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In-Depth: The New and Dynamic formZ 8

AutoDesSys, Inc., talks to Architosh about what’s coming up this summer in the new formZ 8—covering in detail such new features as its Subdivision Surface Modeling tools, new OpenGL Interactive Rendering improvements and much more…

[title image credits: Subdivision study of UNStudio’s Museum of Middle Eastern Art, by John Alexander. All rights reserved.]


For several years AutoDesSys, Inc., the makers of the famed formZ 3D software, were quite busy with a little sister application named bonzai 3D. Bonzai grew partly in response to the emergence of the application SketchUp, which expanded its user base dramatically by deploying smart viral marketing approaches and building a robust eco-system for third-party developers. During these years formZ took a bit of back seat as the company focused on what became a very strong SketchUp alternative.

When the company reached a point where bonzai 3D was quite mature they had innovated in areas that now needed to get back to formZ. The work of formZ 7 was the target for a lot of this renovation and the new release was so strong that formZ 7 won the Architosh AIA BEST of SHOW honors in the desktop category at the AIA National Convention last year in Denver.

READ MORE: Architosh awards 2nd ‘BEST of SHOW’ awards at AIA National

Still, while AutoDesSys at one time ruled the roost in the 3D modeler department, and included a very good rendering package, over the past decade and a half many newcomers emerged with focuses that led to particular market strengths. formZ found itself surrounded with challengers like Rhino, SketchUp and even modo.

In this latest release—currently in late beta—formZ 8 continues with what started with formZ 7 and begins to address several of its challengers directly with a set of new features and technologies.

Addressing the Future: formZ 8

formZ has long been a top-shelf Class-A NURBS modeling software package, based on its own modeling engine reinforced by Spatial’s ACIS geometry modeling kernel. And while this latest version continues the deep underpinning coding work undertaken to generate formZ 7, it keeps its eye on its user base. “formZ 8 is a progression of formZ,” says David Kropp, Vice President of Development at AutoDesSys, who continues, “that includes some relative new areas for us as well as incremental improvements in a lot of features that our user base has been wanting for awhile.”


One feature that its user base on the Mac side has been asking for has been a true 64-bit code base—something that has existed on the Windows side for several versions back now. New in FormZ 8 will be a 64-bit code base for Mac. Now Mac users can really push the size of models and file sizes to dramatic limits. “It’s not an exciting feature from the point of view of something to show,” says Kropp, “but it is an important feature.”

I asked Dave Kropp how long this work in 64 bit conversion took and he explained something that many formZ users may not be aware of. And that is that the company had a working 64-bit version of formZ back in the days of the special version of Windows that ran on the 64-bit DEC Alpha workstations. That was a short-lived period but the company had plumbed its core code base then for 64-bit. This partly explains why when 64-bit came around for Windows the company was already ahead of delivering that capability for its Windows user base.

Additionally, Kropp adds, “it’s a different implementation of 64-bit for the Mac and of course we also had to rely on our partners and their technology who needed to push out 64-bit for Mac on their side.”

Re-wrote OpenGL 

AutoDesSys also re-wrote all of their interactive renderers for formZ 8. Interactive rendering utilizes OpenGL technology so in other words this was a bit of a ground-up rewrite of much of their OpenGL technology. This includes wireframe renderer, shaded work renderer, and shaded full renderer.

01 - formZ 8 has new Subdivision Surfaces modeling support, a major new area of modeling capability.

01 – formZ 8 has new Subdivision Surfaces modeling support, a major new area of modeling capability. formZ 8 will be both a surface, solids, NURBS and SubDivision modeling program, capturing all the major areas of modeling software techniques.

“These were all rewritten to new OpenGL standards that allowed us to bring in new features,” says Kropp, “such as soft shadows, bump mapping and real-time ambient occlusion (AO)—which is a really nice addition to the display, especially with architectural work because it gives you a lot better sense of depth into the renderings.”

next page: New SubDivision Tools

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