Design Visualization

First Look: Shade 7 Standard

31 Dec, 2004 By: Ron LaFon

Design, rendering and animation software.

Many are familiar with the company Curious Labs, but probably few know that e frontier acquired the company in November 2003, although it still operates as Curious Labs. The company recently introduced a family of products called Shade 7. It includes Shade Designer LE, an entry-level version; Shade Standard, an all-in-one 3D graphics suite for designers, illustrators and graphic artists; and Shade Professional, which offers advanced modeling and rendering for architects and design professionals. This month, Cadalyst Labs looks at Shade 7 Standard.

Shade 7 Standard presents a clean, simple interface with an easily understandable menu structure. The application is quite capable for design, rendering and animation, and offers a rich feature set. Among the niceties is its ability to import Adobe Illustrator designs and export to Adobe Photoshop for final composition.

 Shade 7 standard
Shade 7 standard

Users can access advanced Boolean and polygon modeling tools to detail designs, and the incorporated TextEffector includes TrueType and PostScript Type 1 font support. Rendering options let users apply global illumination with radiosity for photorealistic results. Detailing the extensive feature set is impossible in the brief space that this review allows—for more detail, visit the Curious Labs Web site.

Rendering routinely takes place in an image window and, depending on the complexity of the model, can be fairly slow even on a fast system. Rendering can be distributed to other systems using a Rendering Server program included with the Professional version of Shade 7. As with other applications that create renderings, a fast system with lots of RAM produces the speediest results.

The documentation for Shade 7 Standard is extensive and excellent. It consists of a printed 199-page reference manual and a 450-page user guide that includes a section on integrating Shade 7 with Poser, the company's 3D character animation and figure design tool. A beginner's tutorial and a printed Quick Reference card are also provided.

Curious Labs Shade 7 Standard is capable of producing sophisticated rendering effects.
Curious Labs Shade 7 Standard is capable of producing sophisticated rendering effects.

Shade 7 Standard requires a 300MHz Pentium II system running Windows 2000/XP with 256MB of RAM and 250MB of free hard disk space, with a 24-bit color display that supports at least 800X600 resolution. The recommended configuration is an 800MHz or faster Pentium III with 512MB+ RAM and 5GB+ free hard disk space running Windows XP, with a 24-bit color display capable of 1280X1024 resolution and an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200, GeForce FX 5600, GeForce FX 5800 or ATI RADEON 9000 graphics card. A Macintosh OS X version is also available. Direct retail price is $209 for either the Windows or Macintosh version, with an upgrade from Shade 7 Designer LE version available for $85 for either platform.

Shade 7 Professional ($1,009, $699 for Poser owners) adds several new features and expands some existing one. For example, you can render images to 22,528X22,528 pixels in the Professional version, while the Standard version is capable of just 4,000X4,000-pixel renderings. The Professional version also adds shadow mapping with ray tracing, the CALLISTO renderer, radiosity with scanline rendering, depth-of-field, solid texture shader and 3D studio max (3ds) import and export.

Shade 7 Designer LE ($109) offers a reduced feature set, but can be upgraded as needed. A Japanese-language version of Shade 7 is available, as are books and a content CD of interior furniture. For a full list of Shade 7 features and a comparison chart of how each version differs from the others, visit the Curious Labs Web site at There you'll also find galleries of renderings made using Shade 7.

Ron LaFon, a contributing editor for Cadalyst, is a writer, editor and computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a principal at 3Bear Productions in Atlanta.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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