As with many CAD programs, TurboCAD 2D/3D 3.0 is geared for architectural design rather than theatrical use. The CD symbol library is extensive in it's range of US, ISO and British architectural and electrical plan, section and perspective symbols (5000 different symbols according to the literature). That said, architectural skills are not a necessity to operate this program, and you don't have to be an architect to put it to good use. It is an ideal program for the theatrical designer, both in terms of cost and ease of operation.
Retailing for around $180, this program is most affordable. It is amazing what this program is capable of achieving for the price. The 2D package runs smoothly and quickly on my Power PC Performa. I was able to learn the program by playing around with the various tools and referring to the manual occasionally. Within a short period of time, I was able to master the desktop and move to the problem of designing for the theater.
The tool palettes are easy to interpret, and conveniently organized on separate grids that can be shown or hidden as needed. I found it able to quickly undo trial steps, which allowed me to think while I drew without worrying about ruining the drawing. It is easy to move about the drawing environment though a keystroke or by using a tool from the palette. Another helpful feature is the ability to easily develop my own theatrical symbol library of USITT approved symbols that I use for ground plans or sections. I also found this useful when trying to rearrange various parts of the design.
TurboCAD also offers a 3D package that be used in conjunction to the 2D program. This basic 3D modeler renders objects in perspective as well as top, front and side views of an object. The 3D software is also a quick study with simple tool palettes that easily let you change the perspective viewpoint, adjust the direction and strength of the lighting, as well as multiple shape and manipulative tools. Other tools allow you to make objects opaque or semi opaque, along with those that let you zoom in and out. The software also has the capabilities to develop animated demonstrations and limited walkthroughs of the design.
The 2D and 3D programs have the ability to share files from one to the other. For the theatrical designer, this program allows a quick perspective sketch to be worked up from a ground plan that can be printed. While the 3D world does offer opaque and solid objects, this program does not offer the texturing and complex lighting that other rendering programs have. Although this is not an advanced rendering program, it still is helpful in developing the 3D perspective sketch that can be rendered by hand.
For the beginner, helpful the tutorials are included with the software. Easy step by step directions for the manipulation of both the 2D and 3D environments helped me feel comfortable right away. The tutorial also included a few animated sequences showing what the advanced TurboCAD user could accomplish (the sample house model is rotated to give a full view of the design).
TurboCAD can import and export files in the DFX file format as well as being able to save files as PICT files. It also works with a large number of plotters through a separate application called TurboCAD plot- which is well explained in the manual. However, one can print at home if you are the designer who doesn't own a plotter yet (it tiled a large plot out very nicely on my Style Writer 1200 printer). TurboCAD will run on an Apple Mac II or higher (PowerMac too!) if you have a hard disk and at least 4 Mb of RAM (although the manual recommends 5 Mb and a math co-processor for more complex drawings).
For the theatrical designer, it is a great program for the drafting needs of the theatre. I used it to develop ground plans, section views, light plots and detail drawings without much hassle, and without a major financial strain. Within a few uses, I had developed my own lighting and scenic symbol libraries that made this more of a theatrical application. At this price, and simplicity of use, this is an ideal program for the basic CAD user in and out of the theater.
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