I read the guest editorial by John Hilton at Upfront Ezine, The Proper Place for the 3D Mouse.
I will definitely have to try out the product some time. I was toying with the idea of getting back into 3-dimensional computer aided design some time. I have found some of Ted Boardman's video tutorials really excellent in terms of reminding me what it was like to work in 3D design software.
When I read John Hilton's Upfront Ezine article, it reminded me of something. A puzzling experience I had a decade ago, was when I licensed 3D Studio Viz release 2 from AutoDesk. I was surprised by how it handled Imperial and Metric units - and how that affected the manipulation of the viewports enormously.
I occurs to me that in order to reach any level of productivity in a 3D software, you need to be able to view and scrutinize what you are creating in 3D. Otherwise, what is the darn point of it all? You can add all of the productivity features and gizmo's you like to an application - and 3DS Viz had plenty of great features - but the most productivity comes from efficient use of 3D viewports and input devices.
That is even true when it comes to 2D computer aided software, and even spreadsheet software such as MS Excel. I once read a review of the MicroSoft mouse with 'horizontal scroll'. I was unfortunate enough to invest €75-00 in a leather finish black MS wireless mouse with horizontal scroll, only to discover that in AutoCAD 2000, unlike MS Excel, that feature was a disaster. It too brute force to get the middle mouse button to press down in the horizontal scroll mouse. I promptly gave it away to the person I know who uses the most MS Excel.
All CAD softwares, and I used very, very many had their own limitations - and AutoDesk's 3DS Viz was one of the better ones in terms of 3D viewing of what you are working on. Which added to my disappointment at the time. That here was a software which was so suited to my needs, but for a major flaw when working with 1 Viz unit = 1 millimeter.
I had licensed 3DS Viz to enable me to work with architectural designs. 3DS Viz R2 contained all sorts of parametric tools for quick modelling of windows, doors, staircases and so on. Which had materials pre-applied, so all one had to do was click the 'render' button. 3DS Viz had those kinds of tools even before Architectural Desktop became popular and it included parametric window and door objects.
The problem with 3DS Viz R2 was, when you worked with units = inches, the tools and 3D viewport manipulation worked flawlessly. Naturally enough, coming from Ireland, my 2D stuff was drawn in millimeters as the unit, sometimes meters as units. Anyhow, when you changed the units in 3DS Viz to metric, suddenly the 3D viewing of the model turned to sheer ****.
All of the things John Hilton described in your Upfront Ezine article about the 3D mouse reminded me of my horror and disgust when I tried to use VIZ. In the end I recall I used a compromise to enable me to work with the software. Any 2D plans I brought into 3DS VIz drawn in millimeters, I had to scale them up by a factor of 100.
That was an unfortunate factor really, because it meant my 3DS VIz model would have 1 unit = 100mm. But that was the closest approximation I could get, so that the software still thought it was working in a 1 unit = 1 inch kind of environment. So that I could manipulate the 3D viewport and see my model, without all kinds of clipping and stuff going horribly wrong. I remember, it would take me a day simply to zoom into my model, if I didn't scale it up by 100 in VIZ.
I wouldn't have minded as much if I could have applied a 1000x scaling factor. That would have meant a sane condition, where 1 VIZ unit = 1 meter. That would make some sense. But I tried that, and it overshot the sweet spot for 3D viewport manipulation in VIz also!
You can imagine the knock-ons this had. My library of standard VIZ objects which I used all had a weird 100x scale factor applied to them. In other words, I was investing my time and energy creating a 3D library which would be of no use to anyone else in the world. You only have to listen to a Ted Boardman tutorial to know that 'scaling' in 3DS Max is the wrong way to go. I was fundamental aware of that at the time, but I was forced into a situation where I had to do it, to use the software at all.
So my library of standard objects had to be butchered for use. When it came to the parametric tools like create stairs object etc, I was caught a second time. I would have to input dimensions, which were scaled up by 100. So 1000mm, a meter had to become 100 meters so that I could view whatever I was modelling 'efficiently' in my viewports.
Anyhow, shortly after I had figured out this compromise to allow me to stay within a metric-type of unit to build my 3DS VIZ models, I discontinued the use of the software altogether. 3DS was being overtaken by other applications such as ArchiCAD at the time. I found a huge amount of dis-unity in the formats and decided to chunk it in. I became expert in 2-dimensional CAD instead and stuck to that. At least there was the benefit of being able to work and collaborate with a wider community of businesses and practitioners in Ireland.
What I always found strange though - and I had forgotten this until I read John Hilton's 3D mouse article at Upfront Ezine - was the fact that users of 3DS Viz reported all kinds of 'bugs' and issues with their software. But for some reason, the biggest most awful disappointing part of the software - its viewport manipulation in Metric units, I never heard the users complain about. I wondered at the time were they all asleep?
I discussed the matter with other 3DS VIZ users I know, and didn't get anywhere in my discussion with them. It is like John Hilton said, some multi-national companies have spatial controllers for their thousands of engineers. While other multi-nationals don't have any.
Maybe 3DS MAX Design as it is called nowadays has managed to fix this problem which existed 10 years ago. For sure, if I was to consider using 3DS MAX Design application again, I would want to use the trial version to satisfy myself, it was worth my effort to license it. Hopefully, by the time I get around to 3D modelling again, I will have some practice with a spatial controller. I would like to invest the time in learning to use one.
Spatial Freedom Asteroid videos
Very interesting to watch. Back in the day when I used 3DS Viz a lot, I used to create several 'dummy' objects, which I could quickly select using my selection floater on a two screen system. They operated as centres for view rotation. A bit like the 'spin centre' concept described in the Spatial Freedom demo video linked above.