FormZ Fundamentals Reviewed

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A student in my FormZ Fundamentals course, Tom Piper, has been kind enough to review the content and provide his feedback to this community. He sent me his review over the summer and I thought it had a balanced perspective that shows the value of the course. Here it is, complete and unaltered. Thanks Tom!

Enter Tom:

Evan Troxel’s FormZ Fundamentals is a comprehensive source of instruction on the use of tools, menus of function and systems of production within FormZ. Evan Troxel’s design and delivery of the course, through the excellent audio and video quality, is a example of how to do it right. As well as an author of excellent training courses, Evan is a professional architect and designer and knows this broad ground thoroughly. His delivery is relaxed and confident, moving the user through the stages of building and modifying objects and environments in the outstanding application of FormZ.
As an artist and designer I have found the course extremely helpful. I would have liked this concise and particular information when I started using FormZ a long time ago. The way Fundamentals is organized, “start at the beginning”, makes sense especially for someone taking the first steps. The ability to track-back through the list of well-titled course content helps the intermediate user to stay oriented in the course and in the FormZ application.

There are 16 modules or chapters in the course. Under each module heading there are details of the tool use or functions. In module 2 for example, you can look at 12 sub-topics related to creating/modifying geometry. You can pick from titles such as, using the objects palette, boolean operations, the extend tool, and so on. One of the most useful and fun in this group is the subtopic Reshaping Geometry. In this module, you will find a great video illustrating a range of methods for using FormZ’s  “push-pull” tool. This is one of the key function tools in the application for constructing and redesigning objects. Evan makes this reshape section seem like magic. He illustrates the use of live Booleans and offset lines to carve and re carve simple shapes, changing them into complex objects ready to be joined to others in the construction pipeline. 

The derive palette set of tools, is another fascinating and useful group. Here, Evan Troxel takes us through the process of changing objects from one form to another using parts of the original. For example, changing a solid cube shape (solid object) into a series of  (surface objects) to be used, possibly, with another set of tools such as NURBS surface tools.  

As FormZ has progressed through its development, many newer functions have been added to the basic sets. The Transform pallet, for example, has a newish transform widget. Evan describes how this multifunction tool allows object movement, rotation and scaling within one simple tool. He also shows the use of the tools “controller” to modify the source of the rotation, scaling or movement. He illustrates how complex and or finished objects can be transformed either graphically or numerically using this clever tool.

If like me, you moved from your familiar modeling application to FormZ for the first time, this fundamentals course is brilliant. I remember my early days in FormZ for example, being really stuck on snaps. I found the methods for snapping used in the program were so different from what I was used to, it held me back for some time. Evan shines a clear light on this area of snap tools in the interface. These videos show how, for example, to set up grid snap and snap guides. He goes through the range of object snaps and shows the precision and customization possible in this essential tool set. 

FormZ is a very powerful modeling program and like others in the field, it is easy to get lost very quickly. All through the Fundamentals course, Evan points to the exit, to the right door or the edge of the pool to help the user stay on course. The Fundamentals course provides a map and markers along the way to help the user stay with the tutorial or project and feel comfortable. 

There are areas of FormZ tools and functions not included in the present course. Rendering for instance, at least Renderzone rendering is not covered. There are, however a wide range of topics leading up to rendered visualization. Lights, color, texture mapping, decals, and many more where a detailed look at set-up for render are covered.

I have used Renderzone (an early partner application for FormZ) from the beginning. Others, more recently, have expanded into more sophisticated retendering engines to visualize their models, like Thea Render and Maxwell Render. Evan Troxel deals with these topics in great detail on his website

More disappointing for me as an artist, is the blank spot where a set of lessons on subdivision modeling should be. I believe the subdivision tool set was introduced into version 8.5, the current version of FormZ. Evan said that he is planning a new set of training and tutorials on exactly this subdivision topic soon. 

This set of training videos, FormZ Fundamentals, is a massive task, extremely well produced. The course shows off the wonderful modeling application with all its flair, glory and ease of use.  Evan Troxel has produced a beautiful companion to FormZ that will be useful to the beginner and last through the years as a source of guidance and reminder to the advanced amateur and professional.  

Tom Piper
Senior Lecturer (retired)
The School of Art and Design, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, Wales