Local PC 3D painting tool licking high-end products

A locally designed three-dimensional painting tool is finding success in markets around the world.

A locally designed three-dimensional painting tool is finding success in markets around the world, as well as here in New Zealand.

Auckland-based graphics programmers Andy Bearsley and Matthew Fox-Wilson have joined Mary Alice Krayecki and Mark Thomas to produce and market an application called 4D Paint.

All four work for 4D Vision Asia (NZ), set up in conjunction with 4D Vision USA to market and support 4D Vision 3D Studio plug-ins.

4D Paint has been developed as an extension product for Kinetix (formerly a division of AutoDesk) 3D Studio Max, but its New Zealand developers hope to support other 3D modelling packages in future versions.

The application allows textures, colours and patterns to be painted on to a 3D object in real-time. The software renders the effects as you paint them, it also renders them at the same time in a window which shows them in a 2D mesh grid which can be laid over any paint or other layer as a guide.

Once the object has been painted to the user's satisfaction it can then be rendered in 3D Max or any other 3D rendering application.

The speed and performance of 4D Paint has been raising eyebrows all over the world as the software is not dependent on an accelerator card, renders instantly no matter what size the picture on screen--all with a midrange PC. So what makes it so fast?

"The black arts," jokes programmer Andy Bearsley. "Really it represents five years of work on the basic renderer, trying to get it faster all the time. It is all in the software. Unlike other 3D packages it doesn't depend on the hardware for its speed."

Fox-Wilson says no other PC package can do the effects with such ease and speed as 4D Paint.

"Usually what you need is a $US10,000 package running on a $60,000 SGI machine. We were told by a guy in England that they could run something similar faster, but on a $2 million Onyx XL. So I think we're doing pretty well for the money."

Since Siggraph 96 graphics show in New Orleans in August, the company has sold about 150 packages around the world. "The Asia Pacific market is also very strong," says Krayecki, who estimates about 24% of sales have been in this region.

4D Paint has even been sold to a company in China, which used it to create promotional video graphics for the Chinese Opera.

Companies which have expressed interest in the product or have bought it already, include developers for games giants Sega, 3DO and the makers of Doom and Quake, ID Software.

In New Zealand, 3D graphics companies Giant and 3D beta tested the software and Animation Research, the Dunedin company famous for the America's Cup graphics and the Jonah Lomu and Kahlua TV advertisements, has bought a copy.

4D Paint 1.0 costs $1595 ex GST and is available now. 4D Vision Asia is on the Web at http://www.4dvisasia.co.nz/.

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