In this final chapter we're going to take a quick look at the next natural step on our journey through Flash 3D: moving beyond 3D cheats and looking toward the use of specific 3D graphics software with Flash. In the past couple of years , companies such as Electric Rain and Discreet have come out with some pretty amazing software, and they're slowly bridging the gap between 3D and Flash.
For instance, Swift 3D from Electric Rain (see www.swift3d.com and www.erain.com) includes a couple of vital 3D tools: an extrusion editor to create basic custom-shaped planes and a lathe editor to create lathed objects. With the most recent release, version 3, you can create very complex extrusions, and it also includes a new bitmap texturing tool, so you can export some pretty amazing graphics for such a simple and inexpensive piece of software. It can export bitmap (JPEG) as well as vector graphics (SWF).
Last year, Discreet released Plasma ( www.discreet.com/products/plasma/ ) based on the same technology as 3D Studio Max ( www.discreet.com/products/3dsmax/ ). The export capability of Plasma is a little more advanced than that of Swift 3D, and you can also do a lot of mathematical equations and neat random things. The compromise is that the learning curve on this software is rather higher compared to Swift 3D, but if you're serious, it's worth the effort.
For the purpose of demonstration, we'll focus our attention on Swift 3D in this chapter. If you're inspired to start playing around with Swift 3D after reading this chapter, you should find that it is quite attuned to the beginning-to-intermediate Flash user .