3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 43: Cutting Edge VRML
Lesson 43 - Cutting Edge VRML - Part 2
Shout Interactive is a three-man show. Eric Anschutz handles the business operations under the title of "Chief Strategic Officer." Jim Stewartson is the programming genius who is styled "Chief Technology Officer." Jim will has plenty of say on these pages to enlighten us benighted 3D souls who know little or no of Java. But the fine graphic look of Shout's work is to the credit of Randall Ho, Shout's "Chief Creative Officer" and a master of 3D Studio Max, Photoshop and Cosmo Worlds, to name a few. Here's Randall's take on the big picture."Most of what we define the Web as today -- the marriage of text and pictures, has largely been in the domain of the graphic designer -- an artist who's skill set is inherently 2D, and often abstract by definition. Graphic designers have made the leap from magazine design, product packaging, text layout, etc. into Web design. However, 3D is largely the domain of the illustrator, an artist that can simulate and/or create different realities. Those 3D illustrators have primarily been involved with movies (Jurassic Park, Toy Story) or video/computer games. It is clear that these artists must make the transition to the Web in order for compelling 3D content on the Web to be created. It is unlikely that this type of content will come from the graphic designer.
"This is an important distinction to make. In order for there to be general acceptance of 3D as a viable means of Web distribution, there needs to be consumer acceptance -- which only comes from compelling content -- which only comes from highly skilled and experienced 3D developers."
Randall can definitely walk his talk. Everyone who has seen the next piece simply calls it "the bee." This kind of larger work, with more significant download times, is what Shout calls "infotainment" content. In this case, the piece is an interactive lesson in how 3D graphics are rendered on a computer screen. But it is much more than education. Commercially, it sells the high-tech veneer of Nvidia, a leading designer of 3D processors. The captivating manner in which the model of the insect is assembled out coiling surfaces is instantly memorable and purely artistic. Work like this makes one feel that the aesthetics of Web graphics are finally beginning to mature.
Click on the bee image above to see the bee piece on the Nvidia site. When you get to the site, click on the image of the bee there to get into the VRML animation. And make sure you've got your speakers turned on for sound.
From one "insect" to another, Shout's latest promotional piece features the new VW Beetle. If the bee is educational, and a bit serious, the Beetle piece is sheer fun. Like the Ping-Pong banner, it's something to play with. The viewer can turn the car around from any direction. Clicking the arrow icon brings you inside. Once inside, you can drag the cursor to look around. Click on the steering wheel to honk the horn (if your speakers are on). Click on the door to open and close it. Grab the paint brush and change the color of the car. Turn the background music on and off by clicking on the musical note. The camera icon changes your perspective, and after a few clicks, makes the body transparent for a clear look at the interior.
Try and hold off on clicking on the key icon for now. That takes you to the Beetle game, which we'll get to shortly.
Click on the picture above to see the Beetle piece on a Cosmo Software promotional site. This link takes you to a page inviting you to download the Cosmo Player 2.1 before going on to the content, so if you don't yet have a VRML 2 browser installed (or want to upgrade), this is the perfect place to do it.
People have been talking for years (it seems) about how VRML could redefine Web interface design. The Cosmo Player dashboard, like the navigation controls on any VRML browser, takes some learning. But the 3D icons in the Beetle piece are visually attractive, easy to understand, and inviting to play with. There are some big ideas here.
So let's get on to the games.
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Created: June 24, 1998
Revised: June 24, 1998