3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 81: From VRML to Web 3D | WebReference

3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 81: From VRML to Web 3D

Lesson 81 - From VRML to Web 3D - Part 1

Our topic, continued from the previous column, is the situation confronting the 3D artist seeking to turn his or her talents to use on the Web. The time seems ripe to make the plunge, or at least to prepare to make it, but the would-be Web 3D practitioner looks down on primeval soup of formless potential. It is the chaos of a world being born—and not for the faint of heart.

Let's start with the question of why this audience, composed as it is of 3D professionals, students and enthusiasts, should be interested in the Web as a vehicle. The first, and plainest, answer is money. The Internet is where all the action is today. Only a couple of years ago, there was some truth to the belief that a qualified 3D artist or animator could enjoy that fabled merger of creative exercise and financial security in film and video industries. While there is still quite a bit of opportunity today in the traditional entertainment world of feature animation and film effects, there is also a very considerable amount of competition. The games industry is a large and growing outlet for 3D talent, but its culture is not for everyone.

The amount of money in Web development today is staggering, and I will frankly own that I'd like to see some of it for myself. If I, or you, can bring the 3D graphics we love to such a lucrative venue—well, enough said.

But economic opportunity, as important as it is, is not the only factor. I don't believe that I'm alone in finding much of the current trend in 3D graphics to be growing stale. Increasingly impressive film effects have become increasing trivial, and in my (humble) opinion are undermining the dramatic and human strengths of traditional Hollywood filmmaking. And I'm hardly convinced that 3D is in any way superior to 2D animation for feature animated films. It's only a different style, appropriate thus far to toys and ants, but much less to human characters.

In short, some of us are looking for new pastures—new and exciting things to do with 3D graphics that have little to do with what's already been done. But the Internet is far more than a new pasture. It's rather a new universe.

So with wealth and adventure as enticements, we vow to tame this vast uncharted waste to build prosperous cities and farms in which to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. But what, precisely, should we do? What specific technologies should we embrace? What use should we make of these technologies, both creatively and commercially? What can we do with 3D on the Web that makes sense? These are all large questions, that can only be debated as yet, but not answered definitively.

I have been discussing these issues with many people in the past few weeks, largely in connection with the arrival of the Shout3D package for 3D Web development and the emphasis that I've given it in recent columns. I've been stuck with the fact that most people lack a fair understanding of the history, or rather pre-history, of 3D graphics for the Web to this point in time. As this perspective is absolutely essential to assess the current situation, let me offer it here and try to draw some conclusions from it.

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Created: Dec. 7, 1999
Revised: Dec. 7, 1999

URL: http://webreference.com/3d/lesson81/