One-Trick Pony Offers Powerful 3-D Modeling

SAN FRANCISCO (05/30/2000) - With more and more high-end 3-D graphics work moving to PC-based applications such as Discreet's 3D Studio Max, Mac users are finding themselves a little underpowered. Fortunately, autodessys's form-Z RenderZone, one of the oldest and most powerful 3-DÐmodeling programs for the Mac, is alive and well. With version 3.5, autodessys has fixed some problems and added new features to its venerable application. Unfortunately, form-Z's continued lack of animation facilities, as well as other frustrating limitations, won't help the program lure users of more-complete packages.

Besides fixing many of the minor bugs that plagued the last version, version 3.5 restores the Object Status palette, making it easier to manipulate objects.

The update also fine-tunes existing tools; for example, you can now change control points on NURBZ objects from smooth to nonsmooth. Version 3.5 also supports right-to-left text and adds a menu option for jumping to a Web page that offers technical support.

But many of form-Z's problems still remain. The navigation controls are clunky, in some cases lacking important functionality. Most users will probably want to create 2-D profiles in another program-as in previous versions, form-Z RenderZone 3.5 has underpowered 2-D tools, many of which lack control handles.

And although individual objects in form-Z have centroids, groups of objects do not, so you can't define a pivot point for rotating or scaling. In general, form-Z lacks elegant tools for transformations that use an object's local coordinate space.

Time to Upgrade Version 3.5 of form-Z RenderZone adds new features, though its interface needs work.

It's often said that you can model anything you can imagine using form-Z. This may be true, but a lot of the things you might imagine would be incredibly difficult to model with this package. If you plan to do any character modeling or create complex, curved surfaces, you'll want a true spline modeler; form-Z's spline tools still aren't up to the task. However, form-Z offers great solids tools, making it ideal for architectural modeling.

Macworld's Buying Advice Though form-Z RenderZone is a great program, potential users need to know where its strengths lie. For modeling tasks that a polygonal modeler would serve well, form-Z is an excellent choice. If you need maximum flexibility, you might be better off with NewTek's Lightwave or Maxon's Cinema 4D XL. And if you're planning on doing any animation, remember that you'll have to do it elsewhere. Current users should definitely upgrade to 3.5, though; it's a one-trick pony, but it does that trick very well.

RATING: 4.0 mice

PROS: Robust tool set; true solids modeler; excellent architectural features.

CONS: Weak navigation tools; lackluster 2-D tools.

COMPANY: autodessys (614/488-8838, http://www.formz.com).

LIST PRICE: $1,495.

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