Cool 3D v2.5

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: Ulead Systems, go to the web site
Requires: Pentium 166MMX recommended, DirectX 5.0 or higher, 16MB RAM (32 recommended), 800x600xHi-Color minimum resolution, Windows 95, 98 or NT4
MSRP: US$49.95 (US$44.995 for download)

Ulead COOL 3D is used to create animated titles, logos, and special effects to add impact to Web pages, home videos, and business presentations. Ulead COOL 3D supports Web standard GIF, GIF animations, JPEG, and AVI files with all quality, compression, transparency, and blending options. .

We tested Cool 3D on two machines: a PII/350MHz running Windows 98 with 128MB RAM and an ATI All-in-Wonder video card; a Pentium 233MMX machine running Windows 95 with 64MB RAM and a Matrox G200 video card. Both installations were flawless.

We put together three small video projects: a short intro clip for an existing digital video of Formula One racing footage from last year's Montreal Grand Prix; a short intro to a business presentation (a flashy opening for a product advertising pitch); the production of an animated logo (in GIF format) for a corporate Web site.

The interface is easy to use. The drag & drop Easy Palette selections for each effect and movement category are stuffed with canned effects, moves, color overlays and texture maps. Text handling is also easy, with full access to the Windows font directory, and a character table display for selecting all the extended and special ANSI characters in any typeface. We couldn't determine if Cool 3D has support for Unicode character encoding.

We created a small storyboard for each project (literally, a blow-by-blow list which helps to visualize each project before you start). After launching Cool 3D and opening a text window, we selected a font, chose a size, typed our text and moved into the main interface. We adjusted the length of the animation by adding frames - all you have to do is increase the number in the frames list box. We also adjusted the frame rate (the number of frames per second).

After creating text, selections were made from the Easy Palette. Cool 3D provides 5 different kinds of movement: texture animation (the animation is confined to the surfaces of the text), 3D animation (the text moves in place in 3 virtual dimensions, revealing different faces), light & color shifts, screen animation (the text moves in and out of view, or along a preset path), and view animation (where the camera angle appears to shift smoothly across the text). You can combine any number of different types of movement, dragging & dropping anything you like into the active window.

According to our rough count, there are 447 individual selections in the Ulead Easy Palette, distributed among 26 distinct texture, motion, and effects categories. The software therefore provides literally thousands of distinct, combinations of effects. That's a lot of combinations, and the creative possibilities are fantastic. Ulead Cool 3D works extremely well, and even provides finer, manual adjustments of your creations put together with Easy Palette.

After creating about 3 dozen AVIs with Cool 3D, we launched Ulead's VideoStudio and loaded the individual AVIs as clips. After that, we got a little bit lost for several hours, cranking out video after video, using the Cool 3D clips as titles, intros, transition elements, and extros. We had an absolute blast. But the most amazing thing about the whole process was that after showing the results to several video production people, they all asked when we'd started testing Adobe Premier(tm)! It took some time to convince them that the finished AVIs had been produced with Cool 3D and VideoStudio. We also used a number of animated GIFs created with Cool 3D in a test area on our Intranet. We had a lot of fun with the software.

Cons: Both test machines had plenty of horsepower, but combining several effects tended to slow on-screen rendering quite a bit. The interface needs better icons - without tooltips you'd never figure them out just by looking at them.

Pros: Final output quality is excellent. Ulead's choices for Easy Palette are great and we hope they add more. The combinations of Cool 3D & Ulead VideoStudio, or Cool 3D & MGI VideoWave II are unbeatable. Adding Cool 3D titles and effects to clips grabbed from your camcorder, digital video camera, or VCR (using VideoStudio or VideoWave II) is a terrific way to create great videos and Web GIF animations. Ulead Cool 3D is definitely cool, useful, and a lot of fun. We recommend it.

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