Swift
3D V4.5 Review
      by Nathan aka DDD

 
My overall rating:

4.5 / 5
(no pun intended)

This program is a must have for the 2d and flash artist looking to enhance their works. But it has features that appeal to all levels of experience.


Pros

  • Unmatched 3d to flash integration
  • Very easy plug and go factor
  • .avi, .flv and .mov export
  • Very responsive support and forum
  • Plenty of render outputs to choose from

Cons

  • Lots of workarounds to get top notch results
  • Still needs to grow a bit as a modeler and animation tool
  • Lighting setup still confuses me
  • Soft Selection is a bit tricky

Summary:
I would like to begin with what Swift 3d v4.5 is not. Swift is not Lightwave, XSI, 3d Studio Max or Maya (among others), and in general is not capable of what the big boys of the 3d arena are. I get the question a lot wanting to compare Swift to Maya or Swift output to Lightwave's HDRI rendering. So before we begin I wanted to clear the air. Swift is not capable of putting out the work that can be achieved in lets say a Lightwave or Maya at this point. So if you were reading this review just to see if Swift can hang with the big boys of traditional 3d I just made your read a short one. It cannot nor was it ever intended to knock off Maya or dethrone Lightwave. But where it does excel is its vector rendering abilities and its .swft and .swf rendering for flash which at this point no other program I can think of can compare to. And this 4.5 release does nothing short of once again deliver the goods and raise the bar with the introduction of .avi, .mov, .svg and .flv export options.

Rendering
This release is primarily focused rendering improvements, so not much was done to the interface, materials or Advanced Modeler. But what I can tell you off top is that the new .flv and .avi/.mov export options are worth their weight in gold and worthy of the upgrade itself. Then you have the ever faithful .svg (scalable vector graphics) export format that has been introduced into Swift as well. With the trend in web development leaning towards video, 3d and enhanced user interaction, Swift is by far on the forefront of bridging the gap between 3d and web.

Now Erain sweetens the deal with the new .avi and .mov export formats. So now once you model and animate in Swift you can now take your animations into compositing applications like After Effects and Combustion and do post processing there far easier than importing image sequences. And, to add to the .swft and .swf file formats for Flash, you can now export the .flv format from Swift to take full advantage of displaying video in Flash to be dispersed to millions of computers that already have the Flash Player. Just the thought of this wets my palette thinking about it.

Using any of these options in Swift is just as simple as choosing them in the drop down or the “Preview and Export Editor” tab. Depending on the option you choose you will be presented with some very self explanatory options to further refine your render. One of these is the new “Pen Outlines” option. Which is absolutely great for cartoony style renders. While I am talking about rendering I must mention that the Ravix 4 engine is blazingly quick with impressive results. Couple everything I mentioned with shadow density, color abilities and vector transparency, clearly this is a must have software for the 2d and 3d artist and anyone who uses flash.

The Interface
At first the interface could be a little confusing. Being that everything is split into tabs with a few modular windows. But once you get over the initial shock, the Swift interface is really quite intuitive. There is a huge user base for swift and there is no lack of training material available both paid training and free. Some good resources would be www.swiftdev.com , www.kirupa.com/forum/ and www.imediatraining.com . But considering the alternatives Swift's learning curve is by far the lowest. You can be up and running and modeling cool stuff in a matter of hours. Also one handy feature that I absolutely adore is the “Web Assistant” tab. Here if you are connected to the internet you can connect directly to Erain and the plethora of resources available (You also register your product this way). All without leaving Swift or opening a new window.

[ the interface ]

Modeling
Modeling the basics is very easy in Swift and is actually a good precursor to understanding general 3d techniques. But be warned. Swift is so powerful and useful that it will easily leave you begging for more. I found myself wanting to jump in and model cars, strange organic objects and the likes. Which don't get me wrong you can do in Swift. But you really have to think, plan and apply some trial and error to get predictable results. This is where that great user base comes in. Just about every snag I ran across someone did as well and knows a good work around. So in the end Swift is a very capable modeler. Just at times you really have to apply yourself to get what you are after.

Animation
Animation is fairly straight forward for the most part. Key framing, positioning and rotating all take place in the main screen when the “Animate” button is turned on. One key thing is you have to remember to turn it off when you are done animating (I found out the hard way several times). But just like with modeling Swift will leave you wanting more. And once again you will have to plan your project well or be prepared to do some rework. At this point Swift does not have IK's or bones and weighting so to animate things like humans dancing and realistic car movements do take sometime. That brings me to another point I like about Swift. You can easily bust through the limits of the program with some clever placement of invisible objects and parenting. But as with all programs it takes time to get your own workflow down and understand all the functions in the program.

Support
Should you have any problems with installation, operation or making cool things the support from Erain and the user base is phenomenal. Their forum is a very responsive one and their tech support is accessible and nice. I did not have any problems with my install or working the program. But if you surf their forum you will see a community that comes to aide of their fellow comrade.

Read more of this review and my final thoughts on the next page!


 

page 1 of 2


 




SUPPORTERS:

kirupa.com's fast and reliable hosting provided by Media Temple.