A Click Here, A Click There Pretty Soon, It's `Photorealism'

Creating original computer graphics that look like photographs has, until now, required considerable technical expertise. But new software for the Macintosh makes it a snap--even for novices. The $995 package, called Showplace, can be used to create full-color, three-dimensional images of people, buildings, animals, and other objects. The software is available from Pixar, a Richmond (Calif.) company that is majority-owned by personal-computer pioneer Steven P. Jobs. Since 1986, Pixar has been selling drawing and animation software that makes it possible for powerful workstations to create films and TV commercials, such as the recent spot in which a bottle of Listerine comes to life as a boxer.

Showplace, which works on Macintosh IIs, lets you "draw" by choosing images from a library of prefab wire-frame models created by companies such as the Valis Group in Point Richmond, Calif. With a few clicks of the mouse, you select the colors and textures needed to flesh out the models. By choosing the source and direction of lighting--sunlight, moonlight, or a 60-watt bulb--you can add natural-looking shading. The result: a 3-D graphic that can be used to spice up business presentations or architectural draftings.