Xara 3D Maker
At a Glance
Xara 3D Maker 7 is an exceptionally easy-to-use 3D graphics program that specializes in animated fonts and texts. It's most useful when creating credits sequences or intros to YouTube videos or things like that. The nice thing is, it can take any font on your system and make it 3D, and animating it frame by frame is a snap.
The first use I thought of for this app is to make a credits sequence for a home movie, and drop that sequence into another app, such as VideoSpin or DVDStyler. Unfortunately, Xara 3D Maker 7 doesn't do that easily. What I really needed was a way to export into multiple video formats, so I could then drop that video file into a sequencing app. Although Xara 3D Maker 7 does export into .AVI, this isn't as useful a movie file as an .MP4 would be (the native video format for Apple products).
Certainly, it's possible to use yet another app like Freemake Video Converter, take the .SWF file, and turn it into a movie file that DVDStyler could use, but that's a lot of steps to do something simple. If Xara 3D Maker 7 had native support for video files other than Flash and .GIF, it'd truly be worth the $40. Right now, it isn't really.
That being said, the built in 3D effects and tools are exceptionally easy to use. I was able to rotate, extrude, manipulate, and texture 3D objects and fonts with no trouble at all. If I were to make a YouTube video and wanted to add a credits sequence at the end, I could use Xara 3D Maker 7. I'd have to find an app that could merge multiple Flash files together for uploading to YouTube, though, as this brings me to another missing feature: I can't append a sequence created with Xara 3D Maker 7 on to an existing Flash or animated GIF file. Xara 3D Maker 7 can import files saved in its own formats only. (Yes, once you export a Flash or animated GIF, it's stuck like that: Xara 3D Maker 7 can't read it anymore.)
Xara 3D Maker is up to version seven now, but it feels like it's not quite ready for prime time. The addition of a few currently missing features, such as appending and supporting more video formats, would really make it one to look at.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.