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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Have you noticed that the Web’s a little flat? That’s about to change. After several false starts (remember VRML?) the Web is about to go 3D -- in a big way.
The royal road to 3D on the Web? Flash. Yup, the self-same player that’s already running on more than 527 million PCs and Macs (and Linux, and Pocket PCs, and Solaris, and HP-UX, and…). Between Flash’s super-efficient file format and the near-universal availability of fast hardware, quick 3D is finally viable. (It doesn’t hurt that 50 percent of all Internet traffic is now delivered across connections running at 128K or faster.)
You’re thinking: Flash doesn’t generate 3D. True: Flash made its name as a 2D animation tool. But it’s surprisingly easy to fool the Flash Player into thinking it can render 3D.
Here’s how it works: You build and design your 3D content using a true 3D animation tool like Electric Rain’s Swift 3D or discreet’s plasma. (Relax: These tools aren’t as hard as you expect. Their developers are aiming for the broad middle of the Flash market, not rocket scientists.) Once you’ve got your 3D animation, you export it to Flash SWF format. Open it in Flash MX, integrate it with your other Flash content, add interactivity with ActionScript if you so desire, and -- voilà! -- Flash 3D.
Flash MX 3D Graphics Bible teaches you how to do all of this. Matthew David starts with a QuickStart tutorial that gives you a first taste of what you can accomplish with Flash 3D, and a refresher on the Flash MX tools you’ll be using to create (or fake) 3D -- drawing, libraries, timelines, and so forth.
Part II focuses on Electric Rain’s Swift 3D 3.0. For years, Swift was the only tool for exporting 3D to Flash. It’s still enormously popular -- both for its relative simplicity and its excellent SWF export options.
Next, David turns to discreet’s plasma. Experienced 3D folks know this firm well -- especially its flagship 3ds max product. As you might expect, plasma is stunningly powerful.
At more than 200 pages, David’s coverage of plasma is really a book in itself. You’ll start by mastering the plasma design environment, which -- thankfully -- owes more to Flash and Photoshop than it does to 3ds max.
David covers primitives and extended primitives, text editing, modifiers, lighting, cameras, materials, timeline controls, animation, and more. There are chapters on plasma’s built-in effects (such as particles and space warps); Havok plug-ins; scripting, and of course, rendering.
David’s nowhere near finished. He presents a full chapter on optimizing your 3D for Internet delivery, another on mixing 3D and 2D, and overviews of 3D in Dreamweaver and Director. His section on building 3D solutions includes chapter-length discussions of all four fields currently most receptive to 3D: presentations, games, marketing/advertising, and distance learning.
You’ll even find coverage of bringing 3D into multi-way audio, video, collaborative, and real-time data applications with Flash MX Communication Server. There’s also a CD-ROM full of 3D samples, ActionScript code, and demoware.
Looking to differentiate yourself from the huddled masses of Web developers yearning for clients? 3D may be your big chance -- and this book will help you grab it. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.