Reprinted from a Zaxwerks press release:

The 3D Invigorator PRO, industry standard, powerhouse plug-in for After Effects has become even more useful to designers and enables mass-production of 3D graphics. The 3D Invigorator for After Effects plug-in has once again proven to be the must-have software of the year. Already known as the industry standard 3D graphics power house, version 4 adds many new capabilities which appeal to the artistic side of graphics design, as well as adding new tools that appeal to the motion graphic artist who must create large numbers of graphics on impossible deadlines.

These new features unlock a whole different way of using 3D as a design tool and will be sure to inspire an evolution in animated motion graphics.

New features of the PRO version include:

3D Text Creation

Rather than starting in Adobe Illustrator, you can now jump into the 3D process with a full-featured text editor and layout window. The 3D text engine can use Post Script Type 1 and True Type fonts resident on your computer system to directly create 3D models using any of the 100 edge bevels included with the program.

Controls exist for character by character control over font, size, leading, scale, kerning, letter spacing, and baseline shift. But the most astounding hallmark to this feature is the ability to change the text at any phase of the production process and retain the color, modeling and animation. This means that the first version of a promo is created, and then 50 other versions can be created by simply changing the text. No other rework needs to be done. The new text will retain the same coloring, text attributes, 3D beveling, texture map placement and even the animation data. This makes for an unbelievably fast production process when many changes or extra versions are needed.

3D Primitives

Need a spinning globe? Need a cereal box or a 3D floor? Now one button will get you there. The new primitives engine will create spheres, cubes, planes and cylinders with control over smoothness and size. There is even a control for the shading of the facets so you can create shapes that look like they have been cut from crystal or polished as smooth as a gem.

New Import/Export Format

We have added a new file format for importing and exporting 3D objects… our own! The new Invigorator object format enables you to set up 3D logos, titles and 3D text, color them, apply the materials, maps and object settings, and then save them into files which you can reuse over and over in all your other Invigorator projects. This is a huge time saver for repetitive work.

Motion Blur

Invigorator PRO version 4 now supports 3D Motion Blur. It uses the motion blur settings of the AE Comp camera so it matches the look of the AE Advanced 3D renderer.

Tracking AE’s 3D Objects

Another great new feature is the ability for Invigorator objects to track, or mimic, what an AE 3D plane is doing. On the surface this feature might not seem that significant, however for the advanced After Effects user this feature opens the doors to incredible new abilities.

By tracking AE’s 3D planes an AE user is now able to use the standard 3D manipulation tools within AE to create motion paths and keyframes for the Invigorator’s objects. This means that everything you can do to an AE 3D plane can now be done to Invigorator objects. You get visible 3D paths, function curve control, animation assistants and even expression-based control over your 3D animations! And all you have to do to make it work is to pick a simple menu option. Incredible.

Layer Map Animation

There is a new control for texture maps that will let you animate the wrap of a texture as it is applied to an object. This feature is especially useful for reflection maps. Once a 3D title comes to rest the reflections stop moving too. This can make the graphic look “dead” and uninteresting. By animating this new parameter the map will continue to move so the graphics will remain alive and visually appealing.

Render Farming

Version 4 PRO also supports render farming using the After Effects render engine. Now, multiple computers can be used to render your 3D Invigorator animations in record time.

For the visual designer, Version 4 has many new ways to paint the final picture and broaden your options for being visually creative.

Wireframe and Hiddenline Rendering

Wireframe rendering is that “techno-looking” style where 3D objects are rendered only as the lines that define their shape. This is uniquely appealing because objects look more like drawings rather than big clunky 3D objects.

Hiddenline rendering is a special kind of wireframe where you only see the lines that define the visible parts of the objects. In standard wireframe you see all of the lines no matter if they are on the front or the back of the objects. But with hiddenline the back lines are hidden and you only see the lines that best show the front side of the object.

Something very exciting about the way Zaxwerks has implemented line rendering is that our lines respond to lighting! This means that the lines will get brighter or darker depending on the placement and intensity of the lights. This gives shading and increased appeal to the lines rather than having plain solid-colored lines. Another unique ability is that the lines can be texture mapped! This lets you apply any of the standard maps (color, reflections, bump, etc.) to the surface of the lines. Want to make the lines look like brushed metal? Now you can.

Cartoon Color Rendering

This one is really fun. It renders the 3D objects as though they were drawn by a poster artist or an animator painting animation cells. Standard 3D rendering paints the objects in continuous tones creating a photo-real look, but Cartoon Color rendering paints the objects in bands of color . The bands block in the color of the highlights, shadows and base, giving you a big bold look with lots of punch!

Absolute Color Rendering

This kind of rendering is useful when you want a color to be absolutely the same after rendering as it was before. For instance if you are doing a job for a corporate client who demands that their corporate colors be used and that the colors cannot be affected by the lighting or shadows in the 3D scene. This rendering option is also useful to put colored strokes around objects or to make 3D TV screens where the images in the TVs look as though they are lit from within.

Best of all, these new material styles can be mixed and matched within the same 3D scene. For instance you can have a wireframe sphere, casting wireframe shadows, revolving around a cartoon logo with a shadow catcher floor making the 3D scene merge into your 2D background footage! Wow!

There are also two other material styles which are useful when compositing the 3D imagery with other video or background footage.

Matte Color Rendering

This is a special material option that makes a 3D object act like a mask. When an object with this material is visible it creates a traveling matte. (Prints black in the alpha channel.) This is used to block out objects that you don’t want to appear in the final rendering. It is also useful for creating transition effects out of 3D objects.

For instance, start with a 3D star. Color the star gold. Then apply the Matte Color material to the back face of the star. Now create an animation where the star flies to the center of the screen, flips over and then flies straight at the camera. When the star flips over it reveals the back side that has been given the Matte Color material. This will create a “hole” in the 3D image which will reveal a background layer behind the 3D layer. As the star flies toward the camera the hole gets bigger and bigger revealing more and more of the background image. Once the star has covered the camera the transition is complete.

Shadow Catcher Rendering

You are going to love this one! This enables the shadows from your 3D objects to fall onto the objects in a piece of background video. The way you do this is to build 3D objects that mimic the shape of the objects in the background footage then give those objects the Shadow Catcher material.

For instance say you have a video of some books piled up on a table, and you want to animate a title that flies in and lands on the table next to the books. To make it look more realistic you want the shadow of the title to fall onto the books and the table top. Normally this is an impossible problem. The shadow will have to bend to take into account the height of the books and how they are positioned on the table, but the 3D Invigorator PRO makes it possible.

To make this work all you have to do is to use the new primitives modeler to create several boxes that will act as place holders. Adjust the boxes to match the size of the books and the table top, and then position them in register with the background image of the real books and table. The last step is to give these placeholder objects the Shadow Catcher material. Now when you render the animation, the shadows from the title will fall onto the placeholder objects which will “catch” their shadows. The place holders themselves won’t be seen. Only the shadows that fall onto them will be seen. When composited with the background video, the shadows of the 3D objects will look as though they are falling onto the table and books in the video, merging the two images into one very realistic image!

The new features of version 4 support the Invigorator philosophy where exceptional power is combined with exceptional speed and ease of use. All of the new material styles are one-click easy. Switching from wireframe to cartoon to photo-realistic is nothing more than a single click.

The 3D Invigorator for After Effects PRO version 4 retails at $650 U.S. Upgrades from previous PRO versions are only $195. Upgrades from Classic are $250.

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