3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 90: The Pulse of Web 3D Entertainment
Lesson 90 - The Pulse of Web 3D Entertainment - Part 3
Long-time readers may expect me to complain of the plug-in. Of course, I'd prefer a "no plug-in" technology. But if there was ever a chance to get away with a plug-in, it will be with entertainment. The main problem with plug-ins is simply that users are reluctant to wait to download an application for the purpose of accessing a commercial Web site. However, if the user expects to see entertainment lasting a significant period of time, he or she is more likely to invest in the download. And this is particularly true if he or she expects to visit the same site again for further episodes. Pulse, as I've already mentioned, was born of Macromedia people, and in my talk with Mark Yahiro I sensed that the company sees itself in the position of launching the Flash of the 3D world.
I noted that Pulse is offering, for free, its Creator application for content development. Creator is a complete tool, lacking only modeling. Models can be exported in from other programs using DXF, VRML 2.0 of 3D Studio MAX formats. This means that with a $100 copy of Nendo and a free version of Creator, you can go a considerable distance in Pulse development. (Actually, the best modeling I saw when I visited Pulse was being done in Nendo.) But Pulse is sensitive to the fact that many people are reluctant to learn a new and untested package. Thus developers can currently rely on a free MAX export plug-in that allows all of the work to be completed in MAX, and exported to Creator only for the purpose of outputting to the Pulse proprietary format.
But even this picture will change in the next couple of months. Pulse has entered into a deal with Autodesk to incorporate complete Pulse export tools into MAX. New copies of MAX 3 will ship with the plug-in and current users will be able to download it for free. The new plug-in, unlike the current one, will export directly to the Pulse format and integrate all Pulse interactivity tools, avoiding the need to use Creator at all. This convenience, and the obvious status of direct integration into MAX, is an undeniable coup for the company.
I have been plugging away at Pulse Creator, trying to learn enough about this tool to report on it in my next column. Many people don't own MAX, and even those that do and know how to use it should take the time to understand the nature and value of Pulse's own authoring environment. Like all of the other major 3D packages, MAX is not designed with interactive, real-time authoring purposes in mind. I am extremely interested in how bright companies are addressing the issue of 3D real-time authoring tools, and will give you my take on Creator next time. For the present, I can say only that it takes a goodly investment of time to learn, even for someone with experience in a broad range of 3D graphics packages. This is partly because of the rather meager documentation and online tutorials. If you download Creator, be prepared to spend a lot of time exploring for yourself. But all 3D development packages are complex, and although Creator is obviously simple compared to a MAX or a Maya, there is still quite a bit to learn.
And Pulse Creator is surprisingly ambitious. I got the chance to sit in as Dan Meblin, Pulse's head of developer relations, walked through the package with a visiting artist. He showed us some remarkably powerful texturing tools (including 3D painting and texture coordinate editing) and impressive vertex-weighting tools for skeletal deformations. These were features I hardly expected to find in a free package.
As a postscript, I'm pleased to reveal the project I hinted at the end of the previous column. I've reached an agreement to write an official book on Shout3D, to be published by Sybex later this year. I'm very excited to be able to bring the interested public an in-depth understanding of this important technology, and am pleased that the publishing community is ready to take the Web3D field seriously. These are interesting times in computer graphics.
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Created: Apr. 10, 2000
Revised: Apr. 10, 2000