Once you learn how to use it, this is a good video-editing tool

Pros and cons:
+    Powerful and fairly easy to use
+    Precise object positioning to three decimal places
–    Some identifying text garbled in
    Modeler mode
–    Steep learning curve and poor help


Real-life requirements:
Win95 or NT 4.0, 64M of RAM, CD-ROM drive, 30M free on hard drive; Power
Macintosh running Mac OS 7.6.1 or later, 32M of RAM, CD-ROM drive, 30M free on hard drive


Infini-D has all the 3-D modeling and animation tools most users will ever want, and
its system demands are modest for a package capable of producing broadcast-quality video.


If you make training videos on more than an occasional basis, you probably need a more
powerful program, but Infini-D can handle animation at 30 frames per second.


I didn’t find it very user-friendly despite earlier animation experience with
Studio 3D from Autodesk Inc. of San Rafael, Calif. The editing process should be fairly
intuitive for anyone who has basic computer-aided design experience.


Infini-D sorely needs some sort of wizard to guide new users through the final
animation and rendering options. I found it impossible to produce an Apple Computer Inc.
QuickTime animation without following each step in the manual. I can usually get by in
most programs with just the online hints and menu options.


There were minor inconsistencies such as button names that differed from the ones
printed in the manual, and the help was quite poor. The help button at the traditional
top-right position on the main menu bar gave little if any assistance.


Not only was there no context-sensitive help, there wasn’t even a link to an
online manual—merely a way to turn the tool tips on and off.


You can get online help only by firing up a separate program that displays the 436-page
printed manual in an Adobe Acrobat reader. This is unacceptable as help. Acrobat has its
uses if you want to treat computer text like a hardbound book, but it cannot replace
hypertext program help.


In addition to Acrobat’s usual faults—full-page images too small to read or
endless scrolling around more legible images—I could find no way to search for
specific topics except by using the Acrobat Find dialog box, which does not distinguish
between a single word and a topic.


There wasn’t even a hyperlinked table of contents or index.


I have hit the help facility so hard because the rest of the program is so good.
Without opening the manual, I could drag and drop fairly complex objects onto the
four-screen editing view, then modify and animate them easily.


Learning to get exactly the image you want is, of course, not so easy. But basic design
is a snap if you have experience in other such programs.


The basic editing screen has four windows with top, front and side views, plus a
camera’s-eye view. Objects can be moved and edited in all four windows.


Clicking on an object button brings up a menu of shapes. Click on the basic shape you
want and move it to one of the four editing windows. Then click when the cursor is in the
position you want.


If you choose the camera-view window, the closer to the front you place the cursor, the
larger the object appears in perspective.


You can edit the object for size and shape, or click again to clone it. Double clicking
brings up the Modeler screen, which lets you edit the object at full-screen size.


The Modeler screen is the place to design or modify wireframe objects directly, instead
of repositioning and resizing them on the main editing screen. This is the place where you
need detailed help, but the screen’s help button seems to have no function at all.


For example, clicking on the Edit, Surface Library buttons brings up a nice selection
of editable surfaces, but clicking on one doesn’t let you apply the surface to an
object. Looking up “surface” in the print manual and pull-down menus tells
nothing, either. What you must do, according to the manual, is go to the Object tab of the
command floater, which is not even listed in the printed index.


You access this editing tool by going through Microsoft Windows’ Command Tabs.
Click on them to bring up a floating command center where you can modify almost every
feature of the object or the editing view.


Infini-D is clearly powerful and even easy to use, once you learn how. But it is not as
easy to learn as it should be. The manual is better organized as a tutorial than as a
reference.


Windows 95 and Mac OS versions of Infini-D come on the same CD-ROM. I tested on an IBM
Corp. 6x86 PR200+ with 32M of memory, but rendering speed was fast.


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. 

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