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FrameForge 3D Studio

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FrameForge 3D Studio is an affordable, easy way to create and manage high-quality storyboards—an essential part of any video or film project. While using 3-D software for storyboarding and previsualization is becoming standard practice, the only tools for such projects in the past have been complex 3-D-modeling and -animation programs such as Alias’s Maya Complete 6 (   ; December 2004) and Maxon Computer’s Cinema 4D R8 Core (   ; May 2003).

FrameForge offers a simpler approach to storyboarding, providing features tailor-made for previsualization artists, such as a library of set-building shapes and props. Because FrameForge lacks many of the complex features of its more powerful 3-D competition, it’s also easier to learn.

Virtual Set

You organize a FrameForge project just as you would a real shoot, with a virtual set for each of your real sets and locations.

You can toggle the main FrameForge window between a top-down schematic view and a through-the-camera view from any of the virtual cameras on your set.

To build a set, simply drag objects—walls, ceilings, furniture, props, and fully posable actors—into your virtual set from a list of objects. You can stretch and rotate walls, and you can easily position all objects by dragging them around within the top-down schematic view. Unfortunately, the program does not have precise dimension and sizing controls, so it’s difficult to create accurate scale models of your real location.

Because FrameForge was designed for storyboarding, it features a good amount of built-in intelligence. For example, if you want to place a lamp prop on a table, the program automatically detects the collision of the two objects, so you can’t pass the lamp through the table, as you could in a regular 3-D program. Similarly, actors know how to sit in a chair and strike any number of other poses. These shortcuts make building complex scenes much easier than doing so with a conventional 3-D program, but FrameForge’s interface needs work. The object library is clunky, and finding an object requires too much scrolling.

Surprisingly, you can’t import 3-D objects from other programs. Although you might already have built complex sets or models for a special-effects shot, there’s no way to use them in FrameForge’s storyboard layouts.

If you’re hoping to create animatics, or animated video storyboards, you’ll have to stick with a dedicated 3-D program. FrameForge offers no animation capabilities for its models or cameras.

Worth a Thousand Words

There is no rendering in FrameForge 3D Studio. The program is designed to display your scene in real time using full-color shaded polygonal rendering. You can specify custom textures for your objects, so you can use photos of your actual set to texture a room.

You can export your storyboards as a series of JPEG files, as HTML pages complete with navigation, or as a Macromedia Flash movie. If you use a screenwriting app such as Final Draft (   ; December 2004), FrameForge can automatically generate set lists from your script, and it can provide simultaneous script and storyboard views.

Unfortunately, FrameForge does not include any sketch-rendering capability, so your storyboards won’t look like traditional hand-drawn storyboards. In fact, they might look a little too finished—a potential problem if you’re working with neophyte clients.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

FrameForge 3D Studio is definitely a first version. Among the things we’d like to see added to the program are improved object browsing and importing, animation capabilities, and—most important—a sketch renderer. Nonetheless, the program is fast, well thought out, and easy to use, and it gives you a good way to previsualize your video, film or animation project.

Quiet on the Set.  With FrameForge 3D Studio, you can build virtual sets and position virtual cameras to produce your storyboards.
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