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-- by Serdar Yegulalp
Macromedia FreeHand Graphics Studio 7 is an almost overwhelmingly powerful collection of vector and 3-D graphics and font tools enabling remarkable Web graphics.
We reviewed FreeHand 7, the centerpiece of FreeHand Graphics Studio 7, in our February issue. This month, we'll take a look at the other components of the collection-Macromedia xRes, Fontographer and Extreme 3D.
Only our current Recommended List product, Adobe Photoshop 4.0, beats xRes for photo editing. xRes' layer masking and compositing work differently than in Photoshop, and that will steepen the learning curve for more complicated image-editing processes. Borrowing from another Recommended product, Fractal Painter 4, xRes offers watercolor, glass etching and Japanese brush styles in its paintbox, with performance on par with both Painter and Photoshop.
With Fontographer, you can design fonts; build TrueType for the Macintosh, Adobe Type 1 or 3, or other common font formats; and turn clip art into fonts. Its Unicode and discrete character segments make it easy to create fully internationalized character sets. A word of caution: If you're using Fontographer to work with full Unicode font sets, you'll need tons of RAM or a huge swap file.
Extreme 3D, Macromedia's remarkable, programmable 3-D graphics rendering and animation tool, is a bit harder to use than entry-level offerings like TrueSpace. You can create animations interactively, by moving and registering objects on a frame-by-frame basis, or by describing paths for objects. Cameras, atmospheres and light sources all take part in this digital ballet as well, and the results can be sent to Targa, BMP or AVI files at any frame rate, frame size or aspect ratio.
Better still, Extreme 3D offers server render mode, which distributes rendering jobs across multiple networked systems in a "render farm" array. Like the rest of the applications in this collection, it takes advantage of multiple processor systems if you use it with Windows NT.
Macromedia FreeHand Graphics Studio 7 gives you a true arsenal of professional-level tools, although it may overwhelm a casual graphic artist. Still, the promise of professional tools at a most unprofessional price is simply too tempting to pass up, placing Studio firmly on our Recommended List.
Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.