When I sat down to review the new release of FrameForge 3D Studio (which has intelligently had a name-change to prevent confusion with Autodesk's product), two questions immediately came to my mind: Where did this come from? Why hadn't I heard of it before now? It’s fantastic. Previz Studio 3 (PS3) lets filmmakers rapidly create sets with real-world filmmaker optics, equipment and limitations (if desired) plus a wide variety of premade props. It is incredibly easy to use, has so many cool, appropriate features for filmmakers that it’s a Godsend, especially if you can’t draw normal story boards.
PS3 is a 3D program but it’s not a 3D program. It simply lets filmmakers work in 3D space extremely easily with filmmaker language and controls to create previsualization shots when making storyboards. Why imagine a shot that you can’t actually create with the equipment you have on hand? An excellent question and one that Previz Studio 3 helps you with. Not an animation program, PS3 is very specifically created to help filmmakers create virtual sets, frame shots, establish lighting, and plan camera moves. For this review I’m using the full 3D stereoscopic version, which has everything in the Pro version but will also allow you to create stereoscopic 3D images (which are helpful if you're thinking of going into 3D with some of the new budget-conscious stereoscopic 3D rigs). The Core edition contains the basic storyboarding options, but does not have the realistic cameras and gear to choose from.
The camera controls and how you get around the scene are controlled by common filmmaker language and user friendly controls. Precise numbers can be entered if desired and “Throttle” slider controls magically appear when using the graphic arrow controls if you want make larger adjustments.
Ease of Use
Don’t confuse this program with any other 3D program you might have used. PS3 is not about 3D. Typical 3D programs have so much to learn, and so much that you must battle if you are simply trying to work out camera moves and framing. PS3 does an incredible job of hiding its powerful options under a simple yet very capable and appropriate user interface.
Appropriate interface? What’s that? Let’s add a digital character to the scene. In the Actors palette simply move your mouse over a likely candidate. After split second, the characters thumbnail expands and tells you a little about them. If that’s the one you want, just drag them from the objects pallet to your scene. PS3 is intelligent and doesn’t let the character intersect with anyone in the scene. They land right on top of the ground and you can’t accidentally drag below it. But now, with the character selected additional icons now surround the character that lead you to model dialogs to change expressions, positions and some new buttons simultaneously appear next to the view area so you can change poses, clothes, and more. Deselect the character and all of those options hide away.
The folks at Innoventive Software know the filmmaking environment. Consequently, all of the naming conventions and program language is filmmaker friendly by using common filmmaking terminology. In addition to that, there is the ability to work as if in a multi-cam editing bay. Users can have multiple cameras within a scene shown on separate digital monitors for easy switching and scene control.
By clicking on, in this case, a human figure, a highlight line around the subject shows what’s active and simultaneous appearance of relevant controls. Characters come in large collection of male, female, child and baby. Different ethnicities, clothing, hair styles and more can be chosen with simple click or menu driven choices. Double clicking on the subject, whether it’s a wall or person, takes to you to the “Green Room” where very specific editing can be performed on the object.
The Quickstart and full manual is written in a playful non-tech format which is fast to read and faster to digest. Becoming very fluent in the program takes about 30 minutes. This is not an exaggeration. One of the reasons for this are the modal pop-up dialogs that occur the first several times you try something letting you know how to broaden the use of the feature. You can permanently hide them when you’ve learned. In fact, when I couldn’t get a Redcam to attach to a 20 foot crane, I went to the Quickstart and saw in a separate call out about not forgetting to put the camera mounting head on the crane - the camera attaches to the head, dummy! Duh.