Friday, 10 September 2010

3Dconnexion SpaceExplorer 3D mouse mini review

I was first introduced to my number one piece of hardware when I started using SGI machines and Unigraphics about 13yrs ago ( maybe more). The company had IBM spaceballs on all the machines. Well after getting used to using them I have never looked back. When I could I bought a spacemouse 5000 usb which was almost the same as the IBM just a newer model and the company was now 3Dconnexion. They offered me a trial but I knew I would be buying it as I was used to how they worked, but it was a nice thing for the company to do as its nice to try before you buy. I used this 3Dmouse for years until early this year when I upgraded to the new spaceExplorer, it was a newer design and they replaced the ball with a knob design I wasnt sure if I could get used to the knob design as I felt the ball fitted my hand better. I was wrong the design was great and fitted just right. The 3D mouse was still as solid as before and has the right amount of weight for it not to move when being used. The placement of the buttons was also just right and the design was more slimmed down and modern than the previous model, which is always nice. So let me run through how I use mine and why.

The software I use mine on:
Cinema 4d
3ds max

The 3Dmouse is easy to set up in all the applications listed above. It has a very handy control panel that lets you set up the 3Dmouse to the apps you are using. Here you can map the buttons to the short cut / commands you use the most. It will also automatically switch to the settings you have made for each app on start up of said app. There is also a handy button the 3Dmouse that will take you instantly to the 3Dconnexion control panel incase you need to make a quick change. There are a lot more settings in the control panel that allow you to tweak the axis speeds for zooming, panning, spinning etc.
When using in cinema4d you can decide if you want it to navigate, fly or move the object. Mine is always set to navigate. This is true for all the 3D apps I use it for. When I am in a modelling session I can place my left hand on the 3Dmouse and right hand on my regular mouse and off I go. Using the 3Dmouse gives me a more natural way of moving in and out and around the model, with very little wrist movement. Sometimes when working on large scenes it is easier to use than my mouse as it gives me more control and while zooming in to points in moi with the mouse can sometimes be hit and miss with the 3Dmouse it isnt I just slowly zoom in and get the job done. I have all the short cuts set up on it so when modelling I hardly touch the keyboard. Which is good as moving your hand from here to there while working slows you down and because my hand is resting on the 3Dmouse I do not get the wrist strain I would get from leaning over the KB all the time. I am so used to using my 3Dmouse now that when I am on another computer my left hand automatically reaches for the 3Dmouse which isn't there. I do this over and over until I get it into my thick head I have to do it the old way. I should really buy another one so I can take it with me. Or better yet buy the space pilot and carry this one with me. Then I would have the best of both worlds. Now I know I added photoshop to the list and I know its not a "3D" application, but the 3Dmouse saved me a lot of stress on a number of jobs. For example on one job I had to manually paint out cricketers from every friggin frame ( manual rotoing is fun ) and I set the 3Dmouse buttons to open, save,brush, etc and then used the 3D mouse to zoom into the painting area, out and pan around so it was wacom in one hand and 3Dmouse in the other and it worked out brilliantly.

So the bottom line is I couldn't work without mine sat next to me (well I could but it would get annoying and distract me from working). I know a few peeps that feel the same and I know a tiny few peeps that can't get on with them, but if you are like me and work in a 3D viewport every day of the week then you owe it to yourself to give one a try. I haven't had any issues with any of the 3Dmice I have owned and each one has made the money back pretty swiftly, so I haven't lost anything only gained. My only wish is that I could use it in zbrush which would make working in zbrush soo much nicer I keep trying it every time i am in zbrush then going D'oh when I remember it doesn't work ( there might be support for it soon though as I know there are loads wanting the same so there is hope).
I hope this helps if you are interesting in trying one of these out.

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