example they had build a menu showing a number of example scenes. By turning the carousel and selecting a scene choice, it would then be loaded and brought up full screen. The charts could then be presenter driven. All this was done using only touchscreen gestures. It was designed well and showed off all the features of refraction, reflection and particles. The company seems to have spent some time creating some good looking designs and it gives a great first impression.
As for the Designer software, it has many, many features and comes from a background of 3dsMax type layout with menus on all sides. It can be customised and it surely will go the same way as Max in trimming down to more limited menus in view at any one time. The latest version of Max is much different to the original a few years ago. The objects are designed to be capapble of animating almost every parameter that makes them up. There are the usual primitives, shapes and text that may be extruded and bevelled, but also there are possibilities to read in models and shapes from other software. It can read in models in the .x and .fbx formats or .3ds of course. Others may come later and larger models seemed to give it a problem. This happened as well with the Adobe Illustrator files being brought in; they need to conform to a particular setup to allow the program the correct interpretation. It seems that .shp files are more commonly used, coming from geo-mapping software such as MapInfo. Our example map of the UK political constituencies was a bit large for the test and the system struggled to pick out the shapes, but we will have another go with the later version that we used, where we had closed all the splines and deleted coincident points etc.
Once modelling within the system, it was a question of translating all our viz skills to suit the new environment. There is a way to do most things but it doesn’t seem the most logical or speedy after coming from the viz timeline. Viz have made a simple interface and almost all the changes are made in one particula area. In wasp3d’s case there are several windows to allow the changes to be made and there are keystrokes to bring up all of the different windows. It needs some tuition to start using the system. Once you are used to it though, there are some attractive features to be found. THe layers of textures can be used easily and blended together in much the same way as Photoshop layers. Together with the phong shading and reflection maps, this makes it easy to create some really glossy looking animations within a minute or two. Some refraction and particles can be added with seemingly low amounts of load on the system. I need to see that in real life systems to check if it’s the case. The particles are excellent and have true 3D objects as particles, with gravity and wind effectors and deflectors using planes. They can also be animated to give some easy effects. There is much influence from After Effects as well. It has a similar timeline, but more usefully, it has the methods of wiring together parameters. Parts of the model can be linked together using any of the animatable parameters of one or more objects.There are the usual maths functions to help with this. The main problem with the timeline seems to be the way it can spread downwards when there are many ojects moving, and it needs to use the AE style in showing only the lines with animation on them or to have layers that may be collapsed. The whole interface is similarly spaced out. In my view, it would be better to have smaller text, more condensed windows, a choice of colours etc. I shall play around with windows placement to see what we can get to. They can be saved as a personal theme, at least.
The automation is similar to vizRT with an interface builder to create a control form for either an operator or for the plugin to show the control within an iNews or similar system. The scripting is more difficult (or more time consuming really) to add more specialist programming to the form. Anything more complex than a button press or some text, such as reading xml data or database files, will need some coding in C# to be done in a separate package. This can be annoying when trying to do a complex scene; having to change to a different package each time a change is needed. Most of the time tuning a scene could be spent swapping between applications. We’ll find out more if we put it into practice. It would be cooler to have some sort of scripting in the design interface. I’m not saying that vizRT is perfect; far from it. Brainstorm is more attuned to the scripting side with their python interface, but they have their own drawbacks in creating a simple interface for daily news animations. No one system is going to be perfect.