The object editor (GIF, 33.5k) consists of several parts. You can construct 3D objects by combining simple shapes, or by extruding or spinning 2D curves. The simple shapes are the cube (although the name is somewhat misleading because the three dimensions of the cube can be different, yielding rectangular boxes), chessboard (checkerboard), sphere, and torus. Although they can be created easily with the other tools, conspicuously absent shapes are the cone and the cylinder.
Objects with axial symmetry can be created very easily with the spin tool with which you define the cross section of the object using lines or curves. The spin tool is very easy to use and when creating smooth curves, gives instant feedback on changes. It gives full control over spline options and the resolution of the spin (smaller numbers give polygon-like shapes, larger ones give smoother objects). The extrude tool is similar (they share the same dialog in the program), except that the curve is moved linearly rather than rotated.
With complex objects, it is often useful to group objects together as a single unit. NeoN GRAFIX 3D calls these groupings "meshes" and provides functions to manipulate them.
The surface of an object can have all sorts of characteristics. For example, a sphere could be a colored beach ball, a shiny ball bearing, or a transparent glass ball. The object editor's material editor controls these properties. Materials can be very simple, consisting of a single color, or very complex using bitmaps to control colors and/or shading and simulate surfaces like stone or wood. And if you can't get exactly what you want with these functions, you can always place a bitmap directly onto an object (creating a 3D Earth for example).
The material editor is very nice, but does have some shortcomings. As you make changes to the various properties, you can see the effect that your changes have by clicking on a small image in the material editor. I would prefer to see the image updated automatically as material properties were changed, rather than having to click the image each time. Another change that would be beneficial would be to change the slider bars for some properties to spin boxes so that numerical values could be seen and entered. [Note (added after review originally published): Robert Engberson at COMPO Software has pointed out that by holding down the Ctrl key and left clicking on a slider, a numerical entry field will pop up, enabling you to type in a value for the slider.]
Once the objects are built, the scene editor (GIF, 28.8k) is used to composite the objects into a scene that can be rendered. The scene editor and the object editor are very similar in appearance and operation, offering views of the various Cartesian planes (X,Y,Z) as well as 3D views. In the scene editor, objects are easily selected and moved, rotated, and resized. A mouse click can change the origin of rotation quickly, a feature I find extremely useful.
Light sources can also be easily placed and modified. NeoN GRAFIX 3D supports point sources, spotlights (with full control of spot radius and fall off), and planar sources. One handy feature is that any object can be a light source or a camera. It is often convenient for the camera to also be a light source and this is very easy to do.
On the down side, one complaint I have about NeoN GRAFIX 3D is that it will not allow you to use long filenames. That is a limitation that shouldn't exist for an OS/2 product, especially not one of this caliber
The products are competitively priced. The SE version has a suggested retail price of US$69 US, and is worth every penny of it in my opinion. Once quite expensive, the full version has recently been priced more competitively at US$249 US. No matter what your 3D graphics needs, or your budget, there is a version of NeoN GRAFIX 3D that will serve you well.
NeoN GRAFIX 3D
Dr. Dirk Terrell is an astronomer at the University of Florida specializing in interacting binary stars. His hobbies include cave diving, martial arts, painting and writing OS/2 software such as HTML Wizard.
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Copyright © 1997 - Falcon Networking
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Copyright © 1997 - Falcon Networking