Electric Image Universe
5 is a highend 3D modeler and render/animation software
used by many major 3D studios and artists doing work in a
wide array of visualization fields, from motion-picture
effects, to character animation, to industrial design and
architecture. To its credit numerous block-buster hits like
Star Wars Episode 1, Terminator 2, and Austin Powers: Goldmember--to
name just a few--have been created using its software. Additionally,
the rendering part of the system has been a long favorite
of architectural rendering professionals who quite often
their work in form-Z and then render those models in Electric
Image Universe. Given the nature of this site's audience
half of which are practicing architectural professionals)
we have taken a slightly different tack on how we reviewed
this software. In particular, we wanted to see how the architectural
audience might benefit from the latest version. This review
is broken into two parts. Part 1 is more of the traditional
review focusing on the product's overall qualities and new
features. In Part 2 we go indepth a bit to provide an over-all
sense of this product and discuss its capabilities.
5 - Part 1
Universe 5 consist of a collection (or suite)
of individual applications each focusing on a particular
of the overall 3D media creation workflow. To call them a
"suite" in the manner of Microsoft Office applications
is a tad bit misleading. Unlike those truer suites Universe
5's disparate applications don't
share a common set of application palettes or tool-bars
is there a direct way to move from one application to the
next. Additionally Universe Modeler uses a different file
format than Universe Animator. When you are done with your
modeling you export your work to the FACT file format--the
native format of the Electric Image Animator program. None
of these items are really that large of an issue--least
of all file format exchange, as most 3D pipelines often consist
of more than one program anyway.
However, our one key pet peeve was the subtle
differences in the basics of the interface windows. Such
such as the way you Zoom, Pan, and Re-orient windows, for
example, should really be the same from Modeler to Animator.
the same. Animator happens to have tiny buttons on the bottom
of each window--quite useful in fact--while Modeler doesn't.
Modeler on the other hand has a useful Information bar or
window at the bottom of the screen which provides helpful
information, Animator doesn't. These are clear areas in our
mind for future improvement.
Despite these minor issues the overall workflow
in Universe 5 is solid, buttressed by an exceptional set
user-interface technologies. In fact, the slightly harsh
tone above is really a reflection on just how great the interface
is--just a few more improvements and it would be near perfection.
There is more on the user-interface
in Part 2.
Modeler 5 is where you start your modeling project.
It's a hybrid surfaces and solid modeling program with
curves and UberNURBS support. 3D users like architects are
vaguely familiar with NURBS and of course industrial designers
rely on them, but many folks don't know what UberNURBS are.
UberNURBS is Universe 5's subdivision surfaces modeling
and allows you to create very organic or imaginative shapes
quickly be pulling at points in a "control gage"
over the object. Such tools are valuable to facial modeling
and other organic shapes. UberNURBS is a resolution-independent
format but there are some issues that users have to watch
for when going between it and ACIS class format editing.
Modeler 5 has a full set of solids
modeling technologies (basic solids like cubes, spheres
cones for example, all of which can be modified by the application's
Boolean controls. For architects however the Modeler may
frustrate this type of user. Unlike almost all CAD and architectural-specific
modeling programs Modeler 5 lacks the dimensional
controls at both the creation and--more importantly--placement
levels. While it is possible to fully create architectural
form in Modeler 5 (as is done by Lance
Evans in his EI Master
Series application tutorials) some basic items in the way
wall forms come together at re-entrant corners make for more
work than it is worth. However, not all is forsaken.
We discovered that because Modeler 5 supports
IGES import and export it is possible for Macintosh-based
architects to bring in architectural models (or virtual-building
data) from CAD applications that support this format--such
as Nemetschek North America's VectorWorks
10. In our tests
we successfully brought in VectorWorks models into Modeler
5. Once inside Modeler 5 you could do a bit of Frank Gehry-esque
on top of more Cartesian-oriented architecture and then export
that combined model data to Animator 5 for rendering. Other
import options include FACT and SAT (text) file formats.
Rendering and Animating.
Universe Animator 5 is where you set up your surface texturing,
procedural shaders, lighting and animation settings. Like
Modeler there are four windows by default each representing
a different orientated view of the data. The top right
is the Camera view. As you move a camera around in the top
view, for instance, you see the active camera's view change.
Getting the right camera view is easy. Universe
5 has new controls for cameras which allow for very precise
viewing of the data, including new Match Move capabilities--useful
to people in the motion picture industry. The Camera Information
window includes tabs for controlling
FOV attributes as well as motion characteristics.
Electric Image Universe 5 has extremely fast
rendering. While no timed tests were done for this review
the rendering speeds were excellent. It is clear that this
is one of Universe 5's strengths. For architects interested
in animating scenes--and generally interested in more advanced
renderers--Universe 5 has a very complete toolset. Additionally,
getting model data into Animator 5 from other programs is
fairly easy. So it is not necessary to move your data into
5, prior to rendering,
as mentioned above. Other ACIS compliant programs can easily
exchange data with Animator. A popular one is form-Z.
formats include: Autocad DXF, LightWave object format, Alias
OBJ, 3DStudio Max format, and of course FACT. We would love
see them include "native" support for the other
two large architectural CAD programs of the world: ArchiCAD
New Features in Universe 5
Electric Image Universe is already lauded for
its industry-leading rendering speeds, with Universe 5 the
company has added multiple processor support including MP
support on Renderama, its network slave technology. This
you can utilize every processor on the network in both single
and dual systems. In our quick tests the speed up with network
rendering was nearly twice as fast, however we will have
to wait for our new dual G5
Power Mac to test its dual-processor
capabilities. Universe 5 now includes Radiosity 1.0. This
new engine is seamlessly integrated into Animator 5 and
you to choose between two different calculation solving techniques.
Also new in Universe 5 is Macromedia Shockwave 3D export
you can bring your Universe work to the Web. And last but
not least a major new addition is Match Move technology
Universe to track 3D camera data and object motion from videos
System requirements for the Mac include a 300-Mhz
or faster G3 or G4 processor, Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X and a 32MB
graphics card with OpenGL support and 256MB of RAM.
Next Page: Universe
5 - Part 2
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