Caligari trueSpace 7.5 (Cadalyst Labs Review)31 Mar, 2008 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth
3D Modeling software offers new character, animation, and virtual-space features.
A lot of 3D modelers are out there on the market. There's practically one for every field: architecture, engineering, gaming, and art. Some modelers serve only their niche, and others cross over to other disciplines to become bigger players. One such modeler is trueSpace 7.5 from Caligari. Caligari is the first to tell you that trueSpace 7.5 is not really a CAD program. The company prefers to position it as a complement to CAD.
Caligari trueSpace 7.5
Back in 1985, trueSpace started on the Amiga platform. (Oh, come on, you remember those computers. My older brother swore by them. I opted for a PC.) As you know, just as VHS won the video-format wars over Betamax, the PC beat out most of its competition. (Note that this is not a comment on the relative merits of Windows versus Mac versus Linux versus anything else.) But rather than fold up and die with the platform, trueSpace switched over to Windows and is very popular today. I've watched it for many years. It has always been a very interesting product with a loyal following.
For trueSpace 7.5, Caligari totally rewrote the code from the ground up. In an endeavor of that magni- tude, you would expect many things to fall through the cracks, and Caligari knows this. As a result, when you fire up trueSpace 7.5 one of the first things you might notice are tabs across the top of the graphics window (figure 1). Workspace is trueSpace 7.5, and Model is trueSpace 6.6. trueSpace 6.6 is available because not all of the previous functionality has migrated over to trueSpace 7.5 quite yet. Cali- gari didn't want its customers losing functionality, so they gave them both versions.
Figure 1. The interface is decidedly not Windows standard. It s not too hard to find your way around, though, once you get used to it.
Modeling in trueSpace 7.5 is a snap. You start out with a primitive and then you push and pull it and add or remove sweeps, vertices, and faces until you're satisfied with the results. A new tool called Displacement Map Paint allows you to paint deformations directly onto the surface of the object. Wherever the cursor touches the object, the model will either stick out or fall in, depending on your settings. This tool is a very freeform way to model. You can assign exact numbers to everything so you are in control at all times. You have Boolean functions available on the Model side, so you can model using multiple shapes as targets and tools. A repeat function works for commands such as Move and Copy. Many, many hot keys will make your life easier — for example, x is for rotate, z is for move, and c is for scale. The software features huge libraries of premade models, scenes, and materials for you to choose from, or you can create your own.
How many times have you had a bad hair day? In trueSpace 7.5 you never will, unless you want to (figure 2). You can paint hair onto a character's head and adjust its length, color, fullness, and whatever else you want.
Figure 2. Creating hair in trueSpace 7.5 is really easy. And it looks good, too! (Is that Tom Hanks as a blond?)
trueSpace 7.5 has some really nice rendering capabilities. You get features, such as subsurface scattering, that used to come only in far more expensive programs. In subsurface scattering, light from the environment actually penetrates the outer surface of your model and sort of bounces around within it. If you want a really good example of what that looks like, take a good, close look at your own skin. The feature makes for very realistic characters.
As part of the total rewrite of the code, trueSpace 7.5 got a whole new animation system. It now has real-world physics: gravity (things fall), collision (things bounce off of one another), adhesion (things stick together), and attraction (magnet-like). You can do real-time walkthroughs controlled by your mouse as in a video game. trueSpace 7.5 also has some very strong character animation. Characters have bones (figure 3, p. 28) that you can push and pull through realistic ranges of motion. You can choreograph entire scenes. You can add prescripted actions that take place at specified points in a scene. For instance, click on a doorknob and the door opens. A light switch turns on the light.
Figure 3. The software has a whole library of characters. They have bones that you can click and drag to move them realistically. It works great in animations.
trueSpace 7.5 is expressly designed to take advantage of multiple processors. It is massively parallel, which means it will work with as many cores as you can get your hands on. Caligari is much more excited by multicore processors than with 64-bit chips. Caligari said that 100 cores on a chip are just a little bit bigger than one single-core, 64-bit chip — and much more powerful.
Just as a side note, trueSpace 7.5 doesn't have 3Dconnexion 3D controller support yet, but the company is looking into it. Caligari said some users have had some success, but nothing is official yet. Maybe in future releases.
The Sharing Game
trueSpace 7.5 has a free viewer called truePlay that lets non-trueSpace users join trueSpace users to interact with models and scenes. It also comes in handy when you visit the shared space (figure 4). Shared space is like a virtual conference room. You have an avatar that represents you to whomever else is in the room. Users can move around and collaborate online in real time. You can see the other person's point of view or your own. It's a lot like playing Doom. It also has built-in voice capability and 3D directional Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capability. That means that if your colleague's avatar is behind you and speaks, it sounds like he or she is really behind you.
Figure 4. In shared space, you can move around and interact within an environment as well as with other players, er, occupants. Just move your mouse and sail around the virtual area.
Shared space may sound like fun and games, but you can do real work there, and that's what Caligari is counting on. Several people can work in shared space at once. After a design is agreed upon, it is filed. Of course, you can always save your own copy to work offline.
Caligari trueSpace 7.5 sells for $595. In the grand scheme of things, that's peanuts. The software packs a lot of modeling punch. For more information, you can visit the company's Web site at www.caligari.com.