Installation instructions (for DOS/Win32):

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Unzip the installation file in a new directory - make sure to use a program which supports long filenames, and make sure to extract the directory structure too, or you'll wind up with a big mess.

Make sure the DOS version of fractint is installed and in your path.

Under Windows NT, I've found you have to run fractint once from the shell that you want to use for filmer. I don't know why. Open a shell, and run fractint once to be sure.

From the same shell, Type:

filmer easy.par
If everything goes well, this should start filmer and load a demo film. Just click "Start Render" and away it goes!

Using the program:

Overview
Without going into too many technical details, here is a brief overview of how Filmer interacts with Fractint. Fractint creates .par files which define everything about a set of fractal images. One .par file can contain one or more Parameter Sets. Fractint does not assign any particular order to these image descriptions except that it happens to save them in the same order in the file that the user saves them. This is what Filmer relies on. Fractint also allows you to add a comment to any Parameter Set. Filmer looks at this comment field for instructions on how many frames to interpolate between one Parameter Set and the next.

Fractint
Most of the work of creating a film is actually done with Fractint, so if you don't already know Fractint, get to know it first. It supports hundreds of fractal types with a plethora of options. The rest of this discussion assumes you already know Fractint and it's functions.

Coordinates
Filmer accepts coordinates in either corners= or center-mag= form. However, center-mag is much better supported. Unfortunately, Fractint's default is corners and I don't know how to convert one to the other. Filmer can't do rotation or skew with corners, so get in the habbit of specifying center-mag on the command line, or else you will make up a whole film and find out it's useless when you try to render it. Better yet, use a batch file or alias fractint so you never make this mistake.

Your first film
Filmer uses keyframes to define a Film. A keyframe is a single frame which stands for a single point in time in an animation. You can create a whole animation with only two keyframes. One defines the first frame in the animation and one defines the last frame of the animation. The number of frames leading up to a given key frame is determined by the comment field of the Parameter Set. Here is an example of a .par file:

first              {
  reset=1920 type=mandel corners=-2.5/1.5/-1.5/1.5 params=0/0
  }
last               { ; 10
  reset=1920 type=mandel corners=-1.996/0.9960002/-1.122/1.122
  params=0/0
  }
As you can see, it's human readable. Here, the Parameter Sets have the names "first" and "last". The 10 after the name "last" is the number of frames in this leg of the animation. To save parameters to a file, press B from within Fractint. This will bring up a screen like this:
                         Save Current Parameters

 Parameter file  easy.par
 Name            last
 Main comment    10
 Second comment
 [SNIP]

On the Main comment line, put the number of frames you would like leading up to this keyframe - ignore it for the first keyframe.

Once you have all your keyframes set up, you can run Filmer. Just make sure your new .par file and any .map files that go with it are in the filmer directory (created during installation). Run filmer. You can specify the .par filename on the command line if you wish. There is a batch file, filmer.bat which should be used to run filmer.

As soon as you specify the .par file, Filmer should begin creating previews. Here is what it does:

Keyframe previews:
Creates previews of each of the keyframes you saved into the .par file.
Color Map:
Generate a color map for each frame in the film. By default, this will be a 'smart map' - colors different from the ones you specified. If you want the colors from your .par file, just turn off Smart Map, set the rotation to zero and click [New Map].
Parameters:
Create the parameters for the frames themselves and merge the map into them. This is where all the in-betweens are actually calculated and stored in memory.
Film previews:
Finally, it creates a preview of every 38th frame in the film next to the cooresponding map entry. Each part is displayed as it calculates. When it's done, you should see your keyframes, the proposed map and a preview of the film with that map.

Click on Start Render. This will bring up a seperate window which displays the last frame calculated by Fractint. Once this finishes (and it could take a long time), you will find a bunch of .gif files in the same directory. They are named TMPxxxxx.GIF where xxxxx is the frame number of the .gif file. You must assemble them into an animation using some third-party tool. (See the links to GIF Construction Kit and Dave's Targa Animator on the main page).

Multi-Machine Rendering
So, they left you all alone in the computer lab and you hate to see all those machines just sitting there idle? You can get them all working on the same fractal movie. All you need is a TCP/IP network and a bunch of computers with Fractint. Here's how to do it:

Pretty easy eh? The default TCP/IP port is 2000, but if you don't like that, you can change it through the filmer.cfg file. Someday when I have a lot of free time, I'll reverse the client/server relationship, so you can set up a bunch of 'fractint servers' and then define a list of them so that Filmer will always use them whenever they're on-line. Some day...

Each computer will leave the TMP files in it's own directory, but they will have the correct frame-numbered names, so you can copy them all to one directory. If you are running all of this out of the same network drive, you don't have to do anything, it should just work.

F.A.Q.
This is a work in progress. If you have problems, first be sure you've read all the information here. Then please send me email and let me know what the problem is. Include as much information as possible, including the .par file you are using for keyframes. I don't have a lot of time, and I'm relying on you to report bugs. I'm particularly interested in people using Unix or OS/2.

Q. I never see the previews - why not?
A. Fractint can't run on the information provided in the keyframes. Make sure Fractint runs OK from the directory where Filmer is. Make sure it can load the parameters you're trying to use for keyframes. If it works for you, but not for Filmer, check the stopmsg file to see what the problem is. Even if Fractint won't run from Filmer, you can still use the [Save as] command to write all the frames to disk. Then you can try them manually with Fractint. This can also help when trying to figure out a problem.

Q. Rotation (fractint parameter) - why dosn't rotation do what I expect?
A. Rotation is implemented a little bit funny. Fractint thinks of a frame as being rotated anywhere from -180 to 180 degrees. This is fine for still frames, but for animation, you need to do more than 360 degrees. As long as you don't "wrap arround" when creating your keyframes, you shouldn't have a problem, otherwise Filmer might go the opposite direction than you expected. I plan to fix this by allowing a turns= parameter in the comment field along with the frame count, but have done nothing about it yet. Let me know if this is something you're interested in.

Q. What about deep-zooming?
A. Filmer dosn't support deep-zooming at the moment. I am very interested in implementing it, but not so interested that I want to write my own bignum library for Java. If anybody knows of a library for standard math opperations (exp, log, *, /) on Java bignums, let me know and I will incorporate it into Filmer.