Frequently Ask Questions

FAQS: Pre-Sale, Learning, Resources

Documentation: Where do I find the documentation and/or how do I search for a particular item?

 

form·Z comes with extensive documentation that explains how all the tools and features work. This information is accessible from within the program and also as an independent document. That is, while you run form·Z, you can inquire about specific tools and menu commands by shift-clicking on them. Most of the dialogs contain a help button and clicking on it opens the manual to the section that discusses the content of the dialog. Also, information about the program may be accessed by executing the Manual… command in the Help menu.


In addition to the on-line information, there is a document in PDF format that contains the form·Z User’s Manual. This is included on the DVD of the package and can also be found on the AutoDesSys web site. This document can be optionally printed or can be read on a computer screen. At an additional cost, a printed version of the manual can be ordered from AutoDesSys. Also available are tutorials in PDF format, examples, and a glossary that are included on the DVD of the package or can be accessed from the AutoDesSys web site.

 

Included in the User Manual is the form·Z Tutorial volume. It is strongly recommended that all users read through this while following along in the form·Z application or Demo. This gives the user a good introduction into the general philosophy and interface of form·Z. See the Tutorials FAQ below for further details.

 

 

 

Which version of form·Z should I choose: What is the difference between form·Z and form·Z RenderZone Plus?

form·Z is the "base version" which includes all of the modeling tools and basic rendering, which is Hidden Line, Surface Render, Interactive Shaded, Doodle, and Shaded Render. It can render with basic transparencies and simple shadows, but it only supports Distant light sources and does not generate photo-realistic renderings. Surface styles for the form·Z version will also contain only what is shown in the Simple tab of the Surface Style Parameters dialog. For more information on the basic version of form·Z, click here.

 

RenderZone Plus includes all of form·Z and it adds the ability to create photorealistic renderings. It allows the use of reflective and refractive materials, adds many procedural shaders, supports multiple light sources, texture maps, bump maps and many other effects, including global illumination produced with final gather, ambient occlusion, and radiosity techniques. For more information on the RenderZone Plus version of form·Z, click here.

 

You can use the form·Z Demo to check and experience first hand the capabilities of form·Z and RenderZone Plus.

 

 

 

form·Z Demo: How is the Demo version of form·Z different from the full version and what if I am interested in form·Z only instead of RenderZone Plus?

 

The form·Z Demo is essentially the full version of form·Z RenderZone Plus with the Print / Save / Export commands disabled. You can use all of the tools, generate renderings, go through the Tutorial, test Importing files from other programs, and even learn how form·Z works.

 

The form·Z version is the same as the RenderZone Plus version except that it does not do photo-realistic renderings. Thus the surface styles include only what is shown in the Simple tab, the RenderZone and Sketch Render commands are not available from the Display menu, the Texture Map and Decal tools are missing, and only Distant lights are supported. The form·Z "only" version can still create Hidden Line and Shaded Render images and allows you to use Interactive Shaded displays (OpenGL).

 

 

 

Tutorials and training: What resources can I use to learn form·Z?

The form·Z User’s Manual set includes an extensive Tutorial manual and it is recommended that all users read through this while following along in the form·Z application or Demo. This gives the user a good introduction into the general philosophy and interface of form·Z. It covers Drawing, Viewing, Rendering, Modeling, Picking, Transforming, and Deriving objects. Many sample projects are included that introduce the user to most of the tools in form·Z. Also, each tutorial builds on the previous tutorials, so it is generally recommended to complete these in order.

 

More advanced Tutorials are available from the Tutorial section of your form·Z DVD and can also be downloaded from here.

 

There is also a section on our Forum where users have posted tutorials that they have created (or requested).

 

Training is also offered by AutoDesSys, either at our office or yours. We also have a number of users and dealers who offer training for form·Z. You can find more information about this from our support page.

Note that we require that the user have completed the form·Z Tutorial (which is included in the manual set) in order to be eligible for training by our staff. This ensures that the user learns as much as possible during the training session, rather than just getting started. We have actually had many users schedule training, go through the tutorial and find that this gave them enough information to get started, and then call back to cancel the training. Thus, if you are considering training, you will probably want to go through the form·Z Tutorial first to see if this is sufficient to get started using form·Z.

 

Finally, there are also videos available for form·Z. More information is available in the Download: Videos section of our web site.

 

 

FAQS: Installing and Patching

Clean installation: How do I ensure that I get a clean installation of form·Z?

 

If you are on OS X, you should delete your existing form·Z installation, quit out of all programs (especially including disabling virus software, if any), and reinstall.

 

If you are using Windows, the same method as described for OSX should be sufficient, but if you have a lot third party processes running it is possible that they could interfere. If you want to ensure that this does not happen, or if you are having problems with your installation, delete form·Z, quit all programs, disable virus detection, and install the WIBU driver (if it is not already installed), and the plug or replug your WIBU key, and follow the hardware found wizard if necessary for versions 6.1 or later, also install the Microsoft Visual Runtime from the Windows / Support folder of your form·Z DVD. Then go to Start / Run, type msconfig and click OK. Note your existing startup selection. Then select Diagnostic Startup, click OK, and restart. When the System Configuration utility appears, check Don't Show... and click OK. Then install form·Z, and ignore the error about. When complete, select Start / Run, click OK to run msconfig again, select your previous startup selection, click OK and restart once more.

 

You can get further instructions and illustrations for the Windows instructions from this link.

 

 

WIBU key: I can not install or run form·Z because it does not recognize my hardware key. What can I do?

 

First you need to make sure that you have the WIBU driver installed (and, as always, virus software should be disabled during this and any other software installation). You can find the WIBU Driver Installer in the Support / WIBU folder of the form·Z CD. Once this driver is installed:

 

On Windows or Vista: Run the WIBU-Key Control Panel from Start / Settings / Control Panels (Windows XP users may need to switch to Classic View to see this). From the Contents Tab, your WIBU key should be listed in the WIBU box tree under My Computer / LPT1 or / USB. If the key is not seen, make sure the port is enabled in the Bios, and make sure that if there is an option to allow the port to go to sleep that this is disabled. For a parallel port key, set the mode to ECP and the address to 378 (also from the Bios). Certain Dell users may need to set the mode to PS-2. If a USB key is not seen locally, unplug and re-plug the key. If you get a Hardware Found Wizard, do not connect to the Internet, and allow Windows to Install Software Automatically. If for some reason Windows is not able to find the driver automatically, browse to C:/Windows / INF / wibukey.inf.

 

If you are still having trouble, unplug the key, go to Add / Remove Programs and Uninstall WIBU, Ignore any errors (if any), reboot the computer, download the latest WIBU driver from this link: to install. (In case WIBU changes its link, go to the Download / Drivers section of our web site: then click on English below WIBU.) Again, make sure that virus software is disabled when installing. If the key is a USB key, connect this after the installation completes, and follow the Hardware Found Wizard as above, if necessary.

 

On Mac’s OS X: Run the WkConfig program (from Applications / WIBU-Key) and verify that it sees the key as a local key. If you are still having trouble, download and install the latest WIBU driver from this link:. (In case WIBU changes its site, click on English below WIBU from this link: within the form·Z website.) Again, make sure that virus software (if any) is disabled when installing, restart the computer if necessary, and retest these instructions.

 

See also the “WIBU network keys” FAQ for details on network keys.

 

 

 

Install Code: I cannot install form·Z because it says that I have the wrong installation code. What should I do?

 

First, verify that the install code you are using is for your serial number and for your specific version. For example, a 5.0 install code will work to install 5.0.0 through 5.0.6, but it will not work for a 5.5 version, as this will require a new install code. Next, check that you can tell the difference between the letter I as in India, vs. the number 1. (The 1 will have a Serif.) Finally, note that the form·Z install code only uses the numbers 1-9, so there are no number 0's. If it looks like a 0, it is the letter O as in Oscar.

 

If you continue to have any problems, please call or email our support staff at 614 488-8838, or support@formz.com, and let us know your serial number, version, and install code that you are trying to use so we can help you further.

 

 

 

WIBU network keys: How do I install a WIBU Network Server and connect clients from the same or different subnets?

  1. Make sure that the WIBU software was installed with virus software disabled. (Virus software active when installing other software will frequently lead to corrupted software that does not work properly.)

  2. Verify that the Network key is connected to the server and not the Back-up key.

  3. Verify that the server sees the key locally and as a network key:

     

    • Windows: On the WIBU server, run the WIBU-Key Control Panel from Start / Settings / Control Panels (Windows XP or Vista users may need to switch to Classic View to see this). From the Contents tab, your WIBU key should be listed in the WIBU Box Tree under My Computer / LPT1 or / USB. If the key is not seen, make sure the port is enabled in the Bios, and make sure that if there is an option to allow the port to go to sleep that this is disabled. For a parallel port key, set the mode to ECP and the address to 378. If a USB key is not seen locally, unplug and re-plug the key. If you get a Hardware Found Wizard, allow Windows to Search Automatically to find its driver (if asked whether to connect to the internet, select No, Not This Time). If Windows is not able to find the driver automatically, browse to C:/Windows / INF / wbukey.inf.

    Once Windows identifies the key as a local key, double-click on Network from the WIBU box tree (from below where the key shows as a local key). WIBU will then scan the network and the name of the server and an icon for the key should appear below network. If not, Start, or Re-start the WIBU Network Program or Service from Start / Programs / WIBU, or the Services Administrative tool. Double-click Network again from the WIBU box tree. If it still does not show properly, make sure that port 22347 is not being blocked by a Firewall for either TCP or UDP.

     

    If you are still having trouble, go to Add / Remove Programs and Uninstall WIBU, Ignore any errors (if any), reboot the computer, and install the latest WIBU driver from this link: (and in case WIBU changes its site, click on English below WIBU from this page) Again, make sure that virus software is disabled when installing. If the key is a USB key, connect this after the installation completes, and follow the Hardware Found Wizard. Finally, start WIBU Network Program or Service, and verify that the Server shows under Network from the WIBU box tree.

    • OS X: Run the WkConfig program on the WIBU server (from Applications / WIBU-Key) and verify that it sees the key as a local key. Click on the Server tab of the WkConfig program, check Start Daemon on Boot, quit WkConfig, and reboot the computer. If this is working properly, return to the Contents tab of the WkConfig program and click on the Find Server button (magnifying glass icon). Next to "Computer:" change Local to the IP address of your server, and verify that the key still shows next to WIBU-BOX. If it does not appear, make sure that Port 22347 is not being blocked by a Firewall for either TCP or UDP.

    If you are still having trouble, download and install the latest WIBU driver from this link. (In case WIBU changes its site, click on English below WIBU from this link) Again, make sure that virus software (if any) is disabled when installing, restart the computer if necessary, and retest the instructions in the previous paragraph. 

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  5. Once the Server is serving the licenses properly, see if the Client computer is able to see the key:

     

    • Windows: Run the WIBU-Key Control Panel and double-click on Network from the WIBU box tree (from below Desktop / My Computer / LPT1) to search for the WIBU Network Server. WIBU will then search the network and the name of the server and an Icon for the key should appear below Network. If not, click on the Network tab of the WIBU-Key Control Panel, enter the IP address of the Server in the WkLan Server Search List, click Add, and click Apply. Make sure that Port 22347 is not being blocked by a Firewall, then click on the Contents tab of the WIBU-Key Control Panel and again double-click on Network to search for the WIBU Network Server.

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    • Also, if you need to specify the Server IP address in the WkLAN Server Search List, WIBU will store this for the specific user by default. If you need to set this for multiple users on the same computer, make sure that you have at least Version 5 of the WIBU driver installed, click on the Network tab of the WIBU Control Panel, and change User Specific to Machine Specific, from the pop-out menu on the left side.

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    • OS X: Run the WkConfig program on the Client and click the Find Server button (magnifying glass icon). Next to Computer: change Local to the IP address of your server (if necessary) and verify that a key number shows next to WIBU-BOX. If it still does not find the server, click on the Client tab, enter the IP address of your server in the ordered list of WkLAN Servers and click Save. Again check to see if WIBU sees the server. If it does not, download and install the latest WIBU driver, run the WkConfig program, and check again.

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  7. form·Z supports both WIBU Network and Sassafras KeyServer network licensing. If you are trying to install form·Z using WIBU Network AND you have KeyAccess installed, this could cause a conflict. In this case, you can either temporarily uninstall KeyAccess and then install form·Z, or you can install form·Z using the WIBU key connected locally. Once form·Z is installed, you can then either re-install KeyAccess or return the key to the WIBU Network Server, and restart the WIBU Network Program, Service, or Terminal Window. You will then need to use the formz_key.txt to tell form·Z to ignore Sassafras and look for WIBU Network only. To do this, create a plain text document, name it exactly formz_key.txt, edit it, enter wknet-only on the first line, save the file, and place it in the form·Z Support folder inside your form·Z application folder.

     

    Note also that if you need to install form·Z on many computers, you can either Clone or Ghost these computers, or you can simply copy the form·Z folder. (First make sure that you have a CLEAN INSTALL and that you have PATCHED to the latest version.) This will work on both Mac and Windows. On Mac and Windows you will need to install the WIBU driver on each client and with form·Z 6.1 and later you will also need to install a Microsoft component on Windows, which you can find in the Windows / Support folder. You can manually create a shortcut / alias to the program on your desktop, in your Dock (OS X) or in your Start menu (Windows). Also on Windows, you will probably want to associate the FMZ filetype with the application via the Windows Explorer / Tools menu / Folder Options / File Types tab. There you can Add or Edit the FMZ filetype and specify that it Opens With the form·Z application that you have copied. (Note that Windows frequently does not associate filetypes properly if you simply right-click a file and select Opens With / Always Use this Program.)

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  9. By now you should be up and running properly. If you are having any problems after following the above steps, please call our technical support at (614) 488-8838 between 9-6 EST, or send an email to support@formz.com. Please document everything that you have done with sufficient detail, and include relevant screen captures and your serial number with your email (or have these answers if you call).

 

Patching: How do I patch form·Z, or why do I get an error while patching?

 

Version 6 of form·Z introduced an "automatic update" feature that is accessed from Edit / Preferences / Updates. Simply click Check Now For Updates, and the correct update will be downloaded and installed for you (if one is available).

 

Users of previous versions, or version 6 users that do not have a direct internet connection on their form·Z station should check this site. If you have any trouble with this, try disabling your firewall temporarily and/or check with your IT person to make sure they allow FTP transmission.

 

Select the version of form·Z that you wish to patch (including whether this is for Windows or Mac and possibly including the language for your version of form·Z). This will give you a list of all versions of form·Z that can be patched to this updated version. Select the patch for your version, making sure that you select the exact "patch from" version, and that you specify whether your version is form·Z (FZ) or RenderZone (RZ) (or RadioZity(RR) for versions prior to 6.5). While the FZ version is available in Single Processor mode only, RZ and (RR) are available for Single Processor (SP) and Multi-Processor (MP) versions, so you need to make sure that you download the right patch for your version. If you are unsure which version of form·Z you have installed, you can get this information by looking at the upper left corner of the form·Z Start-up screen, which you can also view by selecting About form·Z from the form·Z menu (OS X) or the Help menu (Win). (With version 6.5 or later do not worry about the SP/MP distinction).

 

From the patches page, you also need to download the patcher program (from the upper right corner of the web page for your patch version). Once you have downloaded and decompressed these files, you will have a Patcher Folder. Open this folder and run the Patcher program. This will then ask you to Select the Patch File. (This is the patch file that you downloaded per above.) Note that it is very important to select the right patch file, and selecting the wrong patch file for your version will result in errors (such as "can't find ___ file... (Wrong Source File"). For example if you have a RenderZone single processor version, you will then select the RZ_x.x.x_x.x.x.pat file, where the first x.x.x corresponds to your version of form·Z.

 

Next you will be prompted to Select the File to Patch. This refers to the form·Z or RenderZone (or RadioZity for older patches) application that you currently have installed. Navigate to the folder where you installed it (by default in the Applications / form·Z folder on OS X, or Program Files / form·Z on Windows) and select the application. The patcher program will then patch all necessary files inside this folder. If you have a clean installation of form·Z and you have used the right patch file, then you should not get any errors during the patching process, and when you run form·Z afterwards, you should note the updated version from the form·Z startup / about screen.

 

If you do encounter any errors while patching, this could result from a corrupted version of form·Z, or from use of the wrong patch file. First verify that you do have the correct patch file per the above instructions. If it is not the right patch file, you may be able to download the correct patch file and then apply this. If this does not work, then delete form·Z, perform a CLEAN INSTALLATION of form·Z, and apply the correct patch.

 

 

Uninstall: How do I uninstall form·Z?

 

Unlike many Windows programs, form·Z basically "lives" inside of its folder. Therefore you can simply delete the form·Z folder from either OS X or Windows. On Windows, you can also use Add/Remove program files to uninstall form·Z if you like. You can also delete the form·Z Preference files, which are all contained in the AutoDesSys folder. On Windows this is located in: C:\Documents and Settings\[USER]\application data\ (If you do not see application data, go to the Tools Menu of Windows Explorer, select Folder Options, click the View tab, and select Show Hidden Files and Folders.) On OS X, go to HOME \ Library \ Preferences (where HOME = Hard Drive \ Users \ [YOUR LOGIN NAME]).

 

If you want to remove WIBU as well, you can use the Add / Remove Programs Control Panel to do this (Win) or the WIBU uninstall utility (OS X).

 

 

 

FAQS: Customization

Preferences: How do I customize form·Z so that it launches the way I want?

form·Z offers extensive preferences that allow you to customize how it launches. Most of these options are available from the Preferences command from the Edit menu. The main set of preferences can be found in the Preferences / System / General, and Project / General sections. System / General allows you to save a “master” preference file. This will store all of your system options. Project / General allows you to designate a template file, which allows you to store all of your project options. You can easily switch between multiple template files if you like, which can make it easy to work on many different types of projects. Note that if you want to use a certain template file on the next session (i.e., after you quit and re-launch form·Z), then you should re-save your System Preferences file after designating the template file.

 

 

Preferences: How to tell whether an item is a system option or a project option?

System options remain constant across projects, while project options can vary from project to project. To tell whether a specific option is a system option (and thus stored in your System Preferences) or a project option (and thus stored in your template file), perform the following test: Get a New Model, change the option in question, and get another New Model. (For example, try changing the circle settings from Smooth to Facetted, and changing the color of the background from the Options menu / Project Colors, and moving a palette.) When you get the New Model, if the item remains changed (i.e., the Circle = Facetted and the palette is still moved) then this is a system option and will be saved in the System Preferences). If the item you changed reverts to its previous setting, then it is a project option, and will be saved in a template file).

 

 

 

Other preference tips: How should I save my preferences, or how do I reset form·Z to factory defaults?

Only save Preferences at the beginning of a session. If you have been working for awhile and then save your preferences, it will store all the system options that you have changed while you have been working -- and most likely this will include many options that you are not aware of and probably do not want. This can cause form·Z to appear to behave "erratically" because the next time you launch form·Z, it will be using different settings than it was previously. Therefore, you should launch form·Z, change anything and everything that you can think to add to your System Preferences file, and save these preferences. As you get to work you will inevitably find additional items you wish to add to these preferences. At this point it is recommended that you make a note in a text document or on a sheet of paper and, whenever it is convenient, quit form·Z, re-launch, make these changes, and then save the preference file. This way you will save exactly what you want in your preferences, and nothing else.

 

Also, form·Z creates a "set of master preference files" that reference any preferences that you have created. If you wish to reset everything to the "factory defaults" you can do this by quitting form·Z and deleting the autodessys folder. (form·Z will recreate this folder when it is next launched.) On OS X, this is located in HOME: Library: Preferences (where HOME = Hard Drive: Users: [YOUR LOGIN NAME]). On Windows, this is located in :\ Documents and Settings \ [USER] \ application data \ (If you do not see application data, go to the Tools Menu of Windows Explorer, select Folder Options, click the View tab, and select Show Hidden Files and Folders.)

 

 

 

Keyboard shortcuts: How do I find or create keyboard shortcuts?

You can set up keyboard shortcuts for most tools and commands in form·Z from the associated section of the Help menu. For example, if you want to create a keyboard shortcut for Save As, select Help / Menus (since the Save As command is available from the File menu). Double click on the command and you will be able to Add, Edit, or Delete a keyboard shortcut.

 

You can also manage your keyboard shortcuts from the Keyboard Shortcuts... command at the bottom of the Edit menu. To set up the same shortcut here, select System / File / Save As, and you can then Add, Edit or Delete this shortcut via the commands on the right. The Key Shortcuts Manager offers the ability to customize additional sub-options for tools and menus beyond what is available from the Help menu. It also allows you to Save, Load, and List the keyboard shortcuts.

 

 

 

Project colors: How do I change the color of the background or other colors in form·Z?

The Project Colors command from the Options menu allows you to change the background color, grid colors, highlight colors, and many other colors for your form·Z project. If you want your changes to be used for all future projects, save a template file with these settings, and then save a Preferences file. See the above FAQ for further information.

 

 

 

Plugins and scripts: Where do I find plugins or scripts for form·Z?

Free plugins and scripts for form·Z can be downloaded from this link.

 

Commercial plugins and scripts for form·Z can be accessed from this link.

 

 

 

Plugins and scripts: How do I install / access plugins and scripts?

A plugin is already compiled. You should be able to simply place this in your form·Z / plugins folder and re-launch form·Z to access the plugin. If you have a script that is already compiled, you can place this directly in the form·Z / Scripts folder and re-launch form·Z to access the script.

If the script is not compiled:

  1. Uncompress the script file (if it is compressed).

  2. Place the script in the "scripts" folder inside your application folder

  3. Open the script in the Script Editor or open it within form·Z.

  4. Select Script -> Compile from the menu bar and Save or place it in your form·Z Scripts folder.

  5. Make sure that a file has been built in your scripts folder with an "fsb" extension.

  6. If form·Z is open, quit and restart the program to load the script.

Other notes: If the script is a utility script, there is no need to compile it before you use it. You also do not need to quit and restart form·Z. Just select the utility file after you select Extensions -> Run Utility... from the menu bar.

 

If the script is a command script, it should appear under Extensions in the menu bar. You can assign a key shortcut to activate the script. You can find it here: Edit->Key Shortcuts->Project->Modeling->Tools->Extensions->

 

If the script is a surface style, it should show up in the Surface Style Options, just as other types of surface styles appear.

 

If the script is a tool, you will find it in the modeling tools palette.

 

A palette script should show up the first time you start with it compiled. You can reopen that palette by selecting it under the Palettes heading in the menu bar.

 

Note that some plugins come with an additional cost and you will need a separate installation code to install them.

 

For more details on plugins and scripts, install the form·Z SDK, found on the form·Z DVD, or download it from AutoDesSys and read the respective sections in the SDK manual.

 

 

 

FAQS: Modeling

Navigation: How do I navigate or change my view in form·Z?

form·Z offers many different ways to change views. Here is a quick summary:

  • Preset views: There are 10 preset views available from the View menu, including 3D and projection views. Note that there are keyboard shortcuts for these, which are listed to the right of their name in the menu. Note also that if you have an Arbitrary reference plane active, you will be able to select the 6 standard projection views for this plane from the Plane Projection item.

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  • Saved views: To save a view, simply click in an empty space in the Views palette. To recall this view, click in the column immediately to the left of the name of the view. You can also click on "View Name" near the top of the palette to access the View dialog, and you can double click a view name to edit its parameters.

     

  • Scroll wheel: Version 5.0 and later allow you to zoom in or out using the scroll wheel. Version 5.5 and later also allow you to pan by clicking and dragging the scroll wheel.

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  • Set View: The Set View command is the 8th Window tool from the bottom left corner of your project window. Select this tool and click in the screen to orbit around your objects. Note that there are 3 main "modes" for this tool (Center of Interest, Center of Scene, and Click Point on Reference Plane) that you can access by double-clicking on this tool. Note also that if you are in a perspective view, you can zoom in and out along the line of sight by holding down the option key (OS X) or ctrl-shift keys (Windows) while using this tool.

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  • Direct view navigation: Version 5.5 has added many Direct View Navigation commands that allow you to navigate your project by simply holding down modifier keys and clicking in the screen. For example, you can hold down the command key (OS X) or ctrl key (Windows) and left click to zoom in or out, or right click to Set View. You can see a complete listing of these from the Edit / Key Shortcuts / Direct View Navigation, and these are described in more detail, including illustrations in section 3.2.6 of your User's Manual.

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  • Cone of vision: The Edit Cone of Vision command is accessed from the bottom of the Views menu, which activates 4 separate views into your project, including Top, Front, Side, and a 3D view. It also includes a camera which you can manipulate in the first 3 projection views and see the result in the 4th 3D view.

 

Layers: How do I know the layer my objects are on, or change them to a new layer?

Objects are always drawn on the active layer. You can Query the Attributes of an object to see which layer it is on, or you can also enable the Layer Option: Highlight Picked (from the Options menu / Layers) which will highlight the layer of any selected objects.

 

Use the Set Layer tool to move objects from one layer to another.

 

You can also hold down the shift key while changing the visibility of layers to hold the redraw until you release the shift key.

 

 

 

Numeric entry: How do I numerically create or modify objects?

The Prompts palette (at the bottom left portion of the form·Z window) prompts you step by step through graphic and numeric entry. Your numbers will be entered directly in the Prompts palette and will be interpreted in relation to the status of the A, W, or C checkboxes. (A is for Absolute and unchecking this switches to Relative coordinates; W is for World and unchecked switches to Plane coordinates; C is for Cartesian and un-checking this switches to polar coordinates.) If you only want to change one of the parameters, you can tab through the fields so that you only change the one you want, while you leave the others unchanged.

 

For example, if you want to create a 10' cube with a corner at the origin, check the AWC checkboxes in the Prompts palette, get the Rectangular Base Shape, and the Extrusion modifier. From the Height menu select either 10', or Graphic/Keyed. Type either (0) or (0,0,0) and press the enter or return key to start drawing the cube at the origin. Type (10', 10') or (10', 10', 0) and press enter again. If you selected 10' from the Heights menu, your cube will be generated directly. If you selected Graphic/Keyed, enter (10') and press enter once more.

 

To move a copy of this cube up exactly 10' (and thus stack one cube directly on top of another) select the Move tool and the Copy mode. Uncheck the A from the Prompts palette and with the Topological Level set to Object, click on the cube. Type (0,0,10') and press enter. You should now have a copy of your cube directly on top of your first cube. Note that you could also do this graphically by enabling the Point Snap, clicking on a bottom corner of the cube, and then clicking on a point above this on the top face of the cube.

 

 

 

Trees: How can I create trees (or other cutouts)?

  1. Find or create an image of a tree (or person or other). Make sure that the image is cropped exactly to the edge of the tree image and that it has a proper Alpha channel.

  2.  

  3. Import the image as a projection underlay, using the Underlay command from the bottom of the Windows menu.

  4.  

  5. From a Top view, create a rough trace of the tree using the Vector Line tool, making sure that you do not go inside any portion of the image, and that you do not go outside the image at its extreme top, bottom, right, or left edges. Do not use more points than necessary for greatest efficiency. (This outline will help you identify which tree you are using in Wire Frame and will also generate the shadow outline when using Opaque Shadows, but will not be visible when rendering with RenderZone and Transparencies, and/or transparent shadows.)

  6.  

  7. Create a surface style that uses the tree Image as a color map, set the Reflection to Constant, and also load this image as a Transparency Map, checking Use Alpha Channel. (Note that this image can be a PSD or TIF image, but JPG does not support an alpha channel.)

  8.  

  9. Texture map this surface style onto your tracing of the tree, using a Flat map, Lock Size to NONE, Horizontal and Vertical Tiling set to (1, 1) and check Center, Center.

  10.  

  11. Rotate your tree object so that it is vertical and rotate a copy 90 degrees from top view if desired.

  12.  

  13. If desired, create a symbol (perhaps snapping to the intersection of the segments at the base of the tree).

Look at the tree symbols that come with form·Z for an example, which are located in the Symbol Libraries or Trees folders of your form·Z DVD.

 

 

 

Working units: How do I change from English to metric units or otherwise customize the numbers in form·Z?

The Working Units command from the Options menu allows you to customize the type and display of numbers in form·Z. You can switch between English and metric units, architectural or decimal display, set the numeric accuracy, and how many decimal places will be displayed. Note that if you always want to use these customized units in your projects, save this in your template file. (See Customization FAQ's for further details and save your preferred settings in your Template File.)

 

 

 

Placing 3D objects: How do I place multiple objects, or control the alignment of my 3D objects when using the Place tool?

The place tool was originally designed to work with surfaces, so it looks at the "first face" of an object to orient this. You can not control the first face directly, but if you draw a 2D surface (ie, rectangle) you can then join your objects to this and as long as you selected the surface first (before joining), it essentially becomes the first face.

 

 

 

Symbols: What are they and how are they used?

Symbols are a method by which groups of modeling objects or drafting elements that need to be repeated in a project are stored in libraries, from which they can be placed as many times as desired. This can be particularly useful for managing items that are used frequently, or when items need to be easily changed from one set of objects to another.

 

To create a symbol, select the desired geometry and click in the screen with the Create Symbol tool. The position of your click point is very important, as this becomes the "origin" for the symbol. Pick an obvious point, perhaps snapping to the lower left corner of an object. To make changes to a symbol, open the symbol library (ZLB) just as you would a form·Z (FMZ) file. You can then select the desired symbol from the Symbols palette and modify it as you would any other object in form·Z. When you Save your symbol library and return to your project, the changes will be updated automatically. Note that you should avoid adding symbols to a library that is being edited. The symbol library should be first closed, the symbols added, and then the library re-opened, if necessary.

 

The Symbol Edit tool allows you to change the scale, location, and orientation of your symbols. This can be applied to each symbol individually, or to many symbols simultaneously. In addition, symbols can be changed from one symbol to another, from one level to another, or even from one library to another. This can facilitate changing from one level of detail to another, or from one product line / scheme to another.

 

Using symbols will also make the size of your file smaller, but it will still require the same memory usage when rendering the file. This is because symbols are exploded internally before they are rendered.

 

There is effectively no difference between placing a symbol multiple times vs. moving copies of the symbol.

 

Symbols can also be used similar to x-ref's. Different users can work on different symbol libraries (ZLB's), updating and enhancing the symbols, while another user can manage the "master" form·Z (FMZ) file. Saved changes to the Symbol libraries will not be updated immediately, but they will be updated automatically as soon as the user switches to a different file (or program) and then back the "master" form·Z file.

 

Another way to use symbols like x-ref's would be to import a DXF or DWG file and create a symbol for each plan / section / elevation for a building. These could then be placed in the master file and could be used to facilitate the construction of a model. If the DXF or DWG file changes, the file could be imported, the symbol updated and, as soon as the user switches to the master file, the plans and elevations will update. See also the DWG import tips for further information.

 

 

 

Symbols: How do I load a symbol library containing symbols with the same names as in my project and get the program to reference the new library instead of the original?

To do this, you should select All Symbols (or at least the ones you want to change), get the Symbol Edit tool, set the options to Edit Simultaneously, and click in the screen. In the Symbol Instance Edit dialog, change the Library from the old one to the new one. Then unload the old library if you like.

 

Note that you can use the Select By command (from the Edit menu) to select your symbols. (Check: Object Types from the Geometry tab and scroll down near the bottom.) If you option-click (Mac) or ctrl-shift-click (Win) on Symbols... this will bring up a sub-dialog which will allow you to select sets of symbols based on their library, definition name, color display, layer display, detail level, or any combination of the above.

 

 

 

Symbols: How do I modify symbols?

  1. Make a back-up copy of the symbol library in case you make any unwanted changes. If you have opened the Symbol library, close it.

  2.  

  3. Load the Symbol library into a project and go to the Symbol Library dialog (by selecting Symbol Libraries from the Options menu). Note that you can Save As or Save A Copy As the library from this dialog if you like.

  4.  

  5. Select the symbol you wish to both keep and modify and click the Duplicate button to make a copy of this particular symbol. Repeat as necessary for any other symbols for which you wish to modify copies and click OK.

  6.  

  7. Select File / Open, select your Symbol library, and click Open. Select the symbol you wish to modify from the Symbols palette, which you can open from the Palettes menu.

  8.  

  9. Make any changes you like and click on the next symbol. When prompted, select Save. Note that this will not overwrite your symbol library file until you select Save from the File menu and this Save will be recorded in a temporary version of your library file called Edit_LibX.zlb, which will be created in the same location as your symbol library.

  10.  

  11. If you have made any changes to the surface style of the symbol and if this surface style also exists in other symbols, you will be asked if you want to change this surface style for All other symbols. If so, click OK. If you only want these surface style changes to be made to this symbol, click Cancel.

  12.  

  13. Repeat as necessary to modify your additional symbols as you would like. When you are finished, save the symbol library, Close it and return to your form·Z project. You will then be prompted that the library has been updated and it will be reloaded. You will then see any changes that you have made to symbols that have been placed and you may place additional symbols as you like.

 

 

Surface styles when transferring objects: Some times they are not what you expected. Why?

  1. If you copy an object from one file to another and the name of the surface style already exists, you will be prompted to choose if you want to use the New surface style (ie, the one currently associated with your objects), the Existing surface style (ie, the one already in the project), or if you want to Add the New surface style (and rename it, keeping the Existing surface style).

  2.  

  3. The Color Display for your symbols has been set to Object Color or Best Matching Color instead of Definition Color.

  4.  

  5. You have moved the objects to a layer that is using a Layer Override that forces the object to use a different color.

If none of these is what you are doing, please contact technical support for further investigation.

 

 

 

Picking: How does it work?

  • Basics: form·Z allows you to select as many objects as you like without needing to hold down the shift key. Re-selecting an object will un-pick it. As with many operations in form·Z, what gets selected depends on the setting of the Topological Level modifier. This is located immediately to the left of the Pick tool. Thus if you set the Topological Level to Object, you will be picking objects. If you set this to the Face level, then you will be picking faces, and if you set this to Group, then you will be picking groups. Note that there are many pick options, including the ability to select objects or faces by clicking on Edges (default), Inside Boundaries, or both.

  •  

  • Frame pick: Frame picking refers to clicking in an empty portion of the window and then dragging the cursor to create a rectangular "frame." By default, any objects that are completely inside this frame will be selected.

  •  

  • Pick crossing: Pick crossing can be used with Frame pick and Lasso pick, and will select any object that is partially contained inside the frame (or lasso) instead of only objects that are completely inside the area.

  •  

  • Lasso pick: Similar to frame picking except that lasso picking allows you to sketch an irregular boundary to select objects instead of using a rectangular frame.

  •  

  • Pick parade: Sometimes it can be difficult to select a specific object if multiple objects occupy similar pixels on screen. Pick parade allows you to "step through" the objects that share the same pick point. To enable pick parade, hold down the shift key while clicking. You will see the segment of the first object highlight and the rest of the object will also change color. If you click again while still holding down the shift key, you will see the next object highlight. Repeat as necessary until the desired object is highlighted. With versions prior to 5, release the shift key and click once more to select the object. With versions after 5, simply release the shift key and your desired object will be selected.

  •  

  • Select By: This is a very powerful selection tool which is available from the Edit menu. It allows the selection by types of objects, object attributes, and more. For example, if you select object types, scroll down and option-click (OS X) or ctrl-shift-click (Windows) on Symbols..., a sub dialog will appear that allows you to select by symbols from specific definitions or specific libraries. Versions 5 and later have also added the ability to create Selection Sets, so you can save and store these for later use. (See section 3.2.4 of your User’s Manual for more details.)

 

 

Non-planar surfaces and restoring planarity: I am getting an error about non-planar surfaces. How do I resolve this?

A non-planar surface is essentially a "not flat" surface. If this surface is facetted, it is not properly defined. To understand this better, draw a cube and move one of its top corners up (perpendicular to the XY reference plane). You have now disturbed the planarity of the top face of this cube. There is no flat surface that goes through the points of this top face, or alternately there are an infinite number of warped planes that go through these points. In order to render this surface properly, or more importantly, in order to execute a Boolean operation, the planarity of this surface must be restored.

 

There are a number of ways you can use to restore the planarity of non-planar surfaces. In the example of the cube above, one way to "fix" the top face would be to insert a segment from the point that you moved to the opposite corner, which will create a ridge on the top of the cube. Alternately, you could insert a segment from the point adjacent to the one you moved to its opposite, which will create a flat portion on the top of the cube which then slopes up to the point that was moved. If you don't care which type of triangulation occurs, you can simply click on the cube (or the top face) with the Triangulate tool. This will automatically identify the non-planar surfaces and triangulate them for you. Note that, if you are going to perform Boolean operations on this object, it is generally best to use the Strict Planarity option.

 

If you intend to have a flat surface, but for some reason it is no longer flat, and you do not want to Triangulate this surface, you can restore the planarity by "scaling by zero." To illustrate this trick, move one point on the top of a cube straight up to make the top surface non-planar. Then select all the points on the top of the cube (or segments, or face), activate the Non-Uniform Scale tool, snap to one of the points that is at the "right" height (for the Base of Scale) and enter a scale factor of (1, 1, 0.0000000000001). This will effectively restore the planarity of the surface. If your surface is sloping, then you can define an arbitrary plane and un-check the W from the Prompts palette to scale relative to this plane.

 

 

 

Solids from surfaces: I had a solid, but now it has become a surface for some reason. How do I convert it to a solid again?

It is possible that a face has been deleted or, under certain circumstances, a Boolean might not have be able to construct all faces from its operands. If there are not too many missing faces, you can create and insert these missing faces. Here is a little tutorial that will show you how this is done:

  1. Get a New Model and draw a cube.

  2.  

  3. Select the top face of the cube, press the delete key, and select Delete Topology. This will now open up a hole in the top of the cube. Query the cube to verify that it is now a surface.

  4.  

  5. Assuming that you do not know where this hole is, go to your Wire Frame Options / Interactive tab and select Show Direction. Now you will see arrows at the top of the cube, indicating that this face is missing. The edges of the missing face need to be at least .25" on screen to have room to show the arrows, so you may need to zoom into different areas on a more complicated object to find them.

  6.  

  7. Draw in the missing face using the Vector Line tool and the Point snap .

  8.  

  9. With the Stitch tool, click on your box and then on the surface that you drew. If you did this right, the arrows will go away and your cube will again be solid.

  10.  

  11. With objects containing several holes, repeat as necessary.

Version 5.0 has added a new Object Doctor tool. If your object is not too poorly structured, the Object Doctor may be able to repair such missing faces for you automatically.

 

 

 

Terrain models: I am getting an error when trying to generate my terrain model. What can I do?

Most contour information imported from AutoCAD (or other such programs) will need to be modified prior to using it to generate a terrain model. This is true for a number of reasons:

  1. Contours are often broken to make room for numbers that indicate the height of the contours. These breaks need to be manually repaired and the lines need to be joined or connected.

  2.  

  3. Contours drawn in other programs very frequently contain sloppy data, which can cause errors when creating 3D models. Such errors include crossing, or self-crossing contours. Often the contours need to be examined closely to locate these problems.

     

    You can trouble shoot contours that will not generate a terrain model in a number of ways. We would recommend using the methods in the order that they are outlined below. This discussion assumes that you are already familiar with the documentation regarding terrains as outlined in your User's Manual. If you are not, please refer to this information first. Then:

  4.  

  5. If you are running form·Z 5.0 or later, you can use the Terrain Doctor script. You can download this by going to this link.

     

    If the Terrain Doctor does not identify the cause of the problem for you, proceed to the next step.

  6.  

  7. From the Wire Frame Options dialog, turn on Show First Point. This will place a small diamond on the first point of each poly-line. Since form·Z requires either closed contours, or contour lines whose endpoints are outside the site, any diamonds you see inside your site boundary that are not associated with closed surfaces indicate a problem. Use the Query tool (or the Select By command) to see if any shapes with diamonds are open and, if so, use the Line Editing tools (from the tool row above the Self-Copy modifier) to fix this. Once you have completed this process, attempt to generate the terrain. If it fails, proceed to the next step.

  8.  

  9. Visually inspect your contours at close range. To do this, zoom in close in the upper left corner of the site. How close you zoom in depends on how complicated your site is. If your site is relatively simple, zoom in to 1/4 of X and 1/4 of Y (so that you are seeing 1/16th of your total site). Check for crossing or self-intersecting contours. If that quadrant is OK, then click in the scroll bar to page over to the right. Inspect. Page over. When you reach the edge of your site, page down and then page left. . . Repeat as necessary. After you have completed this phase, again attempt to generate your terrain. If you still get errors, proceed to the next step.

  10.  

  11. To determine which contours are still causing problems, try generating your terrain model with a partial set of contours. Try half of your contours. If this fails, try half of those contours. By a process of elimination, you can determine which contours are not working properly and then you can inspect these contours more closely to determine where they are crossing, open, incomplete, or whatever is causing the problem. Once you have fixed all the problem contours, you should be able to generate your terrain model.

  12.  

  13. If you have any contours that are causing problems and you have closely inspected them but you cannot find anything wrong with them, you can send them to support@formz.com. (Note that prior to doing this you should have already completed steps 3 through 6.) Once we have examined your file and determined the problem, we can let you know how to correct it so that you can generate your terrain.

 

Booleans: What is the “Not Well Formed” message, why does it occur, and how to work around it?

First of all, "well formed" indicates that each and every segment of an object has a reversely coincident segment. If you imagine a cube and trace off the top and front faces going the same direction (ie, clockwise), you will find that the segment they share is equal and opposite. If each and every segment of an object has a reversely coincident pair, then the object is "closed" or solid. If an object is not "well formed," then it is not "closed" in 3D, or it is an ill-formed solid. Surface objects, such as rectangles, are expected to be not well formed. See section 4.0.1 of your User's Manual for a further description and illustrations if necessary.

 

A “Not Well Formed” message can result during the execution of a Boolean operation if the intersection of all surfaces of the operands can not be properly identified. The user should generally cancel this operation and check for the following basic problems. First, query the object and check that the Topology Type is Solid. If the operands are solids, or mixed objects, they should be separated using the Separate tool -- from the tool row to the right of the Booleans. (Such topology could result from imported geometry, or as a result of joining the volumes of objects whose faces overlap, which should be avoided if they will be operands to Boolean operations.) If the operands are solid, also check to verify that there are not any non planar surfaces or negative volumes, which will be displayed in the middle of the Query dialog. Click the Calculate button if necessary and check the Strict Planarity checkbox. If there are non planar surfaces, triangulate the object using the Strict Planarity option. If the volume is negative, use the Reverse Direction tool to make it positive. If you have fixed these problems, most likely the Boolean will now complete properly.

 

A Boolean operation could also give this error as a result of tolerance inconsistencies, which can occur when a point of one object is neither on the surface of the other object, nor sufficiently far from it, such that the point is determined to be inside the surface when based on one calculation, yet outside when based on another. Tolerance inconsistencies can be caused by nearly coincident points or surfaces (as illustrated in figure 4.17.1.13 of your User's Manual) and they can be generally avoided when one is careful to do “clean” modeling. Tolerance inconsistencies can also be caused by working at very small scales, especially in relation to your Working Units / Numeric Accuracy settings. In this case, simply scaling your objects up (perhaps 1000 times), performing the operation, and then scaling the object back down again can work around this issue.

 

Failure to complete a Boolean operation can also be caused by bad geometry, such as objects with duplicate points, zero area faces, coincident faces, or self intersecting faces. The Object Doctor can help identify and correct many such problems, but in extreme cases the geometry may need to be manually repaired, or properly reconstructed.

 

Accepting the result of a not well formed Boolean can be useful for two main reasons: (1) The result can help locate the area of the problem, which can aid in fixing the operands. (2) The result could potentially be repaired so that it is once again well formed. To identify the location of the problem, accept the result and enable Show Direction from the Interactive tab of the Wire Frame Options dialog. Arrows will indicate segments that do not have a "reversely coincident pair" so that you can identify where there are faces missing. Note that you may need to zoom in so that form·Z has enough space to show the arrows, that is, so that your segments occupy at least 1/8" screen space. To repair these holes, use the Vector Line tool and the Point Snap to draw in a new face (with a 1:1 correspondence between all of the points) and then stitch this face into place. Once all of the missing faces are stitched into place, you will again have a well formed solid object. See the “Solids from Surfaces” FAQ for more details.

 

 

 

Snaps: Why can't I snap to my objects anymore?

Both the objects and layers have snap-ability attributes. The corresponding palettes will show a circle icon to the right of the name of the item. If this circle is deselected, the snaps will ignore this object or layer. You can re-enable snaps by simply clicking in the right most column to the right of the name of the item.

 

 

 

Snaps: How to control the depth of snapping?

By default, snaps will snap to the 3D coordinates of the item being snapped. The Snap Options allow you to lock the snapping to the First Point (relative to the Reference Plane) or Project this snap point onto the Reference Plane. This can be set independently for 2D and 3D views.

 

 

 

Cancel: How do I cancel an operation? Can I cancel and resume a rendering later?

Generally, either the esc key or the command + period keys (OS X) or ctrl + period keys (Windows) will stop an operation. Depending on the complexity of the operation to be cancelled, it may cancel immediately or it may take a few moments to cancel. (There is an inherent dilemma with checking to see if a user wants to cancel an operation -- the less you check, the less responsive it is, but the more you check, the more you slow down the operation by checking instead of executing the operation. If you find that a specific operation takes more than a minute to cancel, please send the file along with a description of what you are doing so we can look into this.)

 

When generating a RenderZone rendering, you can also suspend the rendering (and resume it later) by holding down the shift key in addition to the cancel command. You will be prompted to save this file and you can resume the rendering by simply opening the file that you have saved.

 

 

 

Skinning: I have drawn source and path shapes with which I would like to make a skin object, but I get a message: “The number of points on a source shape that touch a path does not match the number indicated in the dialog. What should I do?

Skinning requires that BOTH source shapes and paths have coincident points (or at least within the tolerance distance). Thus, wherever a source touches a path, there needs to be a point on BOTH the source and path. If you are having trouble with this, try placing the source objects and path objects on separate layers and ghost the source layer. Turn on the Wire Frame option to Show Points and use the Insert Point and Intersection Snap to insert points wherever the objects intersect. Then ghost the paths layer, make the source layer Visible, and repeat. Once you have points on both the source shapes and the paths wherever they intersect, you should be able to properly skin an object. If you are using version 6 or later, you might also want to use the S-Loft tool with the Guide Curves option as this does not require coincident points where the sources and paths touch.

 

 

 

Paste From Modeling: How do I transfer information from modeling to drafting and maintain my layers and dimensions?

In order to transfer information from form·Z 's modeling environment in to the drafting environment, the model should first be opened, the desired view and display mode selected (Wire Frame or Hidden Line). Then a drafting project can be opened or created and the data can be transferred by selecting Paste From Modeling from the Edit menu.
If you select the Paste From Modeling option to Remove Duplicate Lines, then all lines will be placed on the active layer. Thus you should avoid using this option if you wish to keep the lines in drafting on the same layer that they were in modeling.
Also, most objects will be foreshortened in most perspective and axonometric views. Therefore, if they will be dimensioned in drafting, the dimensions will be smaller than the size of the object in modeling. To prevent this from occurring, objects should either be viewed in a projection view (ie, Top, Front, or Side) or in an isometric view.
Objects will also be pasted using the currently active Line Weight and Line Type.

 

 

 

 

 

FAQS: Rendering

Improving RenderZone rendering performance: Why does my file render so slowly?

  • Hardware: Rendering speed is controlled primarily by the speed of the processor. The faster the processor, the faster the rendering is. If you do not have enough RAM, this will force your computer to use virtual memory, which will slow you down with OS X, and slow you down a lot with Windows. If you are regularly working with a file of this size, you should consider adding more RAM. The video card will only affect the Wire Frame and Interactive Shaded displays, and will not have any effect on rendering speed.

  •  

  • Shadow maps: One frequent cause of insufficient memory is too many, or too high resolution shadow maps. See the Shadow map memory FAQ for further details.
    Geometry: The more geometry is contained in your scene, the longer it will take to render, and the more memory it will require. In general, you should only model what you will see. For example, if you are working for a hardware manufacturer and making a presentation model of a doorknob, you can model all the details, curves, keyhole, etc. But if you are making a model of a subdivision, you should create extremely simple doorknobs (if any), and you should never use the "presentation doorknob" in a "subdivision model" -- even if you have it handy from a previous job, or found it somewhere on the web. Inspect your polygons. If an object looks like it is shaded in a Wire Frame display, then most likely its resolution is too high and it should be modified or recreated.

  •  

  • Surface styles: The more surface style effects you select, the more time it will take to render. Therefore, if you are concerned about rendering speed, you should only select the options that you will need. You can also get an idea of how complex a surface style is by watching how long it takes to draw the small preview of the surface style icon. Changing the preview to sphere will take a little longer to draw the preview, thus giving you a better relative idea of its complexity. The type of preview icon will not have any affect on the time it takes to render objects with this surface style. You should also generally avoid "double transparencies." See the Glass surface styles FAQ for further details.

  •  

  • Rendering options: The more rendering options you select, the more time it will take to render. The main option to avoid (if possible) is Super Sampling. See the Super Sampling FAQ for further details.

  •  

  • Lighting: Advanced lighting effects such as Atmospheric lighting, Area or Line lights, Accurate Glow, and Environment lights will add (perhaps considerable) time to your renderings. Use the basic lighting suggestions from the Lighting FAQ for fastest results and see the other tips for optimizing more advanced lighting.

 

 

Hidden Line rendering (or Surface Render) performance: What is it?

Hidden Line rendering is somewhat of an intensive process because, unlike most other programs, form·Z will derive the intersection lines between objects. To do this, form·Z actually executes Boolean operations between all intersecting objects in a file. Thus, if you have lots of intersecting objects, this can add considerable time to the rendering. You will probably save time by either executing the Boolean operations in advance (in case you need to generate more than one Hidden Line) or otherwise build or modify the geometry so that it is free from intersections.

 

To see if Intersections are an issue with your file, start the Hidden Line rendering process. The first portion of the progress bar will be for Forming Surfaces, and the second portion will be Resolving Intersections. Compare the number of polygons at the end of each of these and if they are the same, then your file is free from intersections. If the number is a bit larger after Resolving Intersections (which is normal) then this is probably not slowing the rendering down too much. But if the number of polygons is more than 50% larger, then this will be slowing you down quite a bit, and the rendering will be much faster if you eliminate some or most of these intersecting objects.

 

Also, the number of lines to be plotted on screen can affect the performance. Generally small objects relative to the scene that are highly detailed should be avoided when performance is a consideration. Very large objects relative to the scene (such as a huge ground plane) could also adversely affect performance and the extents of a ground plane should generally be limited as much as possible. The Hidden Line Options dialog also contain an option to Hide Edges based on the interior angle between surfaces. Checking this option will reduce the number of lines that need to be plotted for the Hidden Line, generally reducing the time necessary to complete the rendering.

 

 

 

Lighting: What lighting options does form·Z offer?

(In addition to the following brief summaries, see section 6.5 of your User’s Manual for more complete details.)

  • Basic lighting: If you find that your shadows are too dark, or that the "back side" of their model is too dark, you can brighten them by simply adding a few extra strategically placed light sources. Please follow this link for a discussion on this, including a simple solution using 4 distant lights. This discussion also includes a Basic_Lighting.fmz file you can download that demonstrates this lighting setup.

  •  

  • Light direction from Sun: form·Z allows you to position a Distant light source based on Geographic Location and Time of Day / Year. To set this, edit the Distant light by double-clicking on it from the Lights palette. Click on Light Direction from the Sun button and select the desired options and settings. Note that, if you do not find your location from our extensive database, you can either enter the Latitude and Longitude, or you can add your site to our list of cities. Click OK and the sun will be positioned automatically. Note that you can also animate the sun over time using the Sun Animation command from the Extensions menu.

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  • Atmospheric lighting: In reality, sunlight bounces off the atmosphere of the earth and illuminates objects from all sides. form·Z allows you to simulate this effect using a "sky dome" of lights. To set this, edit your Distant light, select Accurate Intensity, and click Options. You need to reduce the Output Power of the sun to somewhere between ~0 - 1.0 Watts / SqFt, and the Sky Luminance should be set between ~5 - 25 Candelas / SqFt. For a starting point, you might try 0.08 Watts / SqFt and 10 Candelas / SqFt. Note that the higher the Quality of the Atmospheric light, the more light sources will be used and thus the more subtle the shadows, and the longer the render times. Version 5.0 has also added a Simple Atmospheric Light option that will allow you to specify the exact number of light sources (samples) used, as well as allowing exact control over the color of the Atmospheric light.

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  • Area lights: Area lights allow you to turn any object into a light. Each face of the object will then become its own light source. It is generally recommended to use objects with the fewest possible polygons for best performance. Increasing the Quality Slider will generate additional samples per face, resulting in better quality renderings (and increased render times). Common uses include setting a plane above your objects to provide a nice general illumination, or placing a plane in a window opening to simulate the light coming in from outside. Note that light will only be emitted in the direction of the normal of the surface. Note also that Area lights do not work well with Soft Shadows, so if you need shadows, use Hard Raytraced Shadows and, with a reasonable quality setting, you will get soft looking shadows, because light is emitted from the entire surface of the Area light, not just from a single point. See section 6.5.6 of your User’s Manual for further details.

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  • Custom lights: Custom lights can emit variable intensities in different directions about a light source. You can either define this distribution manually, or you can load IES data that has been preset for a particular fixture. Since many lighting manufacturers provide this data as free online downloads, Custom lights allow you to reproduce the light from a specific lighting fixture from a specific manufacturer. See section 6.5.7 of your User’s Manual for further details.

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  • Environment lights: An Environment light uses a standard (TIF or JPG or HDRI) image to define the intensity, distribution, and color of the light. The light is wrapped around the entire scene, so you can effectively light the entire scene with a single light source (or perhaps combine this with a single Distant sunlight to create harder directional shadows). The # Of Samples field controls how many individual light sources are used to interpret the image, and you should be able to get a quick idea of how this will look using 50-100 samples. For a final rendering you probably want to use ~300 - 1000 samples (typically more samples are needed for interior renderings because the light will be illuminating objects through smaller window openings). You might also want to reduce the Color Factor to ~10-20% for more realistic results. See section 6.5.8 of your User’s Manual for further details.

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  • Light glow: Light glow simulates the scattering of light as it passes through a smoky or foggy area. Simple Glow will not be blocked by other objects (even if the light is casting shadows) but Accurate Glow for a shadow casting light will be stopped by shadow casting objects. Thus you could use Simple Glow for spot lights on a stage, or Accurate Glow to simulate the streams of light coming through a cathedral window. Accurate Glow will also add considerable time to the rendering. See section 6.5.5 of your User’s Manual for further details.

 

 

Glass surface styles: What is the best ways of applying them?

Glass reflections should generally not be used with another type of transparency, as this creates a "double transparency" which will take considerably longer to calculate.

 

Glass Reflection includes a Refraction coefficient which controls how light will bend as it passes through a material. Thus this surface style should only be used for solid objects and not surfaces or surface solids, which do not have any thickness through which the light can bend.

 

Because Glass Reflections refract the light, they are not included in an Alpha Channel Background (because you can't "bend" something that is not there at the time of the rendering). If you want to use an Alpha Channel Background and do not need Refraction, you can use a Mirror Reflection combined with a Simple Transparency and then these transparent objects will be included in an Alpha Channel Background. Glass Transparencies should be included in Alpha channels.

 

Transparent shadows can be generated so that light will pass through glass materials based on the Transparency / Transmission factors. Transparent shadows are set in the Shadows section of the Light Parameters dialog (which can be accessed by double-clicking on the light from within the Lights palette.)

 

Transparent shadows will also pick up the color of the transparent material so, for example, the colors of a stained glass window could be projected onto a wall or the floor. Transparent shadows do take a bit more time to calculate, so another option might be to select the glass objects and turn off the Attribute: Casts Shadows. This will allow light to come through your windows without extra calculation times.

 

 

 

Moire patterns: Why do I sometimes get radial patterns in my images, especially when viewing a grid or a brick surface style in perspective?

Moire patterns can occur when there is insufficient resolution to show the necessary detail in a perspective image. The easiest / quickest way to fix / improve this is to edit the surface style that is responsible for the moire pattern (usually a Grid or Brick shader), click the Color (or other) options, and check the Area Sample option.

 

If this does not sufficiently resolve the problem, the next best solution would be to render at a higher resolution. If you cannot increase the resolution of the rendering (ie, you are generating an image for the Web, or an animation), see the section below.

 

 

 

Super sampling: What is it and how is it used?

This is a rendering effect that can be used to reduce or eliminate aliasing or moire patterns. To achieve this, the image is rendered at 2, 3, or 4 times the specified resolution (for Low, Medium, or High Super Sampling) and then sampled down to the desired resolution. Because rendering at 2, 3, or 4 times the resolution generates 4, 9, or 16 times the number of pixels, the rendering times will also increase up to 4, 9, or 16 times, when using Low, Med, or High Super Sampling. Because of the amount of additional time that super sampling adds, it is generally recommended to try other methods for reducing moire patterns first, such as enabling the Area Sampling option from the Surface Styles Options dialog, or rendering at a higher resolution.

 

Super sampling can also be accomplished manually, by rendering at a higher resolution and then reducing the resolution of the final image by exactly 2, 3, or 4 times. This option may be desirable because in this way you will be able to use the higher resolution image as well, if you like. For example, you could generate a high resolution rendering for print and then manually super sample it to generate a high quality / lower resolution image for a web site.

 

 

 

Rendering problems: Why am I having problems rendering a particular model or view and how do I fix it?

Rendering problems could occur for a number of different reasons.

 

  1. While modeling calculations are incredibly accurate, rendering calculations can break down if your objects (or lights or views) are too far from the origin. In general you should keep your objects (lights and views) within 5 - 10 miles, or 10 - 15 kilometers of the origin. If you find that your file is farther than this, make sure that all your objects and layers are unlocked, Select All objects (including the ghosted and invisible objects), select any lights or views that are in the same location as your objects, activate the Move tool and Point Snap, and place your cursor on a part of your file that you wish to move to the world origin. Make sure that the AWC boxes are checked in the Prompts palette, and make a note of the distance that is shown there. (This can be useful for aligning additional data if you need to import / export to another program again). Then click in the screen to start the Move, enter 0 in the Prompts palette, and press the enter or return key. All your objects (and lights / views) will then be moved to the origin.

  2.  

  3. It is also possible that most of your objects are located reasonably close to the origin, but some objects (or lights or views) are far from the origin. To eliminate this as a cause of the problem, check the parameters of your lights and views, and try to Fit your file from a Top AND Front view. If it does not fit properly, then you have some objects that are out in space. In this case, unlock all objects and layers, frame pick half of the screen and select the Cut command from the Edit menu. Fit your project again. (You can get a New Model and Paste what you cut to see what you have removed from the file.) Repeat as necessary until your file fits properly.

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  5. If your objects are reasonably close to the origin and your file fits properly, then the problem could be caused by a bad object or attribute. To find this, turn off half of your layers and render again. If the problem goes away, turn off these layers and turn on the other half, save the file under a new name, and repeat as necessary. Once you have simplified this down to a single layer, then frame pick half the objects and Cut them out of the file. If the problem goes away, Select All and Paste (this will replace the selected objects with the copied objects). In this way you can identify the object(s) that are responsible for the problem. Most likely if you delete or recreate this bad object you should be able to resolve the problem.

Note also that you can try to simplify your rendering options -- either before or after following the steps above. For example, if you are generating a RenderZone rendering, you could turn off Shadows, Textures, Reflections, and Transparencies. Noting which options are required to cause the problem can help identify the cause of the problem, or rendering with as few options as necessary to reproduce the problem can speed up the identification of the bad object.

 

After completing steps 1-3, if you have identified an object that is causing a problem, or if you have a file with a problem that you are unable to simplify, please send this to support@formz.com. We can then find the cause of the problem, report it so that it can be fixed, and help you find a work-around if necessary.

 

 

 

Soft shadows: Why can't I see my soft shadows, or why are they so fuzzy or rough?

Soft shadows utilize shadow maps to create the soft edges. In certain conditions the shadow map resolution can be too low, which can result in the pixels of the shadow map being visible, or in extreme cases, it can cause the shadow to disappear altogether. (Think of zooming in really close into a low resolution image.) To solve this issue, you need to know a little more about how shadow maps work:

 

By default, the size of a shadow map is the smallest bounding box that encompasses all of the objects that cast shadows. And by default the shadow map resolution is equal to the resolution of your renderings (which you specify via Image Options from the Display menu). If your view contains all of the objects that cast shadows, then you should not have a problem with shadow map resolution, but as you zoom into your scene you are effectively zooming into your shadow map.

 

Most often users encounter problems with shadow map resolution when they introduce a large ground plane into their scene. To remedy this situation, simply Query the Attributes of the ground plane and set its Casts Shadows Attribute to Off. Leave Receives Shadows ON so that it will still receive shadows from the other objects in your scene. If you would like to change this (or many other attributes) for multiple objects simultaneously, you can do this with the Set Attributes tool.

 

If turning off the Shadow Casting Attribute for the ground plane (and outlying objects) is not enough, then you can also change the Quality of the Soft Shadow to High. In extreme cases you may also need to increase the resolution of the shadow map or limit its extents from the Shadow Map Options dialog. Edit your light and click the Map Options button from the middle of the Light Parameters dialog. Here you can increase or decrease the resolution of the shadow map. Note that doubling the "Times Image Size" number will quadruple the memory requirements for this light, which will be displayed at the bottom of this dialog. You can also use the Limit Map: option to constrain the size of the map to All Objects (default) or All Completely Visible Faces or Objects. The smaller the size of the map, the less resolution you will need to get the same quality shadow, but note that limiting the map may cause shadows to be dropped from objects or faces that are not completely in the scene.

 

Hard Raytraced shadows do not have this limitation and will always produce shadows with crisp edges.
See the FAQ below for further details.

 

 

 

Shadow map memory: Why do I get an insufficient memory message?

Shadow map memory requirements are determined by the size and resolution of the shadow maps, and by the types of lights that are casting shadows. If you edit your light parameters and click on Map Options, you can see and control how much memory your shadow maps will use. By default this will be set to 1 times Image Size. Thus as you increase the resolution of your image (from the Display Menu/ Image Options), the memory requirements for your shadow maps will also increase. If you double the resolution of your image, it will double both the X and Y size of your shadow map and thus this will require 4 times more memory for the shadow maps. Alternately, if you enter 0.5 or 0.7 times Image Size in the Shadow Map Options, you will use one quarter, or one half the amount of memory, respectively. The resulting memory requirements for each light will be shown at the bottom of the Shadow Map Options dialog.

 

Thus, to check how much memory your shadow maps will require, first set your desired image resolution and then multiply the memory requirements for one light by the number of lights that are casting soft shadows. Note also that Point lights will cast shadows in 6 directions and thus will require 6 times more memory than distant or cone lights. If you do not have enough memory for this, you can either reduce the number of lights that are casting soft shadows, use cone lights instead of point lights to cast the shadows, or reduce the resolution of the shadow maps.

 

form·Z version 5.0 and later will automatically detect when you do not have enough for full resolution shadow maps and give you the option to automatically reduce their resolution.

 

 

Image resolution: My image is too low resolution or too grainy. How do I fix this?

You can set the resolution of your window from the Image Options command in the Display menu. Of course the higher the resolution you set, the larger an image file you will create and the longer it will take to render. Doubling the resolution will approximately quadruple the image file size and render times.

 

In general, final "standard print images" should be in the ~3000 - 4000 pixel range for good results. Thus if you are rendering an 8 x 10" image, you might want to select 300 dpi (which would result in a 2400 x 3000 pixel image). Alternately, if you are creating a 24 x 36" image, you might want to select 100 dpi (which would result in a 2400 x 3600 pixel image). This rule works in most cases because you will typically inspect a smaller image more closely, while people will generally stand farther away from larger images. Of course it is possible that you may need a higher resolution rendering, but this is a good final resolution to start with.

 

Also note that the Set Image Size rendering option (where you specify a portion of an image to render) will only render at screen resolution. You need to disable this option to render at the resolution you specified in the Image Options.

 

 

 

Image map resolution: What size and resolution should I use for my image map, color maps, or transparency maps?

In a perfect world, you should size your image maps such that you have at least 1 pixel in the image = 1 pixel in your final rendering. Thus, you should size these so that they are not too small (or you will see the pixels of these images in your rendering) and not too large (or you will increase memory usage and render times). For example, if you have a picture on a wall, and the picture occupies 2" x 2" out of an 8” x 10" rendering @ 300 dpi, then your picture image map should be 2” x 300 dpi = 600 pixels (square). If you are using a marble tile for the floor, and the largest tile in your image is 1" x 1", then at the same 300 dpi, this should be 1" x 300 dpi = 300 pixels.

 

As another example, if you have an oriental rug on the floor (where the pattern is not repetitive) and the rug fills the entire bottom of the image, then this should be 10" x 300 dpi = 3000 pixels. Alternately, if you are rendering the same image at 24 x 36" @ 100 dpi, then you would want this image map to be 36" x 100 dpi = 3600 pixels. And then if your rug is bi-laterally symmetrical, you can use only 1/4 of the image at 1/2 the pixels in each direction.

 

By sizing your image maps accordingly, you can get the best rendering results using the least amount of time and memory. Of course if you are unsure, you might want to do a quick calculation as outlined above, and then make the image map just a little larger, just in case. Also note that if you are concerned with the qualilty or performance of an image map in Interactive Shaded mode, you should size your image maps based on powers of 2- such as 256 x 256, or 1024 x 1024.

 

 

 

Imager: How do I generate multiple renderings and save them as images, one after the other?

form·Z includes the “Imager," which is a batch rendering utility. You can access the imager by either running the stand-alone application from within your form·Z folder, or by selecting New Imager Set from the File menu within form·Z. This utility allows you to load a list of views (or scenes) from existing projects and render these using any of the available render modes at any possible image resolution. As soon as form·Z completes the first image, it will save it in the desired format, and continue to the next rendering. Once the Imager Set is complete, you can double-click on the Complete Status of each image to see its render time, or click the View button to see the resulting image.

 

While form·Z version 4.x and 5.0 will only allow you to run either form·Z OR the Imager, version 5.5 and later allow you to run both applications at the same time on the same computer. Version 5.5 also allows Imager Sets to be network rendered, so you can use the power of multiple render clients to process the jobs. See the Network rendering FAQ for further information.

 

 

Video cards, drivers, and rendering speed: Will a video card speed up my rendering?

Better video cards will speed up the Wire Frame and Interactive Shaded display modes, but all other display modes (such as Hidden Line or RenderZone) will not be affected by the video card. The speed of other display modes are controlled by the processor, so if you need to speed up rendering, you should first make sure that you have enough RAM, so that you are not using virtual memory (check the Memory Meter at the bottom of the form·Z window or check the Task Manager on Windows, or the Activity Monitor on OS X). Using virtual memory will slow form·Z down (somewhat on OS X and a lot on Windows) and thus you might consider adding more RAM so that form·Z has enough actual memory. If you still need more speed, then you should upgrade your processor(s). Note that most render modes will only use a single processor, but the Raytrace mode will use as many processors as are available. Thus if you have a computer with more than one processor, you should generally render with the Raytrace render mode.

 

It is also generally recommended to use the latest video driver for your card. On OS X, simply running Apple's Software Update will do this automatically. On Windows, go to the web site of the manufacturer of the video card (ie, www.ati.com, www.nvidia.com, etc.) and download and install the latest driver for your card and operating system. Note that most manufacturers recommend downloading, uninstalling, rebooting, turning off virus detection, and then installing the latest driver.

 

See also Improving RenderZone Performance FAQ.

 

 

 

Network rendering: How do I set up a render farm and what are the requirements for a render client?

Here are the basic steps to set up a render farm:

  1. Install the Render Server on any computer that will be ON on a regular basis, has a good network connection, and has enough disk space to store all the files. Then launch the Render Server.

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  3. Install the Render Client on as many computers as you like as long as they are "powerful enough" to render the jobs by themselves (ie, they are reasonably fast and have enough RAM). Putting an old slow computer as a Render Client may actually slow down the network rendering process, but any modern computers should be fine as long as they have enough RAM. Run the Render Clients and add the IP address of the Render Server the first time you connect. (The IP address of the Server will automatically be displayed at the top of the Render Server window.)

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  5. Launch form·Z, open the project file, select the view you wish to render, select the desired resolution (from Display / Image Options), and select Network Render from the Display menu. (Add the IP address of the Render Server the first time you connect.) Select the desired Renderer and Render Options, specify either Manual or Automatic Retrieval, and click OK. With version 5.5 and later, you can also network render Imager sets. Simply create an Imager set and click the Network Render button. See the Imager FAQ for more info.

Note that all programs (form·Z, Render Server, and Render Client) should be of the same version (ie, 5.5.2, not some 5.5.0, some 5.5.1, and others 5.5.2...). Note also that you can install all applications on the same computer, but you will need to have enough RAM for all applications, and if the Render Client is processing in the background, you will notice it. And, of course, all the computers need to be networked together. If there is a Firewall between the computers, you need to open a port to allow form·Z and the render components to communicate.

 

All the network rendering commands and functions are described in Section 3.6.8 of your User’s Manual.

 

 

Rendering: Why do my reflections disappear when I set the reflection value below 10%?

You need to set the Minimum Ray Contribution to a value lower than your reflection value. This setting is found in the Raytrace Options from the top of the RenderZone Options dialog. Lower values will produce better results, but also add to the render time.

 

 

 

Rendering: Why do I get a circular shape in my windows when rendering with an accurate glass reflection in certain views?

This artifact is caused by the Minimum Ray Contribution. Lower values will produce better results, but also add to the render time.

 

 

 

Rendering: Why does my stack of glass panes look black?

This can be caused by a setting too low in recursive rays, which can cause a dark glass effect if you have more layers than recursive rays. Increase the number of Recursive Rays found in the Raytrace Options from the top of the RenderZone Options dialog, or reduce the number of glass layers. (Note that higher values may require more time to render.)

 

 

 

Rendering: I see holes in my surfaces when i use raytracing that are not visible when I use z-buffer?

You have non-planar faces in your object. Triangulate these or use the Decompose Non-Planar Surfaces checkbox the RenderZone Options dialog.

 

 

 

FAQS: Export/Import

File associations: On Windows, when I double-click on a JPG or DWG file, why does form·Z open instead of my regular program?

When installing form·Z version 6.1 or earlier, you are asked if you want to associate form·Z with all possible file extensions. If you choose Yes, then form·Z will open these files if they are double-clicked. If you do not want this to happen, select No. Version 6.5 or later will no longer associate with third party file types.

 

If you already selected Yes, then you can reset this by selecting Folder Options from the Tools Menu of Windows Explorer (or My Computer). Click on the File Type tab. Scroll through the list until you find the desired file type (ie. fmz, jpg, etc.). Next to Opens With select Change, or click Advanced, select the Open command and click Edit. Browse to the actual application (not a short cut), select Open, OK, and Apply.

 

 

 

File formats: What file formats does form·Z support?

form·Z supports the following file formats: Art·Lantis, BMP, DWG, DEM Data, DXF, EPS, FACT, HPGL, IGES, Illustrator, JPEG, Lightwave, Lightscape, OBJ, Photoshop, PICT, Piranesi, PNG, QTVR, RIB, SAT (ACIS), STEP, STL, SGI, TGA, Targa, TIFF, 3DGF, 3DMF, 3DS, and VRML.

 

Thus you should be able to easily exchange data with most other 2D and 3D applications.

 

 

 

DWG: Tips for using 2D files from Autocad for creating 3D Models.

  1. Exporting from AutoCAD: Open the drawing in AutoCad and use the Layoff command to hide the layers that you don't need. Explode any proprietary entities, such as Architectural Desktop or Mechanical Desktop entities, select all and create a WBlock. Use DWG 2006 format or earlier for form·Z 5.5 or later. Use DWG 2000 for form·Z 5.0 or earlier. (See the ADT FAQ if using Architectural Desktop.)

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  3. Importing into form·Z: Use the Import DWG command to import this WBlock into form·Z. Disable Undo in the preferences for better performance. (If you have disabled your Undos, Save often. If you make a mistake, you can close and reopen your FMZ file. If you have saved a mistake, then you can open the FZB file.)
    Use the Select By command to select all point objects and delete them, then use the Select By command to select all text entities and delete them, or place them in a new layer and lock it. If you do not need smooth objects, use Select By to select these and convert them to facetted. If smooth data is needed, make sure to join these separately and do not join them to other facetted objects. Select each facade or floor plan separately, get the Join Volume tool, set the Status of Objects to Delete, and click to join these together one at a time. (Another option would be to create a symbol out of the imported data instead of using the Join tool.) Use the Set Layer tool to place these new objects on separate layers if you like, and purge all unused layers from within the Layers dialog.

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  5. Move your objects to the origin: While modeling calculations are incredibly accurate, rendering calculations can break down if your objects (or lights or views) are too far from the origin. In general you should keep your objects (lights and views) within ~5 - 10 miles, or ~10 - 15 kilometers of the origin. If you find that your file is farther than this, make sure that all your objects and layers are unlocked, Select All Objects (including the ghosted and invisible objects), select any lights or views that are in the same location as your objects, activate the Move tool and Point Snap, and place your cursor on a part of your file that you wish to move to the world origin. Make sure that the AWC boxes are checked in the Prompts palette, and make a note of the distance that is shown there (this can be useful for aligning additional data if you need to import / export to another program). Then click in the screen to start the move, enter 0 in the Prompts palette and press the enter or return key. All your objects (and lights / views) will then be moved to the origin.

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  7. Undos: If you have disabled your Undos, don't forget to turn them on again.

 

 

DWG with Architectural Desktop (ADT): Why can't I see my ADT entities in form·Z, or how can I import ADT entities?

ADT entities are proprietary and cannot be imported into other programs unless they are exploded first. To do this, open the file in ADT and switch to a 3D view. From the Desktop menu, select Utilities --> Explode AEC Objects. Check all checkboxes, including Explode to Anonymous Block. (Shorten names is optional.) Now all ADT objects should be 3D solids and can be exported to form·Z. Use the WBlock command to create a new DWG file.

 

Import this WBlock into form·Z. Use the Construct Solids (must be same color, must be same layer) and Join Adjacent Coplanar Surfaces options, if you wish to use this data directly within form·Z.
See the DWG FAQ for further information.

 

 

 

Illustrator: When I import an Illustrator format, why do I get an “Unsupported Format” error message?

Illustrator format is only documented up to version 8. Later versions are not documented and thus we can not read or write these. Save your Illustrator file using the File / Export and select Illustrator Legacy from the format pop-up to save to version 8 or earlier, so form·Z can read this properly.

 

Note also that if you wish to have smooth Illustrator curves, you can Query and Edit the curve and change it from Facetted to Smooth, or you can select Make Smooth from the Import Options with form·Z 6.0 or later.

 

 

 

STL or ZPR: When I export as STL or ZPR, I get an empty file, or some of my objects are missing. What causes this and how do I fix it?

By default, STL only exports solid, planar, and facetted data. If your file contains smooth objects, these will need to be converted to facetted and any non-planar surfaces will be triangulated. It is possible that a smooth solid object might become a surface during one of these two conversions. To prevent this from occurring you need to use the Additional Facetting options.

 

Versions 5.5 and later offer these Additional Facetting options directly from the STL Export Options dialog. In the Export Method, click the Options button to the right of Smooth. Check Additional Facetting and (typically) Grid Type: To Edges, Triangulation: Everywhere, and Facet Adjustment: All Points, or Triangle Points.
With versions prior to 5.5, you need to first select the smooth objects, use the Convert tool to convert them to facetted and then select the options listed above from within the Conversion dialog. Note that you can use the Apply to All option to convert the selected objects all at once using these settings.

 

Note also that when a smooth object is converted to facetted, the facets are generated based on the current display resolution of the object. The higher the display resolution, the more facets will be generated for a given object. Version 5.5 also added the ability to override the Display Resolution of all objects in the Smooth Export Options dialog. With previous versions you will need to set the desired resolution either individually or using the Set Attributes tool.

 

 

Save A Copy As: How do I save a file so that it can be opened in an older version, or how do I collect all of my image maps or symbol libraries to take them to another computer?

form·Z offers a Save A Copy As command (from the File menu) which allows you to specify which version of the FMZ format will be saved, as well as collect any loaded or referenced symbol libraries, image files, and even font files. This feature also offers the option to only save the picked or visible entities independently from either modeling or drafting

 

 

 

 

FAQS: Troubleshoot and Miscellaneous

Fit: Why does my project disappear when I Fit it to the screen?

This can occur if you have imported, drawn, or moved objects way out in space (perhaps caused by moving objects above the horizon line from a perspective view). Select Top view and Fit your project. Move your cursor around the screen and look at your Coordinates palette. Try to identify where your geometry should be located. Make sure that all of your objects and layers are unlocked, and frame pick the half of the screen away from your objects and select Cut from the Edit menu. (See the Picking FAQ if you are unsure about frame picking.) Fit your project again to see if it fixes the problem. (If you like, you can get a New Model and Paste to see what "space junk" you have removed from your file.) Repeat as necessary. It is less likely, but you may need to repeat this procedure from a Front or Side view as well (but not both).

 

 

 

Beep: How do I disable the beep alert sound?

In the form·Z Pick Options dialog, you can uncheck: Beep When Deselecting Objects. Save this in your Preferences file if you like. Your computer will still beep sometimes when error messages or progress bars appear. You can disable this beep as follows:

 

Windows: From the System Control Panel, click on Hardware, open the Device Manager, select View -> Show Hidden Devices, and disable "Beep" under "Non-Plug and Play Drivers."

 

OS X: Go to the System Preferences : Sound and set the Alert Volume to the minimum.

 

 

 

Render clients: They are not connecting. Why?

We have seen a few rare cases where the network rendering preferences have become confused and the Render Clients are not connecting -- or staying connected properly to the Render Server. In the unlikely event that you should encounter this problem, quit all Render Clients and the Render Server, open the autodessys folder (located in [HOME] :Library : Preferences on OS X, or C:\ Documents and Settings \ [USER] \ application data \ on Windows) and delete the form·Z Render Client and / or form·Z Render Server folders from all client computers and the server. Re-launch the Render Server, then re-launch each of the Render Clients. Click the Add button on the Render Clients and enter the IP address of the Render Server. Also make sure that you have disabled the option for these computers to go to sleep. Now when you send the network rendering job from form·Z it should again process correctly.

 

 

 

Corrupted file: I am having problems opening a file. What should I do?

First of all, you should always save a file to an actual hard drive and not to a removable media like a flash drive or ZIP disk, as these devices are less reliable than a hard drive. (If you need to create a file on a flash drive, save it to a hard disk first, then copy it to the removable media.)

 

If you are unable to open a file and you have already followed the suggestions in the Instability FAQ, get a New Model, select File / Open, select your file clicking on it once, check the Add to Project Checkbox, and click Open. If asked, select Use New (and apply to all if you like). If this does not resolve the problem, send the file to support@formz.com. We can see if we can recover the file for you and see if we can determine what could have caused this problem.

 

 

 

Instability: form·Z appears abnormally unstable.` What should I do?

Many stability issues are caused by a corrupted installation or by a bad preference file. It is also possible that you have not installed available patches that have already corrected the problem you are encountering. Therefore, we generally recommend that you follow these suggestions in this order:

  1. First make sure that you have a clean installation (If you have already followed these instructions, you may skip this step):
    If you are using OS X, delete the existing form·Z application folder, quit out of all programs (especially including disabling virus software, if any), and reinstall.
    If you are using Windows, delete the form·Z application folder, quit all programs, disable virus detection, and reinstall the WIBU driver. If you are using v. 6.1 or later, you will also need to reinstall the Microsoft Visual C Runtime kit (both from the Support folder found on your form·Z DVD). Then go to the Start menu, select Run, type msconfig and click OK. Note your existing startup selection. Then select Diagnostic Startup, click OK, and restart. When the System Configuration Utility appears, check Don't Show... click OK, and Install form·Z (If you receive an error about Windows Installer, ignore this). When complete, go to the Start menu, select Run, click OK to run msconfig again, select your previous startup selection, click OK and restart once more. (See the Clean installation FAQ for further details.)

  2.  

  3. You should also make sure that you have the latest patches for form·Z. You can find these on our web site, or if you are running form·Z version 6, run form·Z, from the Edit menu, select Preferences, click on Updates, and click Check Now. (See Patching for further details.)

  4.  

  5. If you continue to have difficulties, quit form·Z and delete the autodessys folder. On Windows, this is located in C:\Documents and Settings\[USER]\application data\ (If you do not see application data, go to the Tools Menu of Windows Explorer, select Folder Options, click the View tab, and select Show Hidden Files and Folders.) On OS X, go to HOME : Library : Preferences (where HOME = Hard Drive : Users : [Your Login Name]. After the autodessys folder has been deleted, re-launch form·Z and see if the problem persists. If the problem goes away, reload your Preferences file (if any). If the problem returns, please send this file to support@formz.com. and describe the steps that cause the problem. You should then recreate your Preferences file.

  6.  

  7. If the problem persists, see if you can isolate the issue. For example, if it is a rendering problem, turn off half of your layers and render again. If the problem goes away, turn off these layers and turn on the other half, save the file under a new name, and repeat as necessary. Once you have simplified this down to a single layer, frame-pick half the objects and Cut them out of the file. If the problem goes away, select all and Paste (this will replace the selected objects with the copied objects). In this way you can simplify the file and identify the object(s) that are responsible for the problem. Most likely if you delete or recreate this bad object you should be able to resolve the problem. (See the Rendering problems FAQ for further details.)

After completing steps 1-4, if you have identified an object that is causing a problem, or if you have a file with a problem that you are unable to simplify, please send this to support@formz.com. We can then find the cause of the problem, report it so that it can be fixed, and help you find a work-around, if necessary.

 

 

 

Zooming in perspective views: How do I do that?

When you Zoom In into a perspective view using either the Incremental Zoom or the Zoom by Frame commands, you will be viewing a portion of the original image. This maintains the exact same perspective distortion and effectively crops the original view. If you look at such a view in the Edit Cone of Vision environment, this will appear as an inner (gray) cone inside the cone of the original view. Such views are very useful when you wish to isolate a portion of an original view without changing the perspective distortion of the view. Note that such "cropping" of the view will be ignored and the original view used if these are used as key frames for an animation. Note also that if you are zooming out incrementally in a perspective view, the zoom out process will stop when you reach the original view.

 

If you do not want to create a cropped view, or if you wish to increase the perspective distortion you should move (or dolly) the camera closer to the objects. This can be done numerically through the View Parameters, graphically through the Cone of Vision, by using the scroll wheel, or by using the Set View tool in conjunction with the option key (OS X) or ctrl-shift keys (Windows). Version 5.5 also adds many "Direct View Navigation" features and you can dolly along the line of sight using the Depth Interactive command, which uses the default keyboard shortcut of command left click (OS X) or ctrl left click (Windows). Using these commands to dolly the camera will also allow you to zoom past an original perspective view.

 

The Direct View Navigation tools are very useful. If you are not familiar with these, you should see section 3.2.6 of your User's Manual.

 

 

 

“Feature Unavailable in Demo” message: I am a licensed user, why am I getting this error?

If you get this error message when attempting to open a FMZ file into a licensed version, this can indicate that there is a problem with the file. This could be caused by saving the file to a "less reliable media" such as a Flash or ZIP drive, which could result in an undetected write error. Files should always be saved to a local or network hard drive first and then copied to a removable media. This problem could also be caused if the file was sent uncompressed over the Internet. When you do this, files should generally be ZIPped, stuffed, or otherwise compressed to avoid this problem.

 

If you are getting this message and would like us to look into this, please send the file to support@formz.com so we can determine what might have occurred. If you need this file recovered, please let us know and we will do our best to recover the file, if possible. If you wish to send a ZIP archive, make sure to change the extension to .SAFE, so that the file is not blocked by our ISP.

 

 

 

Menus: Sometimes selecting a menu item does not work the first time and I need to select it again. Why is this?

This can occur if you have been using the Zoom or Set View tools with the Continuous Zoom option (which is the default). As documented, you need to click on anything else to end the Continuous Zoom, which is essentially what you are doing when you select the menu item the first time. If you prefer, you can disable the Continuous Zoom option from Edit / Preferences / Project / General.

 

 

 

Quicktime and Quicktime Authoring: The form·Z documentation says it can create MOV movie files, QTVR files, and read and write PSD and other formats. I can't do this on myWindows computer. Why is this?

These capabilities require that Quicktime & Quicktime Authoring be installed. Go to http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download to download and install this. Note that you should use the Custom Install Option to install Quicktime Authoring, as well as the base version of Quicktime. If you already have Quicktime installed, you can go to Start / Programs / Quicktime and run Quicktime Updater. Click Custom to select and install Quicktime Authoring, as well as the rest of the available Quicktime updates. We would recommend at least version 7.0 of Quicktime, and as always, make sure that Virus Software is disabled when installing this. (Quicktime Authoring is built into Quicktime version 7 or later.)

 

 

 

Surface styles or layers locked: Why?

This is caused by having a symbol library loaded that contains objects that use these surface styles or layers. To edit these, you should open the symbol library (ZLB) file and edit these parameters there.

 

 

 

Interactive Shaded: Why is it sometimes grayed out?

This can occur if you are in a Perspective view that has the Keep Vertical Lines Straight enabled. This creates an "artificial view" that OpenGL cannot handle and thus these are mutually exclusive. Uncheck Keep Vertical Lines Straight from the View Parameters and you will be able to select the Interactive Shaded display mode again.
Note also that you can create a view with vertical lines straight without using this option. Simply set an equal Z value for the Eye Point and Center of Interest in your View Parameters. Then you will be able to display this 2-point perspective in the Interactive Shaded display mode.

 

 

 

Hardware, OS, MP, 64-bit, Mac Intel, HT support?

It is generally recommended to have a modern processor with a minimum of 512 Mb RAM, with 1-2 Gigs preferred, especially if you will be working on large projects.

 

OS X 10.4 or later, Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Vista operating systems are also recommended.

 

Dual / Multiple processor cores are supported with the Full Raytrace Rendering Mode. You can select this from the Rendering Type pull-down menu from the top of the RenderZone Options.
On the Intel Macs versions prior to 6.1, form·Z will run in "Rosetta". Version 6.1 and later will run natively, resulting in about 3 times faster performance.

 

On Windows, there are both a 32 and a 64 bit version available as of version 6.1. On Windows 32, you can access 2 GB RAM or 3 GB RAM if you turn on the 3GB switch. On Windows 64, you can access 4 GB of RAM with the 32 bit version of form·Z, or up to 128 GB RAM with the 64 bit version. With OSX, form·Z versions 4.0 and later can access 4 GB RAM.

 

form·Z will work on Windows computers that have HyperThreading (HT) enabled. However this will generally slow down the RenderZone renderings. Therefore, unless you need this enabled for other applications, we would generally recommend that you disable this (from your Bios or Setup). Note also that HT will make your computer look like it has more than one processor, so if you only have one and have already installed form·Z, you should delete this installation and reinstall the single processor version (which will be installed automatically after HT is disabled).