Christopher Harz attends the biggest and baddest GDC ever and tells us what he found with contributions from Dominic Cianciolo.
Having reviewed the original version of the previs software, FrameForge 3D Studio, I said, For indie creators and students, I cannot recommend this software more highly. I think it has the potential to become standard software in the film industry. Nothing has changed with my opinion, but the software sure has.
In the time between the first and second versions, the softwares creator, Innoventive Software Inc., has released two nice expansion packs, featuring law enforcement and military sets, vehicles and characters. The demand from users for these updates was substantial enough that Innoventive Software responded quickly to fill the need. The companys support for the product is great and their online community is helpful and timely.
With the new version, the first thing past users will notice is the enhanced interface, which includes full click-and-drag mouse control of all object and camera functions and middle clicking to switch among mouse functions. Another big bonus is the optional use of a USB Controller Pad, which gives users even more control over positioning of objects and changing character poses. One can use any standard USB Game Pad or purchase the FrameForge 3D branded Directors Pad. I wouldnt say that the interface is easier than the original version, because that was easy to use as well, but the interface does allows users to get to the advanced functionality faster.
The next update users will notice is the big leap forward in the characters. Version 2 features 12 preset facial expressions with varying levels of intensity, meaning that users can make their characters emotions range from slightly angry or very angry depending on their scene. Its easy to apply expressions and control them as well. The actors now look more realistic, featuring Skeletal Mesh Deformation, which rids characters of visible hinges. Moreover, there are more options for modifying the actors clothing, hair, age, ethnicity and even body size. In addition, new single click posing options make it easier to put characters into common poses and revamped relationships between characters and objects make it easier to put actors in more complex situations.
Another great new feature is the three new rendering options. In the previous version, users could only output the 3D view as seen on screen. New Outlines rendering gives the images heavier lines, making it look slightly like a cartoon, but without flatness of color, while Cartoon rendering has a flatter color and heavier lines. The Sketch rendering options gives the images a black and white line-drawn look.
However, if the 3D rendering option is still your preference, the softwares updated depth of field will bring more realism to each shot. In my review of the first version, I mentioned the possibilities of using the software in the classroom for teaching direction and cinematography and this advancement really aids in that area. One can draw anything; however, FrameForge 3D gives filmmakers a more realistic idea of what can really be shot on location. The new depth of field is based on the optical properties of the frame, its circle of confusion, the f/stop and point of focus, which are all controllable.
Moreover, the update has improved finding and setting distances on sets, finding and changing objects, speed improvements and advanced object creation options allowing objects to be imported from other 3D creation software.
Innoventive Software has made many great advances with version 2. As with the original version, I said any person with a decent amount of computer savvy could install the software and get going pretty quickly. However, with any advancing software, the more options the more time it takes to master. Time is still a factor in using the software. Building sets, depending on how elaborate they are, and designing characters will take time. However, the benefits the software provides are worth it. Innoventive Software has been hooking up with Apple Stores across the U.S. to offer classes and demos and again their community site is really helpful. Its no longer a piece of software that can be mastered in a day, but it is still easy enough to use at a basic level with little effort. Plus, the price is still affordable. For smaller companies, independent filmmakers or students, FrameForge 3D Studio can be a huge asset in developing ones projects or creating dynamic presentations to help sell people on a future project.
Rick DeMott is the managing editor of Animation World Network. In his free time, he works as an animation writer for television. Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry. He is a contributor to the book Animation Art as well as the humor, absurdist and surrealist short story website Unloosen.