3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 109: Understanding 3D Technology | 2 | WebReference

3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 109: Understanding 3D Technology | 2


Lesson 109 - Understanding 3D Technology - Part 2

When I first became aware of 3D computer graphics, about a decade ago, I couldn't even dream of access to the necessary equipment. 3D was only for Hollywood studios using UNIX workstations and insanely expensive software. I was so fascinated with the subject, however, that I sought out whatever exposure I could get. I bought the still-standard college text, Foley and VanDam's "Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice" to study its beautiful color pictures. Although I had no programming background and no college-level math, I read the text again and again, seeking to absorb some sense of 3D graphics.

I soon found popular computer programming books that taught the reader to program simple rendering engines that could display 3D models on the gutless personal computers of the day. I devoured these books, and with the help of a couple of university extension courses in C and C++ programming, was able to learn enough to get some direct, though incredibly primitive, experience of the magic of 3D.

Over the next few years, the first 3D packages became available for Windows-based PCs, and I began learning to model, animate and render with standard software. I didn't need programming skills any longer, and I stopped reading and writing programming code. After a while, I began teaching. I noticed, however, that I had a certain perspective on the subject that my students lacked.

It was not programming per se, as many of them had some programming background through the use of JavaScript and the like. Rather, I had a kind of "under-the-hood" understanding of 3D graphics. I understood how a 3D scene was represented as basic data, and how that data was used in the rendering process to generate an image. This was satisfying to me, but not particularly essential to producing 3D content as long as all I was doing was working within the standard programs.

It was when I first explored realtime interactive 3D in the context of VRML (the Virtual Reality Modeling Language) that I came to understand the practical value of my initiation into the inner workings of 3D. I wasn't doing any programming to speak of, but my knowledge of the basics of 3D technology allowed me to explore this exciting initiative in a way that many 3D artists could not. The same is true of my current adventures into Shout3D.

We must distinguish an understanding of the principles of 3D technology from mere "programming." Programming skills, and some basic math, are most important to us as the vehicles for getting involved in advancements in 3D technology. 3D computer graphics today is a mere baby, and will be completely transformed within five years. The person who wishes to survive professionally in 3D computer graphics must develop a technological expertise that allows him or her to evolve as rapidly as the field itself. No serious person can afford to operate at a superficial level because -- even more than talent -- the ability to identify (and align yourself with) the 3D technologies of the future will be the determinant of success.

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Created: January 2, 2001
Revised: January 2, 2001

URL: http://webreference.com/3d/lesson109/2.html