3ds Max Meets Darwin for Web3D
3d Studio Max for Web Publishing
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As 3D for the Web continues down the darwinian selection mode, the world remains confused as to the best format for 3D delivery on the Web. The bright folks at Discreet makers of 3D Studio Max (3ds max 4) have come up with a clever method for dealing with this burgeoning market. They support lots of formats.

A suite of products labeled the Web Studio Set is actually a suite of exporters for an impressive array of Web3D products. These include, Eyematic Shout3D, Cycore Cult3D, RichFX Encoder, Ideaworks VECTA3D-Max, Pulse Producer, and Viewpoint's Experience Technology. These are all the biggies! I do think it's a mistake not to market the VRML export capability here also, which is a feature of 3ds max.

Discreet is wisely positioning itself as THE authoring tool for Web3D. Smart move as 3ds max is already a market force in the animation field.

Let's take a brief at each of these technologies.

Shout3D is the only one of the bunch that is a pure Java renderer, and therefore doesn't require any plug-in. The new advanced rendering features of Shout3D 2.0 offer environment maps, hardware acceleration, multitexturing, panoramic backgrounds and more. Its close relationship to VRML gives developers a familiar basis for getting started. In addition Shout provides a clear robust interface to Java so if you need to get in and hack around, always a possibility, Shout is the clear choice.

Cult3D has a rich set of interaction techniques that you can use to bring your 3D models to life. One cool example I happened to see is from Brietling a watch company. When you look at the watch in 3D the time is accurate and the second hand moves, most cool! One particularly interesting feature of Cult is that you can include the 3D models in Acrobat documents.

RichFX take a very interesting approach to modeling. The user typically defines preset paths through a virtual environment which is rendered in high quality. Delivery to the end user is via a plug-in to RealMedia's G2 player. The geometry is streamed so the lag is fairly small with very high quality renderings.

Ideaworks VECTA3D-Max takes the 3D animations you create using 3ds max and exports them to your favorite media plugin Flash! The great thing about this is that Flash has a huge installed base and is an efficient delivery mechanism. In addition if you want to tweak or add additional vector based visual elements you just do it in Flash.

Pulse Producer exports 3ds max animation out to Pulse's format. Pulse is best known as the way to produce highly animated, articulate and expressive characters. If you want to manipulate and create a terrific 3D character for your web site, Pulse is the leader. Typically Pulse movements are driven via motion capture files integrated with 3ds max and then exported to the Pulse format.

Last but not least we have Viewpoint's Experience Technology (VET) formerly known as Metastream. VET offers what is perhaps the best looking 3D for the Web out there. The rendering quality is fabulous and the models integrate wonderfully with Web pages and can be made to float seamlessly on the page. It's only appropriate for product models not whole environments but VET is made to order for quality interactive 3D displays.

That's it so far for Discreet's 3ds max Web format exporters. I'd expect to see lots more but this is a fabulous collection of export tools and makes for a serious Web3D development environment.

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