@Last Software is using their appearance at this week's Siggraph 2004 trade show in Los Angeles to show off SketchUp 4 Film & Stage.

This new extension for their SketchUp 4 3D design software is designed to enable the software to work as a pre-visualization solution for art directors, filmmakers, cinematographers and others working in film and television.

SketchUp was originally developed for use in architecture, engineering and construction. The company claims that the software lets users create 3D models as if they were sketching by hand, without the same sort of steep learning curve as other 3D modelling software.

The SketchUp 4 Film & Stage extension enhances SketchUp 4's camera tool, enabling users to control aspect ratios and camera positions. A library of filming-specific components is also included, including dollies, cranes, grips, characters, lights and cameras. SketchUp can then export to AVI and QuickTime video formats.

The preview release of SketchUp 4 Film & Stage is being offered as a free download for Mac OS X or Windows. SketchUp 4.0 costs $475 (around £260) to buy online.