Stories by Ben Long

Low-Priced Models Deliver Range of Features

Why would you even consider a one-megapixel camera in this era of two- and three-megapixel powerhouses? Because, as with so many things, more is not necessarily better. Just because a camera has higher resolution doesn't mean it takes better pictures; you really need all that extra resolution only if you want to print pictures larger than 5 by 7 inches or blow up part of an image. Granted, today's state-of-the-art 3.3-megapixel cameras offer improved image processing and new features, but most camera manufacturers have been diligent about migrating such features down to their one-megapixel models.

Integrated Graphics Program Slims Down

In the market for graphics software but hesitant to spend hundreds of dollars? Deneba Systems Inc. has just the thing: Canvas 7 SE, a stripped-down version of the company's integrated graphics package. Like its older sibling, Canvas 7 SE packs a lot of power into a flexible, unified interface that lets you easily mix vector and bitmap graphics in a single document, though the sheer number of features may baffle novices. This version lacks high-end features such as color separation and calibration, but Deneba has wisely left in Canvas's excellent SpriteEffects technology, which makes complex layering and special effects a snap.

Cinema 4D XL 6.0: More Features for 3-D Pros

With the release of Maxon Computer Inc.'s Cinema 4D XL 6.0, 3-D professionals have reason to be excited. This powerful modeling, rendering, and animation package has undergone a thorough upgrade; it's now packed with hundreds of new features and has a substantially redesigned interface. It's not perfect, but Cinema 4D is an excellent tonic for Mac 3-D pros envying their Windows-using counterparts, who have several tools at their disposal.

One-Trick Pony Offers Powerful 3-D Modeling

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.

Complex Multimedia Authoring

With seemingly everyone focused on creating content for the Web, it's easy to forget that you sometimes need to deliver media and presentations in a physical, higher-bandwidth form. Abvent Inc.'s Katabounga 3.0 allows you to create and script fully interactive multimedia presentations for delivery on CD-ROM, in kiosks, or as live presentations. Capable of handling just about any type of media, Katabounga offers a nice balance of icon-based authoring and more-complex scripting, as well as cross-platform playback. Unfortunately, the package's documentation is so impenetrable as to render the product very difficult to learn.

Carrara: MetaCreations' 3-D Modeling Debut

After cornering much of the low-end and midrange Macintosh 3-D software market, MetaCreations Corp. has introduced Carrara 1.0, a completely new 3-D modeling, rendering, and animation package. Designed to replace Ray Dream Designer and Infini-D, Carrara takes the strengths of those packages and adds a wealth of powerful features that will prove attractive to beginning and professional 3-D developers alike.

FotoStation 4.0

Cheap scanners and digital cameras, not to mention a world of pictures on the Web, make it easy to amass a huge library of images. If a glut of images is swamping you, eRoket.com's FotoWare AS FotoStation 4.0, an image-cataloging and -management application with a small footprint and speedy performance, may be worth a look. Unfortunately, the program's weak search function and rough interface might make you think twice.

Earthmate

When not even MapQuest and MapBlast can get you where you're going, you may need a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. GPS devices determine your geographic location using signals transmitted by a ring of satellites orbiting Earth. One such receiver is DeLorme's Earthmate, a small, battery-powered box that attaches to your Mac's serial port. With its software, Street Atlas USA 6.0, the Earthmate can show you a full-color street map of your location and track you as you move. But although the software is quite impressive, the hardware is plagued with problems.

Scan Right and Save Time

Though image-editing programs such as Adobe Systems Inc.'s Photoshop give you extensive control over images, they can also encourage you to develop some bad habits when scanning originals. Because it's so easy to repair and edit an image, many people give short shrift to the scanning process. However, a little effort pre-Photoshop can not only yield better final images but also save the time you might otherwise spend correcting scans.

Dazzle Digital Photo Maker

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that we're in the midst of a digital video revolution. If you're itching to be a revolutionary but don't want to spend $700 or more for a digital video camera, Dazzle Multimedia Inc.'s Dazzle Digital Photo Maker will let you capture videos and stills through a tiny $100 device that connects your Mac's USB port to any video camera or VCR. The Dazzle's image quality and playback performance are ideal for users who want to edit and distribute movies over the Web or on CD-ROM, although the Mac version of the software leaves something to be desired.

Macromedia Tightens Grip on Web Graphics

Fireworks 3, the latest release of Macromedia Inc.'s Web-graphics software, bolsters that company's already strong grip on the market for Web-based creative tools. While previous versions provided useful vector-based drawing tools, Web-optimization features, and automated JavaScript creation, version 3 adds tighter integration with Macromedia's Dreamweaver as well as other improvements that make the package hard to beat.

Camcorder Casting Call

We're in the midst of a revolution, and this one will definitely be televised. Long established at the high end, consumer-level desktop video has been a long time coming-but it's finally here. And just as scanners and laser printers propelled desktop publishing, digital video (DV) cameras make videotaping easier and editing your footage more affordable.

Kai's Power Tools 6

Most Adobe Systems Inc. Photoshop users have encountered MetaCreations Corp.'s Kai's Power Tools, the popular collection of special-effects plug-ins known by its initials, KPT. Over the years, MetaCreations has offered infrequent upgrades-spruced-up versions of the old plug-ins, along with a handful of new ones. But with KPT 6, MetaCreations has changed its approach: rather than updating the same software, the company has released a set of new filters to be sold alongside KPT 5, the previous-and now concurrent-version. (At press time, MetaCreations had recently announced its intention to divest itself of much of its graphics software, so it's likely that the KPT plug-ins will eventually be offered by a different company.)