Merlin VR offers real-time solution to rendering problem

Real-time rendering is the strength behind Digital Immersion Software’s new 3D tool, according to one user.

Merlin VR 1.0, a tool for Web designers and digital content designers to create interactive 3D, can be used to create a variety of Web and multimedia content, including advertising, CD-ROMs, video, simulation and interactive presentations.

The program allows users to create high quality, optimized objects and VRML worlds that are Internet ready, save animations as AVIs and, with accelerated real-time preview, view fully-textured animated scenes at high frame rates without rendering, according to the company.

“You can model things quickly because of the performance speed. The quality is so good that you don’t have to do a lengthy render…which makes for a quicker turnaround time,” said Bernie Aho, marketing manager at Digital Immersion Software in Sudbury, Ont.

Merlin VR features the ability to clone, multi-clone, uniform and non-uniform scale, perform advanced boolean functions, and offers modeling functions such as bend, bulge, squeeze, taper, pull, twist and scale, and relax a surface tension. The 3D primitives offered include the sphere, box, cone, and cylinder, plus Super Toroid and Super Ellipsoid multi-primitives.

Alastair MacLeod, director of IT services for the Ontario College of Art & Design, which is looking to use the product as a teaching tool, said while the program lacks some of the versatility of other CAD and 3D animation programs, it provides a “good start for working on ideas and subject content.”

The real strength of the program, he continued, lies in its high-speed rendering capability. Most programs, he said, require working in wireframe and “once you’ve got to a certain point and you’re trying to render it and see what it looks like with surface textures, then you would render it, which takes time. With this [program]…you don’t have to work in wireframe because the rendering is so fast.”

Aho said users will find “a noticeable difference in the time they can create movies, for instance…you can create AVI movies in literally seconds and minutes.”

In addition to its high-speed, MacLeod said Merlin VR is very easy to use, and unlike some other 3D modeling programs, has a clear interface.

MacLeod said the program offers a good starting point for his students who are working towards CAD or 3D animation “because they can develop the skills to apply to other programs.”

And because of the program’s speed, he said, it would be especially useful for games. “For one student to design an entire game with some of the 3D programs would take too much time…I think there is quite a bit of flexibility in [Merlin VR] if you explore it and start to manipulate the shapes. To be able to do that really quickly, to have a program that would accommodate that is really exciting for somebody who wants to create an environment that is completely imaginary,” he explained.

Mark Jewell, president of Digital Immersion, said the program is suitable for CAD users as well.

“The product is a good fit because what we’re doing is now allowing users to have an add-on tool that actually expands what users need, which is some way to visualize in real time,” Jewell said.

“They like it because everything they create can be exported into our product and they can actually visualize and walk through and see it all in real time and it’s very easy to do.”

According to Aho, the only difficulty with a program like Merlin VR is “adapting to a 3D environment. Most people are used to (Adobe) Photoshop where everything is 2D.”

Merlin VR 1.0 (, which runs on Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows 98, is priced at US$99.

Digital Immersion in Sudbury, Ont., is at (705) 522-7991.