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Tutorial - Getting started with Amapi 4.1more tutorials

By Philip Staiger, Amapi Evangelist,  copyright (c) 2000 TGS, Inc.

  1. Getting Started

After installing Amapi 4.1 from the CD, you will want to also install the 4.1.5 update patch. Once that's done, start Amapi. You'll be presented with a dialog box where Amapi wants you to choose one of the two available user interfaces, the Standard floating tool palette at left, or the original workshop interface, also known as natural design interface. We'll use the workshop interface for this tutorial. It is faster and much more fun, outright addictive!

The same dialog also asks for a password. That's essentially the license key, a long hexadecimal string starting with '2'. Click on the text box for that password, and enter it. Be sure not to add trailing blanks or leading whitespace.

If for some reason your installation doesn't accept the password, don't worry. You'll just be in what Amapi calls 'Demo Mode', in which everthing still works, except for saving your 3D model to Amapi file or exporting it to other formats, but rendering to image and animating to AVI movie file still will work even in demo mode!

In addition to a choice of user interfaces, Amapi also offers 5 different display modes. From the default Basic Wireframe (which is not based on OpenGL and thus works well on laptops and slower machines without good OpenGL video cards) to several modes offering shaded appearance. There are lit wireframe and shaded modes and the Wire-shade mode, in which a smooth shaded display is combined with a wireframe overlay to help you identify holes and openings in surfaces. The shaded modes work best on good systems with good OpenGL cards and 32-bit Zbuffers and most recent drivers. Let's therefore start initially with the basic wireframe mode, just the way Amapi starts up by default. If you want to try the other modes later, look in the Edit >> Preferences menu for Workspace Settings.

Finally, let's configure Amapi for how many levels of UNDO we can use: Select the

Edit >> Preferences >> Recovery Settings

Menu and select '20' for the Undo Level (default is 5). Note that you can also designate an automatic Backup file and for every 'N' minutes saving (e.g. every 5 minutes).

When you're done with this, you should see a screen similar to the one shown in picture 1.

(picture 1 - startup display with workshop interface along right side)

  1. Navigation - Look Mom, Two Hands!

Amapi is best used when both hands are involved. While holding the mouse in the right hand, for instance, keep your left hand on the arrow keys between the main and numeric keypad. The Left/Right arrows move the camera in a spherical orbit around the target point. The Up/Down arrows move the camera up and down from North to South poles.

There's also a bunch of really handy shortcuts for quick view controls on the numeric keypad. Imagine you have a joystick right smack on the number '5' (five) key in the center of the numeric keypad. Press that key (5) and you'll be looking down at the scene from the top. Press the key to the front of it, i.e. the '2' (two) key, and you'll switch to a front view. Press the key to the left of '5', i.e. the '4' key (four), and you'll be on a left side view etc.

Please practice these for a few seconds - and make sure you have 'NUM LOCK' set for the numeric keypad.

[ 2 ] ……. Front view

[ 5 ] ……. Top view

[ 8 ] ……. Back View

[ 4 ] ……. Left View

[ 6 ] ……. Right view

and the following for zooming in and out:

[ 0 ] …….. Zoom extent (show entire scene)

[ . ] ……. Zoom out (decimal point 'dot' to the right of the 'zero' key on numeric key pad)

[ 3 ] …….. Zoom In (above the 'dot' key.

And finally the following will work as soon as we have placed an object into the scene:

[ 1 ] …….. Zoom Region - to a detailed area on the part(s)

Now, what about the other hand? Move the mouse to the right edge of the screen. When you reach the edge, you'll see the set of icons switch to a different set. Move the cursor back in, and then move it again to the right edge. As you reach the edge of the screen again, you'll see yet another display of icons. Do this one more time and you'll get back to the first of the three toolkits. These are the primary tools offered in the Amapi workshop interface layout: the Construction tools, the Modeling tools, and the Assembly tools.

The Construction toolkit

The Modeling toolkit

The Assembly toolkit


Hit the SPACEBAR and you'll get to see a 4th toolkit, with lighting, rendering and animation tools. Toggle the SPACEBAR again to get back to the primary 3 toolkits.

Practice this out of the wrist action a few times, to get the hang of it. You'll see soon that this is one of the fun features in Amapi, which makes it fast to get on with the modeling tasks at hand. Whenever you're done with a particular tool, you'll be able to just 'throw it away' to the right edge.

  1. Let's Draw a Circle



    Let's start from a good orientation: hit '0', then '2' and then '5' to view the entire scene from the front and then from the top. We're looking down at the work bench.

    Select the construction toolkit. The second icon from the top (DRAW) looks like an ink pen. Click it. A pop-up palette will appear with a few 2D drawing tools, such as circle, rectangle, lines, etc… Click the Circle tool.

    Or, you can select from the Tools menu:

    Tools > Construction > Draw > Circle

    At this point you'll see two colored axes (e.g. Red / Green) which indicate the orientation of the main axes in World space. They change as you change your camera orientation with the arrow keys. The X, Y and Z axes are represented in Red, Green and Blue.

    A small has the shape of a small circle. You're invited to position the center of the circle. This is shown in the upper left corner of the yellow Assistant palette. In fact the instructions there point out that you can also hit the TAB key instead of clicking on the screen, if you prefer to enter a numeric value for the X, Y and/or Z location of the circle's center. We will use this numeric input feature shortly, but for right now, let's just click approximately in the middle of the work bench to position the circle there.

    Once you've click the mouse (left button), the circle's center is fixed there. A rubberband circle appears and resizes as you move the mouse. Notice that you no longer see the X/Y/Z value in the lower-left numeric display area. Instead, you're now seeing the radius, which changes when you move the cursor. You can now either click again to fix the circle's radius. Or, hit the TAB key and enter the desired radius numerically. Let's choose in this case to enter the numeric value. But what if you accidentally already clicked the mouse button a second time, and have thus already set the radius? No problem. You can back out step-by-step from the last operation in the circle tool, simply by hitting the BACKSPACE key.

    When you're at the point where it's asking you to set the radius, hit the TAB key, and enter '10.5' (without the apostrophe), then hit the Enter key to validate. Don't bother entering the units, which are cm (centimeters) by default. You can change them to inches or others in the Preferences menu if you want. (Edit >> Preferences >> Measurement Units)

    At this point, the radius of the circle is set, and the tool asks for how many points you want to display on it:

    You can again use the TAB key to set that value, or better, as the cursor indicates, use the plus and minus keys (+/-) on the numeric keypad to change that value.

    This is one of the nice and handy features in Amapi: quite often throughout many tools, a choice can be made to select amongst several options, or a value can be changed, with the +/- keys. In this case, use the +/- keys to increase (thus with the '+' key) up to 12 points.

    When you're done setting the desired number of points, hit the Enter key. Or, you can also simply swipe the tool away to the right edge. Done!

    Note that if you did select the Draw tool and then the circle from the Draw palette, then you may still see the draw palette. To get rid of that too, simply swipe the cursor one more time out to the right edge.

    If for some reasons you appear to be stuck in a tool and swiping away doesn't terminate it, you can hit the ESCAPE key to quit (and usually abort).

    After completing this circle, hit the '2' (two) key in order to view the circle from the front.

    You'll notice in the lower left corner that the numeric input window now shows the name of the object (Curve0). If you want to change it to something more meaningful, just hit the TAB key, and enter the new name like when you enter a numeric value for a tool. I have renamed the object to 'Circle1' in this example.


    At this point would be a good time to save your current scene. There are several ways to do this. The standard way: the File… menu offers a 'Save As…' or 'Save' feature. You'll be asked for a file name. You can also create a new folder for this exercise if you wish.

  3. Extruding the Circle to a Bottle



    Use the Arrow keys to orient yourself in such a way that you have roughly a front view of the scene, and zoom out (.) so the circle isn't filling much of the screen, perhaps only about 20%. Hold the CONTROL key down and then use the vertical (up/down) arrow keys again, and you'll be moving the camera up or down. Make the circle get close to the bottom of the screen so there's much room left above the circle. We'll now do an extrusion which will use the circle to make a bottle.

    Select the Extrusion tool (6th from the top in the Construction toolkit). Then click on the circle again. You're now starting to extrude the circle into a cylindrical shape.

    Hit '2' for a front view. Adjust the view with the arrow keys as needed. Start creating the shape of a bottle, section by section, clicking a few points up. If you mess up, undo with BACKSPACE.

    In order to force the sections along a perfect vertical alignment, hit the SPACEBAR. This toggles the red/green axes to go from both to one or the other axes. After a few clicks, you'll have about this and you'll be working your way up to the bottleneck.

    When it's time to start moving inward, brake out of the vertical motion lock by hitting the SPACEBAR again until both axes are shown again and keep moving freely.

    If you don't like the granular 'snapping' to grid positions and prefer to move the cursor totally freely, just increase or decrease the sensitivity of the grid lock with the +/- keys.

    When you're done shaping the upper area of the bottle to the top of the bottleneck, hit ENTER. You'll see two red openings (circles), one at the top, the other at the bottom of the extruded surface. Amapi allows you to click which of these should be closed. You can click both or just the bottom to leave the top open. If you hit ENTER, both (all) openings are being closed. If you just swipe away, none are closed.

    Click the bottom circle and swipe away to leave the top of the bottle open.

    If you forgot to close it, there's a tool in the Tools >> Advanced Tools menu to close an object.

    Select the Render Settings (CTRL-J) from the Render menu and click on the Background Color bar (which is black by default). Select a light blue color, or whichever background color you want. This will be the background color used during rendering.

    While you're in the Render Settings, also check (enable) the 'Extended Editor' option for the Material Editor section.

    Click 'OK' when done to validate these changes to the rendering options. Then hit ENTER to generate a rendering onto your screen:

    To quit this rendered image, click it or swipe the tool away.

    Hit CTRL-E to save as a new file, e.g. 'bottle1.a3d'

  5. Adding a Fillet (Chamfert Tool)



    Hit '0' to view all, then hit '1' to zoom into the bottom area of the bottle. A rectangle appears around the cross cursor. Use it to center the zoom window at the bottom of the bottle (click around that area). The rectangle is positioned there and goes into trubber-band mode, so you can click a second time after setting its size. Amapi then zooms into that selected area.

    You will want to have a good view as shown below of the bottle's bottom area.

    We're now going to use the Lasso selection cursor to select a few edges of the bottle, i.e. the ones at the bottom, which is where we will want to apply chamfert (also known as bevel or fillet).

    Click the Right mouse button once - the selection tool appears (looks sort of like a spindle). Click outside of the bottle, e.g. to the right side of its bottom. A read rubber-band line appears at the first point.

    Move the selection cursor around the bottom edges of the bottle, clicking here or there to make a selection all around it. This is called 'throw the lasso around the desired vertices'.

    When done, hit ENTER to complete the selection.

    Click the Filleting (Chamfert) tool in the middle of the modeling toolkit, or select

    Tools > Modeling >> Fillet

    A red preview of the filleting effect appears. Use the +/- keys to change the radius.

    Hit ENTER when you have the right radius.

    Use the Arrow keys to rotate down and look at the bottom of the bottle from underneath, and hit '0' to zoom back to entire scene, then hit ENTER to render the scene.

    Hit CTRL-S to save the current design.

    If you wish to examine the design interactively, and if you have a decent 3D opengl card, you may want to use a pop-up viewer:

    View >> New View >> Free View

    You can use the mouse in that view to rotate (left button) or move in/out (right button).

    There are also various View Modes, which correspond to the 4 display types available also in the Workspace. To get rid of the solid work bench, use the 'Hide' tool in the control panel (Dark Ghost) and click the bench in the main workspace (the floating pop-up viewer is for examining only, no editing there). Swipe the ghost tool away when done. If the floating view doesn't show the view immediately, just use the arrow keys to refresh a slightly different orientation. If Windows passes the keyboard focus to the small floating view window and you need it back to the main workspace, just click the menubar or the workspace view.

  7. Punching out a Smile



    We'll now use a boolean operation with the Punch tool to cut out a shape from the bottle. First, hit '2' for a front view, and '0' to view all. Then let's draw the shape. It will be a polyline shaped like a smiling mouth, starting from the outside right of the bottle, overlapping into the bottle and ending well outside of the bottle again.

    To help in drawing the exact desired shape, toggle to perspective view. The 4th icon from the left on the control panel at the bottom of the screen toggles perspective on/off. Or, select the menu:

    Tools >> Control Panel >> Perspective

    Now select the DRAW tool again from the construction toolkit, position the coordinate anywhere on the scene, and select the Polyline tool from the draw palette. Or, select

    Tools >> Construction >> Draw >> Polyline

    And click somewhere on the bottle (e.g. right side) to position the axes there.


    Start drawing a shape from the upper right quadrant area outside of the bottle and work your way into the bottle by creating a smiling mouth shape. Then move down and draw back out.

    Hit ENTER to finish. Swipe away if you still have the draw palette up there. Use the TAB key to rename curve to 'Smile'.

    Click the Bottle to make it the current object. It will be highlighted in light blue. A little white ball is also shown at the center of its bounding box.

    Select the 'Punch' tool at the bottom of the modeling toolkit. It looks like a cube from which a sphere has been cut out. Or select from the Menu:

    Tools >> Modeling >> Punch

    Then click the 'Smile' curve. Amapi will use it to throw cutting blades across the curve, i.e. it becomes like a cookie cutter cutting across the bottle. Click, drag and move the portion which is inside the 'mouth area' away to the right.

    Switch back to Perspective mode. Then hit CTRL-S to save the current shape.

  9. Giving Thickness to the Bottle



    Select the bottle. We'll want to make it look a bit more realistic by giving it thickness.

    From the Modeling toolkit, select the Thickness tool. (It's the icon just above the Punch tool you used previously). Or use the Menu:

    Tools >> Modeling >> Thickness.

    Somewhere on the bottle a red/white thickness preview will appear. You may get it to switch to a different area on the bottle by using the arrow keys to orient the view differently. The thickness preview is always placed on a facet which is nearly parallel to your viewing direction, so that you get a good side view of the thickness.

    You can also click the bottle again at that point to see the current thickness temporarily applied to the entire object.

    To change the thickness, use the Plus/Minus (+/-) keys on the numeric keypad.

    To Toggle the thickness between inside and outside of the bottle, hit the SPACEBAR. Once again, Amapi uses +/- and SPACEBAR to toggle a set of meaningful parameters.

    Easy enough to remember?

    Apply a thickness of about 1 cm to the bottle, and validate by hitting the ENTER key. Then select the other part (the smiling cut-out) and apply thickness there too.


  11. Adding a Podium for better Presentation



    Hit the '0' key for viewing the entire scene, then the '2' key for front view. Toggle back to orthographic view. Zoom out a bit. Then go to the Construction toolkit and select the cube (which pops up when you rest the mouse over the sphere), or select from the menu:

    Tools >> Construction >> Cube

    Click a first time to position the coordinate center wherever you want it. Then click to position the bottom of the cube, somewhere under the base of the bottle. A rubberband cube appears, select the size and click again. Make sure the cube comes close to touching the bottom base of the bottle.

    Select the Proportional Scale tool from the assembly toolkit, or

    Tools >> Assembly >> Proportional Scale

    And hit the SPACEBAR in order to toggle out of proportional mode into single-axis mode. You want to scale it horizontally so as to make it much wider than the bottle and thus create a base. Click to fix that size. Then hit "4" to get a side view and repeat the scale operation, this time it'll be along the other axis (blue instead d of red).

    Swipe away when done, toggle back out of orthographic and into perspective view, use the arrow keys to examine it from various angles. Hit ENTER to render


  13. Adding Material Properties



    For more visual realism, lets add wood or marble to the base. Select (click) the base to make sure it's the current part. Then select the paint palette in lower-right corner of the control panel, or select

    Render >> Shader

    Assuming you have configured the Material Editor for extended mode, you will have a display similar to this:

    Note the catalog entries at the top (empty in my example here). Also note the main material properties (level 0) at right. There is a small preview window, you can use the arrow keys and other viewing controls keys from numeric keypad and control panel to navigate around this just like in the main workshop view.

    You can add multiple layers of texturing, beit 3D procedural, 2D procedural or 2D Image based textures. These layers can affect, in various ways, what happens to color, transparency, reflection, bump, specular color, etc…

    In the lower-center, under 'Add a layer:', click on [Texture 3D]. To the right a few additional sliders appear - these are the ones which control the parameters of this procedural shader. One pulldown menu in that new set is set on wood, select and change it to Grid. Set the Perturbation to zero. Change the Diffuse portion in base layer (level 0) to White. If the resulting color hasn't changed much, it's because the color from the procedural texture is Replacing the color component, rather than mixing or adding to it. You can change that too, under the preview window. Where it says 'Operation' click on the 'Replace' menu and change it to Mix, then use the Balance slider to set the desired mix. Also, in the lower-left set the 'Reflection' slider to about 20%.

    For the bottle, repeat this material selection. In this example, no additional textures were applied, but we tweaked the specular reflection a bit and gave it some reflection too, and made it blueish in color.

    The separate (smiling) piece was made transparent, with a 3D texture of noise mapped to bump to give it scattered refraction and get the tempered glass effect.


  15. Lighting



    For an even better rendering we'll want to add lightsources. Add a Spot light to the scene:

    Render >> New Light >> Spot

    Or select the spot light from the 4th toolkit (toggle with SPACEBAR to the rendering/animation toolkit). Click a first time to indicate the target illumination point. Move the mouse, use the arrow keys too, and click again to position the spot light.

    Double-click a light to see its attributes, and change the shadow quality to the max of 10. Use the Stretch tool from the modeling toolkit or

    Tools >> Modeling >> Stretch

    To reposition, if necessary, where the spot light is positioned and where it's shining at (target point). You can even grab a point on the outer cone and change the spot light's cone angle - both for the inner angle (at maximum intensity) and the outer cone (where the light intensity fades to zero).

    In the example below, a total of three spot lights were positioned that way to create long or short shadows.


  17. Conclusion
As you will undoubtedly see, Amapi offers a wealth of modeling features, and a few rendering capabilities as well. In this tutorial, we didn't touch upon the animation features. Amapi is primarily used as a modeler, perhaps a companion modeler to high-end animation and rendering tools. But if you're starting from scratch and want a somewhat intuitive and easy-to-learn tool that will do some decent rendering as well, this may just be what you're looking for.

There are many more ways to create models in Amapi, from extruding surfaces to meshing acriss construction curves. Many tutorials can be found online, starting from the Amapi homepage at - Enjoy!