3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 80: Web 3D--Charting a Course
Lesson 80 - Web 3D--Charting a Course - Part 1
Care to join me on the high seas, tossed by towering waves, in search of fabled golden citiesÂand all without a map, or even a compass?
I may be crazy, but I love it out here. Sure I'm overwhelmed and utterly confused by the chaos of the emerging 3D Web world. But I'm headed toward something worth the getting. I'm a 3D pioneer on the Internet, and willing to share what I've gathered thus far.
I've spent the past few columns introducing the now-released Shout3D 1.0 from Shout Interactive, and I've been pushing it pretty hard. My unabashed tone of evangelism for this important package has been deliberate. The story of 3D graphics and animation on the Internet to date has been one of repeated, and seemingly escalating, disappointment. Any sane person with hard experience on this subject would be cynical, and skeptical of any claims that realtime interactive 3D is finally achievable on the Web. It was hard to convince myself and get back on a horse that had thrown me many times. But once I was convinced, I felt that an intensive and focused push on a single package was the best way to alert this audience to what I believe will shortly become the most important market for 3D skills.
It's time to shed the prophet's role and speak more generally and analytically about the process by which 3D artists can direct their talents toward the Internet. And that's what I intend to in the next few columns. First of all, I'd like to clarify why I have focused on Shout's package at the expense of other approaches, for 3D Internet initiatives are popping up everywhere. For example, many readers have asked why I've ignored Cult3d, the product of a Swedish firm. It's fair to say that the rendering quality of Cult3D is superior to that of Shout, as many more rendering features are currently supported. The shortest answer to this question is price. At $3500 to license Cult3d for an Internet domain, I don't believe that this technology can make financial sense in the current climate. Web 3D is brand new and clients need convincing before they drop this kind of money. Cult3D's development package is impressive and can be downloaded free, but it requires a serious commitment to learn. The effort required to learn it must be justified by the belief that clients will readily pay $3,500 for the right to use this technology on their sites. By contrast, a Shout3D domain license is $199. (The practice of licensing 3D delivery technology on a per-domain basis seems to be the developing standard.)
But cost aside, there is a more important reason why I am not pursuing proprietary solutions like Cult3D in my own efforts and in these columns. Cult3D requires a plug-in application that must be installed on the client's (the end-user's) system. It's a relatively small plug-in and downloads quickly, but it is a plug-in nonetheless. All my experience with VRML and Web 3D to date has convinced me that plug-ins cannot work. You simply can't ask users whether they want to download and install an application before they can see your content. It must appear on their screens just like any other standard element of an HTML page. This issue is not even so much the download time as the inconvenience and sense of insecurity about the process. The single most important feature of Shout3D is its use of Java applets to avoid plug-ins. I've proven the effectiveness of this solution to my own satisfaction by posting Shout content on Webreference.com over the past few lessons The traffic on those pages was significant, yet the number of technical complaints from readers was negligible.
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Created: Nov. 22, 1999
Revised: Nov. 22, 1999