MoI’s Sexy Graphics – Part 1

I seem to be in the 3D graphics mood this week. So I am going to continue and talk about something that I very briefly mentioned earlier on this blog a long time ago – the sexy graphics of Moment Of Inspiration, the 3D CAD system developed the one man company called Michael Gibson. Actually his company is called Triple Squid Software Design.

I find modeling in MoI to be an experience of sheer joy. There are a number of things I love about the software, its simplicity being only one of them. The fact that the entire product installer, complete with documentation and everything, sits at just 10 MB is pleasantly shocking, to say the least. Oh, and did I mention that it costs just $295? But the one thing in my opinion that sets this wonderful little program apart from the rest is its drop dead gorgeous and sexy graphics.

Please note that here I’m not talking about the realistic display that now comes with most MCAD systems these days. Frankly I turn that kind of stuff off while I am modeling. Not because it hogs CPU cycles and memory. But because it distracts me. Its all right for a model to look realistic with bump maps, ambient occlusion, reflection and all that kinds of jazz when you are done modeling and want to inspect it or show it off to someone. But while modeling I prefer it to look flat shaded. More importantly I need the on screen graphics to make easy for me to see faces, edges and vertices. Take a look at the following screen shot of an engine in SpaceClaim 2010.

Nice and simple flat shading. No shininess. Just faces and edges. SpaceClaim also has this nice feature of shading parts with different colors automatically when color information is unavailable, as was the case in this STEP file. Other CAD systems dumped all parts in the graphics window in a single color which makes it difficult to work when the model is as large as this. In my opinion, its these small things that add up to real productivity and not the other kind of shiny stuff.

And here is where MoI excels. In all the CAD systems and 3D viewers that I have seen so far, I haven’t seen anything like the kind of graphics that comes with MoI. Which leads to believe that the graphics engine was created by Michael himself and not licensed from some component vendor. So I decided to ask Michael about his graphics engine and whether he was ready to disclose a few of his “secrets”. As it turns out I got a wealth of information from Michael about his graphics engine and quite a bit of background on 3D graphics software and hardware as well.

In fact, in an earlier post titled “3D Graphics Performance Comparison” I compared the graphics performance of this $295 3D CAD system developed by a single person with a number of $5000 plus 3D CAD systems developed by hundreds of talented programmers using even costlier components developed by specialized graphics component vendors (see this video). I didn’t mention the name of the CAD system not just for fun, but to see what kind of names my readers come up with. There were two guesses and both were AutoCAD. I guess there is no need for me to say anything more, now is there?

Part 2 >>

  • I'm very proud that, by default, we keep our graphics clean. It suits engineering, rather than detailed design or industrial design. We're trying to show information clearly, not make pretty pictures. That's what KeyShot is for. I like to think of our graphics as something that Edward Tufte would appreciate.

    That said, turn on anti-aliasing for goodness sake.

    -Blake (a founder of SpaceClaim)

  • Blake,

    As a rule, I don’t turn on or off anything. I do this because I need to test my add-ins on the system as it comes out of the box, which I believe is how most users it. If anti-aliasing is good maybe you should turn it on by default. 😉

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