Core Web3D Book Review
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Dateline: February 7, 2001
Core  Web3D cover

A couple of months ago the ambitious book "Core Web3D" by Aaron Walsh and MikaŰl Bourges-SÚvenier was published. It's the first widely available book to deal in a substantial way with the 3D component of MPEG-4 and X3D. It also covers VRML and Java 3D along with a overview of Web3D that puts all these technologies into context. The book is organized as a series of five Parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Virtual Reality Modeling Language
  3. Java 3D
  4. MPEG-4/BIFS
  5. X3D

This is huge territory to cover well, and the authors partially succeed. The Parts covering Java 3D and VRML are quite competent but you can find this material in many other books. The big strength of "Core Web3D" is with the Parts covering X3D and MPEG-4. This material is hard to find in a coherent organized fashion and the authors have presented these rapidly evolving technologies clearly.

Actually the Part on X3D is a terrific overview of the evolution and history of X3D, however it's not particularly technical. Of course the reason it's not technical is because it would be premature to get into the entire spec, since it isn't finished and as of the time of publication was undergoing significant changes. The chapter "Weaving X3D into Web Pages" provides a terrific overview of what the authors call X3DML, the XML encoding of VRML, (also commonly known as X3D). It's a good explanation of XML and how it's being used to encode the VRML scene graph and how that encoding will be used to integrate 3D with the Web.

The best part of the book is the Part covering MPEG-4. After reading and skimming through it I finally got a much clearer understanding of how MPEG-4 BIFS (Binary Format for Scenes) relates to the MPEG standard. It provides a great explanation of how the BIFS portion of MPEG-4 encodes the VRML scene graph and add interactivity to the MPEG mix.

The MPEG Part of the book consists of four Chapters:

  1. MPEG-4 Overview
  2. MPEG-4 Binary Format for Scenes (BIFS)
  3. Animating Scenes with BIFS-ANIM
  4. Customizing VRML for BIFS
  5. X3D

The book, all 1000 plus pages is worth it just for the coverage of MPEG-4. Oh by the way my bookstore is back up and you can conveniently buy it (from Barnes and Noble) In addition the book makes a great introduction to VRML, and Java3D providing good context for the tumultuous and still rapidly changing world of Web3D.

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