Cheetah 3D packs a lot of modeling, animation and rendering value for a good price. The software allows beginner to professional level designers and creators to create quickly and easily. Advanced features like particle generation, UV mapping and a wide range of polygon handling capabilities together with a wide range of import / export functionality adds adaptability. Rendering is quick and the program is stable with good support.
Cheetah 3D is aimed at modeling, animation and rendering. Opening Cheetah 3D reveals an elegant workspace layout. In fact, it is a surprise once one begins to open a few of the menu icons to reveal many more features and functionality than first expected for the price.
Fig. 1 - Cheetah 3D workspace with Render Manager
Working with this program for a few days I was able to complete many of the tutorials included and to learn how the entire system works. Beginners who are interested in modeling and animation will have few problems working with this software. They will also find that they will begin importing their own 3D objects from other programs and warehouses online, and working on them within this program. In fact, if one wishes to import a landscape, surveying data or civil engineering information from other sources this program will consume them in addition to the modeling capabilities of Cheetah 3D. All items are exportable in a wide number of commonly known formats.
Included are the Cheetah 3D menu item that allows users to access basic information about the program, acquire updates, set preferences and to register the software. Users may trial this software prior to purchase. Selecting the File menu item exposes the usual open, close and save commands as well as a Save Texture command. Also included is the export command. The Edit command includes the editing commands cut, copy, paste and delete as well as a dictation command. The Selection menu item allows for selection of model geometry such as rings, loops, areas and groups. An individual seam may be selected or a group of seams. The visibility of objects may be toggled on-off.
The Objects menu item contains a large number object creation tools such as Creators, Effectors, Modifiers, Particles, Polygons, Scenes and Splines. Sub-menus for each of these offer a wide number options that enable the creation of basic and complex shapes, terrains-surfaces, particle objects and common objects such as stars and flowers.
I found that I spent quit a bit of time experimenting and learning about the many options for object creation with this software. Materials cab be applied from a large library to these objects from the Material drop-down below the main view workspace.
I created a basic landscape with many basic shapes within 5 minutes, and added materials to them.
Different levels of interpolation and handling for polygons are present in the Tools menu and attributes of polygons may be changed. UV mapping is present. Properties for the object materials are displayed to the right and can be adjusted as needed.
Rendering preferences may be set in the Render menu item, animation can also be selected. Users will need to determine key frames and generate them. Interestingly, the program includes an item labelled Dynamics that is designed to provide object specific attributes such as level of water or air movement. These may be set to 2, 4 and 8 times normal. A choice of Layout windows are available including modeling, animation and UV editor windows.
Animation Animation is provided within Cheetah 3D. Objects can move along selected routes, or the cameras may move around objects. Particle generation is a unique feature that allows for the creation of different sized particles that may be effected by turbulence providing wind-like effects. These particles go around objects that are created.
More ocmmonly a series of key frames may be created with different camera viewpoints and a collection of these will form a rendering animation.
Lighting and textures may be applied to objects and surfaces, producing highly realistic results. The tutorials include examples of animations for learning that include airplanes with exhaust and cartoon characters moving across landscapes.
Rendering Rendering is straightforward with Cheetah 3D. Users may select the Render menu iten then choose to render the model or create the animation images. A Render Manager opens and it does have a Stop button to retreat from long renderings that are incorrect or to allow for changes. A list of of the images being rendered is created and can be cleared when desired.
Different image sizes are selectable and as might be expected, the inclusion of large surfaces with many materials and varying properties will result in longer rendering times.
Summary: Cheetah 3D includes all that is needed to model, animate and render for those interested to begin new careers or to begin working in the visual graphics field. The program is stable and provides several features for animation, particle handling and object creation into a single package for a reasonable price. This software can import a wide variety of 3D file formats and can export to many as well. Within a single day one will develop a 3D model and be able to creation animations and high quality renderings with Cheetah 3D. Give it a try - you won't go wrong.