Creating 3D models can be quite challenging. Applications like Cinema 4D and Maya are all-round 3D apps. They allow you to create 3D worlds and animations that can be used just as effectively in a game as in a presentation or blockbuster movie. Strata Design 3D CX 8.1.0, the Winter 2015-2016 release I got to review, is more focused on presenting 3D model design — objects, products, architecture, interior design… — in the most realistic and efficient way. The app has a learning curve, but it sure isn’t as steep as Maya’s or Cinema 4D’s.
Strata Design 3D CX 8.1.0 Winter 2015-2016 release has a new Embree raycasting engine by Intel that speeds up rendering by 800%, a template system based on predefined stage settings, and it is faster all-round than its predecessors. As it’s the first time I got to review the application, I went about trying everything out.
The first thing that struck me was how easy Strata 3D CX 8 is. It’s a cross-breed between an Adobe app and Maya or Cinema 4D in terms of interface and ease-of-use. Most features were more or less obvious to use. That’s especially true if you have any previous experience with 3D applications. It sure beats Blender, the open source 3D app I still can’t get my head around. To be honest, I did need some refreshing and the Strata PR was kind enough to enable access to Strata 3D University. Here you can find an overwhelming array of tutorials. I started with a refreshment course and then took some in-depth classes too. Strata 3D University is warmly recommended, certainly if you’re new at 3D design.
After trying out what I had learned in my refreshment course, I found that with Strata Design 3D CX 8 you can create beautiful 3D objects and scenes, architecture, gardens even. However, some functionality that you’ll find in the heavyweights is missing. For example, creating 3D using a script language like Python isn’t possible. Also, there is no sculpting or effects like particles that you can create within Strata Design 3D CX 8 — but in my opinion, that’s part of its appeal. Users of Strata Design 3D CX 8 who really need particle functionality will be happy to export their 3D model, load it in After Effects or Motion and work with it in those applications.
Rendering with Strata Design 3D CX 8 Winter 2015-2016 Release
Focusing on modelling also makes Strata Design 3D CX 8 incredibly fast, due to the new Embree raycasting technology. Raycasting is at the heart of the rendering process in Design 3D CX. The Embree engine comes from Intel and it’s ideal for rendering speed. The technology is integrated directly into the Strata rendering engine. The efficiency of the Embree raycasting engine, combined with new improvements in the Strata rendering engine blend together to provide a claimed speed increase of up to eight times that of the previous release. All depends on the image and configuration of your model and lighting, of course. The new engine is also credited with improving image quality through better antialiasing. With the Winter 2015-16 Release Strata 3D is able to refine how Design 3D antialiases images by going into darker and broader colour areas. Lacking previous versions of Design 3D CX to compare with, I can’t really tell if all this is as dramatic as Strata 3D says it is. Rendered designs do look brilliant, though.
The other new feature of this latest release is the Stage Model. This really makes it easy to take a finished model and stage it without having to create a complete environment for it first. The Stage Model has close to 30 professionally created templates and to view your model in one of them, all you need to do is select a menu item, choose the stage and set two configuration options.
Those options tell Design 3D whether you want to have your model automatically scale to the template and if you would like it to rotate to face the camera. The “Stage Model in Template” button completes the process and your model is rendered. It’s not clear if this involves the Embree engine, but as far as I could tell the results are very close if not identical to a final rendering.
The Stage Model feature even has retail shelving templates, but you can also create your own for use with future projects, which is efficient and time saving. Stage Model allows you to maintain a “company look” and share with other Design 3D users.
Strata Design 3D CX 8 isn’t Cinema 4D or Maya and it doesn’t claim to be either. It’s focused on modelling objects, cars, products, interior design and architecture. Although you could venture out in landscaping and gaming 3D as well, that is not where Design 3D CX8 shines.
Rendering is very fast and the rendered results look great, and with the Stage Model functionality you can quickly and easily put your model in a context, properly lit and rendered beautifully.
That makes me conclude Strata Design 3D CX 8 is specifically tuned for use by graphics and product designers and it does a splendid job for users in this market. It’s not expensive either at about €550.00.