Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life
Mac 3D News and Views: A Perspective of 3D on the Mac
The Mac 3D News and Views column presents my views of the news that’s shaping the perception of 3D on the Macintosh and the selected views and responses to these articles. This first column will provide a perspective of 3D on the Macintosh and what Apple and the Mac 3D Team are doing to upgrade the credibility and use of 3D on the Mac. I hope the news and views presented here stimulate your interest in 3D and encourage you to expand your use of 3D on the Mac. Send your comments, suggestions, and news items to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate whether or not they can be published with your name included.
3D on the Macintosh
With the greatly expanded use of 3D special effects in science fiction movies like The Matrix, in animated features like Toy Story, and on the Web, where does the Macintosh stand in regards to mainstream 3D development and use? Once the dominant 3D platform among personal computers, the Macintosh has sadly sunk to near invisibility in the media and in public opinion.
In the 90s, the PC saw a big gain in computing power and reliability, and with Windows, it gained a GUI comparable to that of the Macintosh. Companies like SGI, with its dominance in 3D visualization on high-end workstations; and Autodesk, with its dominance in 3D CAD on workstation and personal computers, came out with Windows NT versions of 3D visualization products. They used their marketing and financial clout to dominate the media to the near exclusion of Mac 3D products from the much smaller Macintosh vendors.
During the same period, Apple was encountering severe financial, technical, and marketing problems. This resulted in a major loss of market share and customer confidence. Faced with a shrinking market, many Mac 3D developers either went out of business or chose to compete on the Windows NT platforms, only to find limited success.
Starting in 2000, a 3D resurgence was fueled by two separate forces. One force was Apple’s successes in development and promotion of powerful G3 and G4 Macs, its support of OpenGL, and its success in getting a 3D powerhouse like SGI to port Maya, the industry leading 3D visualization product, to the Macintosh. The second force was grassroots efforts like the Mac 3D Team, which is putting forth a major effort into enhancing the prestige and ease of use of 3D on the Mac through word-of-mouth promotion and the ready availability of a powerful 3D tool, 3DJoy. What follows is a more detailed look at the effect that the Maya port and the Mac 3D Team can have in revitalizing 3D on the Macintosh.
Maya For The Mac
As reported on Apple’s Web site, Steve Jobs announced at the recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference that the SGI decision to port Maya to Mac OS X is “a dream come true for us.” This is very welcome and important news because it shows that Apple recognizes the importance of 3D to the Macintosh and that a 3D powerhouse like SGI considers the Macintosh to be a worthy 3D platform on which to run Maya.
However, based on my Mac instincts and background, the fact that the Mac OS X version will be high-priced and identical to the Windows NT and IRIX versions of Maya causes me some concern about the acceptance it will have with a majority of existing and future Macintosh graphics and 3D designers.
As an example, VersaCAD in the 80s chose to follow Macintosh guidelines and make a strategic marketing and software development alliance with VIDI for Presenter 3D’s visualization and animation capabilities. Autodesk chose to do a direct port in order to provide a consistent user interface across all platforms without regard to any strategic alliances. The result was that VersaCAD was immensely successful on the Macintosh, while Autodesk languished there.
I am thus inclined to think that the direct port of a dominant 3D graphics software product from another platform to the Macintosh “may be déjà vu all over again.” However, I am without a doubt sure that Maya will both be readily accepted by many in the professional 3D community that use the Macintosh and that the SGI move will greatly enhance the reputation of 3D on the Macintosh.
An added benefit of the Maya port is that the benefits provided by professional 3D products that support the Macintosh look and feel (such as 3DJoy, Electric Image and form•Z) will be more fully recognized and appreciated by the rest of the Macintosh 3D, graphics, education, and Web design communities. Through Apple’s and SGI’s support of 3D on the Macintosh, we may even see Pixar (headed by Steve Jobs) bringing RenderMan back to the Mac.
Grassroots Support For 3D On The Mac
The Mac 3D Team’s grassroots efforts for making 3D on the Macintosh more popular have touched many in the Mac graphics, education, and Web design communities who have longed for professional 3D modeling, rendering, and animation capabilities that complement the great 2D design and video capabilities available on the Macintosh. The Mac 3D Team makes this possible by:
- Mobilizing 3D neophytes, educators, and professionals to contribute to the promotion of Macintosh 3D strengths and user accomplishments.
- Providing professional 3D tools and materials to schools, students, 3D amateurs, and 3D professionals.
- Supporting the Macintosh community in their learning and use of 3D.
- Developing 3D models, animations, and tutorials to make it easier to learn and use the 3D tools.
- Expanding the capabilities of the 3D tools through the development of special motion and object effects plug-ins.
To see what the Team is up to, download the 3D software, and check out the Beginner and Expert tutorials, visit the Mac 3D Team Web site. To join the effort of bringing the Macintosh into the forefront of 3D use and credibility and getting 3DJoy, go to the 3DJoy CD page.
Also in This Series
- About My Particular Macintoshes · May 2012
- From the Darkest Hour · May 2012
- Shrinking Into an Expanding World · May 2012
- Growing Up With Apple · May 2012
- Recollections of ATPM by the Plucky Comic Relief · May 2012
- Making the Leap · March 2012
- Digital > Analog > Digital · February 2012
- An Achievable Dream · February 2012
- Smart Move? · February 2012
- Complete Archive