Wings3D

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[Note: this review was written by my friend Ala Diab from Amman, Jodran. Ala is primarily a musician but also does website design and has an avid interest in 3D graphics. He has performed his brand of computer-driven electronic music (and contemporary experimental Arabic/electronic music) in multiple venues across the Middle East and Europe.]

Wings3d is a subdivision-modeling program that specializes in box/organic modeling. What it lacks in features it compensates for in simple, readily-accessible tool set for shaping and fine-tuning a model.

I have a confession to make: I’m a 3d graphics junkie. I’ve always wanted to get into 3d modeling even on a very basic level.

To be able to visualize ideas in a clear, straightforward fashion. Lacking the attention span and the deep pocket to learn, I was on a quest to find a tool that was relatively simple, intuitive, low-cost and light on computer resources.

In my search I avoided trying demos of feature-rich, three-digit priced monoliths like Maya and Max, I googled with keywords like: free, 3d, model …etc. Until my search lead me to a little gem, Wings3d.

You start with a 3d, single-view window devoid of anything but a couple of icons at the top bar to decide which part of your model you want to manipulate: vertex, edge, face and body. Each of those levels has its own ’contextual’ menu of parameters to change that’s accessible by clicking on the right-mouse-button. To begin, you right click anywhere on the screen to reveal a set of ’primitive’ 3d objects. Your choice depends on your final product but for most applications a cube should be a good starting point. After that, you use a set of modifiers to change the shape of the box: copying, scaling, extruding, beveling to name just a few.

The beauty of Wings3d is that everything is integrated into a single window interface with extra features accessible by clicking the right mouse button. No diving into menus, no screen clutter. Another powerful feature is the hotkey presets and the assignability: any function can be mapped to a key for fast access; priceless if you want to increase your speed and productivity.

Wings3d can import and export a number of popular formats for further editing and refinement. It has a basic OpenGL renderer that doesn’t impress, but you can expand this capability by installing third-party, free renderers that integrate nicely with Wings3d.

There are numerous tutorials on the net for this baby. Starting with Wings3d website and far and beyond. It has a great community of enthusiasts that keep the programmers busy with feedback and feature requests.

There’s a somewhat outdated manual to start with, since the application keeps changing, but for most purposes it should suffice. It took me 2-3 hours to wrap my head around the interface and the various functions. But after that I gave my self a little challenge: I modeled the ashtray in the screenshot from memory in less than 20 min. Not bad considering I have no prior experience in the field. So it should be ok for people with interest and a little bit of patience to get results.

It says on the website that Wings3d is free (for now until they release version 1.0). The current stable release is 0.98.32a. It’s also multi-platform. I ran the program on a dingy PIII laptop with 128 MB of RAM,
and the program performed ok for the exercise . Any computer with better specs would surely yield better performance results.

Wings3d has managed to rekindle my passion for modeling. I hope it’s as interesting to get into for you too.

Version tested: 0.98.32a

Compatibility: Multiplatform / WinAll (OpenGL required). MacOSX (see website for requirements). Linux: Open GL or Mesa required

Go to the program home pageto get the latest version.