Pixologic ZBrush 3D

Pixologic ZBrush 3D
Company: Pixologic, Inc.

Price: $585
($292 introductory price as of September 2001)
Downlaodable demo available

Pixologic ZBrush 3D Modeling and Painting Application
High End 3D Graphics Modeling and Manipulation Without The High End Price

The first thing you will notice when using ZBrush is that it does not use the standard Mac interface, the appearance reminding me of a custom designed software application used at Hollywood digital effects houses. I have to admit, this bothered me a lot. I, meaning myself and a great many Mac users, feel uncomfortable when the tried and true Mac OS protocols and familiar menu interface are substituted for something else. Deviations from this are rarely tolerated, and unless the application has something special to offer which makes it worth your while for the additional time you’ll invest in the learning curve, very few programs are worth recommending for purchase.

ZBrush is one of those few exceptions.

To begin with, ZBrush is a painting application program which incorporates 2D modeling and 3D rendering. ZBrush offers the user a plethora of tools which will allow you to explore your artistic creativity in ways you never considered.

ZBrush is an application best suited for the professional artist; people who work in advertising, as Hollywood production designers, engineering firms, computer gaming designers, occupations requiring a person with a strong visual sense to realize ideas and images with a high degree of clarity. I am not an artist, though with ZBrush I felt like one (and a highly paid one at that). This is because ZBrush is based on their “Pixol” Rendering technology which allows for the creation of objects and models possessing texture and depth while being created. And this is done in real time without the aid of a graphics accelerator, something you would expect for an application delivering warp speed performance.

Quite literally ZBrush allows you to manipulate images as if they were made out of a digital form of Silly Putty. You can stretch, pull, change depth and perspective with incredible ease. There is also a feature in ZBrush which I call â”intelligent brushes.” If your image is rendered as a 3D object, then your brush will follow the topography of the image as if it were a solid object, as well as interact with the lighting scheme you establish (which can be defined in very precise terms) with ZBrush calculating the appropriate level of highlights and shadows—again, in real time. Another neat feature you’ll love is the ability to paint with a textures—metal, plastic, chrome, wood and even reptilian skin among others with precision control over their attributes including reflection. And their Fiber Tool makes it a snap to add hair with exact control over fullness. Length, color, and waviness. This feature alone allows you to accomplish in seconds what packages require hours to create. As with its other features, this too is done in real time. The Hook and Snake Tools let you pull, stretch, and literally “snake” your image as if it were made of digital taffy, and the Deformation Tool Set alone has: Resize, Rotate, Twist, Noise, Bend, Spherize, Mirror, Optimize, and Subdivide. Other features include an ability to airbrush, layering, masking, fog, blurring, glow, color and texture control, and much more. This is one loaded stand-alone package!

Although there is an on-line tutorial, you should download their free manual, which is a 300 page pdf file. Personally, I would like to see a DVD al la Mac Academy showing (or more to the point, showing off) the various features this powerful rendering program offers. Even so, the best way to understand how powerful ZBrush is to simply play with it.

About the only major drawbacks I have found is that ZBrush only allows you to work with one 3D object at a time, and the antialiasing feature. Also, ZBrush cannot handle animation, a feature I would love to see in future versions if possible. Why? Imagine if you will a program this powerful incorporating animation. Quite literally, ZBrush could do for animation what Aldus PageMaker did for desktop publishing. A PC Pixar Studio on your desktop? Now that’s something that will end up on your must have list.

BOTTOM LINE: If you can get over the nonstandard Mac interface and invest the time in learning how to navigate ZBrush’s operating environment, you’ll find that ZBrush most likely will redefine what the serious digital artist demands from their software. And at the introductory price currently being offered, I doubt you’ll find more power for the dollar anywhere.

System Requirements: PPC G3 processor 128MB RAM (can be virtual memory) 1024×768 monitor resolution Mac OS 8.1 or later (Windows version also available)

Steven M. Adelson

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