Review: Shade Professional 12
3D World assesses the all-new interface and revamped toolset in this upgrade to a cult favourite
Shade 12 boasts a completely new Qt- based interface, as well as stereoscopic cameras and viewport preview rendering
- Basic •£61/$99/€70
- Standard •£215/$349/€245
- Professional •£461/$749/€526
- Upgrade Standard •£151/$245/€172
- Professional •£323/$525/€369
- Qt-based GUI
- Enhanced render engine
- Multicore viewport preview render
- Pathtracing and SSS support
It might not be widely known that Shade is one of the oldest 3D products available.
Launched in 1986, it even precedes LightWave (1988) and 3D Studio (1990).
Developed in Japan, Shade’s relative obscurity certainly has to do with the language barrier: until version 4 in 2001, there was no English version, yet it already had over 200,000 users.
Shade’s relative isolation has had a curious effect on its development.
While most 3D programs evolved together in a broadly similar fashion, Shade has grown in ways not typically seen in the west.
And just when it was finally starting to have more acceptance here, e-frontier sold e-frontier America to Smith Micro – and with it, all non-Japanese support for Shade.
Mirye Software later came to the rescue, providing English-language support and distribution. But the damage had already been done.
So how are e-frontier and Mirye responding to the challenge of re- establishing Shade in the western market?
Shade 12 is the answer.
It’s the result of keeping Shade’s original workflow paradigm, but incorporating what have become standard 3D tools, like the transform gizmo, a more intuitive Qt- based user interface, and a host of other improvements that really make it shine.
The entire interface has been revamped in Shade 12.
This is no mere eye-candy improvement: it’s evident that a lot of thought has been given to the iconset design and dialog box layout, while the keyboard shortcut manager accepts vastly more keyboard combinations.
For those new to Shade, the initial learning curve has been greatly reduced, and for those coming from previous versions, the new look and feel does not interfere with how things worked before.
There are many things that were already possible in previous versions, but it’s now more obvious how to actually do them.
The viewport display modes now boast GLSL Phong and stereoscopic 3D options.
The first means more accurate speculars, while the stereoscopic mode enables you to see in ‘real’ 3D with the help of either cyan-red anaglyph or Nvidia 3D Vision glasses.
The stereo camera settings dialog is straightforward, combining common presets with the freedom to tweak.
While viewing transparency in the viewport’s shaded mode is not yet possible, the new Preview Rendering mode can show not just transparency, but raytraced shadows, global illumination, reflections and refractions.
It’s a progressive type of rendering, giving near real-time feedback in most situations.
The preview can be almost as good as the ‘real’ render in a fraction of the time. You can even export an image of the result.
Shade also comes with Sketch Modeling and Photo Modeling, the main difference being that the latter is for more precise work and requires less user intervention on the resulting mesh.
Polygon meshes now support multiple mesh/material groups.
Importing meshes from outside (TopMod) and toon rendering in Shade 12 is much easier now
There are also custom workplanes, surprisingly clean mesh Booleans, and vertex, edge and object snapping.
In all, the modelling toolset has been vastly improved, although an external modeller like Silo might still be more suitable for heavy-duty mesh work.
Another huge improvement has been made with the native renderer, which no longer needs (or even includes) the Callisto external renderer.
It now supports normal maps, displacement maps, volumetric lights and materials, as well as subsurface scattering, controlled at the material level.
Global illumination includes photon mapping and path tracing, and supports caching to reduce render times.
Volumetrics can slow down renders to a crawl unless set up correctly.
Again, the viewport preview rendering comes to the rescue: it can preview the effect of user- configured render settings, to give visual feedback on optimising render times.
Another welcome addition is that Shade now supports SketchUp and import.
Shade 12 is great for arch-viz renderings. With COLLADA and SketchUp support, importing props just became much easier
SketchUp import works surprisingly well, although with the COLLADA format not all of its features are currently supported, camera animation being one of them.
Previous versions of Shade could generate enormous files when saving: packaging everything in the scene to a single file was great for migrating scenes, but was otherwise a space hog.
This has been solved with the ability to have pretty much everything be an external reference.
File sizes can be reduced dramatically, and updating textures becomes a snap.
Animation is an area in Shade 12 where there remains room for improvement.
Entities are not directly animatible: they must be contained inside a part that drives the animation.
This has advantages, as changing what is being animated without adjusting the animation parameters is a piece of cake; but certainly the way to accomplish things is not how things are normally done outside Shade.
And while the new system does support inverse kinematics and bone deformation, and has BVH import, this might be the only area where the improvements do not feel so impressive.
Character animation, while possible, is not as straightforward as in messiahStudio, for example, and lacks the visual feedback you receive elsewhere.
The material settings window, while also improved and closely tied to the render enhancements, uses a layer-based system to create surfaces.
Obtaining gradient transparencies (and indeed, gradients in general) is much easier than before, but for some meticulous tasks, a node-based material alternative would be welcome.
Some common settings, like having all imported images be external reference, are reset to a default when the program is restarted.
Remembering these settings across sessions or across scenes would streamline the workflow.
Scripting support via Python is tightly integrated, but its English documentation is still incomplete.
Shade 12 is a massive improvement over previous versions.
It no longer feels like a program that works best in isolation, and is quickly becoming a serious alternative to the other 3D programs more commonly used in the west.
• Prettier, friendlier, faster
• Great render engine
• SketchUp and COLLADA support
• Animating can be confusing
• No ambient occlusion
Shade in English returns from a long absence, with a new GUI, better and more robust import, a much improved render engine, and viewport preview rendering. Almost everything has been improved.
on Thursday, September 15th, 2011 at 3:20 pm under Applications, Reviews, Uncategorized.
You can subscribe to comments.
You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.