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3D Spotlight : Articles : Digital Inmersion Merlin VR review

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Digital Inmersion Merlin VR review
Posted by Adam Klein on July 9, 1999

Merlin VR is a program that lets you expand your imagination in the 3D realm. You can creat whatever you set your mind out to do and you can do it all in real-time fluid movement. Merlin VR takes full advantage of DirectX, so almost any major video card can run Merlin VR just fine. Merlin VR is so compatible and easy to use anyone can make 3D in no time.  Merlin VR does not carry the hefty price tag that other 3D rendering apps have either making it more accessable to those who are new to designing. 

Upon loading a sample rendering on the screen I was floored at how smooth I was able to rotate and manipulate the object on the screen. The engine that powers Merlin VR shows how good programming can bring rendering to life. With a Voodoo 3, which generaly performs slowly in a windowed windows environment, ran the program at acceptable levels. I can’t say that I would want to use a Voodoo 3 if I planed on running the program for a long time though. Some sample images proved why. Hugh textures that spaned more than the 256x256 limit were very blurred out and unappealing. The 16-bit banding also reared its ugly head once again with this board. On the other hand, a TNT2 ran Merlin VR super fast. 32-bit color was greatly represented with MerlinVR. The textures that were once poor on the Voodoo 3 looked sharp when running on the TNT chipset. Why do I talk about how these 3D board run MerlinVR you ask? Well, Merlin VR was ment to be used by people with common end user hardware and not expensive workstations with 3D hardware worth more than $1000. MerlinVRs programming for Direct3D is so good, it renders images in real time. Also, using the Direct3D API was a wise choice by Digital Immersion. Direct3D has been available for Windows 9X systems for a long time and hence MerlinVR has the potential to be used on just about any system.

When you first start a new project a line grid lies before you. You can use the line grid to familiarize yourself on manipulating the 3D envirenment. You can scroll back and forth, rotate left and right, and zoom in and out to get a better view of the scene or object you are working on. When you begin on your creative adventure an easy way to start out is to use one of the primitives that are built into the program. Primatives consist of boxes, cylinders, spheres, cones, ect. When you have your primative in front of you, it’s almost like forming clay after that. You are able to streach, rotate, scale, bend, twist, pull, bulge and basically sculpt it into what you want to see. Then you can build upon other objects by joining the verticies of two objects, so they look more like one solid object. When playing around with the program, I found the real-time movement a very nice feature. The real-time rendering feature is one of the programs main selling points. I found it very necessary to be able to give you a feeling of what needs to be changed or added next.

After you have your objects are fully rendered, you can then make an animation using those objects. The program incorporates an animation tool for you to move and change the object while recording the frames that will be displayed when the animation is finished. When the animation is to the point of where you want it, you can save the animation as an .avi file for almost every computer system to display. Although the program may not animate as well as a Silicon Graphics workstation, you have to remember that MerlinVR is aimed at the common user who wants some 3D rendering and that the basic desktop PC costs five times less than a workstation.

One other thing I found was a great implementation to the program was the ability to import and export common 3D files. Files such as Wavefront, Truespace, VRML, AutoCAD, and 3Dstudio. This feature makes it possible to add objects that you once created with other programs and incorperate them to your scene or continue with the object with the easy to use MerlinVR interface. The easy to use interface does give it an edge over other 3D rendering programs. Buttons are clearly visabel depicting what is to be done when selected. The interface also makes MerlinVR clean and well programed.

Overall, I do not consider myself to be an advid 3D modeler. I do know that MerlinVR is a well made program deserving attention to those who are looking for a good quality 3D modeling application. Digital Immersion takes pride in their product with good customer support and commitment to advancing what they know. I would recommend MerlinVR to someone who wanted a 3D drawing program. There were a few problems that I encountered when importing objects, but with further development I’m sure that will be patched. This program is not as high in quality as other programs, but the main focus here is real-time rendering and ease of use on just about any computer.

System Requirements for Merlin VR

Microsoft® Windows® 95/98
Intel®-compatible processor at 133 MHz minimum
32 MB RAM and 200 MB swap space minimum (128 MB RAM preferred)

4MB Graphics card supporting 1024x768@16bit color
(Direct3D hardware acceleration supported and strongly recommended, 8MB or higher graphics accelerator preferred)

Windows-compliant pointing device, and CD-ROM drive

Optional: 3D hardware graphics acceleration, Internet connection, video output devices, LogiCAD 3D® Magellan 3D Mouse, or the LabTech® SpaceBall.

Company: Digital Inmersion      Product: MerlinVR


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