3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 43: Cutting Edge VRML | WebReference

3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 43: Cutting Edge VRML


Lesson 43 - Cutting Edge VRML - Part 1

Some months ago,we introduced the subject of VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) to these columns under the heading, "Now's the Time." In an interview with Cosmo Software's VRML Evangelist, Bill McCloskey, our theme was that all of the long-awaited pieces of the puzzle had come together, and the era of 3D interactive graphics on the Web was upon us. A golden opportunity rested at the feet of those who were willing to embrace this technology and run with it.

Everyone loves to be prescient, or at least correct, and I won't pretend that I'm wearing a frown today. Shout Interactive, the San Francisco multimedia firm that we'll be highlighting in the next couple of columns, picked up the VRML football and is carrying it across the goal line. If you have any doubt that commercial VRML is for real, get ready to have your head turned around.

Don't have a VRML browser you say? Get one right now! If you're really interested in 3D (and why else would you be reading these pages), you should be embarrassed not to have the latest Cosmo Player 2.1 installed. So get with the action at grab the Player from the Cosmo Software site. If you miss what we're about to show you, you're missing the revolution.

Talk is cheap. If you've got your VRML browser, you can click on each of these still images to see what the real thing looks like on a Web page. We'll handle it this way for right now, but note that you can use javascript code to "sniff" whether the user has a VRML browser. If a VRML browser is not present, a traditional animated (or still) .gif banner can be loaded in place of the VRML.

Consider the cinematic quality of this banner for the Lost In Space movie. No need to apologize for an "emerging technology." This looks and feels like a big screen trailer, or even the opening titles of a major motion picture. This banner is under 12KB (including both the VRML file and the image maps). That's an instant download. Click on this image and enjoy the show.

The 3D Labs car piece is quite a bit larger, about 35 KB altogether (although hasn't yet been optimized). But what a ride! Spots like this define a new era in Web advertising because we've moved beyond a "click-through tease" to pure branding. Like a high quality television or print commercial, this banner sells the viewer on the image of a company or product (in this case a very exciting product indeed). With a banner like this on a page, you can bet that a high percentage of viewers will walk away with the sense of 3D Labs as a dynamic company selling pure speed.


The Ping-Pong piece raises the bar yet another notch. A banner that's a GAME?! The idea alone would be brilliant even if it were not executed so perfectly. When a viewer starts playing with your advertisement, it's time to start talking about "advertainment." (Or are people already talking about it?) Use your cursor to position your paddle, then release the mouse button to serve. Now drag the paddle to hit the ball when it returns. If this doesn't impress you, nothing will.


The Ping-Pong piece anticipates our ultimate direction a bit because it is something more than VRML. It's VRML married to Java programming, and this is not only Shout's greatest single strength, but also the most fascinating aspect of VRML development generally. We'll use these columns featuring Shout to introduce this important subject.

But first let's look at some bigger Shout pieces.

To Continue to Parts 2 and 3, Use Arrow Buttons

Created: June 24, 1998
Revised: June 24, 1998

URL: http://webreference.com/3d/lesson43/