Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Worldweaver DX Studio 2.1
- You can import models from DX Studio 2.1's online library or from other modelling apps, simple method of exporting and embedding completed apps
If there's a more affordable, better supported or simpler way to get into 3D applications or lay down the groundwork for more complicated 3D projects, we'd like to see it. For users who want good results on a budget, DX Studio 2.1 is a great choice.
Price$ 354.97 (AUD)
Sapphire is the most prestigious -- and priciest -- collection of visual-effects plug-ins for compositing applications and suites. Version 2 has been available for Shake since June 2006 -- and the edition for Autodesk systems such as Flame is version 4 -- but the second release of the collection for After Effects and a wide range of compatible hosts is now finally available.
Sapphire 2 adds more than 30 new filters, revamps many more, and adds support for After Effects CS3. This allows all of the filters to run in AE CS3's 32-bit-per-colour mode, and under Windows Vista. GenArts claims Sapphire 2 supports Apple's new Mac OS X 10.5 'Leopard' too -- though as After Effects won't support it until an update due in December, this should be regarded more as 'ready to support'.
As with version 1, the set is available in four Boxes: Lighting; Stylize; Adjust, Blur+Sharpen, Composite & Distort; and Render, Time & Transitions -- or as the full Package. This provides a convenient way to build up the full collection if the full set is too pricey for your budgets.
The original Sapphire was a must-have set for many VFX artists. For many the superb-quality lighting tools alone -- which include nine glow filters that have seen use on a huge number of feature films and top-flight ads -- were worth the cost of the collection.
Unfortunately, version 2 doesn't add any groundbreaking filters -- but it does flesh out the set of tools with some very high quality effects. Artists working with 3D elements will be pleased with a number of filters that manipulate scenes based on input from a Z-depth rendering.
ZDefocus pushes areas in and out of focus based on this input, while other filters use this to control convolutions and glows. There's also a new Light3D filter, which relights a clip based on an input clip rendered with the directions of normal surfaces.
Other new filters are less successful. Cartoon works reasonably well, but if a project requires a decent cartoon or A Scanner Darkly look, you'd be much better paying for Digital Anarchy's $US295 ToonIt plug-in. Bleach Bypass and Film Damage work well, but no better than other versions -- and if you need the highest-grade versions, you'll need to invest in Red Giant Software's $US399 Magic Bullet Looks.
The new filters use the same combination of on-screen handles and pared-down controls to enable you to get the effect you want as quickly as possible. Many of the new filters are essentially variations of others, but with different controls tailored to particular tasks or functions.
While there's no new glow filters, Glare has been upgraded with four new types -- while the useful Lens Flare filters gain 14 flare types, a matte input and a separate version that follows any track you create.
Most of the filters preview and render quicker than you'd expect -- especially on our test Mac Pro 8-core.
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