I'll start this page by addressing the obvious question: "Why make this? Can't I just Google it?" The answer to that question is yes, you can Google it, but you'll find very little unless you Google it repeatedly, with different search terms, over the course of several months, and even then you'll be missing everything that resides exclusively within the Internet Archive (and similar websites). To condense my point: Infini-D was tougher to find out everything about than I expected, so the point of this page is to make it so that you don't have to replicate the extensive web quest that I went on.
Hint: You can click on the images to see them larger, and mouse over text like this for extra information!

But First, Specular International

The Infini-D story starts in 1988 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Adam Lavine and Dennis Chen were a pair of instructors in an animation course at the university, having previously worked at the Center for Knowledge Communication creating educational animations for children. Lavine and Chen believed that 3D graphics were the easiest way to produce quality animation, and purchased several 3D programs for Macintosh computers with which to create them; eventually, the two began writing their own 3D software, aiming to create something that was capable of generating more complex effects not yet possible in the preexisting programs that they had used.

In January 1990, Lavine and Chen left Massachusetts for California, aiming to sell the new technology that they had created. This prototype program was called "Hikariato" (supposedly "ray tracer" in Japanese), and was Infini-D's direct predecessor. Before they left to pitch their product, Lavine and Chen realized that they needed a company name under which to sell Hikariato; they decided on Specular International, "Specular" in reference to the concept of specular reflection, an effect which their program was capable of creating in objects, and "International" just to make them sound big and important (no, really).

Several offers of employment and publishing alike were made to the newly-formed Specular team on their trip, but in the end, Lavine and Chen decided to officially establish Specular as a real company and try and publish Hikariato (soon to become Infini-D 1.0) themselves, rendering the trip the corporate-entrepreneur equivalent of a self-discovery hike through India. In spring 1990, they were joined by Andrei and Carolyn Herasiumchuk, graphic designer and corporate structure expert respectively, Damian Roskill, project manager who would oversee the creation of Infini-D 1.0, and Dave Cotter, who became a full-time programmer at Specular alongside Lavine and Chen. Chris Johnston, a 3D animator who previously worked with Lavine and Chen, would also eventually join the Specular Int'l team. In August 1990, Specular was finally officially founded as a Massachusetts-based company.


Specular's first logo.




Specular's last logo.




You'd really think they'd have taken more fun corporate photos or something, but no. Here's Adam Lavine's tiny face.



Infini-D 1.X and 2.X

Infini-D 1.0 was released for Macintosh computers in early 1991, making it Specular's first published product as a company. As a complete newcomer in the world of 3D software, it wasn't explosively popular, but received ample attention from computing publications like InfoWorld and was still picked up by a considerably-sized userbase.

A key selling point that set Infini-D 1.0 apart from its competition was the fact that the software combined both 3D modeling and 3D animation technology into one package. Previously, each had been a separate affair when it came to Mac programs; one program would be used to create the 3D models, and a completely different one to actually animate them. Critics also praised its simple-but-elegant user interface and affordable price, making it a reasonable choice for those sought to break into 3D digital media at the time of its release. Infini-D 1.1 was a free upgrade for those who are already purchased 1.0; it consisted mostly of bug fixes, and was the last 1.X version of Infini-D.

In 1992, Specular introduced the world to BackBurner, a distributed rendering engine for Infini-D. Using BackBurner, users with access to multiple Macintosh computers could split an Infini-D project up to be rendered separately on the different computers all at once, freeing processing power on their main workstation and speeding up the rendering process. BackBurner also sported a queue, allowing mulitple projects/"jobs" to be set to render consecutively, and the ability to start or suspend a job at any time. BackBurner was also the first of many fancy two-word Infini-D-related terms, LikeThis, that Specular would trademark out of what I can only assume was either perceived financial benefit or office space boredom.

Infini-D 2.0 was released in 1993, and introduced more features related to exporting work, like broadcast-quality antialiasing, QuickTime video format support, Alpha channel support, and the ability to import and export graphics in new formats; it also allowed users to import Adobe Illustrator and Aldus FreeHand outlines, automatically converting them into 3D objects, and upped the program's power, with shaded rendering modes now working twice as fast as in 1.1, and ray tracing on mesh objects and 3D terrains becoming 500% and 900% faster respectively. Infini-D 2.6, its biggest update, followed suit; its release coincided with that of Apple's new Power Macintosh line of desktop computers, and made improvements to the software's speed and memory handling to take advantage of their power. 2.6 also introduced compatibility with the Autodesk CAD .DXF file format. Infini-D 2.6 was also released alongside version 2.6 of BackBurner, which upgraded the queue system to allow users to schedule jobs to be done overnight specifically.


One of our only remaining online screenshots of Infini-D 1.0 is this one, from InfoWorld's review of the program.




Disk 1 of Infini-D 2.6.




BackBurner 2.6's installer splash screen.
How much would all those Macs cost?



Infini-D 3.X

Infini-D 3.0 was released in 1995&em;and to much greater anticipation than its predecessor versions. In the four years since its release, Infini-D had become a popular program, having first drawn hobbyist users in with its uniquely easy-to-use design, then attracted professionals with the increased functionality and Power Macintosh-native code introduced in version 2.6.

Infini-D 3.0 was the first version of the program to feature the SplineForm spline-based model editor, a feature that would become its next big selling point. The SplineForm Workshop was a modeling interface that looked and acted similarly to 2D graphics software like Adobe Illustrator, rendering Infini-D now more accessible to users familiar only with 2D graphics than competing programs.

Infini-D 3.1, a minor update, was later released to a handful of both preexisting and new resources created by Specular; already available were the Specular Replicas CD, a collection of twelve volumes of stock 3D models that Specular had been releasing for Infini-D since the reveal of version 2.5, as well as a collection of models replicating objects from the 1994 FPS game Marathon, and introduced following the release of 3.0 was the book Infini-D Revealed, coauthored by Specular's own Adam Lavine and written for version 3.1 specifically. Infini-D 3.1 was also released to several awards that the software had won, including NewMedia Magazine's Hyper Award for "Best 3D Software Under $1000," Macworld Magazine's World Class Award for "Best 3D Modeler/Renderer," MacUser Magazine's Editor's Choice Award for "Best New 3D Application," and Presentations Magazine's Presenter's Choice Award for "Best Animation Program."

Infini-D 3.X's beefiest update was version 3.5; one could argue that Infini-D 3.5 was the best-remembered and most popular version of the program. The new features that version 3.5 touted were advanced animated lens flares ("SuperFlares"), animated Boolean rendering (the lack of which had previously been Infini-D's largest criticism), 500% faster ray tracing, and ShadowCatchers, which allowed users to export animated objects with their shadows for easy compositing.

Specular first unveiled it to the public at the August 1996 Macworld trade show, alongside a very well-received Waterworld parody animation, "WinWorld," which had been modeled and animated with Infini-D.

Like most classic works of art, the essence of WinWorld cannot be accurately encapsulated with mere words.

Its release was also accompanied by the Infini-D 3.5 Production Studio, a $599 package that included Infini-D 3.5, the newly-released BackBurner 3.5, the Specular Replicas CD, and the Specular Pro-Resource CD, a library of scenes, animations, surfaces, and tips for Infini-D, as well as a drop in price for Infini-D itself to $399.

In May 1997, Infini-D 3.5 would become the first version of Infini-D to be made available for both Mac OS and Windows; it was also the first program to support Apple's QuickDraw 3D technology on Windows. While the program was mostly well-received, it didn't sell particularly well, primarily because Infini-D had already cultivated a reputation as a program for Mac users. Little of its existence remains online, save for some at-release articles.


An early Replicas sampler.




The cover of Infini-D Revealed.




Experience the magic of WinWorld.
On an older browser? Click here to download the QuickTime video!




MetaAcquisition

Riding the wave of their products' combined success, Specular International had made their work notable in the sea of 3D graphics software available in the late '90s. In particular, they caught the eye of MetaTools, another visual computing software company based in Carpinteria, California. MetaTools was best known for Bryce and Kai's Power Tools, a 3D modeling software specializing in landscapes and a set of Photoshop plugins respectively, both of which piqued the interest of the public with their unique user interfaces designed by Kai Krause. On April 7th, 1997, MetaTools agreed to acquire Specular Int'l for roughly $7M.

MetaTools had already acquired Real Time Geometry in December 1996, and would go on to purchase and merge also with the companies Fractal Design Corporation and Ray Dream. This five-way merger was completed with the rebranding of MetaTools as MetaCreations; the newly-formed MetaCreations used the employees and technology gained in its acquisitions to further research and engineer visual computing software, and continued to develop and sell those acquisitions' products.

Unfortunately, MetaCreations' lifespan as a software company was less than half of that of Specular's; in 1999, the company divested itself of all of its products except for MetaStream, a technology it had developed that allowed users to view 3D models on webpages from their browser. They also merged with the company Viewpoint Digital, changing their name to Viewpoint Corporation to reflect their new direction.

What became of Infini-D in this time? Only one more major version of the software would be developed and released between the MetaAcqusition and the MetaCremation (as it was so affectionately labeled by users) before it was steamrolled by a "successor" product that MetaCreations owned for mere months.


MetaTools' website circa 1996.




A promotional render from when MetaCreations was founded.



Infini-D 4.X

Infini-D 4.0, released in June 1997, was the last major version of Infini-D be developed. Because of the large following Infini-D had gained up to its release, more about its development was made known to the public. Version 4.0's working name was Volcano; the prototype versions of 4.0 bearing this name were shown off to limited audiences at some Specular-hosted 3D animation seminars as early as February 1997.

The new features it introduced included real-time particle systems capable of interacting with other objects, light beam and soft shadow creation, vertex-leveling editing in the Workshop for advanced modeling, animated object deformations, an overhauled renderer, and compatibility with Adobe Photoshop and After Effects filters. Infini-D 4.5 was not accompanied by a respective new release of BackBurner, as its distributed rendering capabilities had been merged with the base program instead as of version 4.0.

Despite being published as MetaTools Infini-D 4.0 rather than Specular Infini-D 4.0, version 4.0 was still developed primarily by Specular's own, pre-merger Infini-D development team. Infini-D 4.5, the last-ever version of Infini-D, was released in early 1998, and introduced a much faster renderer, an improved distributed rendering queue, more powerful particle effects, and compatibility with MetaCreations' aforementioned MetaStream technology.

Like the preceding version 3.5, both Infini-D 4.0 and Infini-D 4.5 received respective Windows versions alongside their more popular Mac OS releases.

The release of Infini-D 4.5 would be Infini-D's last move. While MetaCreations continued to market the product, they paid it much less attention that Specular had, directing users seeking official learning resources to ones that Specular had created for older versions of the software, third-party manuals and training tapes, and user-run websites and mailing lists. Despite its new owner company's apparent lack for care for it, the software remained considerably popular with longtime users and newcomer 3D artists alike.


It's the Infini-D 4.0 Deluxe CD-ROM, thank you very much.




Infini-D 4.X's jewel case art.




BackBurner's functionalities were condensed into Infini-D 4.0's Render Mode.



The Carraraning

On August 31st, 1999, MetaCreations announced the introduction of Carrara, a new 3D modeling and animation program. While marketed as a combination of Ray Dream Studio and Infini-D, it was more or less an entirely new piece of software that took inspiration and some functionality from the former two programs. Carrara introduced a slew of features too numerous to recount here, and was made available on both Mac OS and Windows.

Carrara 1.0 was released to the public on December 20th, 1999, unfortunately with a significant number of bugs. MetaCreations eventually created and released a patch for the program that fixed these bugs; however, as a part of their new commitment solely to 3D-on-the-web technology MetaStream, Carrara would be sold to the company Eovia only several months later, rendering the patch unobtainable outside of user-run Carrara interest groups for a short period of time. Are any of these details particularly relevant to the state of Infini-D? Not particularly! But hey, there's nothing wrong with warning people of the consequences of destroying a widely-beloved piece of software cursed with the souls of '90s-era Macheads.

The rest of the Carrara story is better suited for its own entire page. Ultimately, the sole effect that Carrara 1.0 had on Infini-D was rendering it obsolete. As Infini-D had technically "merged" with Ray Dream Studio to form Carrara, neither it nor Ray Dream were sold with the rest of the Meta's products; instead, they were largely ignored, left from then on to dissolve into pieces of visual computing software history.


It smacks more of Bryce than anything.



Years Later

This history textpamphlet of a page was completed on August 20th, 2020, and there's a good chance that you're reading it not too far into the future after that date. So, where is Infini-D today?

A short answer: Still dead.

A long answer: Technically, it's a part of Carrara now, and Carrara is doing relatively well. Now owned by DAZ 3D, Carrara 8.5 PRO has been out for about six years now, and enjoys the loyal use of even some people who have beeing using it so long that they can vividly recall the Carrara 1.0 patch incident.

Infini-D isn't exactly the first program people think of when you mention "obsolete 3D modeling and animation software." If it were, I definitely would not have had to excavate all of the information found on this page for myself, and I probably would not be the only person still writing about MetaCreations in a pointed tone online in 2020. But regardless of how it was remembered, it leaves behind many fond memories of 3D artists professional and hobbyist alike enjoying the unique and intuitive program that it was.


Carrara's current listing on DAZ's online store.




BackBurner's functionalities were condensed into Infini-D 4.0's Render Mode.



Used to work for Specular/Meta/Viewpoint?
Just plain know something that I don't?
Email me about adding knowledge to this page!
It was a labor of 'net-scouring done by an outsider, so holes in it are 100% open to being patched.