3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 40: Enter Cosmo Worlds
Lesson 40 - Enter Cosmo Worlds - Part 3
At a street price of less than $700, Cosmo Worlds is neither cheap enough for the casual hobbyist nor prohibitive for the professional. This application is extremely powerful, but it is hardly effortless to learn. Part of the challenge is due to the nature of VRML itself, and any authoring program that seeks to provide access to the full range of VRML tools will be complex. But Worlds is a big program by any standard, and this leads us to the final piece of the Cosmo product strategy.
If embedded VRML is to take off as the vehicle for banner advertising and general interactive graphics on Web pages, VRML development cannot be left entirely to those relatively few persons ready to master Cosmo Worlds. Thus Cosmo Software has developed an application called Page FX, presently in beta testing, but to be released very shortly. This remarkable program is designed to make the creation of small, embedded, interactive VRML graphics (like banner ads) possible for the average Web developer or graphic artist. When I was first told of this program, I thought it either ridiculous or impossible. But I was wrong. With considerable brilliance, Cosmo Page FX has interpreted the basic powers of VRML into an interface that any creative person can use. I have been told by people within Cosmo that they believe Page FX to be their most important offering on the VRML front. That Silicon Graphics Incorporated, the mighty producer of Hollywood workstations, would be pinning their hopes on $300 consumer-level software--well, anything is possible in this fast-changing world!
Thus, the entire story reads something like this: Between Cosmo Worlds and Cosmo Page FX, artists and Web developers will become convinced of the future of VRML and develop both the skills and compelling content. With the content beginning to percolate up from the creative community, the general Web audience will begin to expect a certain quality that advertisers and commercial Web sites must deliver. The Cosmo Player browser becomes more and more ubiquitous on home computers, and rides the wave of new installations of Web browsers generally. Can this happen? I think it can.
The next few columns will address the major features of Cosmo Worlds in some detail, but some pertinent initial observations will serve us for the present.
Cosmo Worlds is fundamentally different than even the best 3D packages that already provide for VRML export. I'm thinking primarily of 3D Studio MAX, whose VRML export tools are fabulous. Indeed, many aspects of VRML development are possible using MAX that are not yet possible with Cosmo Worlds. But Worlds is truly a VRML authoring application, and not a general 3D package with VRML export tools. It therefore provides both a general approach and specific tools appropriate to VRML authoring as opposed to general 3D development.
The most important aspect of Worlds in this regard is the Outline Editor. Unlike the typical scene graph of most 3D packages, this is a direct interface to the VRML file. The Outline Editor both displays the contents of the file in a workable way and allows direct editing access to the VRML nodes. It therefore provides a critical alternative to hand-editing VRML files in a word processor. The Outline Editor makes it much easier to navigate through the nodes and inherently prevents coding errors by rejecting illegal entries. What a great deal of frustration and debugging is avoided by this powerful interface! And the use of the Outline Editor necessarily teaches the user the VRML language.
Cosmo World is also specialized for VRML development in its modeling and layout tools. All real-time graphics require low-polygon geometry, and this kind of modeling in already possible with many of the major 3D tools. But the need for very small file size (for Web transmission purposes) with VRML adds a different, and sometimes conflicting, consideration. A VRML file can really get small when it makes maximum use of the VRML primitive geometry nodes (box, cylinder, sphere, cone), and thus the user is directed toward a type of construction that exploits these units extensively. Cosmo Worlds has magnificent tools for building with these VRML primitives that no general 3D modeling package can pretend to offer.
We'll jump into a hands-on look at these important tools in the next lesson.
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Created: May 12, 1998
Revised: May 12, 1998