Strata Design 3D CX is our professional-level 3D modelling and animation software that delivers end-to-end power for the entire 3D design workflow.
Quickly bring your creative ideas to life with a simplified learning curve, plugins to the Adobe Create Suite and award-winning rendering quality rivalling any software at any price.
Strata Design 3D CX 7 Requirements
1024x768 display or better / Intel processor(s) / 2.0 GB RAM or more / 1.7 GB HDD free space for full installation / Mac OSX 10.5.8 or later.
*If you want to use the Adobe Photoshop plug-in you must have Photoshop extended CS4 or higher.
24" iMac / 4 GB RAM / 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo / Mac OSX 10.6.8
*Photoshop CS 5.1 Extended
What does this software do?
Strata Design 3D CX 7 is a complete modelling and animation package. You can build and texture models, compose scenes, animate and render. Asset files from other 3D programs can be imported and worked on (notably OBJ, DXF, Autodesk 3D studio and more).
Who is it for?
It appears to be targeted to illustrators and graphic designers. There is a noticeable effort across the whole Strata suite of software to work together with Adobe software - particularly Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat.
How easy is it to use?
Perceived usability probably depends on the background of the user. Perspective for this review: I have a diploma that includes training in a 3D package popularly used for TV, but for this review I mostly watched whilst my partner checked out the software. He has taught 3D modelling and animation for 14+ years using a number of different industry-standard 3D packages. It should be noted though, that neither of us have previously used Strata Design 3D CX. (My partner did teach using the old Strata StudioPro back in the '90s...)
Users who don't have a lot of experience in 3D work will be pleased that certain aspects of this program seem relatively 'simplified' (e.g. animation controls in the Project Window). Also on the user-friendly side is a big library of models and textures all ready to go, as well as project quick start templates and other pre-defined resources. The included User Guide (PDF) is clear, and there are some good (previous version) video tutorials on the Strata website. Further (pay-for) training is available from www.strata3duniversity.com and there is an official Strata community and testing ground at www.stratacafe.com, which looks to offer some good resources and forums.
Users already experienced with other industry-standard 3D packages could find this one a little testing in some areas where things are not done as might be expected, at least by default. [Note: I installed the software from a digital file downloaded directly from Strata.com and left all settings at default.]
- It appears that certain editing can't be performed if the grid is not specifically turned on - e.g. extruding in the Y-axis, or adjusting Bezier handles on a flat plane profile.
Other major 3D programs certainly have grids, but don't have the apparent hard requirement to have the grid on for editing.
- Some tasks require a LOT of mouse-clicks and extra windows
For example (ignoring any hot keys for a straight comparison), to edit a freshly drawn out cube:
1. Click to select a transform tool
(action required every time a new object is created)
2. Click the model
3. Click the 'convert' menu button to open a selection panel
(or double-click the model to achieve steps 2&3)
4. Click 'convert to polygon mesh'
5. Click OK
(as before, steps 4&5 can be achieved with a double-click on the selection panel)
Ta Dah! A new model editing window appears
6. You can now edit the model in this window (as long as the grid is on)
In other major 3D programs our freshly drawn out cube is a polygon mesh by default. After creation, the software automatically activates the last transform tool you were using - no click required*. The model can be edited directly - no extra window required.
*At the start of each modelling session, there is a once only requirement to select a transform tool.
The UV mapping follows an unconventional workflow. First, a texture must be applied to the model, then the UV map is 'burned' (presumably from the texture?), then the UV map can be edited or the texture can be changed. In other major 3D programs the UV map is created directly from the model and a texture is applied to the UV map.
• Cheaper than other industry-standard 3D packages
• Ease of use for creating and controlling textures
• Radiosity rendering is very good
• Practical quick start templates
• Big library of pre-made models and textures
• Ability to send a model through to Photoshop for texture painting (*note the gotcha related to this)
Cons (compared to other major 3D software packages)
• Some unconventional operation and workflow
• Extra mouse-clicks and window panels
• No animation graph editor
• Photoshop must be set to run in 32 bit mode for the Strata plug-in to work.
• The first time I 'sent' a model to Photoshop for texture painting - nothing happened. I tried resending, starting a new model, re-starting the program... finally I googled it and found others had the same problem. The following solution worked for me: first create a file in Photoshop, go to the Photoshop 'Filter' menu and select ''Strata Design 3D CX', then from the sub-menu select 'Model New'. This sent the Photoshop file through to Strata Design and after that - 'Voila' Strata Design was able to communicate with Photoshop.
Would I recommend Strata Design 3D CX 7?
Given the price compared to other major 3D packages, and aspects that are very good, I would recommend at least downloading the 30-day tryout to see if it will cover your requirements and if the workflow suits you - especially if you are primarily coming from a 2D design background.
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