FrameForge 3D Studio full review

FrameForge 3D Studio is an affordable, easy way to create high-quality storyboards – an essential part of any video or film project. The only tools for such projects in the past have been complex 3D-modelling and animation programs such as Alias’s Maya Complete 6 and Maxon Computer’s Cinema 4D R8 Core.

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 3D competition, it’s also easier to learn.

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

The main FrameForge window can be toggled between a top-down schematic view and a through-the-camera view from any of the virtual cameras on a set.

To build a set, simply drag objects – walls, ceilings, furniture, props, and fully poseable actors – from a list of objects. You can stretch and rotate walls, and easily position objects by dragging them around within the top-down schematic view. Unfortunately, the program doesn’t 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 decent 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 3D 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 3D 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 3D 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 3D program. FrameForge offers no animation capabilities for its models or cameras.

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

You can export 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 7 (mm333; September 2004), FrameForge can automatically generate set lists from a script, and it can provide simultaneous script and storyboard views.

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

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