Recently, my team has been engaged in several desktop software projects that
require the visualization of UI state transitions that make use of 3D
effects. While the drivers behind this trend are clear (both the ripple
effect of Mac OS Tiger, literally and figuratively, and the upcoming Avalon
features of MS Vista), just how to go about prototyping UIs that take
advantage of these powerful new rendering engines is less clear. Our primary
prototyping tools are currently Flash and Director, with occasional
inclusion of pre-rendered animation built in Maya or After Effects. I am now
looking into tools that will enable prototypes that include real time
rendering of animated transitions, and am interested in feedback from the
list, in the form of experience or opinion, regarding suitability.
Director / Flash + Pre-rendered film loops or video:
This method enabled high quality rendering, but the need to pre-render
necessitates that prototypes be scripted, rather than fully-interactive.
This type of prototype also tend to be difficult to edit, due to the complex
workflow surrounding the embedding of animation sequences.
Director Imaging Lingo / 3D:
These are Director features that I have used for small, fast transitions,
but have not been impressed with the rendering quality.
Director + Quartz Composer:
My knowledge of Quartz composer is limited, but, I have been told that it is
possible to import QC objects as Director cast members. This, of course, is
a Mac-only solution, as well.
Microsoft Sparkle Interactive Designer:
Given that this tool takes advantage of Microsoft's new rendering technology
(Avalon, or WinFX, or whatever), this is a promising option, but, as I have
yet to try it for myself, its capabilities and usability are a big unknown.