by Hawk Jones
For the last several years, I have been catching glimpses of fabulous 3D imagery created by Japanese artists using an obscure 3D application called Shade. Being the curious soul that I am, I on more than one occasion scoured the Internet for information about this reclusive application-- only to find websites filled with unreadable, incomprehensible letters and little squiggly things. In other words, all of the Shade site were in Japanese.
Much to my delight now, Shade has finally been released by ExpressionTools, Inc. this year in an English version under the title ETShade Pro R4/E. In a mere heartbeat, I was on the ExpressionTools website downloading a demo version of what may arguably be the most unusual 3D application ever created. And here is what I found...
The Proof Is In The Pudding
The Road Less Traveled
Shade is available for both the Macintosh and Windows platforms, but the keyboard shortcuts belie the applications Mac roots. Whereas the PC consistently uses Alt and Ctrl button shortcuts, Shade adds shortcuts that require the spacebar. This breaks with the PC conventions, so that the shortcuts are not always intuitive and are therefore difficult to remember. For example to use the shortcut for Zoom, on a Mac you use the space + command key. One would presume that on a PC it would be a space + ctrl key. But no! It's a space + x key on a PC. Why?
Danger: Curves Ahead
ETShade offers another modeling tool that they refer to as MetaMesh which
is a tool for smoothly fusing together meta shapes such as spherical shapes
called meta balls, cubical shapes called meta cubes, and cyndrical shapes
called meta cylinder.
Also offered are boolean modeling tools which can effect polygon meshes in one of two ways. Boolean modeling will modify the mesh immediately. Where as with boolean rendering you don't see the changes till the render is complete.
What is interesting though is marrying ETShade for modeling with Hash Animation Master for animation! That partnership creates a myriad of possibilities where there would otherwise be none.
The Down Side
Another down side is the fact that online support is almost nonexistent for English speaking audiences. The ET site itself does not offer tutorials, forums, chats, nor do they even offer regularly updated galleries. There is no list of links available either because most all of the hundreds of sites featuring ETShade work are only in Japanese. While you may find some of these site available through a translation process, even these are disappointing because the translations are so difficult to understand and do not do justice to the help that is being offered out there.
Bottom line to all this is that you end up with an incredibly capable and unusual tool that in some ways requires you reinvent the wheel. For the English speaking audience there are no mentors, no hints, no tips, no maps for finding your way around-- at least not yet.
Truly ETShade is a mixed bag of tricks. If the output is THE THING, and I think it is, then ETShade has to be the best of class, and perhaps best of show. Even with its quirks and unusual interface, I keep coming back to work with this application again and again. Don't just take my word for it though. Download the free demo yourself and play with it. Who knows Mikey, you might like it! And let me say that when ETShade finally catches on with the English speaking audience, it should make quite an impact. Let the invasion begin!