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      05.08.2000 17:59
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      Yes, Strata 3d is in fact free from www.3d.com but dont despair, it is a fantastic program and here's why. It may be a little badly organised on screen, but all your modelling needs are available, together with some standard textures to use and fiddle around with. The lathe and extrusion tools can take some getting used to. The lathe allows you to take a bezier curve or area and spin it around an axis to create circular forms or part of them. The extrusion allows you to take a bezier curve or area and use it as the cross-sectional shape for a new model. Animation techniques can be confusing at first. An animation path must be drawn, then either an object, light, or camera goes onto that path using the convert to path tool. All sorts of combinations of movement are possible this way, making strata 3d one of the most powerful freely available programs anywhere. Also supported is direct polygonal manipulation, gravity, wind, and the ability to import 3d studio files. Naturally, there are a few gripes. When animating and using your own textures, be careful not to the name the image files with any numbers as this upsets the animation progress. Also, moving around in the 3d world is a little fiddly, the move and zoom actions are directed via an on-screen box with arrows on it. Click and drag but often miss the arrow by a pixel and end up zooming off to eternity. These problems aside, strata3d has one of the most impressive ray-tracing renderers I have come across. For those who don't know, ray-tracing literally traces the rays of light across the image to create realistic lighting effects. Also available to the user are lens flares, fogs, and mists, all beautifully controlled by the program. So all in all, this is one piece of beef considering it's free, and very soon the pro edition is also released for free on the 3d.com site, so go there today. See what you are missing!

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