DX Studio 2.1

DX Studio 2.1 can be used to create a range of interactive 3D applications, from games through to architectural walkthroughs. Comprising a real-time 3D engine and a number of editing tools, it's a budget program with big ambitions.

Version 2.0 of the Direct X 9.0c-based DX Studio 2.1 marks a significant jump over its predecessor. In the past, DX Studio has garnered praise for its development environment, but lacked its own modeller - you had to incorporate prebuilt models or import them from a modelling application. With DX Studio 2.1 comes the debut of an integrated model editor. This allows the user to create 3D models from scratch, and it puts DX Studio into the rarefied category of real-time 3D engines that can generate animations from start to finish. The modeller might look incomplete compared to high-end modelling tools, but the basics are well covered, and the supported tools include extrusion, lathing, UV mapping and boolean operations that let you add and subtract shapes to form new ones. For more complicated work, you can import models from DX Studio 2.1's online library or from dedicated modelling applications in standard Collada format.

DX Studio 2.1's workspace is - if you'll pardon the pun - a model of organisation. DX Studio 2.1's central viewport is surrounded by panes managing the individual scenes. Each scene - either 2D or 3D - holds its own camera settings and objects, and onto this you can easily attach scripts that govern impressively realistic movement. The only downside is that to get the most out of automating models you need to have sound grasp of the JavaScript scripting language on which the script in DX Studio 2.1 is based. If you don't, applying motion to models will involve a steeper learning curve than you might like.

That said, another feature in DX Studio 2.1 that stands out from its peers is the excellent technical support available - both from the developers and the user community. A Web-based 'wiki' help guide, with contributions from other users, is available inside DX Studio 2.1 as well as on the Web. DX Studio 2.1's Studio Player displays a preview of animations. A handy window shows the script executing as it plays, which is great for debugging. We were also impressed by how easy it is to export or embed completed applications. Simple menu options let you quickly generate standalone EXE files or a suite of HTML documents for the Web. But you can also embed the player in Microsoft PowerPoint files - and even Microsoft Explorer Active-X enabled Web pages.

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Tom Gorham

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