PC Magazine -- January 5, 1999
Easy 3-D for Your Site
Platinum Cosmo PageFX uses the open VRML97 format to deliver 3-D graphics and animation.
By Linda Von Schweber
The "Author's Cut"
Platinum Cosmo PageFX 1.0 is the first product we've seen that provides Web designers with a single tool for producing interactive animations and site navigation using 2-D vector and bitmap graphics, 3-D primitives, imported 3-D objects, 2-D and 3-D animated effects, 2-D and 3-D text, and drag-and-drop behaviors that follow easily defined logic and don't require scripting.
Since PageFX ($129 direct) uses the resolution-independent VRML97 format, the file sizes are tiny compared to GIF animations, and the interaction capabilities are unique. We found PageFX extremely well suited to creating navigation frames, ad banners, and game-like sites--placing it at the top of the category which includes 2-D Web products, such as Macromedia Flash 3.
PageFX simplifies working with 3-D by setting up a single still-camera position. In a matter of minutes we were able to create a 3-D spinning logo we imported the 2-D PC Magazine bitmap, applying it to the sides of a cube, selecting spin from the Effects Palette and dragging its start behavior to the mouseover trigger on the Sequence View timeline.
We were able to set 2-D and 3-D text professionally, selecting fonts and size and setting leading, kerning, tracking, bevel, extrusion and more. Text can be animated in 2-D and 3-D as blocks, words, or letters.
We drew a closed path using the pen tool and used the rotate tool to tip the path into the third dimension so that it would move our text towards us and then away in a loop. We animated a butterfly along a spiral path and timed it to play a sound as it landed on the "a" in "PC Magazine" just as the text settled into its final position.
We then added a "ripple surface" effect to a 2-D gradient filled ellipse to create a beautiful pool of seemingly 3-D animated water, had it fade in as the butterfly landed and had the "First Looks" text emerge as the pool faded out. The entire animation loops with random variations every 12 seconds and the file is a tiny 18KB plus 3KB for the logo bitmap.
Cosmo PageFX makes it easy to produce animated eye candy and navigation buttons out of any bitmap, text, or 2-D or 3-D object. Any of the 43 effects such as fade in/out, loop on a path, and move can occur for a set or randomized number of seconds triggered on start up, periodically, by another effect, or by a user action.
Since one mouse movement can trigger an endless stream of events, a button object can respond to a mouseover by highlighting, changing color, spinning, and making a sound. On a mouse click, the button can follow the user's mouse around the screen while it loads multiple HTML pages into frames.
Logic elements allow you to produce a game-like interface without scripting by providing an event on/off "Switch", a "Counter", a "Splitter" for sending an input to one of several outputs, and a "Selector" which chooses from up to 12 inputs to deliver to a single output. You can even produce a toggle switch or use an AND logic element to pop up a new navigation button to a white paper, for example, only after your viewer has clicked all the required links.
The issue here is not whether to use PageFX, it is a powerful easy to use product. The question is whether to invest in 3-D buttons and animations that some users may not be able to view. At this point VRML97 viewers are available on most desktops. Cosmo Player ships with all copies of Netscape Navigator 4.x. Worldview is shipped on the IE 4.0x CD and is a custom option with Microsoft Windows 98 installations. The only users who might not have a VRML97 browser at this point are those who downloaded the IE4.0 basic install and they can download the viewer of their choice from www.platinum.com.
With a powerful, easy to use tool such as PageFX and VRML97 viewers finally available on most desktops, web designers will find its time to start using 3-D on their sites.
Cosmo PageFX 1.0. Direct Price: $129. Requires: 32MB RAM, 80MB hard disk space, Microsoft Windows 95, 98, or NT 4.0 (with Service Pack 3) or later. Platinum technology Inc., Oakbrook Terrace, IL, 800-442-6861, 630-620-5000; www.platinum.com.
Since Platinum technology bought Intervista Software Inc, developer of WorldView, and bought Cosmo Software's software including Cosmo Player, both VRML viewers can also now be downloaded from http://www.platinum.com/
PC Magazine January 5, 1999
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Updated January 10, 1999