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First released to the public a little more than a year and a half ago, Cheetah 3D Beta 1 was the personal quest of one man: Martin Wengenmayer. On his website he wrote of the release, "Over the last two years I've invested almost all of my spare time to this project and I hope that you all like it. " Now at version 2.1 Cheetah3D is starting to really gain a wholesome feature set -- and at the price of just $69.US -- it is by far the least expensive modeling/rendering program on the market with surface modeling and radiosity rendering.

A Matter of Mathematics

Martin should be proud of his quest. After all, he isn't a trained software programmer nor is he a 3D modeling and rendering expert. Martin is a mathematician. Currently pursuing his Ph.D. in probability theory he learned 3D graphics and programming from books and online papers. Asked how he got started programming he replied, "I learned programming with the Apple [developer] tools and it was quite easy."

Martin had the idea to start Cheetah 3D back in 2001. Mac OS X was still very young back then and he felt there wasn't an affordable 3D modeler for Mac OS X available. So he decided to create one for both himself and the market.

At one point in the development of Cheetah 3D, Martin actually took out the raytracer rendering engine in order to focus on the modeling and other aspects of the application. However, he eventually put those features back in and continued to enhance them. Today Cheetah 3D has a raytracer with radiosity and support for HDRI (.hdr file format) backgrounds.

The Search for the Perfect OS Ends

We asked Martin -- who also has developed two game programs for Mac OS X -- why he chose the Mac OS X platform to build his new 3D modeling program on and he replied, "because it is the best OS out there. I've tried almost every OS from Amiga OS over to Windows, Mac OS Classic, Linux and BeOS. But the search for the perfect OS ended with Mac OS X."

"I've written two shareware games. Cowy and Minesweeper and TheCowCatching game....which was even the first OpenGL-based shareware game available on OS X." In Martin's opinion and experience, Mac OS X offers him the perfect UI (user interface) combined with the power of UNIX. Concerning his development tools of choice he says Apple's "Xcode and Interface Builder are really great".

"I want to write an affordable yet powerful too," Martin remarks, "I don't want to overload it with features which most people don't need." It's also very important to Martin that the user interface is easy and conforms to Apple's Mac OS X interface standards. "There are already too many 3D apps out there with quite strange UI's."


Cheetah 3D and the Future

Martin says Cheetah 3D has a future with some innovative features, reflective of the innovation on the Mac OS X platform. The latest 2.1 release of Cheetah 3D offers users a preview of the forthcoming Javascript-based scripting and customization environment. The scripting API and documentation are coming up in the next point release. Moreover, future versions of Cheetah 3D will have animation capabilities...and more.

Cheetah 3D is just one of the many exciting examples of new CAD/3D and AEC applications available in the OS X technical visualization market. If one man can rapidly learn programming, work on a Ph.D. in probability theory, and create and maintain a new innovative 3D app all at the same time...then just think of what a team of professional software programmers could do on OS X. Kinda of amazing when you think about it.

Martin Wengenmayer's neat and affordable 3D app sells for just $69.US with site licenses for $699.US. To learn more and see some gallery shots of work created in Cheetah 3D visit his Cheetah 3D site here: www.cheetah3d.de/


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