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ATPM 6.07
July 2000


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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Nick Pavlovic,

Mac 3D News and Views: A Perspective of 3D on the Mac

The Mac 3D News and Views column presents my views of the news that’s shaping the perception of 3D on the Macintosh and the selected views and responses to these articles. This first column will provide a perspective of 3D on the Macintosh and what Apple and the Mac 3D Team are doing to upgrade the credibility and use of 3D on the Mac. I hope the news and views presented here stimulate your interest in 3D and encourage you to expand your use of 3D on the Mac. Send your comments, suggestions, and news items to me at and indicate whether or not they can be published with your name included.

Best regards,

—Nick Pavlovic

3D on the Macintosh

With the greatly expanded use of 3D special effects in science fiction movies like The Matrix, in animated features like Toy Story, and on the Web, where does the Macintosh stand in regards to mainstream 3D development and use? Once the dominant 3D platform among personal computers, the Macintosh has sadly sunk to near invisibility in the media and in public opinion.

In the 90s, the PC saw a big gain in computing power and reliability, and with Windows, it gained a GUI comparable to that of the Macintosh. Companies like SGI, with its dominance in 3D visualization on high-end workstations; and Autodesk, with its dominance in 3D CAD on workstation and personal computers, came out with Windows NT versions of 3D visualization products. They used their marketing and financial clout to dominate the media to the near exclusion of Mac 3D products from the much smaller Macintosh vendors.

During the same period, Apple was encountering severe financial, technical, and marketing problems. This resulted in a major loss of market share and customer confidence. Faced with a shrinking market, many Mac 3D developers either went out of business or chose to compete on the Windows NT platforms, only to find limited success.

Starting in 2000, a 3D resurgence was fueled by two separate forces. One force was Apple’s successes in development and promotion of powerful G3 and G4 Macs, its support of OpenGL, and its success in getting a 3D powerhouse like SGI to port Maya, the industry leading 3D visualization product, to the Macintosh. The second force was grassroots efforts like the Mac 3D Team, which is putting forth a major effort into enhancing the prestige and ease of use of 3D on the Mac through word-of-mouth promotion and the ready availability of a powerful 3D tool, 3DJoy. What follows is a more detailed look at the effect that the Maya port and the Mac 3D Team can have in revitalizing 3D on the Macintosh.

Maya For The Mac

As reported on Apple’s Web site, Steve Jobs announced at the recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference that the SGI decision to port Maya to Mac OS X is “a dream come true for us.” This is very welcome and important news because it shows that Apple recognizes the importance of 3D to the Macintosh and that a 3D powerhouse like SGI considers the Macintosh to be a worthy 3D platform on which to run Maya.

However, based on my Mac instincts and background, the fact that the Mac OS X version will be high-priced and identical to the Windows NT and IRIX versions of Maya causes me some concern about the acceptance it will have with a majority of existing and future Macintosh graphics and 3D designers.

As an example, VersaCAD in the 80s chose to follow Macintosh guidelines and make a strategic marketing and software development alliance with VIDI for Presenter 3D’s visualization and animation capabilities. Autodesk chose to do a direct port in order to provide a consistent user interface across all platforms without regard to any strategic alliances. The result was that VersaCAD was immensely successful on the Macintosh, while Autodesk languished there.

I am thus inclined to think that the direct port of a dominant 3D graphics software product from another platform to the Macintosh “may be déjà vu all over again.” However, I am without a doubt sure that Maya will both be readily accepted by many in the professional 3D community that use the Macintosh and that the SGI move will greatly enhance the reputation of 3D on the Macintosh.

An added benefit of the Maya port is that the benefits provided by professional 3D products that support the Macintosh look and feel (such as 3DJoy, Electric Image and form•Z) will be more fully recognized and appreciated by the rest of the Macintosh 3D, graphics, education, and Web design communities. Through Apple’s and SGI’s support of 3D on the Macintosh, we may even see Pixar (headed by Steve Jobs) bringing RenderMan back to the Mac.

Grassroots Support For 3D On The Mac

The Mac 3D Team’s grassroots efforts for making 3D on the Macintosh more popular have touched many in the Mac graphics, education, and Web design communities who have longed for professional 3D modeling, rendering, and animation capabilities that complement the great 2D design and video capabilities available on the Macintosh. The Mac 3D Team makes this possible by:

To see what the Team is up to, download the 3D software, and check out the Beginner and Expert tutorials, visit the Mac 3D Team Web site. To join the effort of bringing the Macintosh into the forefront of 3D use and credibility and getting 3DJoy, go to the 3DJoy CD page.

Copyright © 2000 Nick Pavlovic, apple

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (6)

Carlos Camacho · July 6, 2000 - 01:01 EST #1
When I clicked this story I expected an overall view of the 3d market. To me, the author used the MAYA keyword to push his "3D Joy" product. (i.e. It is a product plug.) Here is MY take.

VIDI, has a nice product and good features. Some users truly liked their products, and still use them. When VIDI went away, and we were PROMISED a free version of Presenter, the Mac community was very interested. After much waiting, and posts on to why the 3d Mac Market is dieing, we got "3D Joy" which anyone can get on a CD for only $$$. Why not make the program 100% downloadable? I agree that Apple made mistakes, and now is on the right track. But VIDI should just stop the charade, make the source GNU and stop the marketing stuff. (If they truly want to do what they are saying.) Otherwise, be honest and call it shareware. IMHO, the "3D Joy Team" has made 0 impact on the market.

Here is the state of the 3d market on the Mac : Metacreations machine eat many small companies who had cool 3d soft (Ray-Dream, InfiniD) and released some of their own software (Poser, Bryce, the two "C"s.) As we know, they are out, and those products have been sold off. What will Adobe and Corel do? Only time will tell.

FormZ and Electric Image gets better and better and are great tools for professionals. (I don't think Amorpheum will last)

Lightwave 6, although un-Mac like is also an industry standard and has a great feature set.

Hash : Great price, great character modeling, but sometimes buggy.

Amapi : Great modeling, a strange GUI.

Pixel 3d : Getting better, watch out for these guys.

Cinema 4d : Gaining more and more users from abandoned users of product XYZ, ABC, etc..

Macromedia : Dumped Extreme 3d

Strata : 2.0 was BUGGY and they lost a lot of users in those dark ages. They JUST released a FREE STRATA 3D. You can download it. This is what "3D Joy promised." The program has a basic feature set, but is GREAT for beginners and people who are thinking to step up. Strata pro 3.0 is a few months away. If it is good, they will survive, if not.. their user base will move on.

As I see, it the Mac needs a good lower end program, and some high-end programs.

Maya will fill the gap in the high-end. It isn't for every Mac user. But for schools and studios, they WILL buy it.

NOW that was an overview of the Mac 3d Market. I have used EVERY 3d app ever made for the Mac. I may not be an expert in all of them, but I follow this industry. Questions, comments? Email me at ;

Bill Duffus · July 9, 2000 - 01:01 EST #2
I really don't see how you can be having an honest discussing of 3D on the Mac and not mention Lightwave 6, Cinema4D or Hashes Animation Master. Lightwave in particular has given 3D on the Mac the biggest boost in credibility in the last two years and probably has the most professional Mac users after FormZ and Cinema4D. If Newtek wasn't enjoying such great Mac sales, I doubt that Maya would be planning the move. This article was little more than a PR piece for 3DJoy. That is fine if thats what atmp is going to be all about; but don't make it out to be an objective, accurate or informed presentation about 3D on the Mac. Let's be honest about stuff. Disappointed,
Kevin Reid · March 16, 2001 - 01:01 EST #3

I'm new to Macs so i'm sorry if this seems silly. 3dsmax for the PC is what i've always used and I find it very difficult to convert to other applications. 3ds is very very good. Is there no way to aproach kinetix about creating a macintosh version as opposed to starting from scratch with 'grassroots' 3d programs?

This would provide a much faster built confidence in mac 3d to boost its already strong confidence in 2d applications.

Surely waiting for new applications to catch up with proffesional giants is a little risky?

Thanks, Kev.

anonymous · July 30, 2001 - 22:49 EST #4
Open source is the way to attract attention with 3D animation software. I would suggest that developers get involved in some promising 3D projects that are already out there, and push for Mac ports. Or, if you've got an existing Mac 3D program, I'd suggest open-sourcing it and encouraging software development from the community. You can still sell CDs of the software, and there may also be a market for writing custom plug-ins.
Jeremy Raven · November 15, 2006 - 16:44 EST #5
Maya is IMHO was the best thing that ever happened to Apple since the arrival of OSX. However just having a top line 3D app working on the mac isn't enough especially something as incomplete as Maya is. If I did a degree in mathematics or computer science I would join the development of maya on mac, but I come from an fine arts background and struggle just to keep up with mel, Maya's embedded language, fullstop. Maya is constantly being upgraded with plugins that push Maya forward out of its clunky beginnings but most of the better ones are for PC only or no longer developed for mac. Even Linux gets a look in before mac does, consider Houdini which is probably the future in 3D. Maya is becoming outdated very fast unless there is some major research and development made and will become virtually obselete on the mac if it continues the way it is. If Apple is so serious about 3D then perhaps they should get busy and start some real development and support for the 3D community out there.
Dave Ellis · April 24, 2007 - 17:30 EST #6
For anyone looking for an entry level app for Mac, take a look at Cheetah3D

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